A clinical seventh minute strike from Lyle Taylor was just enough to secure a place in the Emirates FA Cup second round for Wimbledon.
It was a match when Wimbledon had to display character and defensive solidity in abundance to defy last season’s quarter finalists with Danny Cowley’s men throwing everything at the Dons.
The 1-0 final score was a tribute to Wimbledon’s resilience after Lyle Taylor’s departure on the half hour mark due to injury, and a place in Monday’s second round draw was certainly hard earned.
Neal Ardley made three changes to the side narrowly beaten at Charlton with two of those enforced due to injuries. In the build-up to this game, George Francomb joined Liam Trotter on the injury list and that meant Callum Kennedy and Harry Forrester both started after missing the game at the Valley. Cody McDonald was given an opportunity from the start with Egli Kaja having to settle for a place on the bench.
Wimbledon made a high-tempo start with McDonald leading the charge. The striker was lively from the first whistle, harassing the Lincoln back-line at every opportunity, and his persistence almost paid off in the second minute when he flashed a shot across the face of goal. Minutes later, McDonald latched onto a clearance from George Long, but he was just unable to get through on goal. Bearing in mind Wimbledon’s bright start, it was no surprise when the opening goal followed. McDonald was the instigator, pressurising the Lincoln defence into a mistake, before finding Taylor in space. Wimbledon’s in-form marksman needed no second invitation to try his luck and he struck a superb angled drive into the bottom corner.
Far from sitting on the lead, Wimbledon piled forward and Tom Soares had a goal-bound shot charged down. Then a lovely move involving Harry Forrester and Andy Barcham almost set-up Taylor through the middle, but the final ball was just cut-out by Lincoln. Apart from George Long collecting a few crosses, Lincoln had posed little threat in the first half an hour. There was a blow for Wimbledon though with a third of this match gone when Taylor had to go off injured. It meant an earlier than anticipated return to league action for Jon Meades, who filled in at right midfield as part of a re-jigged formation, with Forrester playing in a more advanced role.
As we approached half-time, Lincoln started to get more possession with Wimbledon forced to defend and hit on the break. Chances followed for the visitors. First, George Long reacted superbly to tip over a fine effort from Alex Woodyard, before Matt Green headed wide after he got on the end of a cross from Sean Long. Wimbledon held firm though during that spell of pressure and the Dons ended the first-half strongly with Forrester having a well struck shot saved by Lincoln goalkeeper Josh Vickers.
Cheered on by over 1,100 travelling fans, Lincoln came out of the blocks quickly at the start of the second-half. Wimbledon continued to defend well with Deji Oshilaja impressing once again, building on his fine display at Charlton Athletic. Oshilaja showed good awareness to clear danger to the relief of George Long, who had attempted to beat a Lincoln forward. However, Wimbledon had a good chance to double the advantage when McDonald broke through on goal, but Vickers reacted well to save.
Lincoln’s threat was growing increasingly by the hour mark with Wimbledon now defending in numbers. However, it continued to be a well-drilled Dons defence with Lincoln restricted to shots from range. Ollie Palmer and Matt Green tried their luck with efforts from outside the box, but both efforts were way off target. McDonald, who had produced an all-action display in attack, then made a crucial block at the other end when he stopped Luke Waterfall’s header from troubling George Long.
With 20 minutes to go, Lincoln started to commit more men forward in desperate search of an equaliser. Darius Charles, a rock at the heart of defence, was required to block a goal-bound shot from Arnold and George Long showed good handling ability to hold onto a decent drive from Green. In the last 10 minutes Lincoln’s approach became increasingly direct with substitute Matt Rhead as the chief target. Rhead, who had caused Wimbledon problems in the past during his time at Mansfield, was typically a handful and George Long stayed alert to tip wide with seven minutes left. Charles and Oshilaja had defended valiantly to stop Lincoln getting the equaliser and with five minutes left Paul Robinson entered the fray for Abdou, as Wimbledon attempted to hold firm.
In the latter stages, Wimbledon had to cling on desperately, in particular when substitute Paul Robinson blocked a header on target and George Long reacted well to gather. However, the Dons held out for a hard-fought victory that earned a place in Monday’s second round draw.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy, Deji Oshilaja, Darius Charles, Harry Forrester, Tom Soares, Jimmy Abdou (Paul Robinson), Cody McDonald, Lyle Taylor (Jon Meades), Andy Barcham.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.