Mansfield 1 v Wimbledon 0
Wimbledon lost their four-game unbeaten run as a timid early goal condemned them to a 1-0 defeat at Mansfield on Saturday (29 March).
Just seven minutes were on the clock when Mansfield’s Adam Murray swung in an innocuous free-kick, but the ball landed just in front of Ross Worner who seemed bamboozled and ended up in the back of the net.
To make matters even worse for the Dons, before the quarter-of-an-hour mark they also lost defender Darren Jones through injury after he was caught by Anthony Howell’s high foot, which saw Jones stretchered off and Howell go into the referee’s book.
That enforced change saw an early switch to a 4-4-2 formation for the Dons, with new loan signing Kwesi Appiah coming off the bench for an earlier-than-anticipated debut.
And Appiah had two opportunities before half-time to restore parity, first just being beaten to the ball by keeper Alan Marriott and then shooting too close to the Mansfield stopper after getting on the end of George Francomb’s cross.
With Charlie Wyke also going close, there was plenty to suggest that the Dons were still in this game, with another chance coming soon after the break when Appiah disposed Ritchie Sutton and crossed to the off-balance Francomb whose shot on goal ballooned high and over as he attempted control with his wrong foot.
The Dons’ intentions were further underlined early in the second period when Tom Richards was replaced by Chris Arthur, with Kevin Sainte-Luce also coming on to replace Wyke.
The closest they came was 12 minutes from time when Alan Bennett connected firmly with a Francomb corner, only to see Jamie McGuire clear off the line with Aaron Morris firing wide after collecting the partial clearance.
Appiah had one more chance that went begging, but this was a game where the visitors really could have emerged with more against below-par opposition.
Afterwards, manager Neal Ardley told the club’s official website: ‘They made it hard, but we lacked quality when we did get in the right areas. We made the wrong decisions.
‘We were chasing the game, but I don’t remember them looking like troubling us. It’s one rubbish goal and it goes right under the arms of the goalkeeper.’
The Dons entertain Bristol Rovers on Saturday (5 April) before a tricky trip to Southend United the following weekend.
Mansfield: Marriott, Daniel (Meikle 54), Beevers, Sutton, Riley, Tafazolli, Howell (Clucas 54), McGuire, Rhead, Palmer (Speight 65), Murray. Subs not used: Dempster, Stevenson, Clements, Westlake.
Goalscorer: Murray 7.
Booked: Howell 12, Rhead 72, Murray 88.
Wimbledon: Worner, Richards (Arthur 52), Fuller, Antwi, Bennett, Jones (Appiah 15), Collins, Morris, Francomb, Wyke (Sainte-Luce 62), S. Moore. Subs not used: Sweeney, L. Moore, Pell, Brown.
Booked: Wyke 45, S. Moore 65, Morris 88.
By Rob Crane
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March 30, 2014