Wimbledon 3 v Burton 1
A storming second-half display saw Wimbledon beat 10-man Burton Albion 3-1 on Saturday (21 September) to maintain their impressive start to the season.
But it took an inspirational double half-time substitution from manager Neal Ardley to swing the game in the Dons’ favour against a Burton side that retreated into their shells after an early sending off for their defender Marcus Holness.
It had been an even game up until the 18th minute, with both sides looking to get the ball down and press forward.
But then Holness hit the self-destruct button, lunging in two-footed on Sammy Moore after the whistle had gone and then reacting to Moore’s indignation by shoving the Wimbledon midfielder to the floor. Either offence could have merited a straight red card, leaving Burton to play the majority of the game a man short.
So it was somewhat against expectations when the visitors took the lead just eight minutes later, albeit with the benefit of a huge slice of fortune. Lee Bell rolled a corner to the lurking Adam McGurk and his shot deflected through a crowded area to give Ross Worner no chance and put Burton 1-0 up.
At which point Burton predictably started to sit deep with men behind the ball, challenging Wimbledon to use their passing game to break through the massed ranks. And for the rest of the half it looked as though their tactic would work.
Luke Moore did have one header onto the roof of the net following a Jack Midson cross, and Harry Pell saw a long-range effort spilled by visiting keeper Jordan Pickford with Michael Smith unable to steer home the rebound. But overall it was a half of frustration for the Dons as they failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority.
If the Dons couldn’t pass their way through Burton’s defence, then Ardley seemed to decide to go around it instead, making a switch to a 3-5-2 formation at half time and bringing on touchline-hugging wide men George Porter and Chris Arthur.
The changes brought an immediate effect as both men were involved in the Dons’ equaliser, superbly crafted ten minutes after the break. Arthur latched on to Pell’s pass to charge down the line before switching play with a sweeping long pass to Porter on the opposite flank. The Burnley loanee cleverly laid the ball off to Smith who calmly placed it in the back of the net for a well-worked Dons equaliser to make it 1-1.
The Dons survived an immediate scare when McGurk went close to his second of the game following a Jack Dyer corner, but after that they turned the screw on the visitors to earn a deserved win.
Pickford in the visitors’ goal came to centre stage, saving well when Smith met Sammy Moore’s ball in with a header and then again when Porter set up Luke Moore. And the best was yet to come as Pickford acrobatically tipped away Arthur’s long-range half-volley that had seemed destined for the top corner.
But the young keeper’s efforts were undone in the 69th minute as he gifted Wimbledon the lead. Arthur again rampaged down the left flank before his cross deflected off Dyer and into the hands of Pickford at the near post. But inexplicably Pickford dropped the ball, giving Midson the simple task of tapping home from close-range for his first goal of the season to make it 2-1.
The Dons continued to push forwards but got just one further goal for their efforts, as Andy Frampton emphatically headed home a corner at the near post to make it a deserved 3-1 win for the hosts.
Afterwards, Ardley sang the praises of former Havant & Waterlooville man Arthur, telling the club’s official website: ‘He was our first signing of the summer and people may have been wondering where were were going with it as he came from two leagues below.
‘But they can see a player with so much potential. I am still looking after him and developing him. There will come a time when we decide to unleash him.’
The Dons will be hoping to extend their sprightly form next weekend when they visit a Cheltenham side that has endured a surprisingly poor start to the season.
Wimbledon: Worner, Fuller, Frampton, Bennett, Kennedy (Arthur 46), Francomb (Porter 46), S. Moore, Pell (Sweeney 77), L. Moore, Midson, Smith. Subs not used: Fenlon, Brown, Weston, Fayers.
Goalscorers: Smith 55, Midson 69, Frampton 74.
Burton: Pickford, Edwards, Diamond, McCrory, Holness, Bell, Weir, McGurk, MacDonald (Dyer 60), Symes (Howe 58), Knowles. Subs not used: Hussey, Reed, Lyness, Palmer, Slade.
Goalscorer: McGurk 26.
Sent off: Holness 18.
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September 23, 2013