Dons Look Forward To Play-Offs With Newport Win

Wimbledon 1 v Newport 0

Wimbledon will play Accrington Stanley in a two-legged play-off semi-final to earn the right to play at Wembley and contest promotion to League One.

That was the outcome of a final round of League Two matches that saw Accrington drop into the play-off places, losing out on automatic promotion to Bristol Rovers and Oxford United, while Wimbledon were able to ease to victory against Newport.

The first leg will be at Kingsmeadow on Saturday 14 May (kick-off 7.30 pm) with the return leg in Accrington on Wednesday 18 May (kick-off 7.45 pm). Both legs will be shown live on Sky.

The other semi-final is between Plymouth Argyle and Portsmouth, with the winners of both ties meeting at Wembley on Bank Holiday Monday, 30 May (3pm kick-off).

With their play-off berth already secured, Dons boss Neal Ardley was able to rest several first-teamers for this win against Newport, with 18-year-old substitute debutant Toyosi Olusanya scoring the winning goal from the penalty spot.

But the Dons’ afternoon was marred by the loss through injury of Connor Smith, who was treated on the pitch for 10 minutes before being rushed to hospital with a neck injury.

‘Connor had to go straight to hospital but the good news is that he was not concussed,’ Ardley told the club’s website.

‘All we can hope for after the tests they do is that there is no sign of any bad damage and the lad comes back in next week with a little bit of stiffness, ready to be in the squad.’

With so many changes to the starting line-up and Newport also safe from relegation, this encounter had a pre-season feel to it. Only Callum Kennedy, Barry Fuller and Jake Reeves kept their starting places from the previous week’s draw at Stevenage, with Will Nightingale among those stepping in following his return from injury.

Bayo Akinfenwa set the tone for the afternoon in the fifth minute when he nearly controlled a forward ball and beat his man but fired over the crossbar. Reeves and Rhys Murphy followed that up with their own off-target efforts.

For Newport, Scott Barrow’s cross was headed wide by Scott Boden but they also survived a penalty shout when Ade Azeez was tackled by Danny Holmes, referee Geoff Eltringham deeming the challenge legitimate.

Following the lengthy pause for Smith’s treatment and the introduction of replacement Tom Beere, it was deep into injury time when Akinfenwa headed down for Murphy, only for the on-loan Oldham man to blaze over.

The Dons came out from the break with slightly renewed vigour, Azeez and Akinfenwa both fashioning early chances that were spurned, but it was James Shea who produced the save of the match at the other end to keep out a fierce John-Lewis drive.

Murphy came close to his first Wimbledon goal, only to see Newport keeper Rhys Taylor turn it over, and moments later Akinfenwa’s well-placed header from a Kennedy cross was heading just inside the post before bouncing off a divot, onto the post and away.

With 17 minutes remaining youngster Olusanya was introduced from the bench in place of Murphy and immediately his pace was causing the visitors problems. And it was a trademark burst of speed into the area that saw Olusanya clipped from behind to earn the Dons a penalty with 10 minutes remaining.

Following a brief impromptu PFA meeting on the pitch, designated penalty taker Akinfenwa seized the ball and handed it to Olusanya who showed no nerves from the spot to put the Dons ahead. His reward was to be lifted onto Akinfenwa’s shoulder and used as the weight in an improvised display of squat lifts.

Shea was again called into action, saving spectacularly to deny Newport an equaliser, but overall it was a victory that the Dons deserved as they finish the season in seventh place, ultimately six points clear of Leyton Orient.

Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Nightingale, Sweeney, Kennedy, Smith (Beere 38), Reeves, Fitzpatrick, Azeez (Rigg 63), Murphy (Olusanya 73), Akinfenwa. Subs not used: McDonnell, Gallagher, Kaja, Kalambayi.

Goalscorer: Olusanya 80 (pen).

Newport: R. Taylor, Holmes, Partridge, Hughes, Davies, Rodman, Byrne, Owen-Evans (O’Sullivan 63), Barrow (Meechan 83), John-Lewis (Coulibaly 62), Boden. Subs not used: Jones, Green, Parselle, Angel.

Att: 4,427.

By Rob Crane

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May 8, 2016