AFC Wimbledon made it two wins out of two in the Checkatrade Trophy with an impressive fightback against Plymouth tonight.
Following a lacklustre first-half that ended with Wimbledon 1-0 down, Neal Ardley’s men turned the match on its head with a bold second-half display to secure a fully deserved 2-1 win.
A crowd of 936 spectators watched goals from Lyle Taylor and Tyrone Barnett secure a second successive group phase victory for Wimbledon.
Neal Ardley retained just five players from the side that started against Gillingham on Saturday. The changes included a completely different back four with Will Nightingale at the heart of defence alongside Chris Robertson, who was making his Dons debut. George Francomb returned at right-back with Sean Kelly on the other flank.
The Dons struggled to get going early on and Plymouth seized the initiative in the seventh minute with a familiar face doing the damage. Connor Smith, who started for the Dons against Plymouth in the play-off final, opened the scoring with a fierce drive. It came about after Smith’s initial free-kick was only cleared back into his path and he beat James Shea at his near post. At the other end, Wimbledon came close to an instant response when Dean Parrett sent over a lovely free-kick that Tyrone Barnett met, but his header was saved by Plymouth goalkeeper Vincent Dorel.
Wimbledon needed Shea to be at his best to prevent a second when he reacted superbly to tip over a well struck shot from Jordan Slew. There was a blow for Wimbledon on the half hour when Jake Reeves, who had been made captain for the night, had to come off injured and he was replaced by Dannie Bulman. As the first half progressed, Wimbledon did start to find some rhythm. A fine move started with Parrett finding Tom Beere down the left flank and he picked out Lyle Taylor with a lovely pass across the area, but the Dons striker miskicked. Then Parrett picked out Dominic Poleon, but his shot from close range was deflected wide.
The Dons made a change at half-time and it was a significant one too with academy product Alfie Egan entering the fray for his first-team debut in place of Parrett, who had gone down injured before half-time. The hosts could have been level in the very first minute after the break when Barnett had an effort cleared off the line. The best spell so far for Wimbledon came just before the hour. A lovely run down the right from Francomb ended with a searching cross to the back post for Poleon, but he blazed over from close range. Then Barnett tried his luck from just outside the area and his powerful drive flashed just wide.
The increase in tempo from Wimbledon in the second-half had been noticeable and reward followed in the 65th minute. Barnett rose highest in the box to head down Sean Kelly’s long ball and Taylor got there before the goalkeeper to steer home. Just three minutes later, it was 2-1 through another well-worked goal. Egan showed fine close control down the left before crossing for Taylor, who cut the ball back for Barnett and he finished off clinically. It had been a fine turnaround from Wimbledon with the second-half performance of complete contrast to the first.
There had been many plus points for Wimbledon with their second-half display, including academy products Egan and Beere both producing promising performances. Robertson and Nightingale also showed plenty of assurance in defence and many players put themselves in contention to get more minutes during a busy October. Though Plymouth substitute Ryan Donaldson had an effort deflected just over, Wimbledon survived fairly comfortably in the latter stages and the Dons were worthy winners in the end.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, George Francomb, Will Nightingale, Chris Robertson, Sean Kelly, Tom Beere, Dean Parrett (Alfie Egan), Jake Reeves (Dannie Bulman), Tyrone Barnett, Dominic Poleon (Tom Elliott), Lyle Taylor.