Striker notches late hat-trick
Lyle Taylor produced the perfect debut tonight as he struck a quick-fire hat-trick to lift Wimbledon to victory at Basingstoke.
At 1-0 down with 12 minutes to go, Wimbledon were heading to defeat at Basingstoke before Taylor’s superb treble changed everything and earned a 3-1 win for Neal Ardley’s men.
Taylor (pictured), who only signed for the Dons earlier today, could even have notched four on the night as he fired just wide seconds after entering as a substitute.
The Dons once again selected a mixture of first-team regulars and Under-21 players in a strong starting 11 that were kitted out in AFC Wimbledon’s new third kit for the first time. Joe McDonnell retained his place in goal at the club where he made his name as a goalkeeper, the match coming too soon for James Shea's return.
Wimbledon had a great chance to take the lead inside two minutes when David Fitzpatrick put Ade Azeez through, but he dragged his shot wide. At the other end, lively Basingstoke forward Manny Williams threatened to go clean through, but a challenge from Ryan Sweeney nullified his foray forward.
Played in front of a decent crowd at the Soccer AM Stadium, it had been a decent opening to this match and Williams was at it again shortly afterwards, but Karleigh Osborne denied him with an excellent challenge. With the pace of Azeez up front, it was no surprise that Wimbledon showed plenty of threat on the break and the Dons striker bore down on goal again, but Aaron Howe spread himself well to deny him.
A feature of Wimbledon’s first half display was good link-up play on the left from Callum Kennedy and Fitzpatrick. The latter produced a lovely mazy run before the half hour mark and his cross was headed just wide by Azeez. In a half that again showed Wimbledon’s young talent in a good light, 17-year-old Christian Toonga was again impressive in the heart of midfield, producing a combative performance in the centre of the park for one so young. And when Tounga did go forward he did so to good effect by setting up Akinfenwa, but his header was over.
As the half-time whistle loomed, the Dons had dominated possession and chances, but Chris Flood did have a fine acrobatic effort that flashed just wide. Wimbledon ended the half on top and created a good chance when Fitzpatrick broke down the left again, but Akinfenwa headed over the crossbar.
With barely time for spectators to take their seats again after half-time, the Dons were stunned by a Basingstoke goal. Louie Soares sent over a corner that Chris Flood met with a fine header and Basingstoke were 1-0 up.
Wimbledon had struggled to conjure up a response by the hour mark when Neal Ardley made a raft of substitutions. Eight players entered the fray after George Pilbeam and Karleigh Osborne had been withdrawn at half-time for Barry Fuller and Will Nightingale respectively. It was an almost instant response from the Dons as George Francomb delivered a clever low corner that Lyle Taylor met with an excellent drive, but it flashed just wide.
It was a different game now with Andy Barcham, Taylor and Tom Elliott now stretching the Basingstoke defence with no shortage of pace and power. In a promising move for the season ahead, Taylor broke down the right and delivered a dangerous cross that Elliott so nearly got on the end of, but a Basingstoke defender got there first.
Wimbledon’s pressure eventually told 12 minutes from time when Francomb cut inside and put over a dangerous cross that was bundled in by Taylor for his first Dons goal. It may not have been pretty, but it was a typical poacher’s goal and Dons fans will settle for plenty more like that when the real action begins on 8 August. The League 2 outfit now swarmed all over their opponents and Taylor helped himself to his second with six minutes to play. It was a goal of a completely different kind this time as he got behind the Basingstoke defence with a lovely run and produced a clinical finish that left Howe with no chance.
There was more to come from that man Taylor and he notched his hat-trick in style from close range after a cross in from the right by Sean Rigg. It had been a fine exhibition of finishing from Taylor and it was a timely intervention as the Dons had struggled to find a cutting edge up until his introduction. A victory in pre-season can certainly do no harm and the Dons will be aiming to build on that at home to Millwall on Saturday.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell (Will Mannion), George Pilbeam (Barry Fuller), Karleigh Osborne (Will Nightingale), Ryan Sweeney (Ben Harrison), Callum Kennedy (Sean Rigg), Dannie Bulman (Jon Meades), Christian Toonga (Jake Reeves), Tom Beere (George Francomb), David Fitzpatrick (Sean Rigg), Bayo Akinfenwa (Kyle Taylor), Ade Azeez (Tom Elliott).
The picture above was taken by Stuart Butcher on behalf of Pro Sports Images.