A double from Joe Pigott secured a hard-fought victory for AFC Wimbledon today and moved Wally’s boys out of the League One relegation zone.
On a tense day at the Cherry Red Records Stadium – exactly six years since that memorable win against Fleetwood that kept Wimbledon in the league – The Dons earned a 2-1 victory that provides a great chance of staying in League One.
With other results going in Wimbledon’s favour, it means that the players will have their destiny in their own hands when they head to Bradford next Saturday.
Wally Downes made two enforced changes to his starting line-up with Rod McDonald and Scott Wagstaff both injured. McDonald’s absence meant that Terell Thomas, who ended the game at Kenilworth Road in midweek, started this one, and Shane McLoughlin replaced Wagstaff. The Dons came into this match on the back of a fourth successive draw at Luton Town with Wimbledon taking on a Wycombe side that had won two out of their last three games.
Wimbledon made a bright start to this match with Hanson getting on the end of a corner and heading just over the crossbar. However, the forward earned his team a golden opportunity shortly afterwards. Played through by a superb defence-splitting pass from his strike partner Joe Pigott, Hanson was scythed down just inside the area by Wycombe keeper Ryan Allsop. What followed was a four-minute delay while Allsop received treatment. Referee Andy Davies decided that Allsop’s challenge only merited a yellow card, rather than the red that the home faithful had demanded. The delay perhaps didn’t help penalty-taker Pigott, whose spot-kick failed to match the quality of his winner at Rochdale. Though not a bad penalty, it was far from in the corner and Allsop reacted well to make a fine save, before the rebound was scrambled away by Wycombe.
Despite the missed penalty, Wimbledon’s early momentum continued and Steve Seddon produced a superb run down the left, before getting a cross over for Pigott, who was just unable to get a shot away. After a blistering early spell from The Dons, Wycombe started to come into it. A big chance followed in the 22nd minute when Adam El-Abd got on the end of a corner from Jason McCarthy and his header beat Aaron Ramsdale, but Anthony Wordsworth cleared off the line. Minutes later, Wycombe threatened again through a free-kick from McCarthy, but Ramsdale watched it all the way to tip the ball over.
At this stage, Wimbledon needed to pick it up again and rediscover that early attacking momentum. Thankfully, The Dons did that with real gusto to earn the opening goal. Seddon showed a fine turn of foot to reach a through ball by Pigott and he was brought down for a free-kick. Though Pigott’s header from Anthony Hartigan’s free-kick was tipped wide by Allsop, there was no reprieve from the subsequent corner. Wordsworth’s well delivered corner picked out Pigott, who headed home emphatically from close-range. The goal was met with jubilation from Wimbledon’s home faithful and rightly so! What a chance to earn a vital victory in the battle to stay up. There was an opportunity to double the advantage when Hanson was put through on goal, but his shot was too close to Allsop, who did well to save. Bayo Akinfenwa fired a warning shot when he headed just wide, but Wimbledon remained 1-0 up at half-time.
Wycombe came out a completely different team at the start of the second-half, forcing Wimbledon back, and that paid off with the equaliser in the 48th minute. McCarthy found space down the right and his cross was diverted in at the near post by Alex Samuel, who got there just before Terell Thomas. Rejuvenated by the equaliser, Wycombe piled forward in numbers and they came so close to taking the lead when Scott Kashket’s cross picked out Samuel and his header bounced off the crossbar. That was certainly a nervy moment for Wimbledon to survive and it became even more important when a second goal followed for The Dons in the 52nd minute. Another fine cross from Wordsworth created havoc in the box and though Seddon was unable to get on the end of it, Pigott’s header had just enough on it to beat Allsop.
The second goal hardly settled nerves around the Cherry Red Records Stadium though, as Wycombe pushed for an equaliser. Curtis Thompson drilled a shot on target in the 68th minute, but Ramsdale did well to hold it. Though Wycombe attempted to pile the pressure on, Wimbledon defended well enough to stop the visitors from creating clear-cut chances.
Wally Downes made a double change 10 minutes from time. Paul Kalambayi’s injury meant that Tennai Watson was introduced at the back and the manager decided to utilise the pace of Dylan Connolly for the latter stages with Joe Pigott withdrawn after his vital double blast. Though Wycombe attempted to get back into it in the remainder, Wimbledon held firm at the back and it was a deserved victory for The Dons. The Great Escape is most definitely still on!
AFC Wimbledon: Aaron Ramsdale, Will Nightingale, Terell Thomas, Anthony Hartigan (Tom Soares), Steve Seddon, James Hanson, Toby Sibbick, Paul Kalambayi (Tennai Watson), Shane McLoughlin, Joe Pigott (Dylan Connolly), Anthony Wordsworth.
Pic credit: Stephen Wright, Pro Sports Images.