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Ronan leads the charge as Dons chase play-off place

A superb team performance from Wimbledon

10 February 2024

Club News

Ronan leads the charge as Dons chase play-off place

A superb team performance from Wimbledon

10 February 2024

Johnnie Jackson's men produced arguably their best home display of the season, as promotion contenders Barrow were brushed aside.

A rampant Dons performance, started by a second Wimbledon goal for Ronan Curtis, deservedly earned all three points, with the men in yellow and blue meriting more than the 2-0 winning margin.

Though Barrow ended the match with 10 men after a red card for their substitute Jamie Proctor, the men from Cumbria were well beaten by that stage, and the victory lifts Wimbledon back into eighth place - only outside the play-off zone by a point.

With one of our 2011 promotion heroes - Sammy Moore - watching on after being presented on the pitch, anything could be possible this season, based on this performance.

It was a simply stunning team display with new signings offering hope for the future and experienced heads including Lee Brown leading by example. The ecstatic reaction from the home faithful - celebrating in unison with players and staff - after the final whistle summed up the excitement around the Cherry Red Records Stadium.

Johnnie Jackson made just one change from the side that started the 0-0 draw at Bradford last Saturday, with Curtis replacing the injured John-Kymani Gordon. It meant a first Wimbledon start for Curtis, reward for his dramatic injury-time winner in the last home game versus Mansfield. Barrow came into the match in good form with a run of only one defeat in five having taken them up to third in the League Two table. Pete Wild’s side also had experience of winning here, the men from Cumbria earning a 1-0 victory in SW17 back in August 2022.

Following a cagey start to the game, the match sprung into life in the 16th minute with that man Curtis finding the net once again. There was still a fair bit to do when Barrow keeper Paul Farman half cleared the ball into the Irish international’s path, but he controlled it instantly before finishing clinically to open the scoring. What an impression made by Curtis since we offered him an opportunity to recapture his flying form from a couple of years ago – and more of the same will be warmly welcomed by all in yellow and blue.

Far from settling for just the one goal, the Dons pushed on. Curtis was a constant nuisance up front, winning headers and unsettling Barrow’s defence at every opportunity, with Josh Kelly and Bugiel also displaying good movement to cause problems. James Tilley showed his qualities with a fine run down the right, before sending over a cross that the visitors just managed to scramble clear. At the other end, Barrow finally created a hint of a chance with a cross from the left, but Lee Brown – revelling in his centre-back role – got across to clear smartly.

Kelly was one of two Dons players making their home debuts and the other – Kofi Balmer – certainly caught the eye with his long throws. Indeed, the first demonstration of Balmer’s attacking weapon produced gasps from the home faithful!

And the Dons were rewarded for an all-action display with the cushion of a second in the 26th minute. It was an impressive goal for completely different reasons. Armani Little sent over a sumptuous cross from the right that was just begging to be finished off and Bugiel delivered in style with a superb header. That signalled jubilant scenes from Dons players, staff, and fans, as Wimbledon marched into a 2-0 lead that was certainly merited. Indeed, it had been such a dominant first-half display that it was certainly up there as one of Wimbledon’s best halves of football this season. Defensively sound against one of the best sides in the division, the Dons had shown plenty of attacking threat at the other end.

It was no surprise that Barrow came out at the start of the second-half aiming to make up for their below-par first-half display. Alex Bass was required to make a vital save to stop a header by David Worrall from finding the back of the net. Then came a moment that could have sealed victory for Wimbledon. Tilley delivered a sublime defence-splitting pass that sent Kelly racing through on goal, but he attempted to take it around Farman, and the Barrow keeper anticipated it well to stop a certain goal.

After a spell at the start of the second-half when Barrow threatened to come back into it, the Dons regained superiority and continued in pursuit of a third goal. Balmer sent over another long throw from the left that caused mayhem in the box and Tilley’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected just wide.

Johnnie made a double change in the 68th minute with Aron Sasu and Harry Pell replacing Curtis and Bugiel. And there was almost the perfect introduction for Sasu as he curled just wide with a shot from the left after fine movement to set-up the chance. Jack Currie then had a fierce shot charged down as the Dons continued to go all out for a third. Wimbledon came even closer nine minutes from time when Tilley picked out Kelly and he produced a power-packed run towards goal, but Farman denied him again. All that had been missing from Kelly’s game was that finishing touch, the rest of his game was highly impressive and offered plenty of promise for the future.   

There was still time in the latter stages for Proctor to receive his marching orders, but it mattered little in the final reckoning. The Dons were simply too good for Barrow on the day - and more of the same this season offers plenty of excitement for the final two months or so of this much-improved campaign.

AFC Wimbledon: Alex Bass, Lee Brown, Kofi Balmer, James Tilley, Josh Kelly (Josh Davison), Armani Little, James Ball (John-Joe O’Toole), Omar Bugiel (Harry Pell), Ronan Curtis (Aron Sasu), Jack Currie, Isaac Ogundere.

Attendance: 7,373 (332 away)

PICS: Stephen Flynn (Pro Sports Images)

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