By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon missed out on a third successive victory today with Plymouth's stubborn resistance resulting in an afternoon of frustration for Neal Ardley's men.
Wimbledon's biggest home crowd this season of 4,848 watched Plymouth secure a hard-fought 1-0 victory with late pressure from the hosts failing to result in an equaliser.
Argyle keeper Remi Matthews had a fine debut in goal, his excellent saves in the latter stages denying Wimbledon a share of the spoils.
Neal Ardley made just one change from the side that played so well to win in midweek against Rotherham. Jimmy Abdou earned a recall to the starting 11 with Egli Kaja having to settle for a place on the bench after he started the last two games.
The Dons came into this match in buoyant mood after two successive victories, but rock-bottom Plymouth had picked up morale-boosting draws against Shrewsbury and Blackburn. Those results showed that Wimbledon would have to retain the energy and verve of the performance on Tuesday to make it nine points out of nine. Plymouth looked to utilise the speed of Jake Jervis at every opportunity early on and Darius Charles was required to make a vital interception to stop him racing through on goal.
Taking on a Plymouth side offering plenty of defensive resilience, Wimbledon struggled to fashion opportunities in the first 20 minutes. Plymouth gave the Dons a helping hand when Ryan Edwards slipped over 40 yards from goal, but Liam Trotter was unable to exploit the situation, his shot deflected just wide of the far post. Harry Forrester, seeking to build on his impressive midweek display, then tried his luck with an opportunist curler from outside the box, but it drifted just off target. In trademark fashion, Andy Barcham produced one of his lung-bursting runs down the left, but Lyle Taylor was not quite able to make the most of the subsequent pass.
By the midway point of the first-half, Wimbledon were starting to work up a head of steam. Three corners in succession were forced, but Plymouth dealt with all of them with the minimum of fuss. Then Taylor and Barcham exchanged passes smartly with the latter creating a good shooting opportunity for George Francomb, but he curled just over the crossbar. A lovely ball from Forrester created an opportunity for Barcham, but he was just stopped as he bore down on goal, Plymouth again showing defensive resilience. Barcham's efforts were fully appreciated by the Dons crowd though, especially when he chased back to win the ball. The half-time score of 0-0 reflected 45 minutes of stubborn resistance from Plymouth with Wimbledon struggling to create opportunities.
The second-half started with Plymouth finally offering threat. Jervis showed a sharp turn of foot to get down the right and he swung in a dangerous cross, but Joel Grant was just unable to get on the end of it. Then Graham Carey curled a free-kick into the side netting. Barcham attempted to get Wimbledon going and he stood up a lovely cross from the left that Taylor would have got on the end of, but Plymouth keeper Remi Matthews rose well to punch clear.
Just before the hour, Wimbledon needed George Long to show all of his qualities. The on-loan Sheffield United keeper reacted well to save after Carey had burst through the Wimbledon defence. With Wimbledon struggling to make the breakthrough, Neal Ardley decided to make a change with Cody McDonald entering the fray for Abdou. McDonald almost offered the perfect introduction when he shot just wide, but Plymouth found the cutting edge that Wimbledon were lacking shortly afterwards. Carey, who had been a livewire all afternoon, beat two or three challenges before sending through a defence-splitting pass for Joel Grant and he produced a smart low finish.
There was almost an instant response from Wimbledon to that 65th minute setback. McDonald flicked on intelligently to put Forrester through, but his shot was straight at Matthews. With Plymouth holding on doggedly, Egli Kaja was introduced for Francomb. Wimbledon forced several more corners in the latter stages, without making the most of them, and the referee turned down a decent shout for a penalty when Barcham was impeded in the area.
With time running out, Matthews made a brilliant fingertip save to stop a header from McDonald earning the equaliser and Forrester was also denied by Matthews. Wimbledon really couldn't have done anymore in a frantic finish to this game. Several goalmouth scrambles resulted after later pressure, but Plymouth clung on resiliently and Taylor's header over in injury-time meant a first league win of the season for the visitors.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, George Francomb (Egli Kaja), Will Nightingale, Darius Charles, Harry Forrester, Tom Soares, Liam Trotter, Jimmy Abdou (Cody McDonald), Lyle Taylor, Andy Barcham.
Pic credit: Matt Redman.