Goals by Fejiri Okenabirhie and Taylor Richards condemned Wimbledon to defeat at Doncaster tonight.
Rovers, chasing promotion to the Championship, had a touch of fortune with the second goal, which was heavily deflected, but the hosts defended well to earn a 2-0 victory. Darren Moore's side were very well drilled on the night, offering a real defensive solidity when the Dons did have spells of good pressure.
With the Dons having played very well at Crewe on Saturday, Glyn Hodges made just one enforced change to his starting line-up. New signing Darnell Johnson came straight in for his Dons debut with Luke O’Neill missing out due to a thigh injury. Despite being eliminated from the Emirates FA Cup, Doncaster came into this match with just one defeat in the last seven league matches and with games in hand on the League One leaders.
Though Rovers had recently lost the attacking talents of Ben Whiteman, who joined Preston North End after scoring eight goals from midfield this season, they started this game with plenty of cutting edge. The home side’s first attack was a dangerous one and it needed Jack Rudoni’s intervention to take the sting out of a cross by Cameron John, allowing Sam Walker to gather the ball. In the seventh minute, Doncaster worked the ball into the box to offer a shooting chance to Elliot Simoes, but his goal-bound shot was well blocked by Dan Csoka.
Doncaster marched into the lead in the 10th minute through a superb finish by Fejiri Okenabirhie. Taylor Richards flicked a ball towards the area and he pounced on Csoka’s attempted clearance to fire home a fierce drive into the bottom corner, leaving Sam Walker with no chance. It was certainly going to be difficult now for the Dons against one of the leading lights in League One, but what followed was a very good response. Jack Rudoni had a first attempt at goal, but it was well over the crossbar. The young midfielder then showed his prowess from set-pieces with an in-swinging delivery from the right that caused panic in the home defence, but Doncaster managed to scramble the ball clear.
As we approached the half hour mark, the Dons had shown signs of getting back into this match. Rudoni shot just wide of the far post with a decent drive from 25 yards out. However, Doncaster continued to look dangerous and Brad Halliday cracked a shot against the crossbar with Sam Walker well beaten. It was only a temporary reprieve for Wimbledon and the hosts doubled the advantage through a deflected shot by Taylor Richards in the 35th minute. The second goal had a touch of fortune about it, but Doncaster had made the most of their attacking opportunities. At the other end, Wimbledon had not shown enough of a cutting edge with all Rudoni’s shots coming from outside the area.
Wimbledon needed to up the tempo to have any chance of getting something from this game and that was certainly the case at the start of the second-half. Committing more men forward, the Dons started to find a bit of attacking fluency with some good moves and a goal back almost followed in the 56th minute when substitute George Dobson, who replaced Callum Reilly at half-time, struck against a post. Dobson showed promise once again after his introduction and his nice pass to the edge of the box fashioned a shooting opportunity for Joe Pigott, but his shot was saved by Doncaster keeper Ellery Balcombe.
Doncaster responded well to Wimbledon's second-half improvement and started to get their attacking game going. Sam Walker twice had to make good saves, the first of those to palm away a stinging drive by Richards. With 75 minutes on the clock, Glyn Hodges made a treble change with Shane McLoughlin, Jaakko Oksanen, and Ethan Chislett entering the fray for Cheye Alexander, Alex Woodyard, and Jack Rudoni.
In the latter stages, Sam Walker made a fine save to deny Elliot Simoes, as Wimbledon prevented further damage. The closest the Dons came to a consolation in the final minutes was when Pigott's header from a corner landed on top of the net. Doncaster defended stubbornly when pressurised by Wimbledon and they appear to be very worthy promotion candidates. However, Wimbledon need to rediscover the attacking spark that was in such clear evidence earlier in the season if Glyn's boys are to start climbing the League One table.
AFC Wimbledon: Sam Walker, Daniel Csoka, Alex Woodyard (Jaakko Oksanen), Will Nightingale, Cheye Alexander (Shane McLoughlin), Jack Rudoni (Ethan Chislett), Nesta Guinness-Walker, Darnell Johnson, Ryan Longman, Callum Reilly (George Dobson), Joe Pigott.