By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon suffered a second successive defeat tonight, but the result at Roots Hall was a harsh one for Neal Ardley's men.
The Dons fashioned the better chances at Southend, but failed to take them, and a deflected cross from Jason Demetriou was enough to secure a 1-0 win for the hosts. Particularly in the first-half, Wimbledon played well, but again the cutting edge was missing.
Neal Ardley made three changes to the side that started against Milton Keynes with one of those involving a return to first-team match action for Tom Soares, who replaced Anthony Hartigan in midfield. Will Nightingale was preferred to Paul Robinson at centre-back and Cody McDonald filled the void up front with Kwesi Appiah injured.
Wimbledon showed moments of promise early on, in particular when a good move ended with a cross into the box from Dean Parrett that Southend keeper Mark Oxley did well to hold. At the other end, Lyle Taylor's foul on the edge of the box handed Anthony Wordsworth a free-kick opportunity, but his curler was just over the crossbar.
As we approached the midway point of the first-half, Wimbledon really took a grip on the match and the chances followed. A lovely free-kick delivery from Dean Parrett picked out Nightingale and his soaring header was just wide. Then a teasing ball in from Taylor caused hesitancy in the Southend defensive ranks and Anthony Wordsworth was fortunate to see his touch come back off a post. Southend had earned the majority of possession early on, but Wimbledon had created the better chances in the first 30 minutes.
The Dons came close again just after the half hour when a corner was only half cleared and George Francomb struck a brilliant drive that Oxley found too hot to handle, but it bounced to safety. In a first-half dominated by Wimbledon in terms of chances, Southend finally fashioned a chance in the 39th minute when Josh Wright found space on the right, but his shot was over. It had been a very impressive away display from Wimbledon in the first-half with the Dons combining good defensive work with creative attacking football. At the half-time whistle, all that had been missing from Wimbledon's performance was the finishing touch.
Southend started the second-half in determined mood to exert more pressure, but the returning Tom Soares was offering good protection to the Wimbledon back-line. Southend's Anthony Wordsworth did threaten to do it all on his own when he curled in a lovely effort from the left flank that just missed the far post. Wimbledon had struggled to match the endeavour of the first-half with shots charged down by Parrett and Taylor as the only moments of threat in the first 10 minutes. Despite having offered little as an attacking force, Southend took the lead just before the hour. It started when Taylor was dispossessed by Michael Timlin 30 yards out. With Wimbledon's defence caught out of position, the ball was worked to Jason Demetriou on the right and his cross was deflected in.
Falling behind was harsh on Wimbledon and the score could have been level seconds later when Dean Parrett cracked home a lovely volley, but referee Graham Horwood adjudged that he had handled in the build-up. It was Parrett's last action of the game as he was withdrawn shortly afterwards with Harry Forrester on in his place. Wimbledon pressed for an equaliser with Barcham threatening to make a difference on the left flank, but he just failed to get his final cross right on a few occasions. As we entered the final 15 minutes, there was a chance that Wimbledon would be caught with a sucker-punch. With the Dons committing more men forward, Southend substitute Theo Robinson almost took full advantage on the break, but George Long did well to save.
Wimbledon had a really good chance when McDonald latched onto a long ball, but he could not get enough on his shot and it allowed Oxley to parry his effort away. Neal Ardley decided to put on Darius Charles as an emergency forward in the latter stages, but Wimbledon were unable to make best use of his aerial ability. Though Wimbledon put pressure on in the latter stages, Southend held on for victory. Deji Oshilaja failed to reach a long ball when any touch could have resulted in a goal and Charles volleyed over in injury-time. Now Saturday's home match against Rochdale assumes even greater importance for the Dons.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Deji Oshilaja, Will Nightingale, George Francomb, Cody McDonald, Liam Trotter, Andy Barcham (Darius Charles), Dean Parrett (Harry Forrester), Tom Soares (Jimmy Abdou), Lyle Taylor.
Pic credit: Simon Davies, Pro Sports Images.