AFC Wimbledon secured a fully deserved win against Milton Keynes tonight with clinical strikes from Jake Reeves and Lyle Taylor securing victory.
In a golden second-half spell, two goals raised the roof at the Cherry Red Records Stadium as Wimbledon marched to a 2-0 win that could have been more.
A pulsating start set the tone for Wimbledon and pressure eventually told in the second-half as the visitors simply could not cope.
Neal Ardley made five changes to his starting line-up after defeat to Northampton on Saturday. Jon Meades, Sean Kelly, Paul Robinson, Dannie Bulman, and Tom Elliott all earned recalls with George Francomb, Will Nightingale, Chris Robertson, Dean Parrett and Dominic Poleon missing out.
It was a return to four at the back for Wimbledon with Sean Kelly and Jon Meades filling the full-back slots. In a high tempo start that attempted to play to the strengths of Elliott up front, Wimbledon stretched the visitors and almost found some joy four minutes in when Taylor broke free on the right, but his cross was just deflected wide. As Wimbledon poured forward, Elliott almost got in around the back, but he just ran the ball too far, and Milton Keynes were relieved to get a breather as the ball went out of play.
In a frantic start from Wimbledon, roared on by a raucous home following, several free-kicks and corners were earned, though ultimately without success. Kelly, who has shown his quality from dead ball situations this season, curled in a dangerous free-kick from the right that was only half cleared, but Jake Reeves fired over the crossbar. Milton Keynes finally threatened in the 22nd minute when a move ended with Robbie Muirhead in space on the right, but he cut inside and blazed well over the crossbar.
As we approached the half hour mark, Milton Keynes had gradually started to come into it and James Shea was called into action for the first time when he reacted well to turn away a shot from Harvey Barnes. Wimbledon’s all-action start was always going to be tough to maintain, but Neal Ardley’s men needed to pick it up again with Milton Keynes starting to earn greater possession. The 0-0 half-time score reflected a first 45 minutes with plenty of hustle and bustle, but little in the way of goalmouth action.
Wimbledon started the second-half on the front foot with plenty more free-kicks and corners forced. Reeves swung in one of those from the flag and it resulted in a half chance with Meades firing wide after the cross was only cleared to the edge of the area. Considering the success Wimbledon had achieved from set-pieces this season, it had been disappointing in that department so far. However, Milton Keynes were having to work very hard to contain Wimbledon and the pressure paid off in the 61st minute. Lyle Taylor’s quality from the right again earned the ultimate reward as he swung in a lovely cross to the back post that Barcham headed back and Reeves volleyed home superbly. It signalled ecstatic scenes among the home faithful as they celebrated a big Wimbledon goal.
There was no let-up from Wimbledon after taking the lead and eight minutes later the advantage was doubled. Taylor broke through on the right and fired home emphatically into the bottom corner from an acute angle to send the majority of the crowd in the Cherry Red Records Stadium into ecstasy. In response, the visitors did almost reduce the advantage, but James Shea reacted superbly to pull off a fingertip save from Kieran Agard. With 11 minutes to go, Taylor was withdrawn and replaced by Dominic Poleon. Our Wembley hero had struck again and he was given a standing ovation by the home fans for another all-action performance.
It could have been more with substitute Dominic Poleon firing over after Tom Elliott led a quick breakaway, but two was enough on the night for a great victory.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Jon Meades, Sean Kelly, Paul Robinson, Darius Charles, Dannie Bulman, Jake Reeves, Tom Soares (Dean Parrett), Andy Barcham, Lyle Taylor (Dominic Poleon), Tom Elliott (Tyrone Barnett).