Full report from win at Aldershot
Neal Ardley came away with plenty of positives from Wimbledon’s final dress rehearsal at Aldershot with key players getting 90 minutes and 17-year-old left-back Ben Harrison making an impressive debut.
There was also the bonus of a 3-0 win to take into the opener against Shrewsbury next Saturday with goals from Harry Pell, Kevin Sainte-Luce (pictured) and Sean Rigg.
For Harrison, it was a day to remember as he produced a real maturity in his performance for one so young. However, he certainly felt it afterwards. "I didn't realise how tiring that would be with a large pitch, warm weather and faster pace. It was a bit different from what I’d been used to with the Under-18s."
Harry Pell filled in at centre-back and with just Alan Bennett and Mark Phillips as specialist centre-backs due to injuries, Neal Ardley is seeking a replacement in that position.
The 3-0 scoreline fully reflected the balance of play, though Neal Ardley was disappointed with the level of intensity in the first half. However, from the midway point of the first-half Wimbledon controlled the game and created enough chances to have scored more.
Tom Beere was massively effective alongside Sammy Moore and took a sequence of corners, which were both accurate and played with pace. Wimbledon players kept on winning headers from these set pieces and on another day, two or three goals would have been just reward.
Pell helped turn the tide after Aldershot’s early momentum. He advanced from his defensive role and set-up a move involving Bayo Akinfenwa, Sainte-Luce and Rigg with the latter having a header blocked by a defender.
Wimbledon then forced three corners in quick succession. The first saw Beere try to score direct, and Phil Smith in the Aldershot goal did well to turn over. The second saw Akinfenwa picked out by the penalty spot and his on-target header cleared for the third, and this time the same player now at the far post headed wide.
Three different corners, all delivered with accuracy, and they all caused consternation for Aldershot.
It was the response Neal Ardley had been looking for after an opening spell that saw Aldershot create chances with Mark Molesey twice coming close.
The visitors continued to press throughout the latter stages of the first-half and Sainte-Luce was denied by Smith.
It did not take long for Wimbledon to turn their superiority into goals. Rigg was fouled and delivered the free kick - hard and low across the penalty box. Lots of players attempted to get a connection, but few connected. Pell stretched out a leg and claimed the goal to make it 1-0.
minute when they doubled their advantage.thWimbledon were full of running now, but they did not create another chance until the 66
Sainte-Luce picked up a bobbling ball in midfield, beat a stack of players and advances into the penalty box, before beating Smith with a fine finish from 16 yards out. No somersault was spotted in celebration.
Aldershot were hurt, and responded in kind. Substitute Joseph N'Guessan took a shot from the edge of the box in the 72nd minute and Ross Worner got down well to save the shot.
Then two minutes later, Sainte-Luce repeated his earlier trick of beating players for fun, but this time he was fouled on the edge of the box, whilst most thought it was within. Disappointment lasted all of 60 seconds, as the free kick saw the third goal secured. Smith and Rigg stood over the ball, appearing to discuss the merits of a takeaway post-match or so it appeared for all who watched.
Their discussions ended with Rigg playing a two-foot pass to Smith, who teed up the winger to strike home emphatically from 20 yards.
In the 84th minute, Jacquart replaced man of the match Sainte-Luce.
Within two minutes, he was making a profound mark on the game. Though small in stature, Jacquart plays with a big heart and he has a great footballing brain. With Akinfenwa now withdrawn to a midfield role, there was suddenly lots of space ahead to run into. And run Chace did.
Chace broke with the ball from wide right of midfield and advanced on goal before playing a delightful pass that picked out Matt Tubbs, who was denied by Smith.
Overall, it was a good way to sign off pre-season with the real action getting underway against Shrewsbury in seven days.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Jack Smith, Ben Harrison, Alan Bennett, Harry Pell, Kevin Sainte-Luce (Chace Jacquart), Sammy Moore, Tom Beere (Egli Kaja), Sean Rigg, Matt Tubbs, Bayo Akinfenwa.