Wimbledon 3 v Rochdale 1
Three goals in five second-half minutes propelled Wimbledon to victory against Rochdale on Tuesday 28 March, with mercurial winger Andy Barcham involved in all three Dons goals.
Rochdale’s young side showed the neat passing that has become their trademark but they also showed a tendency towards ill-discipline, with Barcham often the target of their overenthusiasm.
But their hopes were dashed as quickfire Wimbledon built up their advantage early in the second half.
First Barcham won a 53rd-minute corner that was delivered by Dean Parrett and headed home by Sean Kelly.
Two minutes later Barcham challenged to win possession on the edge of the box and the ball fell via Tom Elliott to Lyle Taylor, who converted clinically.
And then in the 58th minute Barcham was sent tumbling in the box for a penalty that was converted by Parrett.
Although the visitors briefly threatened a comeback when Callum Camps fired home from long range, a shot that took a wicked bounce immediately in front of James Shea, the Dons were comfortable against a side that played the entire second period with 10 men after Keith Keane was dismissed just before the break.
Boss Neal Ardley said in a DonsPlayer interview: ‘We tried to play too gung-ho in the first half. We tried to press high at times and we got caught out as we had big spaces between our midfield and our full-backs.
‘In the first 15–20 minutes of the second half the players did exactly what we asked of them. We did not want them to mess around or over-play. We wanted them to go at Rochdale, try and score some goals, and that’s what they did.’
The visitors started the match on the attack, with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing causing problems down the left, with one low cross in particular that whizzed across the face of goal but evaded everyone.
’Dale captain Ian Henderson also went close as he produced a shot that flashed narrowly wide.
But the match was evenly contested throughout, with both sides producing an equal mix of good and wayward passing as they often left each other space.
James Shea did well midway through the first period, darting from his line when Mendez-Laing broke clear and being enough of a presence to induce the Rochdale man into an early lobbed effort that went narrowly wide.
Seconds later Shea was left helpless as Henderson produced a firecracker of a shot that rebounded off the post with the keeper beaten.
But it wasn’t all one-way traffic as the Dons fashioned chances for Parrett and Elliott.
And the visitors seemed fortune to survive with a full complement of players when just before the half hour Elliott broke clear and was hauled down by defender Jimmy McNulty; however, referee Brett Huxtable deemed it worthy of only a caution.
But that booking was indicative of a period immediately before the break when Rochdale lost their composure and endured a flurry of bookings which ultimately led to a red card for Keith Keane.
Keane had already been booked and, shortly after Elliott prompted a smart save by Rochdale keeper Conrad Logan, Keane swung a leg at a rapidly advancing Darius Charles to earn his second booking of the night and an early bath.
The Dons came out from the interval determined to take advantage and, after a sequence of successive corners, finally made the breakthrough with those three rapid strikes. Their swagger was epitomised when Parrett and Taylor indulged in an impromptu game of rock–paper–scissors to decide who would take the penalty that resulted in the third.
A tripe substitution for the Dons on the hour did see them lose momentum, with one of the substitutes, Tyrone Barnett, only able to make a brief impression before seemingly twisting his ankle but being obliged to stay on the pitch.
It was soon after that that Camps got Rochdale’s goal and for a while there were nerves around Kingsmeadow as the visitors got their tail up and Wimbledon rocked.
And although the impressive Jamie Allen had a chance for the visitors that he fired wide, it was the Dons who came closest to scoring again when Logan produced a double save to deny Jake Reeves and then Barnett.
Wimbledon: Shea, Francomb, Charles, Robinson, Kelly, Parrett, Reeves, Soares, Taylor (Fitzpatrick 61), Elliott (Barnett 61), Barcham (Poleon 61). Subs not used: Meades, Bulman, Nightingale, McDonnell.
Goalscorers: Kelly 53, Taylor 55, Parrett 58 (pen).
Rochdale: Logan, McGahey, Keane, Bunney (Cannon 61), McNulty, Allen, Lund (Rafferty 59), Camps, Andrew, Henderson, Mendez-Laing (Rathbone 66). Subs not used: Vincenti, McDermott, Wilson, Davies.
Goalscorer: Camps 65.
Booked: Keane 24, 45, McNulty 27, Lund 44, Henderson 45.
Sent off: Keane 45.
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March 29, 2017