James Hanson chose a timely occasion to strike his first Wimbledon double with his goals lifting The Dons to another valuable victory in the battle to stay up.
Hanson scored through a trademark header midway through the first-half, but his superb strike after a fine assist by Joe Pigott ultimately proved to be the difference in a 2-1 victory at Glanford Park. Though Lee Novak halved the deficit, Wimbledon didn’t deserve to be pegged back and it’s now four away wins from the last five on the road.
Wally Downes made three changes to his starting line-up after the defeat against Gillingham. James Hanson, Will Nightingale, and Shane McLoughlin all earned recalls with Michael Folivi, Terell Thomas, and Scott Wagstaff having to settle for places on the bench. With Andy Barcham ruled out due to illness, it meant a return to the squad for Kwesi Appiah, who was on the substitutes’ bench.
Taking on a Scunthorpe side with caretaker manager Andy Dawson in charge, Wimbledon produced exactly the start required to stop a team out of form from gaining in confidence. Just inside 10 minutes and Wimbledon earned a golden opportunity to take the lead when Steve Seddon was brought down in the box by keeper Jak Alnwick after a lovely through ball by Anthony Hartigan. Joe Pigott stepped up, but his shot was too close to Alnwick, who dived to his right to save it. The kick didn’t match the quality of his penalty strikes against Rochdale and Peterborough, but Alnwick did well to guess the right way.
Far from galvanising Scunthorpe, it had the opposite effect, with Wimbledon continuing to take the game to their opponents. The breakthrough came in the 23rd minute with a goal from a set-piece that vindicated the decision to hand James Hanson his first League One start for months. A lovely delivery from a free-kick on the right by Anthony Wordsworth picked out the towering striker at the near post and his glancing header left Alnwick with no chance. After taking the lead, there was no let-up from Wimbledon and it was 2-0 in the 29th minute with another goal from Hanson. It was a completely different goal this time, but an even better one as Hanson fired home superbly into the bottom corner after a back-heal from strike partner Joe Pigott set him up.
Wimbledon’s first half hour had been full of attacking intent and the two-goal advantage certainly didn’t flatter The Dons. Another fine move ended with Wordsworth picking out Sibbick on the right, but his cross was well held by Alnwick. As we approached half-time, the Scunthorpe fans were getting restless, as they watched their team create very little. Indeed, Aaron Ramsdale had nothing meaningful of note to do in the first-half and it had been an impressive first-half performance from Wimbledon in all departments.
The hosts finally started to threaten a little at the start of the second-half. Ramsdale just failed to gather a cross and it fell nicely for Scunthorpe substitute Adam Hammill, but he took too long and with the angle against him, he blazed wide. It was only a brief spell of home pressure though and Wimbledon started to dominate again. Wordsworth, who produced good quality on the day, especially with his crossing, again picked out Hanson, but no one was able to get on the end of his knock-down. Paul Kalambayi also had an acrobatic effort well blocked as Wimbledon searched for a third goal to kill the game.
With 67 minutes on the clock, Wally Downes decided to make a double change. James Hanson was withdrawn and he was given a standing ovation from the travelling Dons after his most meaningful contribution in a Wimbledon shirt since joining last summer. Kwesi Appiah was the man to replace him and Scott Wagstaff was also introduced for Shane McLoughlin. The home side started to exert pressure at the other end though and they should have got one back with 15 minutes to go. Lee Novak headed wide from close-range when he should really have scored. However, it was only a temporary reprieve for Wimbledon. A shot from Adam Hammill was parried by Ramsdale and this time Novak made no mistake.
Despite late pressure from the hosts, Wimbledon defended really well to hold on for another precious three points on the road. The Dons have shown plenty of fight to stay up recently, and no shortage of quality too, and on the evidence of this performance there’s every chance that Wimbledon can complete the job.
AFC Wimbledon: Aaron Ramsdale, Will Nightingale, Anthony Hartigan, Steve Seddon, James Hanson(Kwesi Appiah), Toby Sibbick, Rod McDonald, Paul Kalambayi, Shane McLoughlin (Scott Wagstaff), Joe Pigott (Mitch Pinnock), Anthony Wordsworth.