Hartlepool 1 v Wimbledon 0
Wimbledon’s tendency to struggle against the division’s lower-placed sides again came to the fore on Good Friday as they lost 1-0 at strugglers Hartlepool United.
Despite their position, Hartlepool have been on a good run of form since appointing Craig Hignett as boss. But Neal Ardley’s men dominated the statistics, with 10 shots to the hosts’ four and nine corners to their one, but ultimately it was the home side who emerged with the points thanks to Adam Jackson’s 22nd minute goal.
The Dons fall to four points off the final play-off place and their outside chances of extending their season appear to be fading.
‘It’s simple as we have eight games left and we have to win at least five,’ Ardley told the club’s website. ‘We won seven out of eight earlier this season so we know that we can do it.’
If the Dons do pull it off, they will need more of a clinical edge than they showed in this match.
As the teams sparred in the opening exchanges, Kelle Roos was called into action to save Jake Carroll’s effort low to the right, while at the other end Andy Barcham forced Trevor Carson to gather his speculative attempt from the edge of the box.
But the Dons went behind in the 23rd minute in tame fashion. A partially cleared free-kick was hooked back into the Wimbledon box by Luke James and Adam Jackson was able to head home unperturbed.
And 13 minutes later the Dons were fortunate as the home side broke from one end of the pitch to the other with Billy Paynter instrumental in creating a chance that James hit against the post.
Wimbledon’s lack of firepower in front of goal was typified just before the break when Jake Reeves released Lyle Taylor but the striker’s shot was comfortable enough for Carson to save.
The Dons continued to toil in the second half, with the ineffective Rhys Murphy eventually replaced by Tom Elliott, who soon headed towards goal but straight at Carson.
With the impetus still failing to shift, both Bayo Akinfenwa and Ade Azeez were introduced from the bench as the Dons went with three up front.
Akinfenwa volleyed wide after being set up by Azeez, while the latter also shot into the side netting following a cross by Dannie Bulman.
With time running out, following a penalty-area pinball game Azeez found himself staring straight at Carson with the ball at his feet, but a lunging Hartlepool defender did enough to take the sting out of his effort allowing Carson to save, with Elliott totally miscuing an overhead follow-up.
‘We had three up front and if we could have got enough balls into the box we could have caused them a problem,’ Ardley commented.
‘Two of three of them have fallen to Ade Azeez, but the keeper has made a save and he’s missed one at the far post.
‘Unfortunately we came up short because we did not take those chances.’
The Dons will be hoping for a more clinical display when they make the trip to Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday 2 April.
Hartlepool: Carson, Magnay (Richards 93), Bates, Jackson, Carroll, Gray (Woods 59), Featherstone, Hawkins, James, Paynter, N. Thomas (Oates 83). Subs not used: Walker, Bingham, Bartlett, Laurent.
Goalscorer: Jackson 22.
Wimbledon: Roos, Fuller, Charles, Sweeney, Meades, Francomb, Reeves, Bulman, Barcham (Akinfenwa 71), Murphy (Elliott 59), Taylor (Azeez 71). Subs not used: Shea, Kennedy, Rigg, Fitzpatrick.