Ardley Offers Soggy Excuses As AFC Wimbledon Suffer Fleetwood Defeat

AFC Wimbledon 0 v Fleetwood Town 1

AFC Wimbledon’s League One survival hopes were given a thorough drenching as they lost 0-1 at home to fellow strugglers Fleetwood Town on Good Friday (30 March) in atrocious conditions that saw standing water on the pitch and rollers brought on to try and avoid an abandonment.

While Fleetwood quickly realised that the best way to tackle the conditions was to go direct, Wimbledon continued attempting to pass through puddles. And they paid the price as Tom Soares’ attempted pass stuck in a puddle and conceded possession to Fleetwood in the build-up to their goal. But manager Neal Ardley attempted to shift the blame onto the conditions and praised his players.

Dons fans have stuck with their team through some tepid performances but their patience is eroding following this result, with much-more vocal booing followed up by some barracking of club officials afterwards.

‘I thought our boys put in a good performance,’ Ardley said afterwards on the club’s iFollow Dons channel. ‘I don’t agreed with people that moaned at the end of the game. Given the conditions, we tried and it got harder and harder as the game wore on. I thought the boys did some really good stuff.’

With Joe Pigott not available through injury and the Dons reduced to just one fit striker, Wimbledon fans were greeted with the desperate sight of defender Paul Robinson thrown on up front as they tried to salvage something from the match.

‘In the second half we had a bit of a lull and we thought if we score it will be through a set piece, so we brought Robbo on for that reason and we told him to stay in the middle of the goal. It did not quite work, it fell back, but those were all positive intentions,’ Ardley explained.

Profligate finishing was again the bane of Wimbledon’s performance as they fired in thirteen efforts but just four were on target. In contrast, the visitors got half of their eight efforts on target, a tale of comparatively wayward finishing that has haunted the Dons all season.

The first significant chance came when a poor Egli Kaja clearance fell straight to Ashley Hunter and his shot from distance took a deflection off Barry Fuller before being fisted clear by George Long. Soon afterwards, Jack Sowerby fired just off target as Fleetwood continued to press.

Then came the moment that Wimbledon would regret. Liam Trotter lost possession in midfield and, although Soares quickly won it back, his underhit pass stuck fast in a puddle and was seized on by Conor McAlney. His pass released Sowerby who casually dismissed the attentions of Fuller before firing home.

The visitors then sat deep and invited Wimbledon to attack. Kaja went close with one shot that he dragged narrowly off target while Lyle Taylor achieved the same result with a spectacular volley from a Dean Parrett free-kick as the Dons continued to toil. But it wasn’t all one-way traffic as Paddy Madden narrowly headed over a Hunter cross.

The second period continued in much the same fashion as Taylor stung the palms of goalkeeper Alex Cairns and Trotter also fired narrowly over from long range. Kaja had another near-post effort comfortably saved, while at the other end Hunter almost doubled Fleetwood’s advantage but saw Long save.

The Dons’ Bank Holiday Monday match at Doncaster Rovers was postponed due to the weather, so the Dons will be hoping to lift some of the gloom around the club with victory against Scunthorpe at Kingsmeadow on Saturday 7 April. They follow that up with another home encounter, against Charlton, on Tuesday 10 April.

Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Oshilaja, Nightingale, Meades, Parrett (Robinson 79), Soares, Trotter, Kaja, Taylor, Forrester (Barcham 85). Subs not used: Francomb, Abdou, Sam, Kennedy, McDonnell.

Booked: Soares 43.

Fleetwood: Cairns, Eastham, Pond, Bolger, Coyle, Dempsey, Sowerby, Diagouraga, Hunter, McAleny (Hiwula-Mayifuila 73), Madden (Grant 78). Subs not used: Neal. Burns, Glendon, Jones, Biggins.

Goalscorer: Sowerby 22.

Booked: Cairns 91.

Att: 4,378.

By Rob Crane

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April 6, 2018