Second-half turnaround secures home victory
The Dons produced a superb second-half fightback to earn a first home victory since 31 October in thrilling style against Mansfield.
Second-half goals from Lyle Taylor (pictured), Jon Meades and Ade Azeez secured a 3-1 win that ended a dismal run against the men from Nottinghamshire.
A third successive victory was fully deserved for Wimbledon on the day as the Dons produced a stunning turnaround after a first-half when Mansfield were in control.
Neal Ardley was forced to make two changes to his starting line-up with Jake Reeves and George Francomb both injured. That meant recalls for Sean Rigg and Tom Elliott, who had scored in his last start against Exeter City. Both sides came into this match in good form with the Dons unbeaten in four and Mansfield having lost just once in their last five league games.
Wimbledon almost contributed to their own downfall in the seventh minute when a pass from Jon Meades to Paul Robinson fell short and Matt Green was put through, but James Shea just got there first to clear. However, there was no reprieve four minutes later when Shea failed to collect a free-kick from Blair Adams and the ball eventually fell to Green, who finished clinically. It had been a bold start from Mansfield as their direct approach continued to cause problems, Wimbledon struggling to clear the ball on several occasions.
The Dons gradually started to come into it and had a first effort on goal when a corner from Lyle Taylor was only half cleared and Andy Barcham struck a powerful effort that Mansfield goalkeeper Brian Jensen only just managed to gather. Dannie Bulman then picked out Barry Fuller on the right and his cross was met by Taylor, but he fired over the crossbar. Though Wimbledon’s three up front of Bayo Akinfenwa, Taylor and Elliott were looking lively early on, it was proving difficult to get them enough service as Mansfield won plenty of ball in midfield.
Green was a constant threat for Mansfield and it needed fine defensive work from Paul Robinson to stop him going through on goal after he had eluded Karleigh Osborne’s challenge. It was Shea to the rescue 10 minutes before half-time when he got down well to deny Reggie Lambe after a pass from Chris Clements had opened up the Dons. At the other end, Taylor came so close to creating the equaliser when he latched onto a pass from Bulman down the right and sent in a dangerous cross, but Elliott was just unable to reach it.
With Wimbledon having struggled to exert sustained pressure in the first-half, the 4-3-3 formation was ditched and Callum Kennedy entered the fray for Akinfenwa. The change paid off almost immediately after the break with Taylor now using his pace through the middle. In a bizarre sequence of events, Wimbledon fans and players first celebrated after Taylor rounded Jensen and shot home, but the linesman’s flag was up. Then less than 60 seconds later it was 1-1 when Taylor again powered through the middle after latching onto a long ball and stabbed home, the celebrations this time even more vocal.
It was a completely different game now as Wimbledon swarmed forward and Bulman, who impressed with his energy and drive in midfield, powered a shot just wide. Mansfield retained threat on the break, especially with that man Green. A mix-up between Robinson and Shea gave Green another chance, but with Osborne back on the line he failed to pick his spot and shot wide.
Neal Ardley decided to introduce Ade Azeez with 20 minutes to play with Taylor the man to make way. The change so nearly signalled a lead for Wimbledon as Azeez headed just wide after a deep corner from Kennedy. Barcham also had an effort superbly saved by Jensen as Wimbledon forced Mansfield into desperate last-ditch defending.
minute. Kennedy’s crossing had given Mansfield something different to think about in the second-half and that proved crucial for the winner. A third corner in quick succession from Kennedy yielded the ultimate reward when Meades headed home superbly at the near post. Cue ecstatic scenes among the Wimbledon faithful as the Dons closed in on a long-awaited home win. thHowever, Wimbledon’s second-half pressure finally paid off in the 76
However, that was far from the end of the story. There was a moment of relief for Wimbledon when Chris Clements struck a post, but the game was killed off four minutes from time through that man Azeez. Lightning pace took Azeez through on goal after a flick-on from Tom Elliott and he produced a lovely clipped finish over Jensen, showing the composure that has been such a feature of his improvement this season. A great way to finish and what a second-half turnaround from Wimbledon.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Karleigh Osborne, Jon Meades, Dannie Bulman, Sean Rigg, Andy Barcham, Tom Elliott, Lyle Taylor (Ade Azeez), Bayo Akinfenwa (Callum Kennedy).
Picture credit: Stuart Butcher, Pro Sports Images.