Wimbledon 1 v Hartlepool 2
Wimbledon’s tendency to capitulate at Kingsmeadow against low-lying opponents came to the fore again on 23 August as they lost 1-2 against Hartlepool United.
The Dons went into this game unbeaten, whereas Hartlepool were bottom of the table. But even the release of an early goal and an impressive first-half performance couldn’t erase the Dons’ jitters.
And sure enough, just moments into the second half Hartlepool equalised, and from then on it seemed inevitable that the Dons’ struggle to beat strugglers, which has existed pretty much since their promotion to the Football League, would be maintained.
Charlie Wyke – who was with the Dons on loan last season and joined Hartlepool in a similar capacity in midweek – served early notice that the home side wouldn’t get it all their own way, forcing an early save from James Shea.
But after just 10 minutes the Dons were ahead, Callum Kennedy swinging in the ball to Matt Tubbs, who controlled before firing home to put the Dons 1-0 ahead.
The Dons were rampant at this stage, and Sean Rigg saw a volley flash over before Francomb’s cross somehow eluded everyone.
And Barry Fuller went closest when his fierce dipping half-volley from a narrow angle clipped the Hartlepool bar and bounced out of play.
Although Wyke wasted another chance before the break, Wimbledon had had the better of the first period and their fans were perhaps starting to think positive thoughts.
But that was undone just moments after the break when Wyke made it 1-1. With a mass of bodies in his goal area, all of them seemingly rooted to the ground, Shea came to claim the ball but was blocked from getting anywhere near it, Wyke capitalising to nod home.
And there was a growing sense of the inevitable when Ryan Brobbel broke clear an crossed for veteran forward Marlon Harewood, who calmly slotted home after a clever turn to put the visitors 2-1 ahead.
The Dons continued to labour as they sought to overturn fate, and were seemingly given a lifeline when Tubbs was brought down in the box. But the striker’s penalty was at an easy height and distance for Scott Flinders to pull off the save.
Wimbledon will be hoping for better luck on Saturday (30 August) when they entertain Stevenage at Kingsmeadow.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Bennett, Barrett, Kennedy (Azeez 73), Francomb (Sainte-Luce 64), Bulman, Moore (Pell 64), Rigg, Tubbs, Akinfenwa. Subs not used: Worner, Phillips, Nicholson, Harrison.
Goalscorer: Tubbs 11.
Booked: Pell 66.
Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Bates, Collins, Franks, Walker, Harewood, Miller, Brobbel, Duckworth, Wyke (Richards 82). Subs not used: Compton, Woods, Holden, Smith, Harrison, Barber.
Goalscorers: Wyke 46, Harewood 68.