By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon today produced a hugely encouraging pre-season display to defeat Premier League opposition at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
In Wimbledon's final home friendly of the summer, goals from Joe Pigott and Kwesi Appiah earned a 2-1 victory against Brighton & Hove Albion.
It was certainly a win that was fully merited as Wimbledon's new signings showed signs of clicking with just two weeks until 2018/19 gets underway.
Neal Ardley made three changes to the side that started against QPR in last Saturday's friendly at the Cherry Red Records Stadium. Tom King, Scott Wagstaff, and Anthony Hartigan, all came into the starting line-up in place of Joe McDonnell, Andy Barcham, and Tom Soares. Premier League Brighton, who had beaten Crawley Town in a friendly with a weaker team yesterday, selected a strong side for this match.
The Seagulls fashioned the first real chance with Jurgen Locadia going clean through on goal, but King was out quickly and just got a touch to deny him the opener. At the other end came an equally good chance for Wimbledon with Kwesi Appiah doing well to dispossess Shane Duffy, before darting towards goal, but his shot was well saved by David Button. However, Wimbledon did earn a fully deserved opener in the 15th minute. It was an encouraging build-up with Liam Trotter, Hartigan, and Wagstaff all linking up well and though the latter's cross was cleared, Trotter headed it back into the area towards Joe Pigott. There was still plenty to do for Pigott just inside the area, but he turned smartly and struck a clinical effort that arrowed across Button and into the far corner.
Wimbledon's first half hour had been very pleasing on the eye, the home support in particular appreciating more impressive wing play from Mitch Pinnock. Midway through the first-half, the tall wide-man put over a superb delivery from the left that just eluded Appiah in the box. However, there was no reprieve for Brighton in the 31st minute. Pinnock sent in a glorious cross from the left once again and this time Pigott headed it down for Appiah, who took full advantage by steering home from close-range. With young midfielder Anthony Hartigan playing like he had never been away and new signings impressing, it was a very encouraging first-half from Wimbledon.
As expected, there was a response from Brighton and the visitors had three good chances to reduce the deficit. First, King showed his quality from a one-on-one situation once again when he reacted superbly to stop Locadia netting. Then King stayed alert to deny Anthony Knockaert, before Locadia blazed wide from close-range. Despite late chances in the half for Brighton, Wimbledon were full value for the lead and home supporters showed their appreciation for the performance as the players came off for half-time.
There was a change for Wimbledon at half-time with James Hanson making his first appearance in a Dons shirt with Appiah making way for him. The second-half opened with Brighton pressing to get a goal back and it almost came when Locadia made space for a shot once again, but this time he cracked his shot against a post. Neal Ardley made four more changes just after the hour with Terell Thomas, Andy Barcham, Tom Soares, and Toby Sibbick all introduced for Jon Meades, Scott Wagstaff, Anthony Hartigan, and Tennai Watson.
Brighton halved the deficit in the 65th minute when Will Nightingale was adjudged to have brought down Aaron Connolly in the box and Oliver Norwood smashed home the penalty. It was a different game now as Brighton piled forward in search of an equaliser. Wimbledon did manage to alleviate the pressure with around 20 minutes left, the Dons almost increasing the advantage. Following an ambitious effort from Wordsworth that was blocked, the same player shot just wide with an impressive strike from just outside the area. It was another positive sign from one of Wimbledon's new signings and there was certainly plenty to get excited about for the home faithful.
Wimbledon had chances to add to the lead, particularly when Hanson caused havoc in the Brighton back-line to provide Pigott with an opportunity, but his effort was blocked. Hanson also had a volley well saved by Button, but two was enough for Wimbledon to secure a morale-boosting pre-season victory.
AFC Wimbledon: Tom King, Tennai Watson (Toby Sibbick), Will Nightingale, Deji Oshilaja, Jon Meades (Terrel Thomas), Mitchell Pinnock, Anthony Hartigan (Tom Soares), Liam Trotter, Scott Wagstaff (Andy Barcham), Joe Pigott, Kwesi Appiah (James Hanson).
Pic credit: Stephen Wright, Pro Sports Images.