AFC Wimbledon 2 v Doncaster Rovers 0
Kwesi Appiah’s first goal in an AFC Wimbledon shirt broke the deadlock as the Dons chalked up their first win of the 2017/18 season on Saturday (26 August), beating Doncaster Rovers 2-0 at Kingsmeadow.
The Ghana international has been a subdued presence since signing for the Dons from Crystal Palace this summer, seeming to lack match fitness as he continues to recover from an injury that saw him released by Palace and play much of the summer on loan with Norwegian side Viking Stavanger.
But he produced a moment of magic in the 58th minute to break the deadlock in this match and set the Dons on course for victory. Receiving an Andy Barcham header in the D, he calmly hooked the still-falling ball inside flat-footed defender Andy Butler before calmly slotting home past keeper Ian Lawlor.
And with the deadlock broken, just minutes later the Dons were 2-0 ahead when Barcham picked up the ball centrally in the Doncaster half and scuttled forwards before shooting home from outside the area.
Appiah reflected afterwards: ‘We knew it was very important to get off the mark [and get a win] and we are very pleased to do so. The longer it goes without winning, confidence can take a bit of a dent and it’s nice to do it.
‘It takes that pressure off us. It was very nice for the team morale to get a clean sheet, a couple of goals and three points.’
The Dons have struggled this season to impose manager Neal Ardley’s 4-3-3 formation on League One opponents, and it looked like a continuation of their tepid form was in the offing after a first half that failed to significantly test either goalkeeper.
But with Doncaster enjoying plenty of first-half possession, the positive aspect was that at least Wimbledon’s full-backs were being left less exposed that in previous matches this season, with a solid defensive display earning a 0-0 half-time score.
The Dons were more positive after the interval, and even before Appiah’s opener Jimmy Abdou had gone close when his shot was deflected wide after good approach play by man-of-the-match Barcham.
The two goals that did eventually come lifted the home side, with Lawlor forced to save from Barcham and then Paul Robinson having a close-range effort blocked. And with the visitors reduced to 10 men for the closing minutes after losing Matty Blair to injury after using all their subs, the Dons went close to adding a third when Callum Kennedy’s free-kick struck the bar.
Boss Neal Ardley told iFollow afterwards: ‘It was a really tepid first half. It was not what we want to see from our team or what I expect to see.
‘It does not matter what system or shape you play, you have to do things with aggression and energy. We had none of that in the first-half but a few words were spoken at half-time and the response was excellent.’
The Dons travel to Blackpool on Saturday (2 September) before hosting Portsmouth on Saturday 9 September.
Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Oshilaja, Robinson, Kennedy (Kaja 88), Francomb (Parrett 88), Abdou, Trotter, Taylor, Appiah (McDonald 76), Barcham. Subs not used: Nightingale, Sibbick, McDonnell, Hartigan.
Goalscorers: Appiah 58, Barcham 60.
Booked: Oshilaja 48.
Doncaster: Lawlor, Mason (Mandeville 63), Wright, Butler, Andrew, Whiteman, Blair, Rowe, Coppinger (Kongolo 62), May, Marquis (Williams 72). Subs not used: Alcock, Marosi, Garratt, Ben Khemis.
Booked: Marquis 41, Rowe 83, Butler 96.
By Rob Crane
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September 1, 2017