Sheffield United 4 v Wimbledon 0
Neal Ardley apologised to Wimbledon’s supporters after his side got comprehensively beaten 4-0 at Sheffield United on Saturday (4 February).
The Dons managed just two efforts on target throughout the match and the ironic cheers from the travelling fans that greeted the second – deep into injury time – told their own story.
The first half in particular was a horror show for the Dons, with sluggish movement that even seemed to infect that ball whenever it left a Wimbledon boot and trickled towards its destination, in contrast to the zippy play from the promotion-tipped home side.
The closest that the Dons came to scoring was in the second period when United goalkeeper Simon Moore seemingly got bored at his lack of involvement, coming for a cross that he had no chance of reaching and allowing the Dons an opportunity that, predictably, went wide.
‘We have under-performed massively,’ Ardley told the club’s website. ‘When you do that against the best team in the league you get a disparity in the result.
‘We did a lot of things wrong today and we did not play well.’
The tone of the afternoon was set in the opening minute as the Dons conceded a deep free-kick. John Fleck’s set piece was straight at James Shea, but what should have been a comfortable gather ricocheted off Shea’s chest and hit Blades’ leading marksman Billy Sharp and bounced into the back of the net.
With Andy Barcham and Lyle Taylor hugging the touchlines, Tom Elliott was left as effectively a lone target man for the Dons. Although he struggled valiantly – one of the few Dons players to come out of the match with credit – it was the home side in the ascendancy.
Although Jake Reeves did have Wimbledon’s first effort on target in the 16th minute, forcing a comfortable save from Moore, it was the home side who continued to impress with dynamic running on the edge of the Dons’ box.
Shortly after the half hour, United deservedly doubled their advantage with a goal that epitomised their play. Mark Duffy ran at the backpedalling Dons defence before slotting a ball through to Kieron Freeman. Freeman exploited the lack of cover in the left-back position before unselfishly cutting the ball back to debutant James Hanson who had cleverly repositioned himself to invite the pass, and the debutant striker made no mistake to finish clinically.
The home side continued to create and spurn chances as Wimbledon were left chasing shadows, but the tide was stemmed somewhat early in the second period when the Dons switched to 4-4-2 to try and deny United space down the flanks.
But they still failed to fashion chances of their own and there was a sense of inevitability when United made it 3-0 with little more than 10 minutes remaining. Fleck held off the attention of Reeves on the edge of the area and showed quick feet to bamboozle Paul Robinson before skipping past him and slotting home.
And the coup de grâce came in injury time as substitute Caolan Lavery produced a dummy that sent Robinson sprawling before cutting inside and placing a shot across Shea and into the far corner.
The Dons now face two home games in succession – against Charlton on 11 February and Coventry City on 14 February – before getting a chance to end their miserable away form when they travel to Shrewsbury on 18 February.
Sheff. Utd.: Moore, Wright, Ebanks-Landell (Basham 45), O’Connell, Freeman, Coutts, Duffy (Carruthers 83), Fleck, Lafferty, Hanson, Sharp (Lavery 77). Subs not used: Long, Done, Riley, O’Shea.
Goalscorers: Sharp 2, Hanson 37, Fleck 79, Lavery 91.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Robinson, Charles, Kelly, Soares, Bulman (Francomb 63), Reeves, Barcham (Poleon 63), Elliott, Taylor. Subs not used: Barnett, McDonnell, Egan, Owens, Robertson.
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February 6, 2017