Wimbledon 2 v Exeter 1
Ade Azeez came off the bench to score the winner as Wimbledon earned their first home win of the new season by beating Exeter City 2-1 on Saturday (29 August).
The Dons had lost their previous two home encounters to early promotion tips Plymouth and Cambridge United, despite having them on the back foot for periods.
This display failed to reach the highs of those two performances but crucially also eliminated the lows as the Dons averaged out a win.
Wimbledon could have taken the lead in the opening minutes when Jon Meades, playing at left-back, set up a chance for Andy Barcham but the winger’s effort was just off target.
Exeter showed that they would be no push-over as they also carved out attacking opportunities, with Will Hoskins and Matt Oakley combining to tee-up Lee Holmes only for Barry Fuller to do well to block.
The otherwise-out-of-sorts Bayo Akinfenwa saw a headed effort that looped over the keeper cleared off the line and Paul Robinson headed straight at Bobby Olejnik, but the Dons weren’t to be denied and took the lead shortly before the half hour.
Meades’ long throw was flicked on by Tom Elliott and fell kindly to George Francomb on the corner of the goal area who hooked the ball home with his left foot.
But the lead didn’t last for long as Exeter were level in the 33rd minute, although it was a soft goal for the Dons to concede. Ryan Harley’s initial miscontrol bamboozled Karleigh Osborne, Fuller lunged in to no avail, and Harley’s eventual shot deflected off Robinson to wrong-foot Shea and leave the Dons defence frustrated.
Both sides enjoyed periods of pressure before the interval, but afterwards Exeter’s impetus was lost as the Dons started to slowly gain the ascendancy without exactly peppering the visitors’ goal with shots on target.
Barcham did fire narrowly over from a good Fuller cross, but with the Dons continuing to fire blanks it was a double substitution – with Azeez and Lyle Taylor coming on for Elliott and Akinfenwa – that finally produced results.
With nine minutes left on the clock, Taylor used his pace to beat his man down the right flank before swinging over a cross that Azeez did well to contort to head home from close range.
‘I would class us as average today,’ boss Neal Ardley told the club’s official website. ‘We were not flowing or exciting at times, but we have done the job.
‘We had played very well in spells in the previous two home games, but we got punished for silly things and came away with nothing.
‘It was more a case of us grinding out a performance today.’
The Dons will have opportunity to do the same again with two away trips in successive weeks as they travel to Mansfield (5 September) and Yeovil (12 September), before hosting Notts County the week afterwards.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Robinson, Osborne, Meades, Francomb, Beere, Reeves, Barcham (Rigg 76), Elliott (Azeez 68), Akinfenwa (Taylor 67). Subs not used: Nightingale, Fitzpatrick, McDonnell, Gallagher.
Goalscorers: Francomb 28, Azeez 82.
Booked: Beere 92.
Exeter: Olejnik, Davies (Butterfield 50), Brown, Tillson, McAllister, Harley, Noble (Oyeleke 71), Oakley, Wheeler, Hoskins (Morrison 78), Holmes. Subs not used: Woodman, Nicholls, Hamon, Grant.
Goalscorer: Harley 33.
Booked: Noble 56.