By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon suffered a first pre-season defeat tonight with former Dons striker Bayo Akinfenwa leading the charge.
Akinfenwa struck the second with a lovely first-half volley after Luke O'Nien had opened the scoring for Gareth Ainsworth's League 2 side. With Wycombe securing a 2-0 win on the night and really testing Wimbledon all over the park, it was good preparation for when the real action gets underway at Scunthorpe United on Saturday week.
Victory meant that Wycombe secured the Cherry Red Records Cup - the match played between two clubs sponsored by the record label.
Neal Ardley selected a strong starting 11 full of experience for tonight's game with new signing Liam Trotter handed his first start, alongside his old Millwall team-mate Jimmy Abdou in midfield. At the scene of memorable past wins for Wimbledon – the 1-0 FA Cup second round victory in 2014 immediately springs to mind – it was a start to this game that belied the pre-season friendly status. Less than five minutes in, the Dons were relieved to watch Bayo Akinfenwa strike wide against his old club. At the other end, the Dons threatened for the first time when George Francomb sent over a dangerous cross that just evaded everyone in the box.
Following a frantic first 10 minutes, the momentum continued and Cody McDonald came so close to adding to his pre-season haul when he shot just wide. In a tough start to this game for Wimbledon, it needed goalkeeper George Long to stop Akinfenwa nodding home at the back post and then Nathan Tyson headed just wide after winning a near post header from the corner. In an end-to-end start to the game, Will Nightingale headed just wide after a cross from Francomb was swung into the middle.
With 22 minutes gone, the opening goal arrived and it meant that Wimbledon had to come from behind for the first time in pre-season. Kwesi Appiah was beaten to a loose ball and Joe Jacobson charged down Wycombe's left, before delivering a fine ball into the path of Luke O'Nien and his low strike left Long with no chance. The first third of this game had been a very entertaining affair and McDonald came close to a leveller with a shot well saved by Wanderers keeper Scott Brown. However, it was 2-0 in the 33rd minute and in fine style too. The Dons failed to clear a ball into the box and it fell nicely for Akinfenwa, who volleyed home superbly from 15 yards.
As we approached half-time, Nightingale tried his luck from 25 yards with a great effort, but the ball flashed just wide. However, it remained 2-0 until half-time and it had been a real stern examination for the Dons. With the experience of former Brentford midfielder Sam Saunders in midfield and Paul Hayes dovetailing well with Akinfenwa up front, Wycombe had plenty of threat.
Neal Ardley made no half-time changes as he looked to get fitness into key players and Wimbledon started the second-half on the front foot. With Abdou and Trotter coming more into the match, the Dons started to put pressure on. A fine ball from Abdou provided Barcham with a sight of goal from the left and he cut inside and unleashed a shot that Brown could only palm wide. Wycombe made a raft of changes on the hour and Wimbledon also made three with Lyle Taylor, Paul Robinson and Dean Parrett entering the fray for Nightingale, Appiah and Trotter.
Wycombe's forays forward were few and far between in the second-half and when they did get forward, Abdou showed his defensive qualities by breaking up attacks. With Wimbledon pressure starting to build – Barcham showing plenty of energy down the left – space was created for McDonald on the left and he had a shot well saved by Brown at his near post.
With 12 minutes to go, Francomb fired just wide with a fierce drive from just outside the area. Shortly afterwards, substitute Taylor was withdrawn not long after coming on with Egli Kaja taking his place. In the latter stages, Wimbledon did not really look like conjuring up a late response and the final whistle meant that only the weekend double-header at Aldershot and Ebbsfleet remains before the competitive action gets underway.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy, Deji Oshilaja, Will Nightingale (Paul Robinson), George Francomb, Jimmy Abdou, Liam Trotter (Dean Parrett), Andy Barcham, Kwesi Appiah (Lyle Taylor, Egli Kaja), Cody McDonald.
Pic credit: Graham Hunt, Pro Sports Images.