By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon's second early season trip to Lancashire ended in defeat today with Jimmy Abdou's 52nd minute dismissal proving to be vital in the final reckoning.
Though Blackpool were already ahead by that point, there had been little to separate the two teams until then. The hosts only really dominated after Abdou's red card with George Long making several fine saves to prevent a heavier defeat than the 1-0 final score-line.
Neal Ardley made just one change from the side that started against Doncaster in the last league game with Cody McDonald preferred to Kwesi Appiah in attack.
It was a slow start to this game with both sides struggling to create chances. Wimbledon managed to get a fair share of possession, but it took until midway through the first-half for the Dons to create chances. Callum Kennedy delivered a lovely ball from the left that found Deji Oshilaja in space, but he failed to get a connection to the cross. Shortly afterwards, a cross was only half cleared to the edge of the box and George Francomb cracked a shot just over the crossbar.
During an opening half an hour low on entertainment value, George Long was tested twice. First, he reacted well to save a deflected effort from Jimmy Ryan and then he watched a strike from Viv Solomon-Otabor all the way. Though Wimbledon struggled to create chances in the first-half, a golden opportunity arrived one minute before the break. Good work by Francomb on the right helped find Cody McDonald in space and he showed plenty of conviction to go through on goal, but Blackpool goalkeeper Ryan Allsop got down well to save.
With a crowd well below the stadium capacity of Bloomfield Road, it was Wimbledon's travelling support making all of the noise as they really got behind the team. A 0-0 half-time score-line reflected the inability of neither side to take a grip on the game, McDonald's chance as the stand-out opportunity in the first 45 minutes.
The opening stages of the second-half had little incident, before a nightmare few minutes for Wimbledon turned the match on its head. It started in the 52nd minute when Sean Longstaff was allowed time to cut in from the left and with no challenge following, he decided to try his luck and his subsequent shot left Long with no chance. Less than three minutes later, Wimbledon had a mountain to climb. Jimmy Abdou's challenge on Callum Cooke was a little reckless, but a straight red card appeared to be harsh.
Blackpool wasted no time attempting to press home the one-man advantage with Kyle Vassell having an opportunity to double the advantage, but he shot straight at Long. Minutes later, Longstaff also had a good chance and Long again got down well to save. Despite those half chances, Blackpool retreated deeper to protect the lead and Wimbledon entertained thoughts of snatching an unlikely point. Kwesi Appiah, who had entered the fray for Lyle Taylor, produced a lovely run, but he delayed a shooting opportunity and the chance was gone. With Harry Forrester on for his league debut and Dean Parrett also given an opportunity, it was clear that Neal Ardley was going for broke in pursuit of an equaliser.
The hosts should have finished the match as a contest with 15 minutes when Solomon-Otabo was clean through, but his shot lacked power and it allowed Barry Fuller to clear off the line. With time running out, George Long kept Wimbledon in it with a brilliant save to deny Nathan Delfouneso. Solomon-Otabo also fired against a post as Blackpool threatened to seal it. The closest Neal Ardley's men came in the latter stages was when Forrester shot wide, but it was not to be for Wimbledon with Abdou's dismissal proving to be vital on the day.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy (Harry Forrester), Paul Robinson, Deji Oshilaja, Liam Trotter, Jimmy Abdou, Andy Barcham, George Francomb (Dean Parrett), Cody McDonald, Lyle Taylor (Kwesi Appiah).
Pic credit: Simon Davies, Pro Sports Images.