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Club News

Ali's terrific treble sparks landmark win

Superb team display earns first home league victory

30 September 2023

Club News

Ali's terrific treble sparks landmark win

Superb team display earns first home league victory

30 September 2023

Those home blues were banished in style as the Dons once again produced a display full of attacking intent with Ali Al-Hamadi's hat-trick leading the charge.

That's seven goals in the last two games for a rampant Dons side - and this highly impressive 4-1 victory - our first home league win this season and first here since March - offered more than a hint that this could be a season of real improvement. 

The mood around the Cherry Red Records Stadium certainly suggested so, a real buzz around the ground after another swashbuckling display. Prior to this afternoon, such attacking swagger had been reserved for our travelling supporters with all our league victories having been achieved on the road.

However, that all changed emphatically as Al-Hamadi's stunning hat-trick after Armani Little's opener kept the Dons fighting at the right end of the table after last season's toils, our home faithful toasting a revitalised much-changed squad.

Wimbledon were helped on the way to victory by the fact that Tranmere played much of the second-half with 10 men after Josh Turnbull's 54th minute red card, but the Dons were 2-1 up at that stage and seemingly in control.

There was important team news to report before the game with our eight-goal top scorer James Tilley deemed fit enough to return, replacing Josh Neufville, and with Connor Evans missing out through injury Johnnie Jackson handed Aron Sasu his first League Two start.

In pursuit of a first home league win of the season, a stirring start for Wimbledon would have been gratefully received by all watching in yellow and blue, but it turned out to be the exact opposite. Tranmere started the game full of attacking intent and squandered a gilt-edged chance inside two minutes. A swift move down the left was started by Regan Hendry and Sam Taylor latched onto the cross, but he could only steer his shot over the crossbar.

Hendry then tried his luck from outside the box and his shot was tipped just wide by Alex Bass, but it was only a temporary reprieve for the Dons. After our defence failed to deal with a corner swung in from the Tranmere right, the ball eventually found its way to Connor Jennings at the back post and he made no mistake.

Though Tranmere continued to look dangerous with their dangerman Josh Hawkes as a key influence, the Dons gradually found a way back into the game. As so often since he joined, Omar Bugiel was impressing with his approach play outside the box and he showed fine touch to set-up strike partner Al-Hamadi, but his shot was gathered at the second attempt by Tranmere keeper Luke McGee.

Bugiel was instrumental in Wimbledon’s equaliser in the 21st minute as his pass offered Armani Little a shooting opportunity – and he needed no second invitation to try his luck. Indeed, there was a touch of fortune about the goal as Little’s well-struck shot took a deflection before nestling in the bottom corner. It was a first goal in Wimbledon colours for Little, who has had an impressive season so far at the heart of our midfield.

Now it was a completely different game as the Dons poured forward in search of a second goal and Isaac Ogundere sent over a teasing cross that Al-Hamadi almost converted at the back post. There was simply no stopping Al-Hamadi in the 32nd minute though. A fine pass by Bugiel sent the Iraq international striker racing down the left side and bearing down on goal, before he shifted the ball smartly past a Tranmere defender and applied the finishing touch in style.

What a turnaround from Wimbledon – and indeed from Al-Hamadi in front of goal! Though his overall forward play had been nothing short of outstanding at times this season, the sublime finishing prowess shown in abundance during 2022/23 had eluded him up until the Walsall win last Saturday. However, the goal in the Midlands brought back that welcome swagger from our much-admired striker and this was another demonstration of his outstanding finishing ability.

There was almost better to come before the break, a third Dons goal coming so tantalisingly close. First Al-Hamadi’s header into the ground landed just wide after a fine cross by Little and then Tilley’s shot was well saved by McGee. However, a much-deserved lead after turning this game around so emphatically offered plenty of encouragement heading into the half-time break.

And Wimbledon were given a huge helping hand in the 54th minute when a very rash challenge by Jordan Turnbull on Ogundere deservedly earned a straight red card. It was an opportunity that the men in yellow and grasped with both hands by making it 3-1 eight minutes later. An impressive one-two between Little and Al-Hamadi ended with the latter striking home emphatically – and now it seemed a case of what the winning margin would be.

There was a warning sign for Wimbledon though shortly afterwards that maybe it was not all over as Josh Hawkes struck a superb effort that was matched by the quality of the save from Alex Bass, the on-loan Sunderland keeper showing his athleticism in spades to deny Tranmere.

With the extra man, Wimbledon endeavoured to make it count even more as the home faithful bayed for more goals. Bugiel had a shot deflected just wide, Al-Hamadi threatened to bag a hat-trick, and teenage talent Sasu provided further demonstration of his intricate skills with eye-catching pace and trickery on the left.

But the icing on the cake was still to come with Al-Hamadi striking his hat-trick, finishing in style after an assist from substitute Josh Neufville to earn our first home league win since March. What a way to end a highly encouraging afternoon for all in yellow and blue - and the only way appears to be up after this display.

AFC Wimbledon: Alex Bass, Jake Reeves, Ryan Johnson, James Tilley (Josh Neuville), Ali Al-Hamadi (Josh Davison), Armani Little (James Ball), Omar Bugiel (Harry Pell), Jack Currie, Aron Sasu, Joe Lewis, Isaac Ogundere.

Att: 7,367 (444 away)

PICS: Ian Stephen (Pro Sports Images)   

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