AFC Wimbledon 2 v Southend 0
Much-maligned midfielder Liam Trotter set AFC Wimbledon on their way to a vital three points as a tactical switch by manager Neal Ardley saw the Dons thwart Southend United and clinch a 2-0 victory on New Year’s Day.
A string of unimpressive displays had seen Trotter become the target of supporters’ ire following his arrival from Bolton Wanderers this summer, but the midfielder found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper midway through the first half and scuffed home his shot to put the Dons deservedly ahead.
And afterwards Ardley was quick to defend his signing, telling the club’s iFollow Dons channel: ‘Liam Trotter was brilliant with the goal, in the build-up, and the way he got in there and finished it. I thought he was one of our best players at Gillingham [two days previously] and he was excellent again today.
‘He is driving the team forward, he is taking a lot of responsibility, and I’m delighted with him as a signing.’
Southend United’s away record this season has been poor and Wimbledon were able to capitalise on that after switching back to a 4-3-3 formation, despite resting several players.
The Dons’ first significant chance came quarter of an hour in. Lyle Taylor’s corner was only partially cleared and fell to Egli Kaja. His shot through a crowded penalty area was blocked as it threatened to sneak inside the post, with the rebound being smashed narrowly off target by the rapidly improving Jimmy Abdou.
And soon afterwards the Dons went even closer when Tom Soares picked the pocket of a Southend player on the halfway line, surged forward and slid the ball through to Taylor, whose fierce shot was turned narrowly over by Southend keeper Mark Oxley.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic, as Dru Yearwood’s long-range cross-cum-shot forced George Long into a full-length dive to palm the ball behind and preserve parity, but soon afterwards the Dons took the lead. Callum Kennedy’s deep cross to the far post was headed down by Taylor and, with the Southend defence having gone to sleep, Trotter was left unmarked and with only Oxley to beat from close range. His contact was far from perfect but the ball bobbled into the net to give Wimbledon the lead.
And soon after the break the Dons doubled their advantage, with Soares also getting onto the scoresheet in Wimbledon colours for the first time. This time a Taylor free-kick from near the corner flag was headed back into the danger zone by Deji Oshilaja and Soares produced a backwards flick of the head to send the ball over the line before it was cleared by a Southend defender.
Although Wimbledon then eased off slightly, with one Taylor effort narrowly off target one of their few remaining attempts on goal, Southend failed to capitalise on their increased possession, and in the end it was a comparatively comfortable win for the Dons.
The win lifts the Dons to within a point of League One safety, with a game in hand on their relegation rivals. Before continuing their survival bid they face a trip to Wembley to play Tottenham in the FA Cup third round (Sunday 7 January), before a potentially significant league trip to Milton Keynes on Saturday 13 January that could help pull the Buckinghamshire club into the relegation mire.
Wimbledon: Long, Francomb, Oshilaja, Nightingale, Kennedy, Abdou, Trotter, Soares, Kaja, Taylor (McDonald 88), Forrester (Barcham 79). Subs not used: Robinson, McDonnell, Hartigan, Egan, Charles.
Goalscorers: Trotter 27, Soares 48.
Southend: Oxley, Demetriou, Kyprianou, White, Coker, Yearwood (McGlashan 64), Leonard, Wordsworth, Kightly (McLaughlin 56), Cox, Fortuné (Ranger 56). Subs not used: Ba, Bishop, Bwomono, Phillips.
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January 5, 2018