Unlucky Dons Suffer Last-Gasp Bradford Defeat

Wimbledon 2 v Bradford City 3

Unlucky Wimbledon were denied by a last-gasp goal as they lost a thrilling League Two encounter against Bradford City 3-2 last weekend (29 October).

The Dons gave as good as they got in this top-six clash but ultimately succumbed to James Hanson’s goal in the second minute of time added on.

Boss Neal Ardley was far from disappointed with the performance of his team, having pledged beforehand that they would attack throughout.

‘We did that and I think the fans appreciated it,’ he told the club’s website afterwards. It means a lot, the reaction you get from the fans.

‘I’ve always said that if the players play like they care and run themselves into the ground, the fans will be happy with it and I thought they were.’

Wimbledon made a bright start but fell behind in just the third minute as Bradford scored with their first attack. Lyle Taylor gave the ball away cheaply in midfield, and Nicky Law capitalised to surge through before crossing low to Jordy Hiwula, whose shot ended in the back of the net after deflecting off Paul Robinson.

The end-to-end pattern of the game was soon established as Wimbledon set about an immediate equaliser, Will Nightingale playing a raking pass that set free Taylor who shot wide, before Andy Barcham saw a shot blocked following approach play by Taylor and George Francomb.

The Dons were level, though, in the 19th minute. Francomb’s free-kick from deep towards the head of Tom Elliott ended up momentarily playing ping-pong in amongst a crowd of players before Elliott seized on a glimpse of goal to blast home left-footed into the roof of the net from an acute angle.

Elliott was the fulcrum of Wimbledon’s attacks all afternoon, producing intelligent lay-offs to Taylor and Barcham, and the tall striker nearly got his second of the afternoon only to fire over when well positioned.

But Bradford were fashioning chances of their own, too, none more so than when Hiwula found space in the box only to drag his shot across the face of the goal and centimetres wide.

The frenetic pace continued in the second period with the Dons enjoying an early period of comparatively sustained pressure, Dannie Bulman and Jake Reeves combining to release Taylor who was unable to find a killer ball, and Jon Meades scuffing a shot after good approach play.

Wimbledon finally took advantage when they were awarded a soft penalty with just over 20 minutes remaining. There seemed little immediate danger when Reeves ran through to latch on to a Barcham pass but Bradford defender Josh Cullen needlessly stuck out a foot and sent the midfielder tumbling.

Up stepped Taylor who, after his recent penalty miss against Swindon, showed composure to aim for precisely the same point of the Kingsmeadow goal net only this time with a more productive outcome, with goalkeeper Colin Doyle diving the wrong way.

In fitting with the nature of the game, Bradford rolled their sleeves up and set about restoring parity. And they in turn got their penalty chance with 12 minutes remaining. James Shea came to punch clear a high ball but only partially succeeded and then dived at the feet of Bradford striker, taking away his opponent’s feet.

Now it was James Hanson who showed composure from the spot to perfectly place his shot just inside the post, narrowly evading Shea’s desperate dive in the right direction.

The attacking impetus continued from both sides but, having worked tirelessly throughout the afternoon to shadow their Bradford opponents and launch quick-tempo attacks of their own, Wimbledon began to visibly tire, none more so than Elliott who was withdrawn to acclamation.

Just when it looked like the sides would share the points – a result that the balance of the game warranted – Bradford sneaked their last-gasp equaliser in the simplest of fashions. Stephen Darby swung in a cross from the right and Hanson got across Robinson to get his head to the ball and deflect it past Shea’s rooted stance and into the far side of the goal.

It was a kick in the teeth for the Dons after a highly creditable performance against one of the promotion favourites. They have a chance to get back on a winning streak when they travel to Bury in the FA Cup, before travelling to Oldham Athletic in the league on 12 November.

Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Robinson, Nightingale, Meades, Bulman, Reeves, Francomb (Beere 79), Taylor (Whelpdale 81), Elliott (Barnett 79), Barcham. Subs not used: Fitzpatrick, McDonnell, Egan, Owens.

Goalscorers: Elliott 18, Taylor 68 (pen).

Booked: Reeves 73, Barnett 91.

Bradford: Doyle, Darby, Knight-Percival, Kilgallon, Vincelot, Hiwula-Mayifuila (McNulty 65), Cullen (Morais 70), Law, Dieng, Hanson, B. Clarke (Marshall 65). Subs not used: N. Clarke, Sattelmaier, Vickic, McArdle.

Goalscorers: Hiwula-Mayifuila 3, Hanson 78 (pen), 92.

Att: 4,826.

By Rob Crane

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November 4, 2016