Wimbledon 2 v Stevenage 3
A tactical switch by manager Neal Ardley helped nudge Wimbledon to defeat on Saturday (30 August) as they lost 2-3 at home to Stevenage in a league encounter.
Just ten minutes into the second half, and with the score at 1-1, the Dons boss switched from 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 formation and immediately the Dons retreated into their shells.
The theory of the formation allowing the Dons to get men forward to support the attack was undone as they lost both attacking momentum and defensive solidity down the flanks, allowing Stevenage to capitalise.
Afterwards, a rueful Ardley told the club’s official website: ‘Maybe I did not show enough patience at the start of the second half because I tried to push more players into forward areas. I take my share of responsibility.’
The Dons were hampered even before kick-off as George Francomb’s toe injury flared up, forcing him to drop out of contention and Kevin Sainte-Luce to step up for his first start of the season.
And the Dons almost took an early lead when Callum Kennedy’s cross picked out Adebayo Akinfenwa, but the big forward’s header bounced off the woodwork despite beating Sam Beasant (son of Wimbledon legend Dave) in the Stevenage goal.
Although James Shea had to be alert to smother a Cameron Lancaster header, the Dons continued to create openings of their own, although Matt Tubbs uncharacteristically spurned one opportunity when he set up by Akinfenwa’s flick, screwing his poked effort just the wrong side of the upright.
But the Dons finally made the breakthrough when Sainte-Luce burst down the right and crossed to Tubbs who this time converted clinically from close range to put the home side 1-0 ahead.
However, the visitors were level before the break, having won a slightly fortuitous free-kick just outside the Wimbledon box. Shea did well to get across and turn Simon Walton’s effort onto the bar, but Dean Wells reacted quickest to get up high and head home the rebound to make it 1-1 at half-time.
Ten minutes into the second period Ardley made the switch, withdrawing Sainte-Luce and bringing on Mark Phillips. Just minutes later Stevenage were able to capitalise on the extra space they were given down the flanks, although there was a huge degree of luck as Lancaster’s cross angled directly over Shea and into the far top corner of the goal to put the visitors 2-1 ahead.
And it was another cross from the flanks that saw Stevenage go 3-1 ahead, Charlie Lee heading home emphatically from Jerome Okimo’s delivery.
Sammy Moore blasted over as the Dons attempted to salvage something from the afternoon, and Tubbs also saw an effort saved by Beasant, before substitute Adebayo Azeez was in the right place to bundle home a consolation after Adam Barrett’s header was saved.
There was still time for Dannie Bulman to see an effort straight into Beasant’s hands, but ultimately the Dons’ second-half performance was their undoing as they got what they deserved from the fixture.
They’ll be hoping for better luck next Saturday (6 September) when they make the long trip to Carlisle United.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Kennedy (Azeez 71), Bulman, Bennett, Barrett, Sainte-Luce (Phillips 56), Moore, Tubbs, Akinfenwa, Rigg. Subs not used: Pell, Nicholson, Beere, McDonnell, Harrison.
Goalscorers: Tubbs 34, Azeez 90.
Booked: Bulman 42, Barrett 68.
Stevenage: Beasant, Henry, Okimo, Walton, Bond, Wells, Whelpdale, Lee (Deacon 79), Lancaster (Calcutt 69), Charles, Pett (Marriott 81). Subs not used: Ashton, Zola, Day.
Goalscorers: Wells 42, Lancaster 59, Lee 74.
Booked: Pett 65, Walton