Notts County 0 v Wimbledon 2
Wimbledon moved into the play-off positions with a convincing 2-0 win over Notts County on Saturday (23 January) thanks to goals in either half by Tom Elliott and Andy Barcham.
The Dons have now won four games in a row and are unbeaten since the debacle of defeat against Stevenage in mid-December that left everyone involved at the club – players, supporters and management – at rock bottom.
Whatever has changed since then, this performance was enough to have boss Neal Ardley delighted. ‘The squad is in a good place and we just need to keep it going,’ he told the club’s website afterwards.
‘I thought the performance was immense. My only criticism of the players was that they were not 4-0 up by the time we got the second goal.’
Wimbledon’s domination meant that such a scoreline wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility, and this despite losing Dannie Bulman in the pre-match warm-up with a tight hamstring.
The Dons did have an early let-off when Blair Adams sneaked in front of a napping Barry Fuller to thud a header against the post from Wes Atkinson’s deep cross, but with just 10 minutes on the clock the Dons were ahead with a goal from the Dave Bassett coaching manual.
Fuller’s long ball forward was chested down by Elliott to Lyle Taylor. When Elliott picked up the return he wasted no time, despatching an emphatic shot from the edge of the area into the roof of the net to put the Dons ahead.
The home side briefly responded, Jon Stead’s free-kick forcing an excellent save by James Shea, but apart from that it was one-way traffic. Sean Rigg had an effort deflected wide and another just off target, while Elliott set up Taylor who forced a smart save by Roy Carroll after spinning around his marker.
Carroll was also forced into action to deny an Elliott effort from the inside-right channel as the Dons peppered his goal with efforts. Callum Kennedy rounded off the first-half deluge as his free-kick was just tipped over by the Northern Ireland keeper.
The pressure continued after the break, with Elliott heading straight up Carroll and later galloping down the left flank before teeing up Taylor at the near post, whose effort was just off target.
Barcham was supremely unlucky not to double the Dons’ advantage when he skipped past his man on the edge of the area before blasting against the bar, but the former Portsmouth man had better luck with just seven minutes remaining.
Young substitute David Fitzpatrick was released by Jon Meades down the right and, although his cross took a deflection, it bobbled up perfectly for Barcham who slotted it home.
The second goal killed off any lingering fears of a County fightback, but Wimbledon continued to push forward to make the scoreline more accurately reflect their dominance.
Bayo Akinfenwa, settling into his ‘impact sub’ role, released a counterattack by expertly chesting down a clearance to Jake Reeves who released the pace of Ade Azeez, only for Carroll to pull off another save.
Then Akinfenwa was involved in a move that saw the ball worked across the penalty area before Barcham’s shot from Meades’ cross clipped the bar and went over.
And Akinfenwa’s ability to chest down a ball was again demonstrated with one final counterattack as he again released Reeves who in turn released Azeez who forced another save by the over-worked Carroll.
The Dons will aim to maintain their excellent run when they face strugglers Yeovil Town at Kingsmeadow next Saturday (30 January) before travelling to fellow promotion hopefuls Bristol Rovers the following week.
Notts County: Carroll, Hewitt, Bennett (Noble 73), Hollis, Adams, Atkinson, Thompson, Milsom, Campbell, Stead, McLeod (Murray 77). Subs not used: Smith, Spencer, Loach, Valencic, Audel.
Booked: Milsom 45.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Osborne, Robinson, Meades, Barcham, Kennedy, Reeves, Rigg (Fitzpatrick 78), Elliott (Akinfenwa 76), Taylor (Azeez 81). Subs not used: Smith, Sweeney, McDonnell.
Goalscorers: Elliott 9, Barcham 83.
Booked: Rigg 59.