AFC Wimbledon paid the price for a below-par first-half display at Accrington today.
The Dons were 2-0 down at half-time in Lancashire and though Joe Pigott reduced the arrears after Accrington's Joe Pritchard had been sent off, the hosts held on for a 2-1 win.
Wimbledon simply started too slowly at Accrington, handing the hosts the initiative and leaving themselves too much to do in the second-half.
Glyn Hodges made just one change to his starting line-up after the 2-2 draw in midweek against Burton Albion. Anthony Wordsworth, who came on as a half-time substitute in that game, was handed a start with Paul Osew having to settle for a place on the bench.
In the opening exchanges, both sides struggled to get good moves going, but Accrington made the breakthrough with their first meaningful attack in the 14th minute. A simple ball was delivered in from the Accrington left and Jordan Clark was allowed space to fire home emphatically. It was not a good goal to concede from a Wimbledon perspective and the hosts had the perfect start with that all-important early goal. In response, Mitch Pinnock threatened to go through on goal, but he was just stopped by a last-ditch challenge.
The hosts doubled their advantage in the 21st minute with another goal that came about due to slack marking in the box. This time the ball was delivered from the right and Dion Charles executed a superb acrobatic effort that soared into the roof of the net. It was a lovely finish, but Charles was allowed too much time to get his shot away. Despite Wimbledon starting to earn a share of possession, it was proving difficult to create any chances. There was an opportunity from a free-kick after Scott Wagstaff had been fouled, but Mitch Pinnock’s initial free-kick hit the wall and Wordsworth blazed over the crossbar from the rebound.
As we progressed towards half-time, former Dons academy keeper Joe Bursik in the Accrington goal had not been forced into action. At the other end, Joe Day had to stay alert to deny Charles a second goal of the afternoon and Wimbledon just scrambled the ball out for a corner before he could reach the rebound. With a couple of minutes to go until half-time, a slip by Luke O’Neill allowed Joe Pritchard to power towards goal. Good defending by Terell Thomas made it difficult for Pritchard though and Day did very well to get down and save. The half-time whistle shrilled with Wimbledon 2-0 down at the break and knowing that much more was required in the second-half to get something from this game.
Glyn Hodges made a change for the second-half with Paul Osew entering the fray for Jack Rudoni. Wimbledon made a much better start after the interval and there was a half chance created when Mitch Pinnock forced Bursik into action and the Joe Pigott’s header was off target. Wimbledon opened the second-half by being much more positive, putting together good passing moves and threatening to get back into this game. There was even more incentive for Wimbledon to push on in the 55th minute when Joe Pritchard was sent off for a second bookable offence. After a good run towards the goal, Pritchard went down in the box under a challenge by Joe Pigott, but the referee ruled that it was simulation and he was given his marching orders.
Shortly after the sending off, Scott Wagstaff produced a fine run down the right and sent over a good cross into the box, but no one was able to get on the end of it. Accrington initially coped well though with one man less, the hosts managing to maintain decent possession to stop any pressure building. Glyn Hodges made another change in the 68th minute with Shane McLoughlin replacing Anthony Wordsworth. McLoughlin was quickly into the action as he struck a volley wide after a free-kick had only been half cleared. Momentum was starting to build from a Wimbledon perspective as the visitors made the most of the one-man advantage. Pinnock came very close to halving the deficit with a shot just wide of the target. However, there was no reprieve for the hosts in the 72nd minute. Wimbledon’s best moments had come through Wagstaff down the left, but this time it was Callum Reilly who found space on that flank and his cross picked out Joe Pigott in the box. The in-form striker’s header had just enough on it to beat Bursik, who had managed to get a hand to it.
With 10 minutes left, Glyn made his final change with Adam Roscrow sent on for Luke O’Neill. Despite dominating possession with the extra man, too often the final pass went astray and that meant creating chances was difficult. Indeed, Accrington defended valiantly to hold onto the slender advantage against a Wimbledon side that have struggled on the road this season.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe Day, Luke O’Neill (Adam Roscrow), Terell Thomas, Scott Wagstaff, Anthony Hartigan, Mitch Pinnock, Jack Rudoni (Paul Osew), Mads Sorensen, Callum Reilly, Joe Pigott, Anthony Wordsworth (Shane McLoughlin).
Pic credit: Paul Thompson, Pro Sports Images.