Port Vale 2 v Wimbledon 0
The futility of winning ‘the possession battle’ was illustrated on Saturday (1 April) as Wimbledon lost 2-0 at Port Vale – despite seeing far more of the ball.
The official statistics show that Neal Ardley’s men enjoyed 61 per cent of the possession in this match but the statistics that really count – goals – showed a deficit as strikes in either half saw the home side bolster their chances of avoiding relegation.
Wimbledon pressed forward from the off, with Vale keeper Deniz Mehmet saving from Sean Kelly and then being grateful when Lyle Taylor was unable to convert the rebound.
And Jake Reeves spurned an even more clear-cut opportunity when he got through on goal but shot into the side netting from eight yards out.
But despite Wimbledon’s possession the home side were also fashioning chances, with Nathan Smith heading wide and Chris Eagles shooting against the post.
It was Dean Parrett who came closest to breaking the deadlock in the early exchanges when Mehmet was unable to hold his shot, but the Vale stopper recovered to scoop the ball off the line.
It was against the overall run of play when Vale took the lead, Eagles delivering a cross from deep to which Smith got a glancing headed deflection to steer it into the back of the net.
The profligacy of the Wimbledon attack continued as Tom Elliott twice headed over, while Rigino Cicilia served reminder that the home side were a threat as he shot just wide.
The second period picked up where the first left off, with Darius Charles volleying narrowly wide after being set up by Kelly, while Parrett ran the ball out of play when attempting to round Mehmet.
Soon after Jake Reeves shot against the crossbar, the home side doubled their advantage, breaking down the right before Eagles shot early to get the better of James Shea.
With the game running away from them, the Dons responded by bringing on youngster Jayden Antwi, just days after he signed his first professional contract, as one of three substitutes, but none were able to alter the course of the game.
Interviewed by DonsPlayer afterwards, Ardley said: ‘I am hoarse from shouting information that the players should know. There was a real lack of leadership out there today and the boys need to take responsibility.
‘I was desperate for us to show everyone that we are not on holiday, but the boys today looked like they are.’
The Dons have a chance to rediscover their shooting boots when they entertain Bristol Rovers on Saturday (8 April) before a busy Easter weekend with games at Swindon (Friday 14 April) and at home against Peterborough (Monday 17 April).
Port Vale: Mehmet, Purkiss, Bikey Amougou, Smith, Knops, Taylor, Pugh, Foley (Reeves 92), Hooper, Eagles (de Freitas 77), Cicilia (Turner 90). Subs not used: Kelly, Tanser, Fasan, Shodipo.
Goalscorers: Smith 21, Eagles 69.
Booked: Eagles 48.
Wimbledon: Shea, Soares, Robinson, Kelly, Charles, Barcham (Poleon 71), Reeves, Parrett (Egan 81), Francomb, Elliott (Antwi 72), Taylor. Subs not used: Meades, Nightingale, Fitzpatrick, McDonnell.
Booked: Barcham 17, Robinson 58.
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April 4, 2017