Pell and Smith lift Wimbledon to greater heights
The Dons moved up to fourth spot in League Two this afternoon by maintaining their 100 per cent home record in emphatic style against Fleetwood.
In a hugely encouraging display at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, Fleetwood were flattered by the 2-0 scoreline with Wimbledon having numerous chances in the second-half to add to their tally. In what is a stark contrast to this time last season, Wimbledon are fighting at the other end of the table and there is plenty of cause for optimism for Neal Ardley’s new-look side.
Goals from Harry Pell and Michael Smith (pictured) during an impressive four-minute spell before the break did the damage and Wimbledon coasted to victory in the end.
Neal Ardley had spoken positively in the build-up to this match about Jim Fenlon’s future at the club and the Wimbledon manager decided to hand him his first start of 2013/14. Callum Kennedy therefore had to settle for a place on the bench for the first time this season and George Francomb was also restored to Wimbledon’s starting 11 in place of the injured Charlie Sheringham.
High-flyers Fleetwood started in the manner of a side full of confidence on their travels and Wimbledon were twice fortunate to survive in the opening exchanges. First, a Junior Brown cross bounced off Barry Fuller and rolled just wide of a post and then Stewart Murdoch’s fierce 25-yard drive bounced off the crossbar.
Wimbledon produced their best move so far midway through the first-half when George Porter played a quick one-two with Francomb, but the Dons winger was sent sprawling just outside the box. The subsequent free-kick was a decent one too as Francomb curled a 20-yard effort just over the crossbar. That paved the way for a good spell of Wimbledon possession and defender Rhys Weston almost put Luke Moore clean through with a searching pass, but the forward just failed to reach the ball.
The first-half had been very evenly matched with chances few and far between. Indeed, it was easy to see why Fleetwood were unbeaten in three previous away matches as they offered stubborn resistance at the back. Francomb attempted to take matters into his own hands when he dispossessed Stephen Jordan and picked out Luke Moore in the box, but the Dons forward shot just wide. In a frantic spell before the break, Wimbledon were fortunate not to concede when Ross Worner made an excellent point-blank save to deny Jamille Matt and the Dons just survived after a goalmouth scramble.
However, there was plenty more to come in a devastating end to the first-half as Wimbledon scored twice in four minutes before half-time. First, referee Iain Williamson adjudged that Mark Roberts had handled Francomb’s corner and Harry Pell stepped up to send Fleetwood goalkeeper Scott Davies the wrong way from the spot. The impressive Francomb, who was at the heart of Wimbledon’s best first-half moves, produced a first-half that was closer to the flying form of his previous spell with the Dons. It was Francomb’s deflected cross that set-up number two with Michael Smith losing his marker and beating the offside trap to nod home from close-range.
It had been a hugely encouraging end to the first-half from Wimbledon and a complete role reversal of this stage last Saturday. However, there had been enough promise from Fleetwood in the first-half to indicate that this match was far from over.
There was little doubt that Wimbledon’s players would have been told that by Neal Ardley in the changing room at half-time and they continued to press forward after the break. Smith, who had been a constant threat all afternoon, produced a powerful run down the right and a fine cross towards Francomb on the back post, but he failed to connect properly.
Neal Ardley made his first change just after the hour when Jack Midson was introduced for Francomb. There was almost an instant opportunity for Midson to net his first of the season when Smith nodded on a Sammy Moore cross, but he just failed to get there. Then Midson came even closer to netting his first competitive goal since that memorable match against Fleetwood four months ago when he wriggled clear of the Fleetwood defence and forced Davies into a flying save.
With Fleetwood offering little threat going forward, it was all Wimbledon and Smith was kicking himself for not making it 3-0 midway through the second-half. It would have been the perfect end to an impressive Dons move with Porter finding Barry Fuller on the overlap and his cross picked out Smith, but he headed just wide. Smith, who could have had a hat-trick on another day, then headed over after a teasing free-kick from the left by Luke Moore.
Though this Wimbledon victory failed to match last Saturday’s offering in terms of drama and excitement, it was arguably a more complete display from the Dons.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Barry Fuller, Jim Fenlon, Sammy Moore, Andy Frampton, Rhys Weston, George Francomb (Jack Midson), Harry Pell, Michael Smith, Luke Moore, George Porter (Chris Arthur).