Dons march to victory with Kelly leading the charge
Wimbledon bounced back in style tonight with three goals in five second-half minutes earning victory against Rochdale.
Though the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Keith Keane was sent off just before half-time, no one in blue and yellow really cared about the manner of victory as the 3-1 win moved Wimbledon onto 54 points and likely safety in League One.
Sean Kelly’s second Wimbledon goal started the goal rush with Lyle Taylor and Dean Parrett also getting in on the act during a manic five-minute spell before the hour.
Neal Ardley made two changes to his starting line-up after the defeat to Southend United on Saturday. Sean Kelly and Dean Parrett both earned recalls with Jon Meades and Will Nightingale having to settle for places on the bench.
Rochdale produced a start to this match that summed up why they came into this game still harbouring ambitions of a late play-off charge. Keith Hill’s men went for the jugular right from the first whistle, giving Wimbledon little chance of finding their stride. A shot across the face of goal from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was a sign of things to come as Rochdale stormed out of the blocks. At the end of one flowing move came another chance, but this time Rochdale captain Ian Henderson’s drive was deflected just wide.
As we edged towards the midway point of the first-half, Rochdale’s pressure continued and Mendez-Laing missed a great chance when he lobbed over James Shea, but the ball drifted just wide. It was even closer for Rochdale with their next attack as Henderson cut inside and unleashed a superb effort that beat Shea, but thudded off the crossbar.
Despite being put on the back foot for most of the first-half, Wimbledon looked dangerous when in possession. From one of several free-kicks on the edge of the area, Tom Soares switched the ball to Dean Parrett and his effort was deflected wide, before Tom Elliott headed straight into the arms of Rochdale keeper Conrad Logan. There was a controversial incident just after the half hour with Rochdale perhaps fortunate to survive with 11 men. Elliott got the wrong side of Jimmy McNulty and was brought down just outside the area by the Rochdale defender, but referee Brett Huxtable deemed that he was not the last man and it was only worthy of a yellow card.
In a very encouraging spell before the break, Wimbledon fashioned the best chance of the half when Kelly’s lovely ball picked out Taylor through on goal, but Logan spread himself well to save with his legs. A big moment in this match arrived in first-half stoppage time when Keith Keane scythed down Darius Charles. This time it was a red card, Huxtable brandishing a second yellow to Keane, who couldn’t really have any complaints. The half-time whistle followed shortly afterwards with that incident putting a completely different complexion on matters.
minute when Parrett delivered a lovely corner and Kelly headed home from close-range to register his second Wimbledon goal. What followed was most impressive as Wimbledon went all out for a second and earned their reward. Taylor, who memorably scored at the same end exactly two weeks ago against Milton Keynes, drove home another fine finish less than two minutes later. At 2-0 up, the temptation was there to sit on the lead, but Wimbledon continued to go for it and Elliott shot just wide shortly afterwards. In a golden five-minute spell, there was even better to come for Wimbledon when Barcham was fouled in the box and Parrett made no mistake from 12 yards.rdThe second-half opened with Wimbledon aiming to press home their man advantage almost immediately. A flurry of corners followed with the Dons unable to make the most of set-piece situations. However, that all changed in the 53
With a 3-0 lead before the hour mark, Neal Ardley made a treble substitution with Dominic Poleon, Tyrone Barnett and David Fitzpatrick all entering the fray for Elliott, Taylor and Barcham. It was not a case of cruising to victory though as Rochdale reduced the arrears through Callum Camps, who struck a 25-yard effort that deceived Shea. At the other end, it was almost 4-1 when Reeves was denied by Logan, who also reacted superbly to deny the follow-up from Barnett.
It could have been a nervy conclusion for Wimbledon if Rochdale substitute Jamie Allen had found the net, rather than firing wide, but that was the away side’s final realistic chance of getting back into it. Victory, and scoring three goals in the process, was just what Wimbledon needed after losing in disappointing fashion against Southend at the weekend.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, George Francomb, Sean Kelly, Paul Robinson, Darius Charles, Tom Soares, Jake Reeves, Dean Parrett, Lyle Taylor (Dominic Poleon), Tom Elliott (Tyrone Barnett), Andy Barcham (David Fitzpatrick).
Pic credit: Stuart Butcher, Pro Sports Images.