By Chris Slavin
Automatic promotion contenders Blackburn showed their class in the second-half tonight to condemn Wimbledon to a home defeat.
The 3-0 win for the visitors was a ruthless demonstration of finishing from a side closing in on promotion as Wimbledon were well in this game for over an hour. Just seconds after Harry Forrester came close to an equaliser, Elliott Bennett scored with a stunning strike and Bradley Dack's second of the game sealed it.
Neal Ardley made just one change to his starting line-up after the creditable draw at Peterborough with Paul Robinson earning a recall at the heart of defence alongside Deji Oshilaja. That meant Joe Pigott having to settle for a place on the bench with Lyle Taylor leading the line up front on his own, the Dons aiming to take a grip on possession by stiffening up midfield.
Taking on a Blackburn side top of League One after an impressive recent run, Wimbledon started well and created a hint of a chance in the second minute when Francomb's cross was only half cleared and Jon Meades shot wide. There was a warning shot for Wimbledon though when Adam Armstrong put over a fine cross that picked out in-form marksman Danny Graham, but he headed wide. At the other end, Blackburn right-back Ryan Nyambe made life difficult for himself by lunging in late on Andy Barcham and that resulted in a yellow card. It perhaps offered Barcham even more incentive to put pressure on his marker.
The direct approach almost paid off for Wimbledon in the 16th minute when George Long's searching ball looked to have put Lyle Taylor through, but Blackburn keeper David Raya raced off his line to clear the ball. Though Nyambe had already been booked, he was a threat at the other end on the overlap with Barcham forced to track back. Wimbledon attacking moves were rare in the first quarter of the game, but Blackburn had only offered minimal threat too, and a shot from Darragh Lenihan was well over the crossbar. However, the visitors opened the scoring in the 30th minute. Jack Payne delivered a deep cross to the back post that Long was hesitant to come for and Bradley Dack's header looped over the Dons keeper. Deji Oshilaja tried his best to clear off the line, but the ball was adjudged by the referee's assistant to have crossed the line.
The next spell was tough as Blackburn attempted to click through the gears, but Wimbledon were able to hang in there and Taylor almost fashioned a chance when he put in a lovely cross from the left, but Robinson was just unable to get a touch to it. The 1-0 half-time deficit for Wimbledon reflected the harshness of taking on one of the top sides in the division. Blackburn had been limited to very little, but they displayed that ruthless edge required of a promotion-chasing side.
Neal Ardley made a half-time change with Joe Pigott introduced for Barcham and just maybe his presence up front could make a difference once again after his impressive cameos against Blackpool and Bristol Rovers. Wimbledon put together a decent move at the start of the second-half with Taylor finding Fuller and his cross was only just cleared, but Forrester shot well wide with the follow-up. Forrester provided a moment of real quality 10 minutes into the second-half when he turned inside smartly from the left and picked out Taylor with a lovely cross, but the Dons striker was quickly put under pressure and he shot over.
Forrester looked sharp on the night and he almost equalised in the 63rd minute when a corner was only half cleared and he struck a superb effort from just outside the area that flashed wide. It proved to be a turning point as less than a minute later the advantage was doubled. Elliott Bennett tried his luck from 25 yards and his excellent effort brought the ultimate reward as it arrowed into the bottom corner. That was the signal for Blackburn to turn on the style and a third goal followed in clinical fashion. Graham crossed from the right and Dack produced a sublime flick over Long to put the game beyond Wimbledon.
It was particularly difficult for Wimbledon after that. Blackburn displayed all the hallmarks of a side closing in on promotion, hardly offering the Dons a chance to get back into it. There was certainly no shame in this defeat against a side full of players used to playing in the Championship and it's more important now that the Dons produce a positive reaction in Saturday's London derby against Charlton Athletic.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Jon Meades, Deji Oshilaja, Paul Robinson, George Francomb, Jimmy Abdou, Harry Forrester, Liam Trotter (Tom Soares), Andy Barcham (Joe Pigott), Lyle Taylor (Dean Parrett).
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.