By Chris Slavin
Harry Forrester finally found the key to the door for AFC Wimbledon at Northampton today with Neal Ardley’s men earning a deserved three points.
The attacking midfielder’s 61st minute strike secured a 1-0 victory – Wimbledon’s first win against Northampton since returning to the Football League – and it also ended a run of four league games without a goal for the Dons.
It was sheer delight for the 507 travelling Dons, as they saluted a hard-earned win on the road.
Neal Ardley made three changes to his starting line-up with Harry Forrester and Egli Kaja both coming in for their first league starts of the season. Dean Parrett missed out due to injury and Cody McDonald had to settle for a place on the bench. In defence, Darius Charles was recalled in his more natural position at the heart of defence in place of Deji Oshilaja.
Both sides came into this game in desperate search of goals with Northampton having failed to score in five league games and the Dons without a goal in four matches. Wimbledon started the game on the front foot, completely dominating possession against a side devoid of confidence. Forrester, who started his career with Northampton’s academy, tried his luck with a shot from just outside the area, but it was comfortably wide. Midway through the first-half, Barry Fuller had a shot on target, but it was easily gathered by Northampton goalkeeper Matt Ingram.
With half an hour gone, Wimbledon’s new centre-back pairing of Charles and Nightingale had been barely tested, never mind Dons goalkeeper George Long. With home fans growing increasingly restless on the back of a 6-0 home defeat last time out, one sensed that a Wimbledon goal would really increase the pressure. Liam Trotter put over a lovely cross to the near post that threatened to pick out Lyle Taylor, but he was just unable to get there. Wimbledon forced several corners in succession, without being able to make them count. The first 45 minutes was in stark contrast to an exciting meeting of the two sides 20 months ago when a pulsating match ended 1-1, as both sides closed in on promotion.
George Long finally had something to do on the stroke of half-time when he reacted well to tip over a fierce strike from Daniel Powell. That had been a rare foray forward from Northampton in a first-half of few chances at Sixfields Stadium. As the half-time whistle sounded, Wimbledon could be well pleased with the defensive display, but more was required in attack to secure that elusive goal.
Neither side really threatened to break the deadlock in the first 15 minutes of the second-half, but the Dons needed a brilliant last-gasp challenge from Barry Fuller to stop Northampton fashioning a clear-cut chance. As we approached the hour mark, Wimbledon took a firm grip on possession and it paid off in style. Lyle Taylor found Forrester in space just outside the area and the on-loan Rangers midfielder found the back of the net with a superb angled drive that bounced in off a post. Though Forrester had struggled to regain match fitness at Wimbledon so far, there had been little doubting his quality on the ball and this was a clear demonstration of his ability.
The goal in the 61st minute was greeted with euphoria from the travelling Dons at Sixfields Stadium, but the hosts had an instant opportunity to restore parity. Ash Taylor was left unmarked at the back post from a cross, but he drilled his shot wide of the far post. With the Dons now having a lead to defend, Neal Ardley decided to put on another defender with Deji Oshilaja entering the fray for Forrester. The experience of Jimmy Abdou was also introduced with Kaja the man to make way. As Northampton went all out for an equaliser, gaps started to open up for Wimbledon to exploit on the break and Taylor fired into the side netting, before Andy Barcham shot over.
Though Northampton tried desperately to force an equaliser, Wimbledon comfortably survived to earn a valuable victory. It was a fully deserved win and just maybe it can be the launchpad for a climb up the League One table.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Will Nightingale, George Francomb, Harry Forrester (Deji Oshilaja), Liam Trotter, Andy Barcham, Tom Soares, Egli Kaja (Jimmy Abdou), Darius Charles, Lyle Taylor.
Pic credit: Simon Davies, Pro Sports Images.