Wimbledon 0 v Mansfield 1
Wimbledon’s infamous bad form against lower-placed opposition continued on Saturday (20 December) as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Mansfield Town, despite the opposition being reduced to 10 men.
Mansfield’s rugged approach to the game came to its natural conclusion in the 34th minute when Robert Taylor was shown a straight red card for a lunge that left not one but two Wimbledon players down injured.
And in reality the Stags could have seen their numbers reduced further as they exhibited a robust approach and spoiling tactics throughout but picked up only four yellow cards.
Yet Wimbledon still struggled to get going against possibly the most ‘anti-football’ side to visit Kingsmeadow this season.
The Dons’ first-half performance climaxed in the very first minute, when Adebayo Akinfenwa reached George Francomb’s free-kick but Jake Goodman was flagged offside.
And it was worse than that for the Dons as the move also saw Akinfenwa pick up an injury that forced his premature departure, much to his evident frustration, with replacement Adebayo Azeez struggling to make an impact after coming on.
Indeed it was the visitors who went closest during a drab first half, with Matt Rhead hitting the post with one effort.
Manager Neal Ardley explained to BBC London 94.9 afterwards: ‘We struggled a little bit in the first half, getting to grips with their shape.
‘In the second half we had a game plan and we were on the front foot. But we gave them the goal early on and that makes it hard.’
That goal came just moments after the restart when Goodman attempted to head a long ball over the top back to keeper James Shea. Unfortunately he failed to get a firm purchase and Mansfield’s Vadine Oliver powered clear and fired the ball through Shea’s legs in a one-on-one to put the visitors ahead.
Although Dannie Bulman threatened with a long-range effort, forcing a save from Mansfield keeper Dimitar Evtimov, it was Shea who was again in action to further enhance his growing reputation.
First he reacted superbly and showed strong hands to somehow tip a powerful Rhead header wide of the post.
And just seconds later he did even better from the follow-up corner to tip Ryan Tafazolli’s effort over the bar.
The Dons finally enjoyed some concentrated pressure in the final 15 minutes, with young substitute George Oakley helping to capitalise on tiring Mansfield legs after replacing Azeez.
And the visitors were again grateful to Evtimov, who pulled off three saves in quick succession to deny first Matt Tubbs, then Oakley and then Harry Pell.
Although Pell also headed just wide, it was all too little too late from the home side.
‘On another day we would have had a bit of luck and taken one of our three or four half chances that we had,’ Ardley reflected afterwards.
The Dons have a chance to bounce back on Boxing Day when they travel to Portsmouth, before hosting Exeter City on Sunday 28 December.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Barrett, Goodman, Kennedy, Francomb, Moore (Pell 84), Bulman, Rigg, Akinfenwa (Azeez 6, Oakley 75), Tubbs. Subs not used: Nightingale, McDonnell, Harrison, Sutherland.
Booked: Rigg 57, Goodman 79.
Mansfield: Evtimov, Sutton, Tafazolli, Waterfall, Freeman, Brown, Clements (Heslop 84), McGuire, Taylor, Oliver (Bingham 56), Rhead (Palmer 87). Subs not used: Studer, Riley, Bell, Lambe.
Goalscorer: Oliver 47.
Booked: Tafazolli 40, Oliver 45, Brown 58, Freeman 87.
Sent off: Taylor 34.
By Rob Crane
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December 21, 2014