It was another pre-season defeat for the Dons tonight, but a much-improved second-half performance offered some encouragement for manager Terry Brown.
Defensive vulnerability was again exposed in the Wimbledon defence as the visitors scored twice early on, their team of trialists once again showing that there could be light at the end of the tunnel for troubled Portsmouth. However, the second-half was completely different as the hosts created several chances in a 45 minutes that they dominated.
Terry Brown selected a strong starting 11 with Wimbledon’s competitive opener at Stevenage looming in just six days’ time. The Dons made four changes, but two of those were enforced with injured pair Curtis Osano and Louis Harris both missing out, along with Charlie Strutton and goalkeeper Steve Collis, who has been released. Seb Brown was restored between the sticks with Mat Mitchel-King, Christian Jolley and Jack Midson returning to the starting 11. However, whatever the personnel during this pre-season, the Dons have struggled to find cohesion at the back and Portsmouth were quick to sense there could be goals in it for them. The visitors were offered a helping hand though in the 12th minute when a defensive mix-up between Seb Brown and Pim Balkestein allowed Luke Rodgers to reach a long ball first and he was left with a simple task to open the scoring. Portsmouth doubled their advantage in the 23rd minute when a cross from Izale McLeod found Liam Lawrence completely unmarked at the back post. His touch on was good, but the finish was even better as Liam Walker curled a sublime effort into the top corner to leave Seb Brown with no chance.
There was a good response from the hosts though to those setbacks and Balkestein came so close to mustering a quick riposte, but his header was turned away by Portsmouth goalkeeper Glen Morris. The Dons came even closer 10 minutes before the break when Stacy Long, who struck the woodwork on Saturday, was again unfortunate to open his account with a 25-yard piledriver that struck the inside of a post. Balkestein had another header saved by Morris as the Dons at least finished the first-half strongly after a nervy start at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
Wimbledon had the first chance of the second-half when Angus MacDonald put a clever ball over the top for Midson and he struck a powerful shot that just missed the near post. It was most definitely a more promising opening from the Dons and they put together their best move of the match shortly afterwards. Sammy Moore was the instigator with a pass for Midson down the right and his cross was perfect for Luke Moore, whose header was well saved by Morris. The Dons came even closer when Morris made an excellent double save to deny Midson and Luke Moore, before Brendan Kiernan struck the follow-up wide.
The second-half had offered arguably Wimbledon’s best spell of pre-season so far with Midson’s impressive approach play catching the eye. Substitute Byron Harrison had a great chance to half the deficit with his first touch after coming on, but he headed over the crossbar from close range. Kiernan has shown a steely determination to prove his worth during the summer schedule and he produced a lovely turn, before letting fly with a shot from long-range that just cleared the crossbar. Luke Moore fired just over the crossbar for the Dons as the hosts squandered yet another chance, but Izale McLeod was denied by Seb Brown at the other end.
There was to be no further score though and Wimbledon’s mixed performance will have left Terry Brown with plenty of food for thought heading into the new season.
AFC Wimbledon: Seb Brown, Angus MacDonald, Warren Cummings, Shane Long, Pim Balkestein, Mat Mitchel-King (Jim Fenlon), Christian Jolley, (Byron Harrison), Sammy Moore, Jack Midson, Brendan Kiernan (Charlie Strutton), Luke Moore (Frankie Merrifield).