Hartlepool 1 v Wimbledon 0
Wimbledon’s penchant for handing victories to struggling clubs continued apace on Saturday (28 February) as they lost 1-0 at basement club Hartlepool United.
And afterwards manager Neal Ardley couldn’t conceal his anger when he spoke to the media.
‘I’m very angry, I’m very disappointed,’ he told BBC London 94.9. ‘We’ve been on really good form of late and today I thought we were poor.’
‘I’ve got good competition for places and the people that had the shirt haven’t done it today and because of that we’ve looked ordinary.’
But it could have been very different for the Dons if they’d taken the lead with two guilt-edged early chances.
There still weren’t 15 minutes on the clock when Craig Tanner’s flick released Adebayo Akinfenwa, and he picked out Jake Reeves. But the former Swindon man delayed his shot too long and allowed Hartlepool keeper Scott Flinders to save.
And minutes later the Dons went even closer when Reeves’ corner was met by the head of Deji Oshilaja, but the ball cannoned against the crossbar.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic, though, as Dave Winfield had to be alert to clear from under his bar after Connor Smith got to a through ball before James Shea.
But overall it was a first-half that Wimbledon had the better of, with the Dons’ final goalscoring chance coming when Callum Kennedy’s cross hit the bar and fell to Tanner who struck wide from close range with Flinders stranded.
The second half was a different matter, though, as the Dons struggled to keep their momentum going.
Although Tanner saw an effort deflected just wide, the home side started to come into the game more, despite having Michael Woods stretchered off after a nasty-looking accidental clash.
Shortly after Ardley made a double substitution, bringing on Sammy Moore and Adebayo Azeez for wide pair Sean Rigg and Alfie Potter, the Dons found themselves behind.
Jack Compton showed a clean set of heels to Barry Fuller to charge down the left before delivering a cross to Ryan Bird, who made no mistake on his debut to beat Shea and make it 1-0 to the north-east side.
Despite bringing on veteran David Connolly as they tried to capitalise on 12 minutes of injury time, Wimbledon never really looked like snatching an equaliser that their second-half performance didn’t warrant.
They will look to make amends when they host Southend United at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday night (3 March), before following that up with another home encounter against York City on Saturday.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Duckworth, Harrison, Mirfin, Austin, Franks (J. Jones 77), Woods (Featherstone 63), Tshibola, Compton, Smith, Bird. Subs not used: Walker, Harewood, Maxted, D. Jones, Morgan.
Goalscorer: Bird 73.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Winfield, Oshilaja, Kennedy, Potter (Azeez 71), Bulman, Reeves, Rigg (Moore 71), Akinfenwa, Tanner (Connolly 84). Subs not used: Smith, Phillips, Beere, McDonnell.
Booked: Fuller 40, Potter 70, Winfield 90.