Late Akinfenwa Goal Keeps Wimbledon's Play-Off Dreams Alive

Plymouth Argle 1 v Wimbledon 2

Bayo Akinfenwa’s first goal since late November earned Wimbledon a vital play-off-chasing win as they beat Plymouth Argyle 2-1 at Home Park on Saturday (9 April).

Just two minutes remained on the clock when Akinfenwa scored to give the Dons a precious win that lifts them back into the final play-off spot, level on points with Wycombe and Exeter but ahead on goal difference and with a game in hand.

‘Of all the games we’ve played recently, I think that was the toughest,’ boss Neal Ardley told the club’s website. ‘I never felt comfortable.

‘We had to dig in and showed resilience. We have our firepower with five good strikers and we know there are goals in us. If we can do the rest of our game well and not be behind in games, we always give ourselves a chance.’

The Dons certainly weathered a storm on the coast as Plymouth dominated much of this match, setting the tone in the opening minute when Jake Jervis got behind the defence and set up Graham Carey, whose shot beat Kelle Roos but rebounded back off the frame of the goal.

Dons defender Paul Robinson nearly got on the end of a George Francomb corner but it was at the other end of the pitch that he had to excel, combining well with Darius Charles to snuff out the threat that Plymouth posed with their territorial domination.

And on the half hour Wimbledon capitalised following a Plymouth corner. The ball fell to Jon Meades who fed a surging Jake Reeves run that took him from the edge of his own area to midway in the Plymouth half. Reeves’ slide-rule pass was perfectly weighted for Lyle Taylor who scuttled in behind the home defence and slotted the ball into the net to make it 1-0 against the run of play.

Plymouth continued to hold the balance of power, with Jordon Foster heading wide and Carey then forcing a save from Roos, and the pattern continued at the start of the second period when Roos was again called into action to deny Hiram Boateng.

Wimbledon weren’t completely out of it and Taylor came close to his second of the game, forcing Luke McCormick into a one-on-one save, but in the 62nd minute the Plymouth pressure finally told as they got an equaliser.

Gary Sawyer was given time down the left flank to deliver a perfectly weighted cross to the far post where Carey had stolen a yard of space and converted well to bring the hosts back into the contest.

Plymouth’s confidence was raised now as they surged forward to try and boost their own play-off credentials. Barry Fuller was called into action with a vital last-ditch block and then Peter Hartley headed a great chance over.

With 20 minutes remaining Ardley tried to alter the flow of the game by replacing both Taylor and Tom Elliott up front with Akinfenwa and fellow sub Ade Azeez, and the latter almost made an immediate impact when he turned inside but curled his effort off target.

But with two minutes remaining Akinfenwa’s moment came. Francomb’s hopeful ball towards the Plymouth box was challenged for by Akinfenwa. As he engaged in mutual demi-man-hugging with Plymouth skipper Curtis Nelson, the latter headed the ball up vertically allowing Akinfenwa to casually lean in and loop a header over the stranded McCormick to seal the points.

The Dons will be hoping they show similar fortitude when they entertain midtable Crawley next weekend (16 April) and travel to Dagenham & Redbridge (19 April), before a potentially crucial home encounter against fellow play-off challengers Leyton Orient (23 April).

Plymouth: McCormick, Forster (Mellor 74), Nelson, Hartley, Sawyer, McHugh, Jervis, Houghton (Wylde 62), Boateng (Tanner 86), Carey, Matt. Subs not used: Purrington, Rooney, Dorel.

Goalscorer: Carey 61.

Wimbledon: Roos, Fuller, Robinson, Charles, Meades, Francomb, Bulman, Reeves, Barcham (Rigg 83), Taylor (Azeez 72), Elliott (Akinfenwa 72). Subs not used: Shea, Kennedy, Sweeney, Murphy.

Goalscorers: Taylor 30, Akinfenwa 88.

Att: 8,852.

By Rob Crane

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April 11, 2016