By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon started the home league campaign with a defeat today as Neal Ardley's men failed to replicate the promise shown in their first two matches.
In fairness, Shrewsbury produced a very impressive away performance, featuring slick attacking play and plenty of defensive resolution, to secure a 1-0 victory. The hosts needed George Long to make several saves to stay in it, but a late rally was unable to yield a share of the spoils on a tough afternoon for Wimbledon.
Neal Ardley made three changes to his starting 11 after the extra-time defeat to Brentford on Tuesday night. Jimmy Abdou was deemed fit enough to return after an ankle injury and he replaced Anthony Hartigan in the midfield engine room. Kwesi Appiah and Deji Oshilaja were the other players handed recalls in place of Lyle Taylor and Will Nightingale.
With just a couple of minutes gone, Shrewsbury showed they were not just coming here to sit back as Carlton Morris struck a shot that Dons keeper George Long grasped at the second attempt. In a free-flowing start, Wimbledon fashioned a good chance when a cross from Barry Fuller picked out Dean Parrett in the box and his shot was well saved by Shrewsbury goalkeeper Dean Henderson. At the other end, Abdou showed all of his experience to get back and stop Louis Dodds from getting in on goal.
The Dons fell behind in the seventh minute and it was a goal of real simplicity. Shaun Whalley's cross was delivered deep to the back post and Alex Rodman reacted before anyone else in a packed box to head home. Following that setback, Wimbledon struggled to gain any momentum in attack and Long was forced into action again when he saved well to deny Dodds. The Dons just managed to scramble the ball clear and it was a worrying spell for Wimbledon as Shrewsbury threatened to double the advantage.
As we approached the half hour mark, Wimbledon had provided little for the forward trio of Andy Barcham, Cody McDonald and Appiah to feed off. In contrast, Shrews forwards Carlton Morris and Dodds were causing problems all the time. Morris had a shot blocked and then Paul Robinson did well to stop Rodman adding to his account. The Dons were fortunate not to fall 2-0 down in the 36th minute. Dodds won the ball off last-man Abdou on the Shrews right and his cross picked out Morris, who was denied by a brilliant save from Long and the same player followed up by striking the upright. As the half-time whistle sounded, the only real positive for Wimbledon was that it was just a one-goal deficit.
With Wimbledon having mounted very little as an attacking force in the first-half, it was decided to make a change and Taylor entered the fray in place of Appiah. Though Wimbledon started with more intent to go forward, Shrewsbury put together a very sharp break down the right and it once again needed Long to make a good save as he denied Morris. Wimbledon's display so far had failed to match the performances produced against Scunthorpe and Brentford. However, that was partly due to an impressive showing from Shrewsbury, the visitors passing the ball around well and limiting Wimbledon to very little.
As Shrewsbury continued to look dangerous, great defensive work from Abdou provided a launchpad for Wimbledon improvement. The midfielder did brilliantly to stop Shaun Whalley getting through on goal and a fine move was put together on the break with Parrett finding Taylor in space down the right, but his cross was too high. Then Taylor scuffed a snap-shot as Wimbledon really started to put the pressure on. Just after the hour, the Dons continued the momentum with Shrewsbury forced towards their own goal. McDonald found space intelligently in the 65th minute and found Parrett in space, but his shot was easily gathered by Shrews goalkeeper Dean Henderson.
With 18 minutes remaining, Neal Ardley made another change as he turned to Alfie Egan for a solution, the midfielder replacing Abdou. Egli Kaja also replaced Barcham in attack with 11 minutes to go. Shrewsbury remained resolute in defence though and Wimbledon struggled to create chances in the latter stages. A glimmer of a chance came in injury-time when Parrett found Taylor in space, but he was unable to get a shot off and it was just not to be for Wimbledon. The Dons now have a week to pick themselves up before the next League One match at Fleetwood Town, a venue where a creditable point was secured last season.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy, Paul Robinson, Deji Oshilaja, Dean Parrett, George Francomb, Jimmy Abdou (Alfie Egan), Kwesi Appiah (Lyle Taylor), Cody McDonald, Andy Barcham (Egli Kaja).