Wimbledon 1 v Crawley Town 0
Wimbledon served up a vital three points but little in the way of entertainment as they beat Crawley Town 1-0 at Kingsmeadow on Saturday (16 April) to move two points clear in the play-off race with a game in hand.
At this vital stage of the season few Wimbledon fans will complain with the points haul, but their lack of threat in front of goal while playing three forwards at home is a worrying trend that has occurred throughout the season.
‘We had a certain shape that we wanted to play and we felt on a poor pitch we needed some strength up front,’ manager Neal Ardley told the club’s official website. ‘We went with Bayo [Akinfenwa] up there and we believed that playing with two runners off him would be the best thing to do.’
Instead, with Akinfenwa and loanee Rhys Murphy largely anonymous, and with the team lacking guile down the flanks, the Dons were reduced to grinding out a result that was far from pretty with just three efforts on target all afternoon despite territorial domination.
‘I knew it would be the toughest game of the run-in today,’ Ardley continued. ‘Leyton Orient is a London derby, Portsmouth will bring a big following, and those sorts of games will be exciting.
‘But today after two great results there was always going to be an expectancy against a Crawley team with nothing to play for. We dug in and did a good job to win it.’
The Dons were dealt a blow before kick-off with Tom Elliott absent through tonsillitis and Jake Reeves ruled out through a hamstring tweak, with youngster Connor Smith stepping in to replace the latter in the heart of midfield.
One of the rare sparks of interest in a drab afternoon came when Dannie Bulman picked up the ball in midfield and surged forwards, but his long-range effort was saved by Crawley keeper Jack Rose.
And the Dons were nearly made to pay in the 24th minute when a Crawley corner was met by Sonny Bradley but his header bounced off the crossbar and behind with Kelle Roos beaten.
The first chance of the second period came when Crawley registered their sole effort on target all afternoon, Lee Barnard turning in the box to fashion a chance only to see Roos save his effort.
The breakthrough finally came with seven minutes remaining when Lyle Taylor won a free-kick midway in the Crawley half, from which Barry Fuller swung over a cross that centre-back Paul Robinson headed home.
After that the Dons seemed content to take the ball to the corner flag to wrap up an afternoon of minimal entertainment but a vital three points.
Dons fans will be hoping for a similar positive result but a more entertaining performance when they travel to already-relegated Dagenham & Redbridge on Tuesday (19 April) before two big home games against Leyton Orient (23 April) and Portsmouth (26 April).
Wimbledon: Roos, Fuller, Charles, Robinson, Meades (Kennedy 62), Francomb, Bulman, Smith (Rigg 75), Taylor, Akinfenwa (Azeez 67), Murphy. Subs not used: Shea, Barcham, Sweeney, Gallagher.
Goalscorer: Robinson 83.
Booked: Smith 14, Meades 61.
Crawley: Rose, Oyebanjo, McNerney, Ashton, Dunne, Edwards, Smith (Deacon 92), Bond, Della-Verde (Young 84), Bradley, Barnard (Fenelon 79). Subs not used: Walton, Preston, Sutherland, Yorwerth.
Booked: Della-Verde 83, Dunne 89.