Southend 1 v Wimbledon 3
Wimbledon climbed to the top of the ‘relegation mini-league’ with an emphatic 3-1 win at Southend United on Tuesday (12 March).
While the Dons were producing possibly their best display since promotion back to the Football League, none of the other clubs involved in the relegation scrap were managing to pick up a win, meaning that the Dons climb to 18th in the table.
And, with crucial away trips to Aldershot (Saturday 16 March) and Accrington Stanley (Tuesday 19 March) coming up, the Dons will know that their League Two survival status may soon start to clarify itself, one way or the other.
Manager Neal Ardley told the club’s official website: ‘The staff, the players in the team and those on the bench, were all excellent tonight. We were brave in the way that we set up with two out-and-out wingers.
‘Apart from a sloppy penalty that we gave away, we were outstanding.’
But he warned: ‘There is still hard work to do and we have to keep ploughing on. We are edging closer to what we need now. There could be a blip along the way, but we cannot fear that.’
Ardley’s side had the better of this encounter from the off, dominating the early possession and soon forcing the home side to change their formation as they tried to get to grips with the Dons. Debutant Kelly Youga, in particular, impressed the travelling fans with his forceful display at left-back.
But for all their dominance, it was the Dons who fell behind just shy of the half hour mark when Pim Balkestein handled a Kevan Hurst corner in the area and conceded a penalty. John Sullivan came close to keeping out Sean Clohessy’s spot kick but to no avail as the hosts took a 1-0 lead.
Within minutes, though, the Dons were back on level terms and it was Balkestein making amends for his error, getting on the end of Sammy Moore’s corner to head home.
Balkestein’s eventful evening continued as he was forced off through injury just before the break, but it was his replacement, Jack Midson, who soon after the break put the Dons 2-1 ahead. Midson, who earlier in his career had a loan spell with Southend, met a Gary Alexander right wing cross at the near post to head home.
Kevin Sainte-Luce spurned an excellent opportunity to make it 3-1, racing clear but dragging his effort wide of the post when through on goal.
But the Dons did extend their lead in the 67th minute, and it was an immediate impact from two substitutes that brought them the goal.
Ardley replaced Brennan Dickenson and Sainte-Luce with Luke Moore and Jesse Darko – and almost immediately it was Darko who calmly controlled Jon Meades’ cross and teed up Luke Moore to slot home with his first touch of the game.
After that, there was only ever going to be one outcome as the Dons held on to make it just three defeats in the 14 games since the turn of the year as they bid to secure their League Two status for next season.
The Dons are now five points clear of the relegation places with it all to play for, not least with those games at Aldershot (currently in 21st place) and Accrington Stanley (24th) coming up.
Southend: Smith, Clohessy, Straker (Spicer 71), Spillane (Corr 64), Cresswell, Prosser, Leonard (Harris 46), Bilel, Lund, Hurst, Assombalonga. Subs not used: Bentley, Woodyard, Eastwood.
Goalscorer: Clohessy 29 (pen.).
Booked: Prosser 90.
Wimbledon: Sullivan, Balkestein (Midson 45), Mitchel-King, Youga, Meades, Bennett, S. Moore, Pell, Sainte-Luce (Darko 67), Dickenson (L. Moore 67), Alexander. Subs not used: Jaimez-Ruiz, Cummings, Long, Yussuff.
Goalscorers: Balkestein 32, Midson 47, L. Moore 69.
Booked: Meades 23, Youga 25, S. Moore 74.
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March 14, 2013