Rod McDonald today produced an assured display at the heart of defence in his return after a month out with a groin injury.
The experienced defender played for 62 minutes in a Central League match at Merstham this afternoon, helping The Dons to a 1-0 victory against Plymouth. Wimbledon’s winner came through an own goal by Plymouth’s Ryan Law after good work by Shane McLoughlin.
AFC Wimbledon started with a very experienced team at Central League level with 17-year-old Jack Rudoni as the only player yet to play for the first-team. As captain on the day, Rudoni impressed at the heart of midfield. It was McDonald's first game since the away win at Rochdale, as he aimed to put a groin injury fully behind him. Tom Soares filled an unorthodox centre-back role alongside him. Plymouth fielded a much younger team with Alex Fletcher, who has made 11 first-team appearances, captaining their team.
Jake Jervis, who previously played for Plymouth, made a good start and he showed good skill down the right in the third minute, but the keeper gathered his cross. At the other end, a cross into the box caused problems for Wimbledon, but Fletcher headed just wide. Wimbledon continued to have the better of it early on and there was a good opportunity for Mitch Pinnock, but he dragged his shot wide. Wimbledon dominated possession in the first-half and a lovely move almost brought about the opening goal in the 22nd minute. Dylan Connolly showed blinding pace down the right, before crossing well for Pinnock, but his fine header bounced off the near post and Plymouth scrambled the ball to safety.
Chances continued to fall Wimbledon’s way as the first-half progressed. Tyler Garratt picked out Andy Barcham with a lovely ball and the Dons winger cut inside his marker to set-up a shooting chance, but his shot was well saved by Plymouth keeper Mike Cooper, who also stopped Rudoni’s soaring header. Barcham produced plenty of his trademark dash down the left flank and he did well to set-up Pinnock, but his goal-bound shot was blocked. However, Plymouth hung in there and fashioned an opportunity of their own before the half hour when a through ball picked out Fletcher in behind, but he shot wide.
The visitors had a good chance just before the break when Tom Purrington, brother of former Dons loanee Ben, headed just over the crossbar. In a first-half that included chances for both sides, Jervis was denied by Cooper, but there was a great opportunity for Plymouth’s Alex Battle before the break when he broke through the middle, before shooting wide.
Alan Reeves made a half-time change with Dylan Connolly withdrawn and he was replaced by Bobby Mills. The Dons came so close to an opener in the 55th minute when Tennai Watson turned smartly and struck a superb effort that bounced off the crossbar. Wimbledon continued to control possession in the second-half with young midfielder Rudoni showing good composure in the centre of the park with his passing ability. There was a lovely move involving Rudoni, Mills, and Barcham, but the eventual shot from Jake Jervis was blocked.
Wimbledon made a second change in the 62nd minute with Rod McDonald making way for Jack Madelin. McDonald had produced an assured display at the heart of defence and his performance suggested that he’s ready for a first-team return. Though there was a slice of fortune about Wimbledon’s 65th minute opener, it had certainly been earned on the balance of play. The goal came after good link-up play between Barcham and McLoughlin with the latter’s cross diverted into his own net by Plymouth defender Ryan Law.
The Dons attempted to double the advantage and Barcham showed nice footwork to fashion a shooting chance, but he shot over the crossbar. At the other end, Plymouth came so close to an equaliser with 13 minutes to go when Dan Rooney’s shot took a deflection, leaving Joe McDonnell with no chance, but it bounced off the inside of a post and away to safety. Chances continued to fall for Wimbledon, but a second goal just wouldn’t come. Pinnock shot just wide after a fine run and then he also had a shot well saved by Cooper. Good work by Barcham also set-up Pinnock, but he shot just off target. However, one was enough for Wimbledon to secure the Central League points and the main thing was that first-teamers boosted their match fitness at a crucial stage of the season.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Tennai Watson, Tyler Garratt, Shane McLoughlin, Rod McDonald (Jack Madelin), Tom Soares, Dylan Connolly (Bobby Mills), Jack Rudoni, Jake Jervis, Mitch Pinnock, Andy Barcham.
Pic credit: Paul Lapraik.