Wimbledon 2 v Hartlepool 0
Rampant Wimbledon made it three wins in a row as they comfortably beat Hartlepool United 2-0 at Kingsmeadow on Saturday (31 October).
And the margin of victory would have been far more emphatic but for an outstanding performance by visiting goalkeeper Trevor Carson.
The tone was set early on as Hartlepool sat deep and invited Wimbledon to attack. Lyle Taylor nearly made the breakthrough with eight minutes on the clock when George Francomb’s low free-kick found him on the penalty spot but the former Scunthorpe man blasted just wide.
But there was a slice of good fortune about the Dons’ eventual opener. Callum Kennedy – playing on the left of midfield in the absence of both Andy Barcham and Sean Rigg – took a free kick near the touchline midway into the Hartlepool half. His looping, inswinging delivery bamboozled everyone and evaded Carson’s despairing dive to bounce in at the far post.
Minutes later the Dons almost extended their lead. Barry Fuller and Dannie Bulman combined from a throw-in to feed the ball to Francomb on the corner of the penalty box. He span his man and ran parallel with the edge of the box before curling a left-footed shot that forced Carson into one of a number of excellent saves.
The second goal came just shy of the half-hour mark. A Hartlepool defender inadvertently flicked on Ben Wilson’s kick from hands and Taylor showed awareness combined with an expert finish to dart onto the dropping ball and half-volley it home from an acute angle.
Hartlepool mustered just one first-half effort of note that Wilson had comfortably held, and the balance of play continued in the second period.
First Carson tipped around an effort from Adebayo Azeez, then Taylor met a Kennedy cross with a header that Carson again managed to deflect wide for a corner.
The Dons continued to surge forwards and Bayo Akinfenwa, on as a substitute, did particularly well to receive the ball with his back to goal midway in the Hartlepool half and smuggle it around his man to release the surging Jake Reeves, only for Carson to save yet again from his deflected drive.
With quarter of an hour remaining the Dons were awarded a penalty after Taylor was barged off the ball while attempting to fashion a shooting chance. Taylor stepped up himself to take the spot kick but hit the right-hand post, with Bulman forcing a save from Carson from the rebound.
From the resultant corner, Akinfenwa had the ball nestling in the back of the net but the referee ruled that the big frontman had clambered all over a defender in order to get his head to the ball.
The visitors did have a late flurry, with Wilson saving from Scott Fenwick and then Kudus Oyenuga striking just over the bar, but truth be told this was a comfortable win for the Dons that moves them up to tenth in the table, just three points off an automatic promotion place.
Manager Neal Ardley was predictably pleased after the final whistle. ‘It was probably as complete a performance as we have produced,’ he told the club’s official website. ‘We started to control the game and some of the play was exceptional.’
The Dons taste FA Cup action next weekend when they host National League leaders Forest Green Rovers at Kingsmeadow, before returning to league action with a televised trip to promotion contenders Portsmouth on Sunday 15 November.
Wimbledon: Wilson, Fuller, Robinson, Osborne, Meades, Bulman, Reeves (Toonga 92), Francomb, Kennedy, Taylor (Elliott 83), Azeez (Akinfenwa 60). Subs not used: Sweeney, McDonnell, Gallagher, Kaja.
Goalscorers: Kennedy 18, Taylor 28.
Hartlepool: Carson, Okuonghae (Oyenuga 36), Bates, Jones, Carroll, Featherstone, Woods, Oates, Duckworth, Bingham (Fenwick 67), Paynter (Banton 87). Subs not used: Walker, Nelson-Addy, Bartlett, Smith.
Booked: Carroll 23, Oyenuga 75, Fenwick 85.