Southend 3 v Wimbledon 0
Lyle Taylor’s harsh second-half dismissal thwarted a second-half comeback as Wimbledon went down to a 3-0 Boxing Day defeat at Southend United.
A below-par first-half performance from the Dons saw them trail 2-0 at the interval, but a double half-time substitution put the home side on the backfoot as Wimbledon fought to get back into the encounter.
But Taylor’s 72nd-minute dismissal swung the encounter back in the favour of the hosts, who added a late third on the break to compound Wimbledon’s misery.
There seemed little prospect of a red card when Taylor stretched for the ball in competition with Anton Ferdinand. But the Southend man’s foot appeared to land in position first, meaning Taylor’s toes clipped Ferdinand’s boot as his foot came down.
Incredibly, referee Lee Collins brandished Taylor’s second yellow of the game. The incredulity was compounded when Collins soon afterwards banished Dons boss Neal Ardley from the dugout, too, presumably for commenting on what could politely be called an inconsistent performance by the match officials.
The tone of the afternoon could have been very different if Dom Poleon had taken a fifth-minute chance to open the scoring, but Southend keeper Ted Smith did well to deny the forward when he was clean through.
Five minutes later, the home side took advantage. Ryan Leonard’s long throw enticed too many Wimbledon players to challenge for the header but all missed, leaving Simon Cox unmarked to score from close range.
Wimbledon’s reaction resembled somebody who’s been told a particularly disappointing Christmas-cracker joke as the home side enjoyed the ascendancy for the remainder of the first half, with George Francomb and Poleon notably out of sorts.
Cox came close to his second, hitting the bar after good approach play by Marc-Antoine Fortune who turned Dannie Bulman with ease, but it was only a stay of execution as Southend deservedly doubled their advantage shortly before the break.
The Dons had been enjoying a rare period of possession around the Southend box but were undone when Fortune won a tussle for the ball e with Taylor and capitalised on a Wimbledon back four that had failed to hold its line properly to feed Will Atkinson, who made no mistake.
Half-time saw the predictable withdrawal of Poleon and Francomb, with Andy Barcham and Tyrone Barnett replacing them, and immediately there was more purpose about Wimbledon’s play as they upped the tempo.
A Bulman cross was met by Tom Elliott, who forced a good save by Smith, while Barnett headed a Sean Kelly cross just off target. And chances continued to come as Southend sat on their heels, with Barnett firing into the side netting and Taylor also firing just off target.
Then came the intervention of referee Collins and suddenly the afternoon swung back in favour of the hosts, although the Dons continued to do their best to attack.
And there was almost a sense of inevitability when Cox latched on to a through ball and lofted it over the advancing James Shea to seal the home side’s win.
The Dons will be hoping for a better result when they travel to Bristol Rovers on New Year’s Eve, before the Bank Holiday Monday encounter with Millwall at Kingsmeadow.
Southend: Smith, Demetriou, Thompson, Ferdinand, Timlin, Atkinson, Leonard, Wordsworth, McLaughlin, Cox, Fortuné (McGlashan 86). Subs not used: White, O’Neill, Sokolik, King, Bridge, Bexon.
Goalscorers: Cox 10, 84, Atkinson 41.
Booked: Ferdinand 55, Fortuné 85, Leonard 91.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Robinson, Robertson, Kelly, Francomb (Barcham 45), Bulman, Reeves, Taylor, Elliott, Poleon (Barnett 45). Subs not used: Meades, Beere, Parrett, McDonnell, Charles.
Booked: Taylor 49, 72.
Sent off: Taylor 72.
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December 27, 2016