Wimbledon 1 v Burton Albion 1
Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley was left a frustrated man after the Dons again demonstrated their tendency to self-destruct during the 1-1 draw against Burton Albion at Kingsmeadow on Saturday (2 February).
It is a measure of the Dons’ progress since Ardley’s installation that they should emerge from recent home games against high-flying opponents Port Vale and Burton disappointed with not taking a maximum-points haul.
But improved performances can’t disguise the fact that they still have a tendency to switch off during games and they remain bottom of the table, facing a tough relegation battle.
For the second game in succession it was captain Mat Mitchel-King who hit the self-destruct button. It was his slack backpass that allowed Port Vale to equalise a week ago, and he was at the centre of a brainstorm moment in this game as the Dons defence collapsed all around him.
The Dons were 1-0 up when Jonathan Meades was outstripped down the flank. When Pim Balkestein only succeeded in skying his clearance straight up into the air, Mitchel-King inexplicably hauled his fellow defender out of the way only to abdicate responsibility for an aerial challenge by waving a hand at the dropping ball.
Although he realised his mistake before contact was made, Michael Symes capitalised on the hesitancy by clipping the ball home into the far corner, past the static Neil Sullivan and a gap where Chris Hussey should have been covering.
Afterwards, Ardley told the Hounslow Chronicle: ‘I just said to the boys in there that that’s six points we’ve dropped in the last three games and we’re not in a position where we can do that.
‘People need to do what we’re asking them to do for the team. I’ve told a few of them in no uncertain terms that they can’t revert to type.’
It was another Jekyll and Hyde performance from the home side, who recovered from the shock of seeing Burton hit the crossbar in the opening moments of the game to take command of the fixture.
With debutant Harry Pell putting in an impressive midfield performance on his debut, and Gary Alexander doing likewise up front, the Dons again looked an improvement compared with recent weeks.
They nearly took the lead when Luke Moore fed Hussey but the former Coventry man’s shot was turned away by Burton keeper Stuart Tomlinson. And from the subsequent corner, Balkestein saw his effort cleared off the line by Lee Bell.
It wasn’t until just before the half hour that the Dons took a lead that their movement and passing deserved. It came as Alexander capitalised when the Burton defence were wrong footed by Jack Midson missing Hussey’s long ball, the former Brentford man turning smartly to fire home a debut goal.
But the Dons were in the lead for just 10 minutes before that moment of defensive madness allowed the visitors to grab their equaliser, and with it came a visible deflation of confidence in the team and grumbling from the home support.
The Dons did fashion some second-half chances, via Pell and Tony Ajala, but neither keeper really had much to do as Wimbledon’s poor home form and Burton’s poor away from cancelled each other out.
The visitors saw captain Zander Diamond sent off with 15 minutes remaining following a clash with Balkestein that saw referee Jeremy Simpson produce an immediate red card. But even a numerical advantage didn’t help the Dons restore their lead.
While the continued improvement in performances is encouraging, the Dons will know they need to tighten up at the back if they are to avoid a return to Conference football. They will face a stiff test of their resolve with tough away trips to Port Vale (Tuesday) and Chesterfield (Saturday) this coming week.
Wimbledon: Sullivan, Balkestein, Mitchel-King, Meades, Hussey, Pell, Sweeney, Ajala, Midson (McCallum 74), L. Moore (Yussuff 80), Alexander. Subs not used: Jaimez-Ruiz, Cummings, Fenlon, Long, Prior.
Goalscorer: Alexander 27.
Booked: Pell 68, Sweeney 90.
Burton: Tomlinson, Webster, Diamond, O’Connor, Sharps, Weir, Maghoma, Bell, Paterson (Kee 46), MacDonald (Drury 24), Symes (Holness 78). Subs not used: Lyness, McGrath, Phillips, Dyer.
Goalscorer: Symes 36.
Booked: MacDonald 21, O’Connor 59.
Sent off: Diamond 75.
What do you think of Wimbledon's form? Why not comment on our forum?
www.wimbledonsw19.com are the proud sponsors of Peter Sweeney's away kit
February 3, 2013