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27 January 2024 Venue The Cherry Red Records Stadium Attendance

Kick off 15:00 (UK)

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English Football League - League Two

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Match Previews

“We need a big response from the group”

Forward back in contention after return from international duty

26 January 2024

Johnnie Jackson has called for a return to the form that took us into the play-off positions, when the Dons face promotion contenders Mansfield tomorrow.

“What I want to focus on is the performance,” said Johnnie. “We want to get back to looking like what we have been – a really good Wimbledon team that gives everything.

“We went away from that in that opening period on Tuesday and we can’t allow that to happen again. A big response is required from the boys, but I know they’re all desperate to get out there and show what they’re about.

“I know how much the group is hurting. We’ve addressed it and all we can do now is try to put things right in the coming days and in the games ahead after that.”

You can listen below to everything Johnnie had to say after Friday’s final training session.

It’s certainly no easy task ahead of the Dons, as Nigel Clough’s team have only lost twice all season in League Two and have also conceded the least amount of goals.

“They’re hard to beat, as shown by those stats,” said Johnnie. “I think they’ve kept the most clean sheets as well, so they don’t ship a lot of goals. It’s important that we go into this game knowing that we’ve got to fight if we want to get anything from it.

“We had a great game with them earlier on in the season. We probably didn’t come away with what we deserved - which I thought was the three points - but we came away with a point. It could have been different, so we know we can mix it with them.”

Omar 16.9.JPG

The return of Lebanese international forward Omar Bugiel from the Asian Cup is a significant boost to the squad, which is now missing a few key personnel.

“Omar has been training with us during the back end of the week,” added Johnnie. “He got back into the country in midweek after his exploits in the Middle East.

“It’s great to have him back with the group, as he’s a big player for us and a great character around the place. I know the boys are really pleased to see him and he comes back into our thinking.”

As well as Ali Al-Hamadi still being away at the tournament with Iraq and Josh Neufville (back) also ruled out, our defence is somewhat depleted. Ryan Johnson was at the training ground, but on crutches and wearing a protective boot.

Johnno 16.9.JPG

“Ryan is going to have a scan to see what the full impact of the injury is. It looks like he’s going to be out for a while, as it’s very sore. He’s going to be unavailable for this one and probably for a little while.”

Huseyin Biler and Paul Kalambayi both begin their suspensions, and the manager is cautious about reintroducing Alex Pearce, with the defender having just started training again after his recovery from injury.

Johnnie added: “It’s probably too soon for Pearcey, he’s only trained one day with the group. He’s been out for a few weeks, so the last thing we want to do is risk him and he suffers a recurrence of that injury.

“He’s looking okay, but we need to be sensible about it because we can’t afford to lose anyone for a lengthy period.”

Photos: Pro Sports Images.

You can listen to full audio coverage of the game, with our Radio WDON commentary team, by purchasing an audio match pass from iFollow Dons.

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Match Reports

Ronan's debut goal earns dramatic win

Wimbledon earn a vital three points

27 January 2024

It was a dream debut for Ronan Curtis today as he stepped forward in the nick of time for Wimbledon.

Wimbledon appeared to be heading for a frustrating 1-1 draw against a Mansfield side that played for 70 minutes with 10 men, but Curtis changed all that with his last-gasp strike earning a much-needed victory for the Dons.

It provided a real tonic for Wimbledon after a rather flat start to 2024, the Dons having failed to win a league game this year before today.

That statistic was extinguished in dramatic circumstances with that man Curtis - aiming to recapture the form that made him one of the hottest properties in the lower leagues during his time with Portsmouth - striking right at the death after entering as a late substitute.

Reduced to 10 men in the 20th minute after a straight red card was shown to Jordan Bowery, Mansfield had displayed resilience in abundance after falling behind to Omar Bugiel's well-taken goal.

Whatever the circumstances, make no mistake, this was a great win for the Dons as it was only Mansfield's third league defeat this season and they still remain in the automatic promotion places.

It appeared that the Dons had not done enough in the second-half to warrant all three points as Nigel Clough's side dug deep, before taking their big chance when it arrived through Will Swan. However, Curtis changed all that - to the relief and ecstacy of all in yellow and blue.

Johnnie Jackson made four changes to his starting line-up, with two of those enforced. Isaac Ogundere replaced the suspended Huseyin Biler at right-back and Lee Brown was recalled at the heart of defence due to the midweek injury sustained by Ryan Johnson in midweek. Bugiel was straight back into the side after returning from international duty with Aron Sasu on the bench and John-Kymani Gordon was given the nod to make his home debut in place of James Ball.

The Dons made a bright start with Gordon looking lively early on. The on-loan Crystal Palace forward showed good awareness to find Armani Little in the box, but he was unable to get in a shot with Mansfield keeper Christy Pym out quickly. On the other flank, James Tilley caused problems early on, but he shot wildly over from 25 yards out. Our men in yellow and blue had certainly been the better side early on and an incident in the 20th minute gave the Dons a clear advantage. Jordan Bowery was rightly adjudged to have made a professional foul as he was the last man when he stopped Josh Davison from going through – and the inevitable red card followed.

Shortly afterwards, Wimbledon supporters almost had a goal to celebrate when Gordon sent in a teasing cross from the left that was only half cleared and James Tilley’s fierce drive arced towards the top corner before it was cleared superbly by the head of Bailey Cargill. Following that near miss, the Dons struggled to make the extra man count as Mansfield showed why they had only been beaten twice in the league this season before this match. There was a further blow for the visitors midway through the first-half when their captain Aden Flint had to go off with a shoulder injury. Despite those setbacks for the men from Nottinghamshire, frustration was starting to grow amongst the home faithful with Wimbledon struggling to break them down.

The mood around the place changed emphatically in first-half injury time as the Dons opened the scoring in style. A fine team move ended with Gordon’s pass providing a shooting chance for Bugiel and he made the most of it with a fantastic low strike that left Pym with the chance. The relief was palpable around the Cherry Red Records Stadium after that breakthrough and Bugiel’s superb strike was an example of the sharp shooting that the Dons had been missing while he was away with Lebanon.

However, Bugiel’s return to Dons duty lasted only the one half as he was withdrawn at the break with Harry Pell introduced for the start of the second-half. Gordon continued to impress at the start of the second-half, one lung-bursting run down the left catching the eye after lovely hold-up play by Josh Davison. Mansfield held firm though to stay in the game and they were rewarded in the 62nd minute with an equalising goal that was a very disappointing one to concede from a Wimbledon perspective. A routine cross was sent in from the Mansfield left that Lee Brown failed to clear and Will Swann made no mistake with his strike from an acute angle finding the net.

Johnnie Jackson made a double change shortly after that goal with Gordon going off with a knock and he was replaced by Ronan Curtis, who came on for his Dons debut after signing earlier this month. Gordon could take plenty of satisfaction from his first Wimbledon game on home turf, certainly offering plenty of promise for the rest of his loan stay.

Aron Sasu was also introduced in place of Josh Davison as Wimbledon searched for the key to unlock the door. Despite having less players, Mansfield were not being tested enough and their players were even starting to sense that an unlikely victory in the circumstances was on the cards.

That all changed though when Curtis steered home from close range after a fine cross by fellow susbtitute Ryan McLean and that sparked jubilant scenes amongst the home faithful. What a way to claim a first league victory this year - and winning in such circumstances could be something to really build on in 2024.

AFC Wimbledon: Alex Bass, Lee Brown, Jake Reeves, James Tilley (Ryan McLean), Josh Davison (Aron Sasu), Armani Little, Omar Bugiel (Harry Pell), Jack Currie, Joe Lewis, Isaac Ogundere, John-Kymani Gordon (Ronan Curtis).

Attendance: 8,114 (990 away)

PICS: Ian Stephen (Pro Sports Images)

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