Substitute rewards great support at Barnet
Wimbledon made it six league wins out of seven with a performance full of grit and determination rewarding the 1,409 travelling Dons at Barnet.
Goals from Lyle Taylor and substitute Ade Azeez (pictured) proved just enough to earn a 2-1 win after a late Barnet rally had threatened an equaliser.
However, there was no denying in-form Wimbledon another valuable win as a spirited display in difficult conditions moved them closer to the League 2 play-offs.
Eighteen-year-old Ryan Sweeney again produced another assured display for one so young to deny Barnet, the Dons academy product defending resolutely alongside Barnet-born Paul Robinson.
Neal Ardley selected the same 11 that started against Luton Town with Jake Reeves having been passed fit after shaking off a thigh injury.
The Dons started brightly and Tom Elliott had a header in the very first minute that was well saved by Barnet goalkeeper Jamie Stephens.
Andy Barcham was offering a good outlet down the left early on and he tried his luck with a great effort that flashed into the side netting.
The contrast in style was obvious as the first half progressed. Wimbledon still attempted to get their passing game together on the rain-sodden pitch, but Barnet utilised a direct approach with John Akinde as the main target. During a good first half hour for the visitors, Tom Elliott headed just wide after a great ball in from Barcham. At the other end, a rare Barnet foray forward resulted in Andy Yiadom heading over after a good ball in from the left by James Pearson.
It was Wimbledon with the upper hand though for large spells of the first half and Lyle Taylor had an effort deflected just wide, before Sweeney had a goal-bound effort charged down. The best Barnet could muster in the first third of the match was when Curtis Weston blazed over the crossbar. The Dons centre-back pairing of Paul Robinson and Ryan Sweeney had handled the physical threat of Akinde well for the majority of the first half as Barnet struggled to put anything meaningful together.
minute when Barcham produced a great run and though his ball was cut-out, Elliott made the most of it and his shot was superbly saved by Stephens. That provided another demonstration of Elliott’s return to top form in recent weeks and Wimbledon always had a threat in attack as he worked in tandem with Taylor.thWimbledon came close in the 34
As the first-half came to a conclusion, Barnet did start to threaten and it needed Kelle Roos to make a smart save to deny Yiadom, the Dutch goalkeeper having also made a good save to stop Akinde. The Dons survived until half-time without too much discomfort and perhaps could count themselves unfortunate not to be leading after creating the better chances.
However, Wimbledon never had to wait too long for a goal in the second-half – just 43 seconds to be precise. Taylor showed all of his quality by latching onto a long ball from Ryan Sweeney, before steering home a fine finish past Stephens.
Though there was little sign of Wimbledon settling for what they had, Barnet did respond well and it needed Roos to make another fine save to Pearson. The Dutchman then made an even better stop to prevent Barnet substitute Shaun Batt equalising as the hosts finally worked up a head of steam. At the other end, the impressive Barcham so nearly sealed it just before the hour when he produced a brilliant solo run, before striking a low effort that Stephens did well to beat out.
With 15 minutes still to play, the game was in the balance as Barnet pressed. George Francomb made a last-gasp challenge that typified Wimbledon’s fighting spirit on the day, Barnet appeals for a penalty rightly in vain. In response to growing pressure, Neal Ardley made a double substitution with Bayo Akinfenwa and Ade Azeez on for Taylor and Elliott.
The changes so nearly paid immediate dividends when the impressive Barcham broke free down the left again and sent over a lovely cross that Azeez met with a flying acrobatic volley, but Stephens saved brilliantly. However, there was no stopping the Dons six minutes from time when Azeez struckwhat turned out to be the winner. Francomb dispossessed Nelson, before driving down the right and delivering a cross that Azeez tucked home smartly to send the travelling Dons contingent behind the goal wild.
It appeared the outcome was now assured, but there was a twist in the tale as Barnet substitute Mathew Stevens stabbed home to reduce the arrears with three minutes of normal time to play. With home fans finally getting behind their team as Barnet pressed for an equaliser, Wimbledon were rocked back, but the Dons held on bravely through five minutes of injury-time to seal a valuable win.
AFC Wimbledon: Kelle Roos, Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, Paul Robinson, George Francomb (Sean Rigg), Jake Reeves, Tom Elliott (Bayo Akinfenwa), Jon Meades, Andy Barcham, Ryan Sweeney, Lyle Taylor (Ade Azeez).
Picture credit: Stuart Butcher, Pro Sports Images.