By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon slipped to a third successive defeat today after failing to build on Deji Oshilaja's equaliser.
The 3-1 defeat was tough to take for Wimbledon with the visitors making the most of their opportunities to make it a tough week for the Dons after two previous away defeats.
Wimbledon certainly created plenty of opportunities on the day, but the killer touch was lacking and Northampton punished Neal Ardley's men at the other end.
Neal Ardley made three changes to the side that started Tuesday's defeat at Bury with Harry Forrester, Barry Fuller and Lyle Taylor all earning recalls in place of Jimmy Abdou, Jon Meades, and Cody McDonald.
Aiming to make a fast start after losing the early initiative at Bury, Wimbledon were quick out of the blocks and it could have been 1-0 inside three minutes. Tom Soares picked out Liam Trotter in the box and his clever header set-up Joe Pigott, but he fired off target from close range. However, any hopes of Wimbledon building early momentum hit the buffers in the seventh minute when Northampton were awarded a penalty. Following a scramble in the box with Wimbledon unable to clear, John-Joe O'Toole pounced and George Long was adjudged to have brought him down in the box. From the subsequent spot-kick, Long was left with no chance with the penalty from Matt Grimes fired into the top corner.
A good response followed and Wimbledon fashioned a shooting opportunity for Trotter, but he volleyed over the crossbar. However, what followed was a difficult spell for the hosts with Wimbledon's players creating their own problems. Deji Oshilaja took too long to make a clearance and Sam Hoskins took full advantage with an interception, before marching through on goal, and it needed Long to save his shot from an acute angle. Lyle Taylor also gave the ball away in his own half, but Northampton failed to take full advantage and they got caught offside.
Though Wimbledon had shown flashes of good attacking play in the first 35 minutes, the passing had not been good enough to create sustained pressure. Another quick Northampton break after Wimbledon had given the ball away resulted in Matt Crooks powering towards goal and it needed good defending from Darius Charles to stop him. As we approached half-time, the frustration of home supporters grew, particularly after one or two debatable decisions from referee Carl Boyeson. The man-in-the-middle had even booked Lyle Taylor for taking a free-kick too quickly and the decision to award a penalty was followed up by plenty of calls going Northampton's way. The half-time whistle shrilled with Wimbledon still 1-0 down and needing and finding it tough to break down a Northampton side defending in numbers.
The start of the second-half brought exactly what was required for Wimbledon with an equaliser less than two minutes after the restart. A trademark run from Andy Barcham was only stopped by Northampton conceding a corner and that brought the ultimate reward. Lyle Taylor swung in a teasing delivery from the left that was flicked on at the near post and Deji Oshilaja steered home at the back post. All of a sudden, it was a different game now with Wimbledon piling forward at every opportunity. Fuller, who impressed on his return, was offering a good outlet on the right and his runs were also creating space for others. Taylor looked to have fashioned a good opportunity for Trotter with a fine cross, but the flag was up for offside before his effort was saved by Northampton keeper Richard O'Donnell.
All of Wimbledon's hard work to get back into it appeared to offer a platform to go for victory, but Northampton had other ideas and it was 2-1 to the visitors in the 61st minute. O'Toole showed good skill on the Wimbledon left to cut inside and deliver a defence-splitting pass to find Matt Crooks in space and he produced a clinical low finish into the bottom corner. Wimbledon had a half chance to equalise when Taylor delivered a nice ball into the box for Pigott just inside the area, but he volleyed over. With Wimbledon committing more men forward in search of an equaliser, there was a risk of being caught on the break and that's exactly what happened with another goal for Northampton. The ball was worked to Daniel Powell in space on the Northampton left and he curled the ball around Fuller and into the bottom corner with a lovely finish.
It was a tough ask now for Wimbledon to get back into it now and a chance to reduce the arrears fell for Barcham after good work by Oshilaja, but his shot was straight into the arms of O'Donnell. Despite the score-line, Wimbledon continued to go forward and Trotter almost got on back when he struck a fierce shot at goal, but O'Donnell saved superbly. However, the second goal just would not come to complete a difficult week for Wimbledon.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, George Francomb, Deji Oshilaja, Darius Charles, Harry Forrester (Egli Kaja), Liam Trotter, Tom Soares (Jimmy Abdou), Joe Pigott, Lyle Taylor, Andy Barcham.