Cambridge United 1 v Wimbledon 4
Wimbledon made it a winning start to 2016 as they thumped Cambridge United 4-1 at the Abbey Stadium on Saturday (2 January).
The hosts were unbeaten in six matches and flying high but, after going into the break with the scores tied, the Dons dominated the second period to make it seven away games unbeaten for them.
Neal Ardley’s men took an early lead when Lyle Taylor’s persistence won a corner that George Francomb swung in towards the penalty spot where Paul Robinson thumped it home with a header.
And the Dons could have extended their lead when Andy Barcham was set free by Dannie Bulman but the former Portsmouth man had his strike ruled out for offside, the flag seemingly raised to penalise a player not interfering with play.
Cambridge United started showing some of their recent form as they pushed for an equaliser, with Karleigh Osborne alert to block one Barry Corr effort on the line.
And with 26 minutes on the clock the home side were level with a goal that was almost a carbon copy of Wimbledon’s: a right-hand corner by former Dons youth-teamer Harrison Dunk was swung towards the penalty spot where this time it was Lewis Berry who rose to head home.
The momentum was now with the hosts and the Dons were grateful when Mark Roberts headed straight at James Shea following a free-kick, but all that changed after the interval as the men in blue started to take control.
Robinson headed narrowly wide following another Francomb corner and Taylor had an effort blocked before the Dons deservedly regained the lead.
Bulman produced a solid tackle to regain the ball and release Barry Fuller down the right-hand side. His first-time cross fell to Taylor and his shot, although partially scuffed, had enough on it to beat home keeper Sam Beasant (son of Dons legend Dave).
The Dons continued to press, with Beasant doing better this time to save a Barcham effort after approach play by Jake Reeves and Taylor, and they got their reward with just under quarter of an hour remaining to play.
Once again it came following a Francomb corner. Although this time Robinson’s header was way off target, it fell to Taylor who calmly rolled it back for utility man Jon Meades to score a rare goal, casually sweeping it home with his left foot.
Ardley refreshed his attacking options soon afterwards, replacing both Taylor and Bayo Akinfenwa with Tom Elliott and Adebayo Azeez, and it was the latter who wrapped things up with four minutes remaining.
Latching on to a Meades clearance from deep, Azeez used his pace to surge clear of his marker before rounding Beasant and displaying some might say uncharacteristic composure to roll it into the empty net.
Ardley was predictably ebullient afterwards, telling the club’s DonsPlayer: ‘The players were angry at the officials at half-time [for the denied Barcham goal] and we had to calm them down.
‘We came out in the second-half and were by far the dominant team. I thought we were excellent all game.
‘The most pleasing thing for me as a manager is the work-rate within the group. I think the Stevenage game [which the Dons lost in mid-December] might have just given us a bit of a jolt and the boys have responded brilliantly.’
Ardley’s mean have a blank weekend coming up as their scheduled opponents, Carlisle United, are in FA Cup action, before hosting Mansfield Town on 16 January.
Cambridge Utd: Beasant, Omozusi, Roberts, Legge, Page, Berry, Ledson, Newton (Simpson 69), Dunk, Williamson, Corr. Subs not used: Dunn, Slew, Coulson, L. Hughes, Demetriou, Williams.
Goalscorer: Berry 26.
Booked: Roberts 70.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Osborne, Robinson, Meades, Francomb, Bulman, Reeves, Barcham (Rigg 88), Akinfenwa (Azeez 77), Taylor (Elliott 77). Subs not used: Kennedy, Fitzpatrick, Sweeney, McDonnell.
Goalscorer: Robinson 10, Taylor 64, Meades 76, Azeez 86.
Booked: Fuller 85.