Neal Ardley's men fail to make the most of first-half superiority
AFC Wimbledon paid the price for failing to take their opportunities today as League One strugglers Port Vale took full advantage.
minute goal.stThe 2-0 victory for the hosts Vale came after Wimbledon dominated the first-half, without finding the cutting edge to match, and a second-half strike from Chris Eagles sealed it after Nathan Smith’s 21
Wimbledon ended the match with two teenagers on the pitch, Jayden Antwi joining Alfie Egan as the latest home-grown talent to emerge from the academy. However, it was a frustrating day for the Dons overall with chances not taken in the pursuit of a top-10 League One finish.
Neal Ardley selected an unchanged starting line-up after the impressive victory against Rochdale, but there was a notable inclusion on the bench with Antwi named as a substitute after signing a pro deal on Tuesday.
Wimbledon made a bright start with Jake Reeves and Dean Parrett getting on the ball in midfield to establish good possession and a platform for attacks. A first real chance materialised after Vale keeper Deniz Mehmet parried a shot from Sean Kelly, but Lyle Taylor steered the rebound just wide. In a first half an hour that flowed from end to end, Vale threatened when Nathan Smith headed just wide.
With the Dons creating plenty of early openings, it appeared to be a matter of time before the breakthrough was made. A fine move ended with a lovely ball from Taylor picking out Reeves through on goal, but he shot into the side netting from eight yards out. Despite starting impressively on the front foot, Wimbledon looked far from secure at the back when Vale broke quickly and it was almost 1-0 to the hosts when Chris Eagles cracked against a post from an acute angle. Wimbledon were looking the likelier to score and Parrett almost came up with the opener when he struck a fierce effort that Mehmet found too hot to handle, but he managed to get back and stop the ball before it crossed the line.
minute. Eagles found space on the Vale right and delivered a searching cross that Smith headed home from close-range. Unsurprisingly, it lifted the atmosphere around Vale Park, the home faithful now really getting behind their team. In response, Wimbledon won several corners and a Tom Elliott header just over threatened an equaliser. The goal failed to change the pattern of this game. Wimbledon continued to spread the ball around well on a big pitch with Vale looking to counter at every opportunity. On one such occasion, Rigino Cicilia found space in the box, but he shot just wide.stConsidering the pattern of the first-half so far, it came completely against the run of play when Port Vale snatched the lead in the 21
Wimbledon finished the half strongly with plenty of possession, but a looping header just over from Tom Elliott was the closest they came to an equaliser. At the half-time whistle, there was an element of frustration for Neal Ardley’s men as they had failed to make the most of first-half superiority.
The second-half started with Wimbledon aiming to push on for an equaliser, but Vale were proving to be a tough nut to crack as they defended resolutely. A chance did arise for Wimbledon five minutes into the second-half when Sean Kelly cut the ball back for Darius Charles, but his acrobatic volley flashed just wide. Then Elliott’s marauding run down the right opened up space for Taylor, who put Parrett through, but he just ran it out of play after attempting to round Mehmet.
As the hour mark approached, Wimbledon continued to pile forward, but Vale were defending in numbers and making it tough for the Dons to create openings. A half chance was created for Jake Reeves after another good move, but he drove over the crossbar. Wimbledon had certainly produced good football on the day, but too often the final cross or pass was lacking against a side fighting for their lives. With 20 minutes to go, Vale earned the cushion of a second goal. With Wimbledon committing more men forward, the hosts broke quickly and Eagles produced a fine run down the right, before beating James Shea with a shot that went in via a post.
minute and shortly afterwards there was a significant moment for Antwi, who replaced Tom Elliott up front. However, Wimbledon were unable to conjure up a response in the latter stages as Vale secured the victory they so desperately needed in their fight for survival.stNeal Ardley sent on Dominic Poleon for Andy Barcham in the 71
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Paul Robinson, George Francomb, Jake Reeves, Tom Elliott (Jayden Antwi), Andy Barcham (Dominic Poleon), Dean Parrett (Alfie Egan), Tom Soares, Sean Kelly, Darius Charles, Lyle Taylor.
Pic credit: Simon Davies, Pro Sports Images.