AFC Wimbledon booked a place in the knockout stages of the Checkatrade Trophy with an emphatic victory against Stevenage tonight.
Kwesi Appiah opened the scoring after just 20 seconds and further goals from Anthony Wordsworth, Tyler Garratt, and Alfie Egan secured a morale-boosting 4-0 victory on a night of positives for Neal Ardley's men.
With an important Emirates FA Cup tie at Haringey Borough coming up on Friday night, Neal Ardley made several changes to the starting line-up. Tyler Burey came in for his competitive first-team debut, the right winger rewarded for a string of impressive displays for our development squad, including a winner in the Surrey Senior Cup last week. Paul Kalambayi also came in for a rare first-team start and Tyler Garratt and Anthony Wordsworth returned after injury. Tom King was recalled between the sticks, offering him a chance to face the club he served on loan last season.
Needing a win to guarantee progress in this competition, Wimbledon made a whirlwind start by marching into the lead after just 20 seconds. Kwesi Appiah was quick off the mark in getting on the end of a through ball from Anthony Wordsworth and his smart lob from a difficult angle beat Stevenage keeper Paul Farman to make it 1-0. A spirited response followed from Stevenage and they could have restored parity in the 10th minute when John Hunt found Steve Seddon in space, but he drilled wide. Though Stevenage started to put a bit of pressure on, the Wimbledon defence held firm with Terell Thomas building on his encouraging display from Saturday.
Wimbledon put together a promising move midway through the first-half that ended with Liam Trotter crossing for Appiah to head over the bar. The referee had already blown for a foul on Trotter though and nothing came from the subsequent free-kick. However, there was no reprieve for Stevenage in the 28th minute. Appiah, who looked very sharp on the night, won a free-kick 20 yards out and that offered Wordsworth an opportunity. Though the midfielder struck his initial effort against the wall, his follow-up effort was emphatic as he cracked the rebound into the bottom corner. It was an example of the finishing prowess from midfield that Wordsworth had produced at other clubs before joining Wimbledon and more of the same would be very much welcome in the coming weeks.
Stevenage did threaten to half the deficit before half-time, first when Garratt was required to make a good defensive cut-out to stop a cross reaching Danny Newton at the back post. Then James Ball cracked a free-kick against the wall and Tom King eventually gathered. However, the Dons were full value for the 2-0 half-time lead.
Neal Ardley decided to retain the same 11 for the second-half and Wimbledon made a good start with Wordsworth having a goal-bound shot blocked. A superb move followed from the Dons when Trotter and Egan combined to set Tennai Watson free on the right and his cross almost picked out Appiah in the box. The Dons came even closer when Jake Jervis found space on the left and cut inside, before striking a shot that Farman did well to beat out for a corner. At the other end, John Hunt curled in a free-kick that was met by the head of Newton, but it was comfortable for King to gather.
Wimbledon continued to produce good attacking play as the second-half progressed with Wordsworth at the heart of it. The midfielder's set-piece deliveries offered a useful attacking weapon and he could be pleased with a good return to action after departing midway through the action for Anthony Hartigan. Youngsters Tyler Burey and Alfie Egan also produced moments of promise in the second-half and the latter put over a lovely cross that was just begging to be converted, but no one was able to get on the end of it. A third goal arrived in fortuitous circumstances in the 68th minute. A corner was chipped to Tyler Garratt just inside the box and though his shot was blocked, it rebounded off the Wimbledon left-back's head and into the top corner.
The goal of the night arrived in the 78th minute through Egan. A good move created space for the midfielder, who marched towards the edge of the area, before curling home a superb effort into the far corner. It completed a fine night for AFC Wimbledon and certainly a confidence booster ahead of Friday night's FA Cup tie at Harringey Borough.
AFC Wimbledon: Tom King, Tennai Watson, Terell Thomas (Deji Oshilaja), Kwesi Appiah (Joe Pigott), Jake Jervis, Tyler Garratt, Liam Trotter, Alfie Egan, Paul Kalambayi, Tyler Burey, Anthony Wordsworth (Anthony Hartigan).
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.