AFC Wimbledon 1 v Bristol Rovers 0
Substitute Joe Pigott scored deep into injury time to give AFC Wimbledon a potentially significant 1-0 victory against Bristol Rovers on Saturday (17 February) as they battle to maintain their League One status.
At the end of a scrappy encounter in which neither side showed much quality, Pigott got on the end of Harry Forrester’s cross to head into the corner of the net and send Wimbledon supporters into delirium. The win lifts the Dons to 18th in the table but they are still just one point above the final relegation place.
Although at this stage of the season it is as much about results as performances, manager Neal Ardley will know his side must improve after a match in which they managed to get just three attempts on target against a woeful Rovers defence. Ardley was again reduced to tinkering with tactics as the match progressed as he attempted to bring some spark to his side’s play.
‘Today, we did not give the fans bundles to shout about,’ he told the club’s iFollow Dons channel afterwards. ‘We were sloppy at times, we were nervous, but the fans kept singing. People behind me kept singing my name, they kept driving us on. That means a hell of a lot because if we are going to get out of this, we are going to get out of it together.’
With the Dons having lost their previous four matches, Ardley started with the same 3-5-2 formation but brought Jon Meades, George Francomb, Andy Barcham and Cody McDonald back into the starting line-up.
Despite that, it was Wimbledon keeper George Long who was first forced into action, coming smartly off his line to block at the feet of the shaggy-haired Stuart Sinclair as he burst towards goal.
Wimbledon’s first effort on target followed good work by Cody McDonald. It looked a lost cause as he chased after Jimmy Abdou’s clearance, but the striker latched onto a headed partial clearance and, with his back to goal, cleverly hooked the ball over his shoulder to take two defenders out of the game before firing the falling ball straight at Adam Smith.
Soon afterwards, Andy Barcham, who posed a threat to the Rovers defence all afternoon, delivered a deep cross that McDonald headed back across goal but Liam Trotter struggled to get over the ball and sent his shot over the bar.
Long was in action again before the break when he smothered a Liam Sercombe shot, but it was the Dons who had enjoyed the majority of the possession going into the break, while never quite managing to break down a dogged Rovers defence.
Ellis Harrison should have given Rovers the lead when he headed wide following a free-kick, and later Long had to react well to fist away a rocket-propelled Joe Partington drive, but otherwise the visitors offered little.
Darius Charles’ withdrawal midway through the second half through injury coincided with a change in shape as the Dons shifted to four at the back and stuck Lyle Taylor out on the wing, introducing Joe Pigott to plough a lone furrow up front.
Wimbledon finally got another shot on target when substitute Harry Forrester fired straight at Smith, and it wasn’t until deep into injury time that the breakthrough came.
Meades – now playing at left-back after starting in midfield – showed perseverance to win back possession deep in the Rovers half. He fed Forrester whose languid cross from the left was perfectly placed for Pigott to head home.
Next weekend Wimbledon travel to Peterborough United (24 February) before three home matches against Blackburn (27 February), Charlton (3 March) and Oxford (10 March).
Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Oshilaja, Charles (Forrester 65), Francomb, Trotter, Abdou, Meades, Barcham (Soares 89), McDonald (Pigott 70), Taylor. Subs not used: Robinson, Parrett, Kennedy, McDonnell.
Goalscorer: Pigott 93.
Bristol Rovers: Smith, Partington, Lockyer, Craig, Bola, Sinclair, Lines, O/ Clarke (Moore 46), Sercombe (Nichols 75), Harrison (Gaffney 74), Bennett. Subs not used: Slocombe, Sweeney, J. Clarke, Mensah.
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February 19, 2018