Walsall 3 v Wimbledon 1
Wimbledon were made to pay the price for the lack of a clinical touch as they slipped to a slightly harsh 3-1 defeat at Walsall on Saturday (6 August), with Lyle Taylor netting a last-minute penalty consolation.
‘We have to be as clinical as they were,’ boss Neal Ardley told the club’s website afterwards. ‘They probably had four chances and scored three, but we had five or six and did not score until the penalty at the end.
‘We got punished for anything we did wrong in the game. For the majority of the game I did not think there was bundles between the two teams.’
The Dons fell behind as early as the seventh minute after debutant Chris Whelpdale clipped a Walsall player from behind just outside the penalty box. From the free kick Walsall’s diminutive midfielder Erhun Oztumer lifted the ball over the wall and in off the post, giving debut goalkeeper Ryan Clarke no chance.
Clarke was soon forced into action to keep the deficit to a single goal, coming off his line to go down bravely at the feet of Florent Cuvelier as he burst into the box.
But as the half wore on the Dons settled and started to come into it more, fashioning their first notable chance when Whelpdale was released down the right by Jake Reeves and beat his mean before cutting inside, only to scuff his eventual effort.
And the Dons came even closer when Barry Fuller’s cross was headed back across goal by Tom Elliott to Taylor, but Walsall keeper Neil Etheridge did well to block both Taylor’s effort and then Andy Barcham’s follow-up on the line as the Dons were thwarted.
Then with half-time approaching the Dons were exposed after conceding another free-kick. This time Oztumer’s ball in was missed by Darius Charles and Barry Fuller was caught napping. Walsall’s James O’Connor seemed as surprised as anyone to be able to bundle the ball back into the middle where Simeon Jackson prodded it into the back of the net from close range.
The second period started with the Dons pressing forward, Elliott failing to connect solidly enough with a Reeves free kick, debutant Sean Kelly firing another dead ball over the bar, and Elliott pounced on a defensive lapse but seemed sluggish as he shot wide.
In the 67th minute the Dons switched to three up front, bringing on new signings Tyrone Barnett and Dominic Poleon, soon followed by midfielder Dean Parrett.
But as they pushed forward in search of a route back into the game they were left exposed as Parrett was unable to recover in time in midfield to intercept the ball and Walsall broke down the left, from where Amadou Bakayoko delivered a low cross to the far post that was converted by Jackson for his second of the game.
The Dons never gave up, with Taylor heading a Poleon cross wide. And having earlier had a stonewall penalty denied after a Walsall defender handled in the box, finally the Dons got their reward in the dying moments when Taylor was bundled over by Rico Henry.
Taylor got up to fire the ball home himself but ultimately it was too little, too late as the Dons suffered defeat.
They have the opportunity to bounce back as they travel to Peterborough United on Tuesday, 8 August in the EFL Cup, before returning to league action when they entertain Bolton Wanderers on Saturday (13 August).
Walsall: Etheridge, Edwards, O’Connor (Preston 61), McCarthy, Henry, Chambers, Osbourne, Oztumer (Bakayoko 69), Cuvelier (Moussa 75), Morris, Jackson. Subs not used: Dobson, MacGillivray, Ginnelly, Makris.
Goalscorers: Oztumer 7, Jackson 38, 72.
Booked: Moussa 80, Henry 90.
Wimbledon: Clarke, Fuller, Robinson, Charles, Kelly, Whelpdale (Parrett 71), Bulman, Reeves, Elliott (Poleon 67), Taylor, Barcham (Barnett 67). Subs not used: Shea, Nightingale, Beere, Fitzpatrick.
Goalscorer: Taylor 90.
Booked: Robinson 37, Parrett 92.