Crawley 1 v Wimbledon 2
A storming second-half fightback saw Wimbledon secure their first away victory of 2015 as they beat Crawley Town 2-1 on Saturday (15 August).
The Dons went into the break trailing 1-0 but a half-time change in formation and goals from Bayo Akinfenwa and Andy Barcham brought what ended up being a well-deserved victory.
Starting the match playing a 3-4-3 formation, the Dons were on the back foot from the off as the home side pressed forward.
Crawley enjoyed plenty of early possession in the Wimbledon half, although their efforts on goal were usually wide of the mark. James Shea was alert to save a rare on-target effort from Matt Harrold.
Wimbledon offered flashes of their own, with Barcham lively down the left flank, and a neat bit of skill by Akinfenwa to simultaneously control the ball with his chest while spinning his marker earned only a corner.
But Crawley were able to exploit the space left by Wimbledon’s formation as they took the lead just after the half hour mark. George Francomb was left alone to try to contain two Crawley men down the Dons’ right flank, leading to the almost inevitable conclusion of a Luke Rooney cross which Gwion Edwards headed home to put his side 1-0 ahead.
There was still time in the first period for Jimmy Smith to go close to doubling his side’s lead, and the half-time whistle drew a curtain on a period that had been disappointing for the lethargic Dons.
But the introduction of Dannie Bulman during the break and a switch to 4-4-2 triggered an immediate response as the Dons came out with all guns blazing, taking the game to Crawley and sparking renewed vigour from the travelling fans who comprised almost half the crowd.
The tactical switch was combined with an increased tempo as Wimbledon players started making threatening runs that had been distinctly lacking up until then. Such was the transformation that it was almost with a sense of the inevitable that the Dons equalised just five minutes after the restart.
Jonathan Meades – now playing at left-back – won the ball in midfield before feeding Barcham, whose perfectly flighted delivery saw Akinfenwa get in front of his marker to head home powerfully and draw the teams level.
It was all Wimbledon now and Jake Reeves, Barcham and Akinfenwa all went close to putting them ahead.
The Dons maintained the tempo until 15 minutes from the end when they finally got the lead that their second-half performance warranted.
Reeves split open the Crawley defence by playing a clever diagonal ball that Francomb galloped onto. A deflection off a Crawley defender took the pace away from Francomb’s effort but it ballooned up and over despairing keeper Freddie Woodman to where Barcham lurked to head it over the line.
Substitute Ade Azeez kept the Crawley defence occupied with some powerful runs as the Dons comfortably saw out the remainder of the match to chalk up their first points of the new season.
‘There was a tactical change at half-time but I also challenged the players and really laid it down to them,’ manager Neal Ardley told the club’s official website afterwards.
‘They responded in a bit way. In the second half the pace, tempo and good moments that we created got us in front.’
The Dons entertain big-spending Cambridge United at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday (18 August) before making the long trip to Carlisle United the following weekend (22 August).
Crawley Town: Woodman, van den Bogaert, Bradley, Donnelly, Ashton, Rooney, Walton (Young 85), Smith, Edwards, Deacon (Barnard 66), Harrold. Subs not used: McNerney, Preston, Fenelon, Bawling.
Goalscorer: Edwards 34.
Booked: Walton 68, Edwards 80, Donnelly 88.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Robinson, Osborne, Francomb, Reeves, Meades, Barcham, Taylor (Azeez 78), Akinfenwa (Rigg 86), Elliott (Bulman 46). Subs not used: Kennedy, Nightingale, Fitzpatrick.
Goalscorers: Akinfenwa 51, Barcham 76.
Booked: Taylor 74.