Wimbledon 1 v Carlisle 0
Wimbledon ‘won ugly’ as they beat Carlisle United 1-0 at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday (23 February) to jump to fifth in the League Two table.
The Dons were often second-best against the Cumbrians, who harbour play-off ambitions of their own, but with luck and some resolute defending emerged victorious courtesy of Paul Robinson’s goal early in the second half.
Faced with the possibility of jumping into the play-off positions if they successfully extended their recent run of impressive results, it was an uncharacteristically tentative Wimbledon side that opened the encounter against former Dons defender Keith Curle’s well-drilled and rugged Carlisle side.
The visitors could have taken the lead in the third minute as Charlie Wyke picked the pocket of youngster Ryan Sweeney on the edge of the penalty area, only to skew his shot horribly wide.
And midway through the half Carlisle spurned an even more gilt-edged chance when Wimbledon debutant Connor Smith played a loose ball in his own area that Robinson failed to control, with Hallum Hope nipping in and crashing a shot against the post with Kelle Roos beaten.
In contrast, Wimbledon threatened only occasionally, with one tame Andy Barcham effort representing no more than catching practice for visiting keeper Mark Gillespie.
But the course of the match turned soon after the break when Tom Elliott was set clear by Lyle Taylor’s perfectly weighed ball over the defence. Gillespie charged from his area but succeeded only in flattening Elliott, prompting a no-questions straight red from referee Darren Deadman.
And, to compound Carlisle’s misery, from the resultant Taylor free-kick sub keeper Dan Hanford could only spoon the ball up to the stooping Robinson who headed home from close range.
Taylor twice went close himself as Wimbledon enjoyed a lift in confidence, first just failing to make contact close range and then producing a surging run from the touchline before firing into the side netting.
But overall it was the visitors who continued to have the better of the exchanges. With eight minutes remaining they again hit the woodwork, Michael Raynes’ shot hitting the post and prompting a scramble before the ball was cleared to safety, with the Dons also surviving a handball appeal against Robinson in the melee.
Raynes saw another effort deflected only narrowly wide, and the match ended with Roos going down to save from Jabo Ibehre as Carlisle sought an equaliser that on the balance of play would have been the least they deserved.
But a few months ago Wimbledon would have lost a game of this nature; it’s perhaps a sign of their recent progress that they stood firm despite the pressure to record another impressive result.
Manager Neal Ardley was predictably happy afterwards, telling the club’s website: ‘We made some silly decisions at times, but you could see the character of the boys and their fitness levels.
‘The main thing is that everyone could see tonight that we have a team playing their hearts out and giving everything for this club.’
The Dons will be hoping for a similar result, but possibly a more polished performance, when they host Oxford United on Saturday (27 February) before travelling to table toppers Northampton Town on Tuesday 1 March.
Wimbledon: Roos, Meades, Sweeney, Robinson, Fuller, Barcham, Reeves, Smith, Francomb (Bulman 89), Elliott (Akinfenwa 77), Taylor (Azeez 77). Subs not used: Shea, Kennedy, Rigg, Fitzpatrick.
Goalscorer: Robinson 53.
Carlisle Utd: Gillespie, Gillesphey, Ellis, Raynes, Comley (Archibald-Henville 87), Hope, Gilliead (Hanford 52), Kennedy, McQueen (Asamoah 78), Ibehre, Wyke. Subs not used: Joyce, Héry, Rigg, Thompson.
Booked: Comley 79.
Sent off: Gillespie 50.