By Chris Slavin
Two quick-fire goals breathed new life into AFC Wimbledon's season and secured a first victory of the campaign in fine style.
Wonderful goals from Kwesi Appiah and Andy Barcham – both scored in three fantastic second-half minutes – earned a 2-0 win against Doncaster that could easily have been more.
The two goals were simply of stunning quality and rewarded the patience of supporters after a testing start to this campaign.
Neal Ardley made two changes to his starting line-up after the defeat to Fleetwood with Liam Trotter and Kwesi Appiah handed recalls in place of Anthony Hartigan and Cody McDonald.
With Trotter having missed a couple of weeks due to a knee injury, it was his competitive home debut and a chance to reignite his old Millwall midfield partnership with Jimmy Abdou. Both Trotter and Abdou were important early on in breaking up Doncaster attacks as the visitors started full of confidence after their midweek Carabao Cup tie win against Hull City. Lovely play out from the back from Deji Oshilaja earned plenty of applause from the home faithful as Wimbledon attempted to gain the momentum so lacking against Shrewsbury here last time.
Despite flashes of attacking promise, neither side had created a chance worthy of note by the midway point of the first-half. Andy Barcham attempted to get the Dons going with a lovely run down the left, but his cross was too high for Kwesi Appiah at the back post. With Doncaster taking a grip on possession, Neal Ardley's men had to remain resolute in their work without the ball. There was a pleasing defensive solidity about Wimbledon in the first half an hour, but it was proving difficult for the hosts to get attacks going. Barcham appeared to be Wimbledon's best chance of changing matters and he produced a lovely run down the left, but he was unable to pick anyone out.
It took until the 38th minute for either side to have an attempt at goal, but that was well wide when it came, courtesy of a free-kick from Danny Andrews. Paul Robinson was then required to block a goal-bound shot by John Marquis, as Doncaster threatened to change matters. At the other end, Barcham again slipped his marker down the left and crossed for Lyle Taylor, but his shot was charged down.
Following a first-half of little goalmouth action, the real positive to take was that Wimbledon had not fallen behind as the Dons had been behind at half-time in every league game so far. Neal Ardley decided to make no changes at the interval as Wimbledon searched for a way to break down Doncaster. At the start of the second-half, George Long was tested for the first time when he stayed alert to turn aside a well struck free-kick from Andrews.
Ten minutes into the second-half, Wimbledon really upped the tempo with that man Barcham really taking the game to Doncaster. One brilliant run down the left ended with a ball slipped back to Jimmy Abdou, who got a decent strike on the pass, but his effort was deflected wide. However, it was only a temporary reprieve for Doncaster as the opening goal for Wimbledon arrived in some style in the 58th minute. Kwesi Appiah latched onto a ball sent over the top by Long, before showing wonderful footwork and movement to split the Doncaster defence, and he then finished clinically. All of a sudden, the mood was transformed around the place. Less than two minutes later, it was 2-0. Barcham, who had been impressive all game, cut inside from the left and produced a fantastic burst of pace, before striking a shot that bounced in via a post.
Having waited for Wimbledon's campaign to really click into gear, the home fans were loving this now and the roar that greeted Barcham's cracker had not been heard for some time at the Cherry Red Records Stadium. It nearly got better when Barcham forced Ian Lawlor into a smart save, before Paul Robinson had a close-range effort blocked. It was all Wimbledon now and the task was made easier with Doncaster having to play the last 11 minutes with 10 men after using all of their substitutes. The Dons came so close to notching another wonderful goal when Callum Kennedy's lovely free-kick thudded against the crossbar and away to safety. By that time, Appiah had been withdrawn to a raucous appreciation of his efforts, Cody McDonald replacing him.
In the latter stages, Barcham came close again, but Wimbledon did not need a third goal, and it was an impressive way to bounce back to form for Neal Ardley's men.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy, Paul Robinson, Deji Oshilaja, Liam Trotter, George Francomb (Dean Parrett), Jimmy Abdou, Lyle Taylor (Egli Kaja), Kwesi Appiah (Cody McDonald), Andy Barcham.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.