By Chris Slavin
Another impressive pre-season win for AFC Wimbledon included a first goal in a Dons shirt for Mitch Pinnock.
Deji Oshilaja and Jon Meades were also on target in a 3-1 victory at the Laithwaite Community Stadium, a match that was a testimonial for former Woking player Giuseppe Sole. The display was another positive performance for Wimbledon in the build-up to the League One opener at Fleetwood on 4 August.
Neal Ardley selected a strong starting 11 for the match at Woking with just one change from the side chosen to face Reading on Saturday. Liam Trotter was brought into the starting line-up with Alfie Egan having to settle for a place on the bench.
It did not take long for AFC Wimbledon to put pressure on the National League South side and the opening goal arrived in just the third minute. Mitch Pinnock sent in a teasing corner delivery from the right and Deji Oshilaja met it with a soaring header that just had enough on it to beat Woking goalkeeper Sam Mason. There was no let-up from Wimbledon early on and the advantage was almost doubled shortly afterwards. Jon Meades, who started as captain for AFC Wimbledon on the night, showed good persistence down the left to get in a cross to set-up Kwesi Appiah, but his header was just over the crossbar.
Woking’s only moment of danger in a first-half dominated by Wimbledon came when a cross found Duane Ofori-Acheampong, but his effort was just wide of the far post. That failed to change the flow of the game with Trotter and Tom Soares seeing plenty of the ball in midfield to build attacks for Wimbledon. Woking contributed to their own downfall in the 14th minute when Mason picked up a back-pass in his own area, leading to an indirect free-kick. That led to a simple, but effective free-kick goal with Appiah touching the ball to Pinnock, who curled the ball just inside the near post. It was just after Wimbledon’s second goal when Sole departed the action, the Woking favourite departing to a standing ovation from the home support.
With the Wimbledon front pairing of Appiah and Pigott causing plenty of problems, it looked like there would be more goals to come for the Dons. Pinnock steered against a post from close-range, but it remained at just two until the 42nd minute. The third goal came after good work from Andy Barcham, who crossed from the left, and Jon Meades appeared to get the final touch to divert it past Mason. That was the way it stayed until half-time with Wimbledon holding a 3-0 lead at the break.
Neal Ardley made one change at half-time with Tennai Watson gaining his first taste of the action at Wimbledon, the on-loan right-back replacing Toby Sibbick. At the other end, Tom King had little to do in the Wimbledon goal, but he did show good handling ability to take crosses when called upon. A raft of changes followed for Wimbledon around the hour mark with the manager changing the rest of his team around, including his goalkeeper with Nik Tzanev replacing King. Several youngsters were given opportunities to show what they could do, including Kane Crichlow, who produced a scoring cameo on Saturday.
Woking twice came close to reducing the arrears just after the hour. Substitute Nic Bignall was the man to come close on both occasions, the speedy forward twice shooting just off target. A much younger Dons 11 ended this match and in similar fashion to Saturday they almost added to the goals tally. A fiercely struck shot from Kosta Sparta was just deflected off target, before Alfie Egan headed wide after a superbly taken corner from Bellikli. Tyler Burey once again impressed with his wing play on the right, the Dons academy product sending over several fine crosses from the right that Wimbledon failed to make the most of.
With 11 minutes remaining, Woking got a goal back when substitute Paul Hodges steered home from close range. Sole entered the fray for a second time with eight minutes to play, the Woking favourite welcomed onto the pitch once again by the home support, but the hosts were unable to add another goal during a strong finish to the game. For the Dons, it was another encouraging pre-season display, particularly in the first-half when Wimbledon's strongest side provided evidence of the gulf in class. Next up, it's a much tougher task for Neal Ardley's men against Championship outfit QPR on Saturday.
AFC Wimbledon: Tom King (Nik Tzanev), Toby Sibbick (Tennai Watson), Jon Meades (Neset Bellikli), Will Nightingale (Paul Kalambayi), Deji Oshilaja (Ossama Ashley), Tom Soares (Alfie Egan), Liam Trotter (Tyler Burey), Mitch Pinnock (Kosta Sparta), Andy Barcham (Kane Crichlow), Joe Pigott (Tom Wood), Kwesi Appiah (Egli Kaja).
The picture above (taken by Stephen Wright, Pro Sports Images) shows Deji Oshilaja’s header hitting the back of the net.