Wimbledon 1 v Portsmouth 0
An own-goal from Ben Chorley was enough to earn Wimbledon a 1-0 win over Portsmouth on Saturday (21 March) and maintain their outside hopes of a play-off spot.
The Dons were on the back foot in the early exchanges of this encounter but took the lead with their first meaningful attack.
Barry Fuller played a slide-rule pass through to Craig Tanner, who had been left totally unmarked by the Pompey defence on the edge of the penalty area. Although Tanner’s shot was dragged off target, Chorley, perhaps distracted by the lurking Jake Goodman, only succeeded in diverting it into the back of his own net.
The Dons defended solidly throughout the first period as they played into a strong head wind that restricted their ability to venture further forward, but Portsmouth still struggled to create meaningful goalscoring opportunities.
On the rare occasion that they did, Ross Worner pulled off a fine full-length save to deny Matt Tubbs’ glancing header, with Jack Smith being alert to concede a corner before Portsmouth could capitalise on the loose ball.
The second period was a different story as Wimbledon were able to slowly exert more pressure on the visitors, only to find their goalkeeper Paul Jones in inspired form.
He pulled off an impressive save from substitute Tom Beere’s firmly struck drive, and from the follow-up corner did equally well to tip Bayo Akinfenwa’s looping header onto the bar and behind.
Next the Pompey stopper was in action to deny Tanner’s snap-shot long-range effort.
It wasn’t over for the keeper, as he still made crucial contributions by palming behind a rasping Jack Smith drive, a header from substitute Ade Azeez, and a curling Tanner free-kick.
But in the end a single goal was enough for the Dons, who leapfrog Portsmouth in the table and are now six points adrift of the final play-off spot.
‘Over the next few weeks I’ve got to keep pushing them [the players] hard in training and not easing off,’ manager Neal Ardley told BBC London 94.9 afterwards.
‘They’ll get their time to recover and refresh their legs, but I’m going to drive them and see if we can finish as strong as we can.’
The Dons visit struggling Tranmere Rovers next weekend (28 March), before hosting Northampton Town on Good Friday and travelling to Dagenham & Redbridge on Easter Monday.
Wimbledon: Worner, Fuller, Oshilaja, Goodman, Smith, Potter (Azeez 78), Reeves, Moore, Rigg (Beere 61), Tanner, Akinfenwa. Subs not used: Phillips, McDonnell, Harrison, Fitzpatrick, Gallagher.
Goalscorer: Chorley 6 (o.g.).
Booked: Rigg 9, Moore 89, Akinfenwa 94.
Portsmouth: Jones, East, Devera, Chorley, Nosworthy (Westcarr 72), Kpekawa, Dunne (McCallum 65), Hollands (Fogden 78), Wallace, Taylor, Tubbs. Subs not used: Passley, Atangana, Cornell, Butler.
Booked: Chorley 60, Wallace 67, Westcarr 90, Kpekawa 94.