It was a difficult evening for the Dons at Fratton Park with three first-half goals effectively sealing victory for Portsmouth.
League One high-flyers Portsmouth demonstrated all the qualities that appear certain to have them vying for promotion at the end of the season as they showed plenty of attacking prowess to earn a 4-0 victory. The Dons had started well, but three goals in 16 minutes before the break settled it for the hosts.
Following the defeat at home against Sunderland, Glyn Hodges made three changes to his starting line-up. Luke O’Neill came in for his first start since late October as one of three centre backs alongside Will Nightingale and Dan Csoka. Callum Reilly and Cheye Alexander also earned recalls with Jaakko Oksanen and Shane McLoughlin having to settle for places on the bench. The Dons came into this match seeking a first win since early December against a Portsmouth side flying high in third place in League One after five league matches without defeat.
There was certainly nothing wrong with Wimbledon’s start at Fratton Park, as the Dons pressed high up the pitch, forcing Pompey into mistakes. O’Neill wasted little time trying his luck with a shot from range, but it was comfortably over the crossbar. Joe Pigott also had a shot early on, but it was off target. However, the hosts tested Sam Walker for the first time when Andy Cannon struck a fierce drive from 30 yards that the on-loan Reading keeper did well to palm to safety.
There was a good spell for Wimbledon around the 20 minute mark, as Pompey were forced to defend deep. Alexander joined in the attack and had a shot deflected over the crossbar. O’Neill swung in a dangerous corner from the right that ended in a goalmouth scramble, but Portsmouth just survived. That let-off appeared to spark the hosts into action and it was 1-0 in the 28th minute. Callum Johnson whipped in a cross from the right and Ryan Williams flicked it on at the near post for John Marquis to apply an easy finish at the back post.
Falling behind before the half hour mark was going to make it a very tough task for Wimbledon against one of the leading lights in League One and Sam Walker was forced to make a good save to stop Jack Whatmough’s header from making it two. However, there was no reprieve for the Dons in the 36th minute, as Marquis turned provider. His lay-off found Ryan Williams, who needed no second invitation to try his luck after being left in space just outside the box. What followed was sublime as his powerful drive found the bottom corner, leaving Walker with no chance. With a minute left of the first-half, it was 3-0, as this time Pompey showed their prowess from set pieces. Michael Jacobs curled in a fine free-kick from the right and Sean Raggett was allowed to win a header in the box that found the back of the net.
The half-time whistle signalled a chance for Wimbledon to regroup after a very difficult spell at the end of the first-half. A goal back early in the second-half was essential if Wimbledon were to have any chance of a way back into this match, but that certainly wasn’t going to be easy against a Pompey side with a very good defensive record in recent times. The Dons came so close to reducing the arrears in the 54th minute. O’Neill swung in a sublime cross from the right that picked out Jack Rudoni at the back post, but his header flashed just wide with Pompey keeper Craig MacGillivray beaten. Wimbledon had certainly not raised the white flag as we approached the hour mark, continuing to search for a goal back.
With 64 minutes on the clock, Wimbledon made a change with Paul Kalambayi replacing Luke O’Neill, who had made an encouraging return to the starting line-up after three months out. With Portsmouth manager Kenny Jacket urging his side to keep things tight, the hosts offered stubborn resistance. An example of this was when Nesta Guinness-Walker showed good skill and pace to find space for a cross down the left, but two Pompey players got back to put pressure on and the delivery was bocked. With 13 minutes remaining, Glyn Hodges gave another opportunity to young striker Zach Robinson, who replaced Ryan Longman up front.
Portsmouth opportunities were rare in the second-half, but Ellis Harrison twice came close to making it four. First, Sam Walker did well to save his shot, and then the same player headed over from close range. However, Pompey did score a fourth through Ben Close, who cracked home from an acute angle, rounding off a tough night for the Dons.
AFC Wimbledon: Sam Walker, Luke O’Neill (Paul Kalambayi), Daniel Csoka, Alex Woodyard, Will Nightingale, Cheye Alexander, Jack Rudoni, Nesta Guinness-Walker, Jack Rudoni, Nesta Guinness-Walker, Ryan Longman (Zach Robinson), Callum Reilly, Joe Pigott.