Narrow defeat to Bristol Rovers
AFC Wimbledon succumbed to a second successive defeat with a goal from Byron Moore after just 11 seconds earning victory for Bristol Rovers.
On the balance of play, the 1-0 defeat was harsh on Wimbledon with the Dons having the better of it during spells of this match. However, the cutting edge was ultimately missing for Wimbledon, even the presence of Darius Charles up front in the latter stages failing to spark an equaliser.
Due to a combination of illness and injuries, Neal Ardley was forced to make five changes to his starting line-up. The manager had warned in his pre-match interview on Thursday that he would be without key players and so it turned out. Darius Charles was only deemed fit enough for the bench and Dean Parrett, Andy Barcham, Tom Soares and Tom Elliott missed out on the squad altogether. That meant recalls for Will Nightingale, Jon Meades, Dannie Bulman, Alfie Egan and Dominic Poleon.
With barely time for supporters to take their seats, it was 1-0 to Bristol Rovers. From their own kick-off, Ellis Harrison was picked out and his headed flick on found Byron Moore, who finished clinically. Falling behind so early was obviously tough to take for the Dons and there was relief in the Wimbledon ranks when Billy Bodin steered home from close range, but it was ruled out for offside.
minute, but it was comfortably held by Joe Lumley. As we progressed towards the half hour mark, Wimbledon had a really good spell. A flowing move ended with a cross from Reeves that just evaded everyone. Then Dannie Bulman sent Taylor through, but his shot from an acute angle was beaten away by Lumley.thWimbledon started to come into it as the first-half progressed, but Dons academy product Ryan Sweeney was proving a tough nut to crack at the heart of a well drilled Rovers defence. Poleon was not getting much joy from being well marked by the on-loan Stoke City defender. Lyle Taylor was typically showing plenty of energy in attack and he had Wimbledon’s first shot at goal in the 15
There was a very promising moment for Wimbledon when Taylor and Meades combined on the edge of the area and Egan’s shot cannoned back of the crossbar, but the referee had already blown for a foul on Meades. From the subsequent free-kick, Taylor’s effort was charged down and then the same player headed into the side netting after a cross was played into him. Though Wimbledon had failed to conjure up an equaliser before the break, an encouraging end to the first-half offered hope that the Dons could get back into it.
With Wimbledon having struggled to build any momentum at the start of the second-half, Neal Ardley made two changes before the hour. Tyrone Barnett and David Fitzpatrick were introduced with Poleon and Egan the men to make way. Wimbledon’s best chance of the second-half followed with the direct approach almost paying off for the Dons. Paul Robinson’s long ball was flicked on by Barnett for Taylor to run onto and he dragged his shot just wide.
Barnett was certainly showing up well, his height offering something different for Wimbledon to build attacks. However, with Wimbledon committing more men forward, there was always the danger that Rovers could capitalise on the break. That so nearly happened when Bodin was sent racing clear, but James Shea reacted well to save with his feet and Robinson diverted the rebound wide. Fifteen minutes from time, Neal Ardley decided to go for broke with Darius Charles sent on for Bulman with the message to put himself about up front.
Charles, who helped Stevenage to promotion in a striking role, did not take long to get into the thick of the action. First, he curled just over the crossbar with an opportunist effort and then he side footed just wide after good wing play from George Francomb. Shortly afterwards, Barnett also fired wide as Wimbledon worked up a head of steam. With time running out, another flick-on from Charles provided a half chance for Barnett, but he headed over the crossbar. In injury-time, Sean Kelly fired over after a free-kick from Reeves was charged down, but it was just not meant to be for Wimbledon on the day. It was a second successive defeat with that early lapse in concentration from Neal Ardley’s men proving to be the difference between the two teams.
James Shea, George Francomb, Sean Kelly, Paul Robinson, Will Nightingale, Jon Meades, Jake Reeves, Dannie Bulman (Darius Charles), Alfie Egan (David Fitzpatrick), Dominic Poleon (Tyrone Barnett), Lyle Taylor.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.