Goals from Kwesi Appiah and Jake Jervis earned what all AFC Wimbledon supporters wanted for Christmas - an important away win.
Though it was Appiah and substitute Jervis that earned the headlines, the 2-1 victory was a real credit to a superb team performance that secured a first win for Wally Downes since taking over as Wimbledon manager. The Dons defended resolutely througout to thwart Wycombe's hopes of making it seven home wins on the bounce.
Wally Downes made three changes to his starting line-up after the defeat at Charlton Athletic last time out. Tom King was recalled between the sticks in place of Joe McDonnell with Kwesi Appiah and James Hanson replacing the suspended Mitch Pinnock and Tom Soares. The Dons came into this match seeking to end a run of away league defeats that stretched back to Gillingham in early September. In contrast, Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth was seeking to guide his team to a seventh successive home league win and a Football League record for the club. Two of Wimbledon’s 2016 Wembley heroes, Bayo Akinfenwa and Darius Charles, were both deemed not fit enough to face their former club.
AFC Wimbledon made a bright start at Adams Park and there was a real sign of encouragement in the fifth minute when Kwesi Appiah had the ball in the net, but it was disallowed. Scott Wagstaff’s cross was nodded down by James Hanson, but the whistle had already blown for a foul by the towering Dons striker before Appiah fired home. There was a setback for Wimbledon in the 10th minute when Wagstaff had to go off injured and he was replaced by Jake Jervis.
Wycombe did threaten when a set-piece ended with Nathan Tyson heading wide, but that didn’t signal a shift in the pattern of this game. A good Dons move ended with Anthony Hartigan shooting over the crossbar, but there was no reprieve for Wycombe in the 29th minute. Hartigan’s fine corner delivery from the left was flicked on at the near post by Hanson and Appiah volleyed home superbly. It was an impressive demonstration of finishing from Appiah and exactly what Wimbledon needed in the circumstances. Minutes later, a rejuvenated Appiah almost got on the end of through ball, but Wycombe keeper Stephen Henderson got there first.
As we approached half-time, Wycombe started to exert pressure and Wimbledon had to stay strong. Terell Thomas and Will Nightingale stayed strong at the heart of defence to defy Wycombe’s attacking thrust and there was an impressive last-ditch clearance from Tennai Watson just before half-time. At the other end, Andy Barcham was proving to be a very useful outlet. Another one of his driving runs down the left earned another corner, but this time Wycombe cleared their lines. However, Barcham’s running relieved pressure when it was required and offered a platform for potential attacks. The half-time score of 1-0 to Wimbledon was fully deserved with Wimbledon having defended well and offered plenty of threat at the other end. Hanson was proving to be a real handful, his aerial presence causing plenty of problems for Wycombe.
Wycombe exerted more pressure at the start of the second-half, but Wimbledon held firm. King did brilliantly to deny Alex Samuel after he went clean through and the Dons keeper also stayed alert to collect a shot from Curtis Thompson. However, Wimbledon stayed resilient and it was still 1-0 at the hour mark. Appiah came close to earning the cushion of a second when he reacted well to get on the end of another Hanson knock-down, but he couldn’t quite get enough on his shot and Henderson gathered the ball.
As Wycombe pressed forward in search of an equaliser, Wimbledon had to stay strong at the back and Thomas produced a commanding display at the heart of defence. Though Wycombe piled forward, committing men forward at every opportunity, Wimbledon soaked up the pressure, maintaining a very good defensive shape. With Wimbledon attempting to hold onto the 1-0 lead, Wally Downes made a change eight minutes from time with Tom Soares entering the mix to provide extra midfield strength. Hanson was the man to make way and the ovation he received from the travelling Dons was fully deserved for his impressive forward display.
There was the cushion of a second goal for Wimbledon in the 90th minute - and it was an excellent goal too. The two substitutes combined with Tyler Garratt crossing well for Jervis, who finished emphatically from close-range. Though Fred Onyedinma got one back in injury-time with a goal Wimbledon claimed was offside, it was too little, too late, from Wycombe. The victory offered plenty of encouragement for the Dons heading into the Christmas period.
AFC Wimbledon: Tom King, Tennai Watson, Ben Purrington, Will Nightingale, Terell Thomas, Scott Wagstaff (Jake Jervis), Anthony Hartigan, Kwesi Appiah, Andy Barcham, James Hanson (Tom Soares), Anthony Wordsworth.
Pic credit: Dennis Goodwin, Pro Sports Images.