AFC Wimbledon made it four victories in a row with a dramatic last-gasp victory today, thanks to a soaring header from Terell Thomas.
Thomas headed home his first Wimbledon goal, the defender getting on the end of a free-kick from Max Sanders to secure a 1-0 win versus Portsmouth.
In front of a crowd of 4,525, The Dons had to stay resilient to defy Pompey pressure, before Thomas earned all three points.
With Wimbledon having made it three successive wins at Southend last time out, it was no surprise that Glyn Hodges decided to select the same starting line-up. Terell Thomas had been doubtful in the build-up to this match, but he was fine to retain his place at the back, just a day after he celebrated his 24th birthday. It was an important occasion for teenager Jack Madelin as he was included in the first-team squad for the first time, the Dons academy product replacing the injured Callum Reilly on the bench.
Portsmouth came here aiming to reignite their promotion ambitions after a start to this season that was far removed from their form in 2018/19 as they reached the League One play-off semi-finals. However, Pompey started on the front foot and Terell Thomas was required to make an important block to stop the visitors, before John Marquis shot just wide. At the other end, Paul Osew almost set himself up for a chance, but his fine run was just ended before he could get a shot away.
The best chance of the match so far came in the 12th minute for Wimbledon and it fell the way of in-form marksman Marcus Forss. The on-loan Brentford man needed no second invitation to latch onto a through ball and beat his marker, but his shot was well saved by Pompey keeper Craig MacGillivary. That was a rare chance for Wimbledon though in the first half an hour, as Pompey pressed forward. Right-sided forward Ryan Williams was causing plenty of threat with his movement and skill, offering 18-year-old Osew a challenge after his stirring start in league football. Portsmouth’s best opportunity in the first half hour came through a quick breakaway when Wimbledon were caught out through the middle and Marquis held off Osew, before shooting just wide.
Pompey came close to opening the scoring twice in quick succession through headers from set-pieces. First, Portsmouth captain Tom Naylor headed over and then Christian Burgess came even closer when his header rattled the crossbar. As we approached half-time, the visitors again exposed Wimbledon with a quick break setting up Marcus Harness, but Nathan Trott did very well to get down and save his low shot. However, Wimbledon ended the first-half by almost making the breakthrough. Pigott was quick to pounce on a defensive lapse by Burgess and his lob was a fine one too as it beat MacGillivary, but the ball landed just wide.
Following the half-time break, there was a controversial incident that ended with no penalty awarded to Wimbledon. Referee Sam Purkiss appeared to point to the spot after a foul on Joe Pigott and Marcus Forss was even preparing to take the spot-kick. However, after consulting with his assistant, no penalty was given and Wimbledon instead had to settle for a free-kick just outside the area. Forss produced a fierce drive from the subsequent free-kick, but MacGillivary watched it all the way and palmed it away from danger.
The match was finely poised as we reached the midway point of the second-half, both sides threatening to break the deadlock. There was relief for Wimbledon when Nathan Trott’s clearance struck Pompey substitute Ellis Harrison, but the ball bounced just wide. The Dons came closer at the other end though when Anthony Wordsworth fired against a post with a fine strike, before Pigott was just unable to convert the rebound. Portsmouth had continued to have more possession in the second-half, but Forss and Pigott were continuing to look dangerous in attack for Wimbledon. Pigott produced a tireless shift up front, battling away up there to earn plenty of free-kicks and making life difficult for rugged Pompey defender Burgess.
The visitors twice came close to finding that elusive goal with 19 minutes remaining. A superb block by Paul Kalambayi stopped a goal-bound shot by Ronan Curtis, before Trott reacted well to save the follow-up by Naylor. Glyn Hodges made his first change in the 76th minute with Anthony Hartigan introduced for Mitch Pinnock. Certainly, Wimbledon could do with earning a greater share of possession at this stage to quell growing Pompey pressure and maybe Hartigan’s introduction could help to do this.
In the latter stages, Pompey sensed there was a winner in it for them and Wimbledon had to stay strong at the back. Thomas, Kalambayi, and Delaney were all called upon to make last-ditch tackles and it needed Trott to make another save to deny Ben Close. It appeared that Wimbledon were set to earn a point that would have been a good one in the circumstances, considering Pompey pressure. However, Thomas had other ideas and he headed home a free-kick delivery by Max Sanders to earn a fine Wimbledon win. Players, staff, and supporters celebrated wildly at the final whistle and there was the added bonus of moving out of the relegation zone with the victory.
AFC Wimbledon: Nathan Trott, Terell Thomas, Scott Wagstaff, Mitch Pinnock (Anthony Hartigan), Marcus Forss (Kwesi Appiah), Ryan Delaney, Max Sanders, Paul Kalambayi, Paul Osew, Joe Pigott, Anthony Wordsworth.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.