Plymouth 4 v AFC Wimbledon 2
Lyle Taylor’s 50th and 51st goals in an AFC Wimbledon shirt were not enough to boost the Dons’ relegation fight as they went down to a predictable defeat against Plymouth, losing 4-2 at Home Park on Tuesday 13 February.
The reverse fixture at Kingsmeadow back in October has proven to be one of the pivotal moments of the season as, despite facing a struggling Plymouth side crippled by injuries, a defensively minded Wimbledon side slumped to defeat. Since then, Plymouth have rocketed up the table while Wimbledon have remained a relegation-mired model of inconsistency.
Given the contrast in fortunes, few would have predicted anything other than a Plymouth victory in this match, despite a much-publicised airing of views between AFC Wimbledon’s players and management since the Dons slumped to consecutive defeats against fellow strugglers Bury and Northampton.
In the second half, at least, Wimbledon took the game to the opposition as Plymouth avoided too much exertion, and the Dons also saw a goal ruled out by a disputed refereeing decision and a penalty saved, but in truth the home side rarely had to get out of first gear.
They took the lead just after the quarter hour when Graham Carey charged down a Callum Kennedy clearance and capitalised on a kind ricochet that took the ball into the area before slotting home past the exposed George Long.
The Dons pulled level in the 38th minute when Barry Fuller played a slide-rule pass into the box that Taylor – who had hit the post with an earlier shot – latched onto before calmly firing home across Plymouth keeper Remi Matthews.
But that just seemed to spark Plymouth back into life. They were ahead again three minutes later when following a corner David Fox smashed the ball home from outside the area, and in first-half injury time it was 3-1 when Fox’s free-kick was palmed out by Long but fell kindly for Ryan Taylor to convert.
Wimbledon pulled a goal back just shy of the hour. Taylor made a nuisance of himself following a long kick by Long, harassing Plymouth defenders Gary Sawyer and Sonny Bradley before stretching a foot to intercept the latter’s pass and diverting it into the back of the net.
Seconds later it could have amazingly been 3-3 as Taylor charged down Matthews’ clearance, pulling the ball back from the goal line and watching as it was diverted into the goal by a Plymouth defender. However, the match officials ruled that the ball had crossed the line before Taylor pulled it back and the goal was chalked out.
Plymouth took full advantage, restoring their two-goal cushion as Rúben Lameiras found himself with space in the box and cleverly created an angle to shoot past Long and make it 4-2.
Even then there was another chance for Wimbledon when Darius Charles was sent tumbling in the area, but Taylor’s spot kick was saved by Matthews down to his right. But a topsy-turvy game couldn’t end with Wimbledon doing more to upset the form book.
Manager Neal Ardley reflected on the iFollow Dons channel afterwards: ‘There is stuff that was wrong but there was other stuff that was a positive within the team: the energy they showed and the way they kept going.
‘Plymouth are a team in good form and we found ourselves a bit stretched in the first half. I think we were so eager to do well. We were so positive going into the game about how we were going to put our stamp down and play the game, but we ended up forgetting to play.’
The results leaves the Dons in 21st position in the table, precariously perched above the relegation places.
Plymouth: Matthews, Threlkeld, Vyner, Bradley, Sawyer (Taylor-Sinclair 64), Sarcevic (Makasi 76), Fox (Songo’o 55), Ness, Carey, Taylor, Lameiras. Subs not used: Ainsworth, Church, Grant, Letheren.
Goalscorers: Carey 16, Fox 40, Taylor 45, Lameiras 67.
Booked: Ness 27, Sarcevic 71, Makasi 87.
Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Oshilaja, Charles, Kennedy, Forrester, Soares, Abdou (Parrett 76), Trotter, Pigott (McDonald 76), Taylor. Subs not used: Meades, Robinson, Francomb, Parrett, Kaja, McDonnell.
Goalscorer: Taylor 37, 59.
Booked: Charles 62, Kennedy 74.
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February 19, 2018