Bury 2 v AFC Wimbledon 1
AFC Wimbledon are back in the relegation mire after a lacklustre performance saw them lose 2-1 at rock-bottom club Bury on Tuesday night (6 February). Manager Neal Ardley’s decision to rotate some of his team backfired as the hosts could have won by a wider margin.
After a successful January run of results against out-of-form teams, this was always going to be a big test and it is one that the Dons failed spectacularly. With Barry Fuller again ruled out through injury, Paul Robinson was retained in the heart of defence before being hauled off at half time, while Jon Meades also looked well off the pace.
But the whole team has to shoulder responsibility for a performance that could have seen Bury score a hatful of early chances, while the management team must also take its share of the blame. However, Ardley instead seemed to try and deflect the focus onto his players.
‘We had too many players not doing their jobs,’ he said in an interview on the club’s iFollow Dons channel. ‘They ran us ragged at one end, won battles at the other, and we missed any chances we did have. They were getting in wide too often and we did not help each other.
‘There were a number of things wrong. Even when we got back to 1-1, which we did not deserve, the naivety to not see the jobs through until half-time, get in at 1-1, and then try to win the game, was poor.’
Ardley’s decision to rest leading goalscorer Lyle Taylor – one of a number of players who had muscle tightness and soreness, according to Ardley – resulted in the bizarre sight of Cody McDonald taking corners and free-kicks, with woeful results, and again had supporters wondering what it is that the players practise during training.
The hosts took the early exchanges to the Dons, displaying the vibrancy that Wimbledon lacked. Dons goalkeeper George Long had to be on top form to deny a host of opportunities, thwarting Harry Bunn, George Miller and Zeli Ismail, while Neil Danns also curled an effort off target.
But brought only a temporary reprieve Bury took the lead in the 17th minute when Meades needlessly lunged in on Danny Mayor to concede a penalty. Long again produced heroics to save Bunn’s spot kick but Miller reacted quicker than any Dons player to charge in and head home the rebound.
That prompted Wimbledon to switch from their initial 3-5-2 formation to a flat back four but the home side continued to threaten and force the best out of Long. Amazingly, given how one-sided the match had been, the Dons equalised just shy of the half hour. A hopeful punt into the box was only partially cleared and Liam Trotter unleashed an edge-of-the-box volley that was diverted into his own net by Bury defender Phil Edwards.
Joe Pigott then had a shot deflected onto the top of the goal netting as the Dons briefly took heart but on the stroke of half time Bury were ahead again. Poor Wimbledon defending allowed the ball to be carried into the heart of the box and, as it bobbled around with no Wimbledon boot able to clear, Bunn pounced to restore the home side’s deserved advantage.
Further half-time remedial action did redress the balance slightly in the second period, with substitute Harry Forrester heading against the post from an Andy Barcham cross and Meades forcing Connor Ripley to tip the ball over from a Taylor free-kick, but it was all too little, too late from the disappointing Dons.
Wimbledon are now just two points above the relegation places and their home match against fellow strugglers Northampton Town on Saturday (10 February) has assumed even more significance. They then face tricky-looking matches against mid-table opposition in the form of Plymouth (away, Tuesday 13 February) and Bristol Rovers (home, Saturday 17 February).
Bury: Ripley, Edwards, Clarke, Thompson, Leigh, Danns, Laurent, Ismail (Hanson 79), Bunn, Mayor (Tutte 69), Miller (Dawson 93). Subs not used: Murphy, Maguire, Styles, Cooney.
Goalscorers: Miller 17, Bunn 43.
Booked: Edwards 61, Thompson 74.
Wimbledon: Long, Robinson (Francomb 45), Charles, Oshilaja, Barcham, Trotter, Soares (Forrester 63), Abdou, Meades, Pigott, McDonald (Taylor 45). Subs not used: Kaja, Kennedy, McDonnell, Hartigan.
Goalscorer: Edwards 28 (o.g.).
Booked: Robinson 12, Pigott 60.
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February 9, 2018