By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon suffered a fourth successive defeat tonight with Neal Ardley's men beaten by Plymouth for a second time this season.
In-form Plymouth struck fine goals in the win, but they also exploited a defence at sixes and sevens to win it 4-2, despite a double from Lyle Taylor that included his 50th AFC Wimbledon goal. Taylor could even have got Wimbledon back to 4-3, but he had a penalty saved by Plymouth keeper Remi Matthews. The loss continued a difficult February so far for Wimbledon and the importance of Saturday's home match against Bristol Rovers is now increased.
Neal Ardley made two changes to his starting line-up after the defeat against Northampton with Callum Kennedy and Jimmy Abdou both earning recalls in place of Andy Barcham and George Francomb. There was a late change on the bench with Barcham pulling up injured and that meant Egli Kaja took his place on the bench.
Both sides needed the points tonight for different reasons with Plymouth harbouring hopes of a play-off charge after their superb recent form and Wimbledon aiming to stay out of the danger zone. The start by both sides reflected that with the woodwork struck at both ends early on. Graham Carey cracked a free-kick against a post, but the Dons broke quickly and Lyle Taylor fired against the upright too with a lovely strike from an acute angle. In a very positive first 10 minutes for Wimbledon, Kennedy showed his quality with a lovely cross from the left, but Joe Pigott was just unable to get on the end of it and the whistle was blown for a foul.
Following a good 10 minutes for Wimbledon, Plymouth started to take a grip on the match with classy touches from Carey tipping the balance in their favour. First, Carey's quality cross picked out Ryan Taylor and he headed home, but the flag was up for offside. A minute later, Carey tried his luck with a brilliant effort that produced a flying finger-tip save from George Long. However, there was little Long could do to stop Plymouth taking the lead in the 16th minute. A clearance from Callum Kennedy was blocked by Carey, who then showed fine composure to finish clinically. A good response followed from Wimbledon and Forrester struck a goal-bound effort that was blocked.
Midway through a first-half that ebbed and flowed, Long was forced into another fine save when he dived to his right to keep out another piledriver from Carey. Before the half hour mark, Wimbledon had a good spell. In a promising moment from the Dons, Pigott nodded a long ball on for Lyle Taylor, but his shot was straight at Plymouth keeper Remi Matthews. Abdou also headed wide against his former club after a decent Dons move. The Dons had certainly been knocking on the door and an equaliser followed in fine style in the 36th minute. Barry Fuller sent through a good ball for Lyle Taylor, who struck a brilliant shot across Matthews and into the far corner. It was Lyle Taylor's 50th goal for AFC Wimbledon and what a way to do it.
The equaliser appeared to be something to build on for Wimbledon, but a minute later it was 2-1 to Plymouth. A corner was only half cleared and David Fox cracked home a thunderbolt into the top corner, George Long left with absolutely no chance. Worse was to come in first-half injury-time when another piledriver from Fox, this time from a free-kick, was saved by Long, but Ryan Taylor slotted home the rebound.
At the start of the second-half, Wimbledon attempted to get back into it with Taylor getting in a lovely cross from the right that almost picked out Abdou, who just missed it. Wimbledon were relieved to see a fourth goal ruled out for Plymouth 10 minutes into the second-half with Ryan Taylor heading home a free-kick, but the flag was up quickly for offside. It had been a good start to the second-half from Wimbledon, Plymouth certainly not picking up where they had left off, and a goal back followed for the Dons. Lyle Taylor chased a long ball in the 58th minute and his perseverance paid off. Plymouth defender Sonny Bradley struck his clearance towards Taylor and the Dons striker diverted it into the net. Just a minute later, Wimbledon thought it was 3-3 when Taylor chased down another long ball and Plymouth keeper Matthews made a hash of his clearance. Taylor's subsequent effort was deflected in, but the officials ruled that the ball had crossed the goal-line.
Having worked really hard to get back into it, Wimbledon conceded a really poor goal to allow Plymouth to restore the two-goal advantage. A routine long ball was played forward by Argyle and Deji Oshilaja was only able to divert the ball into the path of Ruben Lameiras, who took the ball around Long, before firing into the top corner. At 4-2 down, Wimbledon had it all to do again, but the Dons were handed a lifeline when Antoni Sarcevic brought down Darius Charles in the box. That meant a hat-trick opportunity for Lyle Taylor, but his shot from 12 yards did not pick out the corner and Matthews got down to his right to save well. That appeared to kill off any hopes of a Wimbledon fightback.
There was the welcome sight of Dean Parrett making his comeback for the latter stages, Jimmy Abdou making way, and Cody McDonald also came on for Joe Pigott. However, it was too late for Wimbledon to get back into it, despite continuing to go forward, and it means the Dons need to bounce back quickly after four successive defeats.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Deji Oshilaja, Jimmy Abdou (Dean Parrett), Harry Forrester, Liam Trotter, Tom Soares, Callum Kennedy, Darius Charles, Lyle Taylor, Joe Pigott (Cody McDonald).
Pic credit: Graham Hunt, Pro Sports Images.