Defensive mistakes again cost AFC Wimbledon tonight with Neal Ardley's men suffering defeat at the Memorial Ground.
On a night when Wimbledon squandered countless chances, the Dons conceded yet another set-piece to hand Rovers the initiative and the hosts secured a 2-0 win when a cross from Michael Kelly was diverted into his own goal by Will Nightingale. It was a tough defeat to take for the 268 Wimbledon supporters that made the trip on a Tuesday night, as they watched chance after chance go begging.
An unchanged starting line-up was selected by Neal Ardley after the defeat at Blackpool on Saturday. The same substitutes were also named too, though that was influenced by injuries to Andy Barcham, Anthony Wordsworth and Tyler Garratt. The Dons were aiming to secure three points at the Memorial Stadium for the second successive season after a 3-1 victory 11 months ago.
AFC Wimbledon started this match full of attacking intent and there was almost a goal through an unlikely source in the sixth minute. Ben Purrington was the man who came so close when he struck a lovely effort from just outside the box that had Rovers keeper Jack Bonham beaten, but the ball rebounded off a post. There was no let-up from Wimbledon and James Hanson showed his aerial threat for the first time in the match when he met a cross from Deji Oshilaja, but his looping header was too high.
Wimbledon continued to dominate and a cracking move in the 12th minute almost broke the deadlock. Tom Soares sent over a cross from the right that was headed back by Hanson to set-up Jake Jervis, but Bonham got down well to save. The attacking momentum continued from Wimbledon and midway through the first-half came another chance for Wimbledon. Hanson caused havoc in the area once again and Appiah struck a shot that was cleared off the line. Then Appiah almost reached a cross from Oshilaja when any connection would have resulted in a goal.
Rovers finally started to threaten after the half hour mark and they almost struck in fortuitous fashion when Liam Sercombe's shot took a wicked deflection, but it bounced just wide. The hosts took the lead in the 35th minute when Wimbledon conceded from another set-piece. The ball was swung in from a corner by Sam Matthews and Ed Upson was credited with the goal after Joe McDonnell had failed to gather the cross. The 1-0 half-time score against the Dons was certainly harsh on the balance of play.
Wimbledon started the second-half aiming to take the game to Rovers once again, but Rovers doubled the advantage in the 53rd minute. A cross from the left was swung in by Michael Kelly and the ball rebounded into the net off Will Nightingale. It was certainly a slice of luck for Rovers and Wimbledon now had a mountain to climb. In response, Wimbledon poured forward in search of a goal back. It so nearly came just after the hour when Purrington crossed for Appiah, but he struck wide from close-range. Appiah then had the ball in the net after getting on the end of a corner from Anthony Hartigan, but the officials blew for a foul on Bonham.
Joe Pigott had entered the fray just after the hour with Jake Jervis the man to be replaced. The Wimbledon substitute did his utmost to influence matters and add to his six-goal haul so far this season, but it was difficult for him as Rovers defended their lead in numbers. With nine minutes to go, Wimbledon made another change with Mitch Pinnock replacing Purrington. Still Wimbledon continued to attack, but without reward. Pinnock's well delivered corner missed everyone waiting in the box and then the same player had a shot deflected just over.
It just wouldn't go in for Wimbledon, but there's no time for the players to dwell on the defeat with a big home game against Luton Town coming up on Saturday.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Ben Purrington (Mitch Pinnock), Deji Oshilaja, Will Nightingale, Scott Wagstaff, Anthony Hartigan, Kwesi Appiah, Jake Jervis (Joe Pigott), James Hanson, Tom Soares, Rod McDonald.
Pic credit: Graham Hunt, Pro Sports Images.