Dons Boost Survival Hopes With Improved Form Over Christmas

AFC Wimbledon festive match round-up

AFC Wimbledon gave their League One survival hopes a big boost over the Christmas period as they picked up seven points out of the 12 on offer, closing to within a point of safety and with a game in hand on their rivals.

The Dons beat Bradford City 2-1 at Kingsmeadow on 21 December, were unlucky to lose 2-1 at Portsmouth on Boxing Day, twice fought back from a goal down to earn a possibly valuable 2-2 draw at Gillingham on 30 December, and saw in the New Year with a 2-0 home win against Southend United.

The win against Bradford City saw the Dons switch to a 3-5-2 formation that occasionally morphed into 4-4-2, and it certainly seemed to work against the promotion chasers. The Dons wasted little time in taking the lead, Cody McDonald latching onto a long ball from Barry Fuller and diverting it home past the advancing Rouven Sattelmaier after just seven minutes.

The visitors were equally quick at the start of the second period when goalkeeper George Long spilled a low cross into the path of Paul Taylor, who converted easily. But Wimbledon thwarted Bradford’s attempt at a club-record fifth successive away win when Lyle Taylor shot home from long range, his effort going through Sattelmaier’s arms.

The Boxing Day trip to Portsmouth ended without reward after two mistakes cost the Dons dearly. In first-half stoppage time Jon Meades won the ball but then a careless pass gave it away again on the edge of the Wimbledon box, and Ben Close capitalised by firing home. And with a little less than 20 minutes remaining Barry Fuller needlessly pushed Brett Pitman in the box, with Pitman firing home from the spot himself.

In between, Lyle Taylor converted from another penalty to give Wimbledon hope. Although the Dons produced just a solitary effort on target, it was again an improved performance with the 3-5-2 formation allowing the midfielders to make more of an attacking contribution.

And the Dons were again lively in front of goal during the visit to Gillingham before an unlucky deflected own-goal by Jon Meades put them behind on the hour. They were soon level again through a Lyle Taylor penalty, awarded after Cody McDonald was pulled in the box, only to concede almost immediately when Max Ehmer bundled home from close range.

But substitute Harry Forrester rescued a point for the Dons, side-footing home a half volley after a long corner was headed back into the mixer by Deji Oshilaja.

And the Dons carried their improved form into the New Year as they beat Southend United at Kingsmeadow to give supporters new-found optimism for the year ahead.

By Rob Crane

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January 5, 2018