AFC Wimbledon suffered a second home defeat in just four days with Fleetwood Town earning a deserved victory tonight.
A double from Ched Evans and a goal from substitute Ashley Hunter earned a 3-0 win for Fleetwood with Wimbledon having struggled to create anything of real note in the game. Indeed, the urgency and passion shown in two victories for Wimbledon before Christmas – at Wycombe and at home to Plymouth – was sorely lacking.
Wally Downes made just one change from the side that started against Barnsley on Saturday. Steve Seddon missed out due to a hamstring injury and that meant a recall for Anthony Hartigan. Deji Oshilaja switched back from midfield into defence to fill the left-back spot. The Dons came into this match seeking a first league victory this year after two defeats in three games, though both of those losses came against promotion contenders Portsmouth and Barnsley.
With sleet and rain in the build-up to this game, it was a slippery surface for the two sets of players to deal with and both sides struggled to build up attacking momentum early on. Wimbledon’s first effort came in the 11th minute when Anthony Hartigan’s well delivered corner picked out Paul Kalambayi, but his header was over. Fleetwood scored from their first meaningful effort in the 18th minute when a superb strike from Ross Wallace bounced off a post and fell nicely for Ched Evans, who made no mistake from close range.
The only real attacking threat early on from Wimbledon came through Andy Barcham’s runs down the left, but Fleetwood were able to get enough men back to deal with him. The night got worse for Wimbledon on the half hour when James Wallace and Wes Burns combined to find Madden in space in the box. Though his effort was well saved by Aaron Ramsdale, Evans followed up to notch his second of the night. Wimbledon attempted to respond and there was a first shot at goal when Joe Pigott tried his luck from outside the box, but Fleetwood keeper Alex Cairns saved it fairly comfortably. The Dons were fortunate not to go 3-0 down just before half-time. A long throw-in from Mitch Pinnock was cleared and a quick break ended with Burns picking out Ashley Nadesan, but he was denied by Ramsdale.
The half-time whistle shrilled with Wimbledon 2-0 down and plenty more urgency and tempo was required if there was to be any chance of getting back into it. Fleetwood had dominated possession, playing an expansive style through midfield, and Wimbledon had not been able to get on the ball enough to exert any pressure.
Fleetwood had a great chance to make it 3-0 in the 50th minute when Evans found space in the area and turned well, but his shot was too close to Ramsdale. The Dons keeper then made a brilliant finger-tip save to deny Evans his hat-trick once again. With Wimbledon struggling to make any impression as an attacking force, Wally Downes made a double change in the 57th minute. Dylan Connolly and Anthony Wordsworth were introduced for Jake Jervis and Andy Barcham.
Connolly was straight into the thick of the action and he produced a lovely run down the right before putting over a fine cross, but no one was able to get on the end of it. A quick break almost resulted in a third for Fleetwood when Madden was found in the space on the left, but he missed the chance to play in Evans, who was waiting in the box, and his subsequent shot was gathered by Ramsdale. Though Fleetwood were now restricted to hitting on the break, Wimbledon failed to create any meaningful chances against a side offering stubborn resistance.
The match was effectively ended as a contest eight minutes from time when Wimbledon failed to defend a corner and though the initial header from Evans was saved by Ramsdale, Fleetwood substitute Ashley Hunter nodded home. That was game over and Wimbledon will need to lift the performance levels considerably to cause any problems for Premier League West Ham in the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday night.
AFC Wimbledon: Aaron Ramsdale, Tennai Watson, Deji Oshilaja, Will Nightingale, Terell Thomas, Anthony Hartigan, Jake Jervis (Dylan Connolly), Mitch Pinnock, Andy Barcham (Anthony Wordsworth), Paul Kalambayi, Joe Pigott (Tommy Wood).
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.