By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon succumbed to a second successive defeat today with a goal in each half for Portsmouth enough to clinch victory for the visitors.
The Dons had been in control until referee Kevin Johnson decided to award a 38th minute penalty – converted by Brett Pitman – and Conor Chaplin's second-half goal earned a 2-0 win for Pompey.
It was a tough afternoon for Wimbledon as Paul Robinson's injury 11 minutes from time meant that the Dons ended with 10 men, as Neal Ardley had utilised all his substitutes.
Neal Ardley made three changes to the side that started at Blackpool with two of those enforced. Will Nightingale replaced the injured Deji Oshilaja with Dean Parrett handed an opportunity in place of the suspended Jimmy Abdou. Up front, Kwesi Appiah was given the nod to join Cody McDonald in attack with Lyle Taylor having to settle for a place on the bench.
With Portsmouth sitting deep early on, Wimbledon attempted to take the game to Kenny Jacket's side and a couple of good moves got the home faithful going. A good one-two between Kwesi Appiah and Dean Parrett ended with the latter trying a shot that he dragged across goal and Pompey cleared. Then Andy Barcham attempted a repeat of his brilliant goal against Doncaster, the former Pompey winger cutting inside smartly, before striking a shot that this time flashed over.
With Liam Trotter breaking up play in midfield, Wimbledon established good possession and there was a scare for Portsmouth when Parrett fired over a lovely cross from the right, but McDonald was just unable to reach it. As we approached the midway point of the first-half, Wimbledon continued to produce good football at times, spraying the ball around well. The opener so nearly followed when a lovely move ended with McDonald setting up a shooting chance for Parrett and his well struck shot just missed the far post. It appeared to have been deflected wide, but no corner was forthcoming for Wimbledon.
Portsmouth had offered little as an attacking force in the first third of this game with the centre-back pairing of Nightingale and Paul Robinson coping well with any potential threat. However, Wimbledon were twice fortunate to survive just after the half hour. First, Pompey captain Brett Pitman took too long to finish off a great chance and his effort was deflected wide. Then the visitors failed to make the most of a corner after George Long had failed to gather the cross. Completely against the run of play, Portsmouth took the lead in the 38th minute. Following a quickly taken throw-in, the ball was worked into the box and Barry Fuller was adjudged to have fouled Pitman. Contact appeared to be minimal, but referee Kevin Johnson deemed it worthy of a penalty and Pitman left George Long with no chance from the subsequent spot-kick.
The first-half ended with a clash of heads that resulted in Callum Kennedy and Oliver Hawkins both receiving treatment. Kennedy was stretchered off after Hawkins had earlier been helped off the pitch. It had been a first-half that threatened to boil over at times, particularly when Paul Robinson was twice on the receiving end of poor challenges. The former Pompey defender was caught very late on the Wimbledon left by Stuart O'Keefe, who was perhaps fortunate to only receive a yellow card. Pitman also appeared to catch Robinson with an elbow, but the officials missed it.
Wimbledon were forced into a half-time change with Callum Kennedy having to go off and he was replaced by Anthony Hartigan. It was a very bad start to the second-half for Wimbledon. Hartigan failed to deal with a dangerous cross from the left and Portsmouth substitute Conor Chaplin took full advantage to make it 2-0 in the 50th minute. Neal Ardley responded with a double change before the hour. Harry Forrester and Lyle Taylor were introduced with Parrett and Barcham making way. It didn't take long for Taylor to be right into the thick of the action. Pouncing on a defensive lapse, Taylor cut inside and created a chance for himself, but he took too long to get his shot off. It did appear that Taylor had been fouled as he bore down on goal, but the referee took no action.
Forrester showed some classy touches after entering the fray, but it was tough for Wimbledon to get back into it with Portsmouth defending stoutly. The visitors managed to keep hold of the ball effectively to stop Wimbledon gaining any momentum. It was almost 3-0 when Adam May tried his luck with a looping 35-yard drive that beat George Long, but flashed just over the crossbar. Christian Burgess then had a shot blocked. There was a hint of a chance for Wimbledon when McDonald controlled a lovely ball from Forrester and beat his man with lovely skill, but he was unable to find anyone in the box.
With 11 minutes to play, Wimbledon's task became even harder when Robinson had to go off injured and that meant the hosts had to finish the game with 10 men. The final whistle signalled the end of a difficult 90 minutes for Wimbledon and the Dons will be aiming to make amends on Tuesday at home to Gillingham.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy (Anthony Hartigan), Paul Robinson, Will Nightingale, Liam Trotter, George Francomb, Dean Parrett (Harry Forrester), Kwesi Appiah, Cody McDonald, Andy Barcham (Lyle Taylor).
Pic: Adam Rivers, Pro Sports Images.