Dons beaten at the Memorial Ground for second time this year
AFC Wimbledon slumped to a second successive defeat today with two second-half goals from Matty Taylor winning it for Bristol Rovers.
Traditionally a tough place for the Dons to visit, Wimbledon made a bright start, but Taylor’s trademark finishing prowess ultimately proved the difference as Rovers triumphed 2-0.
The 491 travelling Dons watched a better overall display than at Southend, but it was not the end to a superb 2016 that anyone in blue and yellow wanted.
Neal Ardley made three changes after the defeat at Southend United with Andy Barcham back in for his first League One start since November due to Lyle Taylor’s suspension. Tyrone Barnett also earned a start for his improved form and Jon Meades was back in at left-back with Sean Kelly and Dominic Poleon having to settle for places on the bench.
AFC Wimbledon came out of the blocks much quicker than at Southend on Boxing Day. With the height of Elliott and Barnett offering a platform for attacks, Wimbledon showed promise early on. The end of a decent move ended with Elliott creating space for Meades, but his cross was just too long. Though it was proving tough to find a cutting edge against a resolute Rovers defence, at least Neal Ardley’s men were offering much more than at Roots Hall on Monday.
minute with Elliott and Reeves linking up superbly just outside the box, but the final ball was just too hard for Barnett to reach it before Rovers goalkeeper Will Puddy. At the other end, Rovers failed to trouble Shea in the first 20 minutes with a shot just wide from Matty Taylor as their only hint of a chance. Rovers did fashion a decent shooting chance for Billy Bodin on the half hour mark, but Shea got down well to save. The hosts had upped the tempo by this stage, taking more of a grip on the game as the half progressed.thWimbledon put together a lovely move in the 19
minute. A lovely defence-splitting pass picked out Barcham on the left and he showed plenty of pace to go through on goal, but Puddy got down well to deny him. A foul on Barry Fuller two minutes before half-time offered Wimbledon a good free-kick opportunity just outside the area, but Francomb’s well delivered free-kick was headed straight into the arms of Puddy by Elliott. As the half-time whistle sounded, Wimbledon could be satisfied with a decent away display so far, Rovers restricted to very little and the visitors having the best chance so far.thThough Wimbledon had struggled to make the most of Elliott winning virtually every through ball, the Dons came so close in the 37
The Dons were forced back after half-time and it needed a brilliant piece of last-ditch defending from Barry Fuller to stop Rovers opening the scoring. As we approached the hour mark, pressure from Rovers was building with Wimbledon forced deeper and deeper. It needed a brilliant save from Shea to keep Wimbledon level when he reacted well to deny Taylor with his feet. However, it was only a temporary reprieve for Wimbledon as the ball was crossed back in by Lee Brown and Taylor this time beat Shea with a header from close range.
In response, Wimbledon fashioned a decent chance to equalise with Barnett put through, but his shot was straight at Puddy. Midway through the second-half, Neal Ardley made a double change with Poleon and Dean Parrett introduced for Barcham and Bulman. However, the Dons had a mountain to climb 20 minutes from time when Rovers added a second. There didn’t seem much on when Taylor took possession in the area, but he turned smartly and delivered a fine strike from an acute angle into the far corner.
Substitute Poleon threatened to change matters when he burst forward and struck a powerful effort from the left, but his shot flashed just wide. On so many occasions this season, Wimbledon had come back from the dead, but it did not look like happening this time and it needed another fine save from Shea to prevent further damage, the in-form Dons goalkeeper diving to his right to keep out a well-struck shot from Bodin.
A positive with five minutes to go was the return of Darius Charles after injury, the centre-back replacing Tyrone Barnett. However, it was too late for Wimbledon to get anything from the game now and it makes Monday’s home match against Millwall even more important.
(Darius Charles), Chris Robertson. AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Jon Meades, Dannie Bulman (Dean Parrett), Paul Robinson, George Francomb, Jake Reeves, Tom Elliott, Andy Barcham (Dominic Poleon) Tyrone
Picture credit: Stuart Butcher, Pro Sports Images.