Beere Nudges Dons Ahead In Play-Off Semi

Wimbledon 1 v Accrington 0

Substitute Tom Beere scored a dramatic injury-time goal to edge Wimbledon ahead in their League Two play-off semi-final encounter with Accrington Stanley on Saturday night (14 May).

The Dons now travel to Accrington on Wednesday (18 May) with a slender single-goal advantage as they seek to win through to the showpiece Wembley final against Plymouth Argyle on 30 May.

Accrington – who only dropped out of the automatic promotion places on the final day of the regular league season – had more possession in this close-fought encounter but only occasionally threatened the Wimbledon goal.

Boss Neal Ardley told the club’s website: ‘They settled into the game quicker than us and we let them have the ball. They played little triangles and that caused problems.

‘We came in at half-time and we tweaked things a bit [by switching to a diamond midfield]. Once we did that we got a little bit more momentum in the game, and Bayo [Akinfenwa] came on and caused problems.

‘The atmosphere was electric. It was a cagey game but the fans kept willing us on. There were not many chances but when that moment came it was great.’

Roared on by a record crowd at Kingsmeadow, the Dons briefly enjoyed the upper hand as they came out of the blocks in a hurry, with Lyle Taylor dragging an effort across goal after latching on to a Tom Elliott flick as early as the fifth minute.

Then Callum Kennedy inserted himself into the thick of the action. First he delivered a free-kick from the left that Sean Rigg headed narrowly wide, then the left-back got involved himself, firing in a long-range effort that was only narrowly wide of Accrington keeper Ross Etheridge’s goal.

For all their intricate passing and possession, it wasn’t until the 21st minute that the visitors fashioned their first real opportunity, but even then Billy Kee tamely headed Josh Windass’s cross wide.

And soon afterwards the visitors wasted another opportunity as Dannie Bulman harshly had a free-kick awarded against him on the edge of the area but Windass ballooned his effort over the bar.

After the interval and that switch to a diamond midfield Wimbledon started to come more into the match, helped by the early introduction of Akinfenwa. The big striker used his physical presence to bring other Wimbledon players into the match, as well as offering a goalscoring threat of his own.

But it was the visitors who came close to taking the lead when Kelle Roos was called into action to turn Tarique Fosu’s shot onto the post and behind for the corner.

Akinfenwa came close to breaking the deadlock in the 74th minute, capitalising when Taylor’s miscontrol of Paul Robinson’s forward punt fell kindly into his path, only for his goal-bound prod to be deflected behind.

Jake Reeves then had a chance, taking the initiative on the edge of the area to control a bouncing ball before making space for himself but shooting across goal.

At the other end Kee fired another tame effort off target, before his side survived a strong penalty claim when Akinfenwa’s header was clearly handled in the area by his marker Tom Davies, only for the referee to award a corner.

With time running out, Akinfenwa was again involved when he out-muscled Davies on the edge of the area to get on the end of another Robinson punt, before unleashing a strong shot that cannoned back from the woodwork with Etheridge well beaten.

The Dons were enjoying the better chances but it looked like time was running out for them to take the lead. But then in the 93rd minute came that opportunity for Beere, who had only been on the pitch for seven minutes.

Kennedy’s cross into the box was too long but Barry Fuller headed it back into the danger zone. Akinfenwa used his bulk to shield the ball before turning and smuggling a low cross to towards the penalty spot. Beere’s first shot – towards the bottom left of the goal – was blocked but came straight back to him. Demonstrating extreme composure, he calmly tried the same shot but into the bottom right this time – with a far more rewarding outcome for both players and fans as delirium erupted around the ground.

Amazingly, there was still time enough for Accrington Stanley to nearly snatch an equaliser. A forward ball was headed across the edge of the Dons box and Shay McCartan’s diving header seemed destined for the back of the net only for Roos to pull off an outstanding save to concede a corner when seemingly he’d been beaten.

‘I did not think there would be much between the two teams,’ Ardley reflected afterwards. ‘It was important to stay in the game and not go gung-ho to try and get the win.

‘We have done half the job, but we have got a really tough match on Wednesday.’

With no away goals rule, the tie will go to extra-time if the aggregate scores are level, before penalties if necessary to determine who goes through to face Plymouth.

Wimbledon: Roos, Fuller, Robinson, Charles, Kennedy, Rigg (Beere 86), Reeves, Bulman, Barcham, Elliott (Akinfenwa 59), Taylor (Azeez 77). Subs not used: Shea, Fitzpatrick, Sweeney, Murphy.

Goalscorer: Beere 93.

Accrington Stanley: Etheridge, Pearson, Davies, Buxton, Hughes, Mongoia (McCartan 88), Conneely, Brown, McConville (Fosu 58), Windass, Kee (Gornell 79). Subs not used: Winnard, Boco, Mooney, Halliday.

Att: 4,870.

By Rob Crane

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May 16, 2016