AFC Wimbledon earned a fully deserved victory at Walsall tonight with Steve Seddon’s first goal for the club proving to be decisive.
The on-loan left-back was in the right place at the right time to secure a 1-0 win that could breathe new life into Wimbledon’s League One survival hopes. It was reward for the 163 travelling Dons that made the trip on a Tuesday night and hopefully Wimbledon can now build on this long-awaited league win.
Following the disappointing performance against Burton, Wally Downes made wholesale changes for this match at Walsall. Only five players were retained from Saturday’s starting line-up and the manager decided to hand full debuts to Shane McLoughlin and Michael Folivi. The Dons started with three centre-backs with Will Nightingale in his more familiar position, joined at the heart of defence by Deji Oshilaja and Rod McDonald. Toby Sibbick and Steve Seddon were deployed as full-backs with responsibility for pushing down the flanks at opportune moments.
Wimbledon made a start that was full of positivity and Walsall goalkeeper Liam Roberts was forced into a save after just five minutes. Anthony Wordsworth almost caught Roberts off guard with an opportunist free-kick from 25 yards that the keeper just managed to get across his goal and save. Folivi looked bright early on, showing plenty of pace and a willingness to run in behind. On one occasion the on-loan Watford forward showed good speed down the left, and only a last-gasp challenge stopped him going clean through.
With 22 minutes gone, Wimbledon had a good chance to make the breakthrough. Folivi produced a sharp turn to create the chance for himself, but his shot was well saved by Roberts, who showed superb reactions to deny Wimbledon. Wordsworth struck the follow-up wide. The Dons almost paid for those missed opportunities as Walsall came close at the other end. A free-kick was clipped into the box and Jon Guthrie was allowed to get a header in, but it flashed just wide. That was a rare Walsall attack in a first-half when Wimbledon enjoyed most of the possession.
As we approached half-time, Walsall came into it a bit more and Josh Gordon’s cross picked out Aramide Oteh in the box, but he was unable to get a proper connection on his effort and Wimbledon survived. Ramsdale was forced into his first save on the stroke of half-time when he reacted well to stop a shot by Guthrie. Though Walsall had come into it in the build-up to half-time, the score could have been even more favourable from a Wimbledon perspective.
Wimbledon really seized the initiative at the start of the second-half and Deji Oshilaja had an effort cleared off the line by Josh Gordon. Though Walsall then survived a succession of corners, there was no reprieve for the hosts in the 48th minute. A quick Wimbledon move ended with Wordsworth denied by Roberts, but Steve Seddon followed up to notch his first Wimbledon goal.
Far from settling for a 1-0 lead, Wimbledon pushed on and created great chances to double the advantage. Midfield possession was well established by a commanding midfield display from Anthony Hartigan, who grabbed his opportunity back in the team with both hands. Chances followed and it was so nearly two when Seddon’s wonderful pass picked out Joe Pigott, but his shot bounced off a post and away to safety. Pigott had another opportunity inside the box, but his well-struck shot was saved by Roberts. With Walsall starting to look dangerous in search of an equaliser, Wally Downes decided to make a change, bringing on fresh legs up front with Mitch Pinnock replacing Pigott up front in the 66th minute.
Though Walsall started to exert a bit more pressure, Wimbledon stayed strong in defence, showing a resilience that had been lacking on the road this season. Ramsdale had to react well to deny Matt Jarvis an equaliser, but chances were few and far between for the hosts.
Not just for his goal, but Seddon was Wimbledon’s stand-out performer, showing admirable energy down the left. The full-back’s commitment to the cause was summed up when he charged forward to close Walsall keeper Roberts down and he was fortunate that his clearance bounced off Seddon and away to safety. Wimbledon defended doggedly in the latter stages to earn victory and just maybe this could be the start of a real fight to stay in League One.
AFC Wimbledon: Aaron Ramsdale, Deji Oshilaja, Will Nightingale, Anthony Hartigan, Steve Seddon, Toby Sibbick (Terell Thomas), Rod McDonald, Shane McLoughlin, Joe Pigott (Mitch Pinnock), Anthony Wordsworth, Michael Folivi.
Pic credit: Alan Franklin, Pro Sports Images