Wimbledon 0 v Bristol Rovers 1
Wimbledon conceded a goal after just 11 seconds as they slumped to a low-key 0-1 end-of-season defeat at home to Bristol Rovers on Saturday (8 April).
Although the Dons enjoyed plenty of possession after that, their largely experimental side rarely threatened to score as the meandered tamely towards its conclusion.
It took Rovers just seven touches to score – three of those were by the comparatively possession-hogging Tom Lockyer. He took a greedy two touches before pumping a long ball forward to Ellis Harrison. Harrison exploited the space given to him by George Francomb to head down for Byron Moore, who found room between multiple defenders to hook home.
‘We had worked hard all week on how we were going to play,’ assistant manager Neil Cox ruminated on Dons Player after the match, ‘but inside the first minute it had gone out of the window.
‘It took us 10–15 minutes to get into the game, but then I thought for the rest of the first half we were the better side.
‘We created half chances and there were a lot of scrambles in the box. In the second half I thought there was only one team going to score.’
The Dons started this match with three at the back, with Jon Meades trying out a new role alongside Will Nightingale and Paul Robinson. Youngster Alfie Egan came into midfield to start a league match for the first time, while the Dons were without Andy Barcham, Tom Elliott, Tom Soares and Dean Parrett.
After their backfooted start, there was relief for the Dons when Rovers soon had the ball in the back of the net for a second time, this time courtesy of Billy Bodin, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
In contrast, it wasn’t until the 16th minute that the Dons had their first effort on goal, Lyle Taylor’s shot being comfortably held by Rovers keeper Joe Lumley.
The closest the Dons came during the first period was when Taylor headed into the side netting from a cross after his own free-kick had been charged down.
With the momentum steadfastly refusing to swing in Wimbledon’s direction despite a half-time switch to a more orthodox flat back-four that Nightingale in particular seemed to find comforting, shortly before the hour the Dons introduced David Fitzpatrick and Tyrone Barnett in an attempt to galvanise some productivity.
And Barnett in particular had an impression that his previous performances in a Wimbledon shirt have barely hinted at, being involved almost immediately by flicking on Robinson’s long ball for Taylor, only for the latter to drag his shot wide.
But as Wimbledon pressed they left chances at the other end, and James Shea had to be alert to thwart Bodin on the break, with Robinson snuffing out any lingering threat.
With quarter of an hour remaining Darius Charles was introduced to add further physical presence by playing up front and he was soon involved in the action, shooting narrowly over and then narrowly wide before setting up Barnett who headed over.
Although Barnett did have one final chance headed over, and Jake Reeves had a shot charged down following Sean Kelly’s free-kick, there still seemed little imminent threat of a Wimbledon goal, a situation that remained until the full-time whistle blew.
The Dons have a chance to bounce back when they travel to Swindon Town on Good Friday, before hosting Peterborough United at Kingsmeadow on Easter Monday.
Wimbledon: Shea, Francomb, Nightingale, Robinson, Kelly, Reeves, Bulman (Charles 75), Meades, Egan (Fitzpatrick 59), Poleon (Barnett 56), Taylor. Subs not used: McDonnell, Robertson, Sibbick, Antwi.
Booked: Taylor 44.
Bristol Rovers: Lumley, Clarke-Salter (Mansell 71), Sweeney, Lockyer, Leadbitter (Partington 45), Sinclair, Lines, Brown, Bodin, Harrison (James 75), Moore. Subs not used: Mildenhall, Harris, Easter, Montaño.
Goalscorer: Moore 1.
Booked: Sweeney 92.
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April 14, 2017