Neal Ardley's men close in on play-offs
Lyle Taylor maintained his prolific form with another clinical strike to edge Wimbledon tantalisingly close to the play-offs.
goal in all competitions to make it five successive wins for Wimbledon for the first time this season.stTaylor struck his 21
Though the 1-0 victory was not quite enough to make a top-seven place mathematically certain, a victory against Portsmouth on Tuesday will be enough to seal it.
AFC Wimbledon made two changes from the side that started at Dagenham on Tuesday with one of those enforced as Jon Meades missed out due to injury. That meant a first start since 30 January for Callum Kennedy at left-back and Connor Smith was also restored to the side in place of Sean Rigg.
With Sammy Moore starting on his return to the club he served with such distinction for five years, Orient put Wimbledon on the back foot in the opening stages. There was a scare for the Dons when Kelle Roos failed to gather a cross and the ball fell nicely on the edge of the area, but his lob was just over.
It was not a signal of what was to come though as Wimbledon completely dominated the first half hour. Andy Barcham started it all with superb skill to get through on goal, but his curler from an acute angle was beaten out by Orient goalkeeper Alex Ciask. Constant Dons pressure forced a succession of quick corners and a half chance followed when Callum Kennedy’s corner picked out Smith, but he headed wide.
goal in all competitions.stThe Dons faithful did not have to wait long to celebrate an opening goal and it was certainly no surprise who scored it! Once the ball fell to that man Lyle Taylor, there was only one place it was going and it was another clinical finish from a player who has become a big favourite in his first season at AFC Wimbledon. The goal came about after brilliant play down the right from George Francomb, who set-up Tom Elliott, and when his shot was blocked, Taylor fired home low for his 21
There was no let-up from the Dons with Neal Ardley’s men pouring forward in numbers. Elliott headed just wide and then Taylor almost helped himself to a quick-fire double, but this time he was denied by Ciask after more good play from Francomb. Orient simply couldn’t live with the all-action strike-force of Taylor and Elliott. To be fair, not many teams in League 2 have been able to keep the pair quiet when on song. Elliott came close to earning a deserved goal when he latched onto a fine flick by Taylor, but his powerful shot was beaten away by Ciask. As the half-time whistle shrilled, the only worry from a Dons perspective after an excellent 45 minutes was that Orient had not been killed off.
Orient started the second-half swiftly and there was a warning for Wimbledon when Armand Gnanduillet, who scored twice here for Tranmere last season, turned smartly in the area and shot, but Kelle Roos got down well to save. However, the Dons centre-back pairing of Darius Charles and Paul Robinson remained alert to keep Orient at bay.
With an hour gone, pressure was building from the visitors and it needed resolute Wimbledon defending to maintain the advantage. Though no clear-cut chances were created by Orient, it required fine defending from Connor Smith to stop Turgott going through, before Dannie Bulman stopped a goal-bound effort from Gnanduillet. Despite Orient’s improvement, Wimbledon still had the better chances. More great approach play from Elliott provided Smith with a shooting chance, but he shot wide.
The Dons had a good chance to seal it when Barry Fuller sent over a brilliant cross from the right to pick out Barcham, but he shot straight into the arms of Ciask. Neal Ardley made his first change midway through the half with Sean Rigg replacing Francomb, who could be well pleased with his contribution. Lyle Taylor was also withdrawn to a standing ovation from Wimbledon supporters with Ade Azeez entering the fray.
Wimbledon exerted so much control in the latter stages that an equaliser never seemed likely. Barcham volleyed just wide and Azeez fired into the side netting after more great work from Fuller. One was enough though and the Dons are now ever so close to sealing a play-off place.
AFC Wimbledon: Kelle Roos, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Darius Charles, Callum Kennedy, Connor Smith, Dannie Bulman, Andy Barcham, Tom Elliott, Lyle Taylor (Ade Azeez), George Francomb (Sean Rigg).
Picture credit: Stuart Butcher, Pro Sports Images.