Bristol Rovers 2 v Wimbledon 0
Wimbledon’s wretched record at Bristol Rovers continued on New Year’s Eve as they went down to a timid 0-2 defeat.
The result helps complete the Dons’ transformation from having one of the best away records in the division to one of the worst, as they have now failed to score away from Kingsmeadow since early November.
Although this trip to Rovers – where the Dons have never had a happy record – was always likely to be tough, the mild manner of the defeat, combined with a similar performance at Southend on Boxing Day, is likely to cause some consternation among Wimbledon fans.
‘In the last month we have stuttered a little bit in our form,’ boss Neal Ardley told the club’s official website. ‘We’ve got away with it in some games, but in matches when the opposition have been strong and in good form, we’ve struggled.
‘The best team won today. We were at full stretch trying to contain them. We had a few fleeting moments in the first-half with half chances, but other than that we were working really hard to keep them out.’
With Lyle Taylor suspended, Tyrone Barnett and Tom Elliott partnered up front in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, with Andy Barcham returning to the flanks, but the Dons had little cutting edge all afternoon.
Wimbledon’s best moments came in the first period with the home side mostly choosing to sit deep and rely on the counterattack, but there was little action to unnecessarily trouble Rovers keeper Will Puddy.
At the other end, James Shea had to be lively to deny a Billy Bodin effort on the half hour, but it wasn’t until the closing minutes of the period that the clearest opportunity came as Barcham cut in from the flanks and forced a good save from Puddy.
On the cusp of the interval, the lacklustre nature of the Dons’ attack was typified when George Francomb delivered a decent free-kick from just outside the box but Elliott headed tamely at Puddy.
Rovers were more assertive after the break and just after the hour they took the lead. Shea had done well to block a Matty Taylor effort but the ball was delivered back in to the far post where diabolical defending had left Taylor unmarked to stoop and head home.
Wimbledon did still attempt to push forward, with Barnett producing one effort straight at Puddy, but with 20 minutes remaining the hosts went 2-0 ahead. There seemed little danger when Taylor received the ball in the penalty area with defenders between him and the goal, but he somehow managed to squeeze away a diagonal ground-shot that was well placed to beat Shea.
Rovers now resorted to playing on the counterattack again as Wimbledon continued their ineffective attempts to get back into the encounter, with subs Dom Poleon and Darius Charles – introduced up front to try and force a change – causing some discomfort for the home defence.
But ultimately it wasn’t to be and the Dons will now look forward to playing at Kingsmeadow again, albeit another tough encounter against Millwall, on Bank Holiday Monday (2 January). They then have the eagerly anticipated FA Cup third-round tie at neighbours Sutton United on Saturday 7 January.
Rovers: Puddy, Leadbitter, Lockyer, Hartley, Brown, Bodin (Lawrence 87), O. Clarke, Lines, Montaño (Moore 59), Taylor, Harrison (Gaffney 84). Subs not used: J. Clarke, Easter, Roos, Colkett.
Goalscorer: Taylor 61, 70.
Booked: Montaño 42, O. Clarke 86.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Robertson, Robinson, Meades, Francomb, Reeves, Bulman (Parrett 67), Barcham (Poleon 67), Elliott, Barnett (Charles 85). Subs not used: Beere, Kelly, McDonnell, Egan.
Booked: Reeves 23, Bulman 51.
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January 1, 2017