In a game of few chances, in-form Burton Albion punished a defensive lapse just before the hour to earn all three points at Plough Lane tonight.
There had been little to separate the two sides throughout, but Wimbledon failed to deal with a throw-in just before the hour and Michael Bostwick needed no second invitation to strike home to earn a 1-0 victory for Burton. After good displays on the road from Wimbledon, this was a difficult defeat to take.
Following creditable draws at Shrewsbury and Blackpool, Mark Robinson made two changes to his starting 11. Ben Heneghan and Nesta Guinness-Walker were both restored to the side with Will Nightingale and Luke O’Neill having to settle for places on the bench. The Dons were aiming to improve a disappointing record at Plough Lane in recent months, but it was never going to be easy against a Burton side that boasted the best form in League One with five wins from the last six matches.
Burton, who had beaten promotion-chasers Peterborough last time out, made a start that was full of confidence as they dominated possession. However, the Dons maintained a good defensive shape to quell the effectiveness of Burton as an attacking force. There was a glimmer of a chance for Burton in the 20th minute when Jonny Smith got in behind Wimbledon’s defence and threatened to pick out Danny Rowe, who was waiting in space in the box, but George Dobson got back well to clear for a corner.
The first half hour followed a familiar pattern as Burton continued to hold sway in the possession stakes, without making it count, as Wimbledon defended diligently. Wimbledon only offered sporadic threat with attacks few and far between in the first-half. Cheye Alexander, switched to a more familiar right-back role after playing on the left in recent matches, showed good movement to find space on the overlap and he sent over a superb cross, but no one was able to get on the end of it. Shane McLoughlin also threatened to make a difference in attack when he tricked his way into the box with a fine piece of skill, but Burton got men back to crowd him out. With Jack Rudoni not getting much of a look in on the left side against Burton captain John Brayford, he was switched to the right in an effort to effect the game more.
The half-time whistle shrilled with neither side having had a shot on target during a first-half that had largely consisted of midfield battles with good defending stifling any attacking possibilities.
Wimbledon attempted to go on the attack at the start of the second-half, but Burton defended stubbornly. Rudoni showed good skill on the right, but Burton got men back to deny him space as he attempted to find Joe Pigott, who had been fed on scraps. The visitors threatened to make the breakthrough when Jonny Smith picked out Lucas Akins in the box, but he shot over the crossbar from close range. It was a warning sign that Wimbledon failed to heed as Burton made the breakthrough in the 59th minute. The goal came in disappointing fashion from a Wimbledon perspective as a throw-in was launched into the box and Michael Bostwick fired home after the hosts failed to deal with the ball into the box.
With the Dons struggling to conjure up a response against a resolute Burton side, Mark Robinson decided to make a triple substitution with Ollie Palmer, Ayoub Assal, and Callum Reilly introduced for Ryan Longman, Shane McLoughlin, and Jack Rudoni. Though the changes did bring about a bit more attacking momentum, Burton stayed strong at the back and there was a lack of creativity in search of that elusive goal. A good chance came in the 81st minute though when Nesta Guinness-Walker sent over a cross from the left that picked out Pigott in the box, but his header was saved by Burton keeper Ben Garratt.
Though Wimbledon piled forward in search of an equaliser, Burton stayed strong and the Dons only threatened when Jaakko Oksanen had a shot saved. The final whistle signalled a defeat for Wimbledon that the players will have to put behind them quickly with an important match at Bristol Rovers coming up on Saturday.
AFC Wimbledon: Sam Walker, Alex Woodyard, Cheye Alexander, Jack Rudoni (Callum Reilly), Nesta Guinness- Walker, Shane McLoughlin (Ayoub Assal), Ben Heneghan, George Dobson, Darnell Johnson, Ryan Longman (Ollie Palmer), Joe Pigott.