Bristol Rovers 1 v 3 AFC Wimbledon
AFC Wimbledon’s mini revival continued as they convincingly won 3-1 at Bristol Rovers on Saturday (18 November) – and the margin of victory could have been even more.
The result means that the Dons have now scored five goals in two matches since switching to the two-up-front formation long demanded by supporters but spurned by boss Neal Ardley, and they have now passed to Plymouth the unwanted accolade of being the division’s lowest scorers.
The Dons were out of the starting blocks at a canter at the Memorial Ground as George Long’s second-minute free-kick was flicked on by Barcham who sprinted forward to latch onto Lyle Taylor’s backheeled return, cut inside and lifted the ball over advancing home keeper Adam Smith from an acute angle to put the Wombles 1-0 ahead.
Rather than immediately sit on their lead, the Dons continued to press forwards as they caused the home team’s defence innumerable problems. And they had a glorious opportunity to double their advantage just minutes after taking the lead when Liam Trotter played a defence-splitting pass through for Cody McDonald. The striker got clear of the defence and rounded Smith on the edge of the box but fired over with the goal at his mercy.
Another opportunity came their way when Smith seemed set to easily gather a low cross from Barcham but spilled his catch. Taylor, lurking at the near post, was possibly the most surprised person on the pitch and snatched at the chance, sending the ball narrowly wide.
The home side weren’t completely out of it, with one long-range effort flashing narrowly over Long’s bar, but Wimbledon finally got a two-goal cushion in first-half injury time. And it was a great strike from Harry Forrester, who cut in from the right and, with two defenders shepherding him, unleashed an unexpected early shot that flashed across Smith and into the far corner of the net.
Wimbledon’s positivity continued into the second period and they were further rewarded just after the hour mark. McDonald perfectly cushioned Long’s drop kick as it fell over his shoulder before producing an early shot from the edge of the box that beat Smith to put the Dons 3-0 ahead.
At that point Wimbledon did start to ease off the gas, but it wasn’t until two minutes from full time that the home side got their consolation. A diagonal ball towards the edge of the Wimbledon box found Rovers left-back Lee Brown and his speculative effort took a wicked deflection off Barry Fuller that spun the ball away from Long and into the goal.
Afterwards, Ardley was pleased with his club’s first win at Rovers since returning to the Football League, telling the club’s iFollow Dons channel: ‘I’ve not got great memories of this place. I’ve had to explain defeats and how things had gone against us, but today we started really bright.
‘The only worry was that half an hour in you are thinking, “Hurry up and take one of the chances.” I felt we could regret it, but luckily we did take our chances in the end.’
Dons fans will be keen to see whether the team maintains its new positive approach when they travel to fellow strugglers Oldham Athletic on Tuesday (21 November), before hosting Walsall at Kingsmeadow on Saturday 25 November.
Bristol Rovers: Smith, Leadbitter, Lockyer, Broadbent (Sweeney 63), Brown, Sinclair, O. Clarke (Bodin 45), Lines, Sercombe, Harrison, Nichols (Gaffney 63). Subs not used: Slocombe, Telford, Moore, Partington.
Goalscorer: Brown 88.
Booked: Sinclair 14.
Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Oshilaja, Charles, Meades, Forrester (Abdou 82), Trotter, Soares, Barcham (Sibbick 87), McDonald, Taylor (Hartigan 73). Subs not used: Robinson, Kaja, McDonnell, Kalambayi.
Goalscorers: Barcham 2, Forrester 45, McDonald 61.
Booked: Forrester 78.
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November 20, 2017