It was a difficult second-half for Wimbledon today with three goals after the break earning a clear-cut victory for promotion-chasers Barnsley in the end.
The Dons had shown plenty of spirit to get back to 1-1 at half-time, but Barnsley hit top form to win it 4-1 with goals from Kieffer Moore, Mamadou Thiam, and Cameron McGeehan.
Wimbledon had matched one of the in-form sides in League One for the best part of an hour, but the men from Yorkshire showed all of the attacking fluency that has put them in contention to get back into the Championship at the first attempt.
Wally Downes made three changes from the side that started the 1-1 draw at Coventry City last time out. There was a notable inclusion at left-back with Steve Seddon coming in for his debut in place of Tyler Garratt. Joe Pigott and Terell Thomas were both recalled after shaking off injuries with Anthony Wordsworth and Anthony Hartigan having to settle for places on the bench. The Dons started the game with Will Nightingale and Deji Oshilaja at the heart of midfield, aiming to protect a defence that was sure to be tested against in-form opponents.
Barnsley came into this match full of confidence after taking 14 points from the last 18 on offer. It needed good work by Tennai Watson to stop Thiam going clean through. Then Aaron Ramsdale was required to make a fine save when he palmed away a shot by McGeehan from outside the area. At the other end, Mitch Pinnock had a shot blocked as Wimbledon attempted to get going as an attacking force. Considering Barnsley’s superiority early on, it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 20th minute. Ramsdale once again showed good reactions to tip a shot from Thiam wide, but the visitors scored from the subsequent corner. Though the delivery was half cleared by Wimbledon, Cauley Woodrow struck a superb effort that arrowed into the top corner.
There was no let-up from Barnsley after taking the lead and Ramsdale was required to be at his best once again when he made a stunning finger-tip save to deny Ben Williams. However, Wimbledon dug deep to stay in the game and earned an equaliser in the 35th minute. Andy Barcham swung in a free-kick from the left and Pigott rose highest to get his head on it with an effort that just crept inside the far post. All of a sudden, it was a different game now. Will Nightingale struck a fierce drive from just outside the area that Adam Davies did well to tip over the crossbar. Kalambayi then had a header just over the crossbar.
Just minutes before half-time, Wimbledon missed a great opportunity to take the lead. Barcham picked out Pigott and his shot across the face of goal found Jake Jervis just inside the six-yard box, but he shot wide. However, in first-half injury time Wimbledon needed Ramsdale to make his best stop yet when he produced an acrobatic save to stop Kenny Dougal from putting Barnsley in front. When the half-time whistle sounded Wimbledon could be pleased with a spirited fightback and it had certainly been an entertaining 45 minutes.
The second-half opened with both sides threatening. Oshilaja had a decent opportunity, but he dragged his shot wide of the far post. At the other end, Thiam had the ball in the net, but his effort was ruled out for offside. However, there was no reprieve for Wimbledon in the 52nd minute when Alex Mowatt crossed from the Barnsley right and Kieffer Moore headed home emphatically. Just as they had in the first-half, Barnsley attempted to press home their advantage and it was 3-1 in the 65th minute. Good work by Moore down the wing set-up Thiam and his fierce drive left Ramsdale with absolutely no chance.
It was difficult for Wimbledon now after falling 3-1 behind against an in-form side. However, Wordsworth headed wide of the target after entering the fray in the second-half. Another substitute, Dylan Connolly, provided something for Wimbledon supporters to cheer too. He produced a brilliant run down the right before cutting the ball back for Mitch Pinnock, who struck a goal-bound effort, but it was blocked. Connolly produced another marauding run down the right shortly afterwards, but no one was able to get on the end of his searching cross.
To Wimbledon’s credit, heads didn’t go down against a side that showed exactly why they are vying for promotion. The Dons kept going, but no goal back followed, and McGeehan struck a fourth to make it a harsh scoreline in the end. There’s a quick chance to get back on track with a home match against Fleetwood Town on Tuesday night.
AFC Wimbledon: Aaron Ramsdale, Tennai Watson, Deji Oshilaja, Will Nightingale, Terell Thomas, Jake Jervis, Mitch Pinnock, Steve Seddon, Andy Barcham (Dylan Connolly), Paul Kalambayi, Joe Pigott (Anthony Wordsworth).
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.