Wimbledon 0 v Torquay 2
Wimbledon’s mini-run of improved performances came to an abrupt end on Saturday (11 January) as they lost 0-2 against relegation-threatened Torquay United at Kingsmeadow.
The Dons have looked more threatening since switching to a 3-5-2 formation for recent games but that came to a grinding halt as they never got going against a Torquay side that closed down the home side all over the pitch.
Afterwards, Dons boss Neal Ardley pulled no punches as on the club’s official website he criticised his team’s ‘awful’ display.
‘I will take responsibility and I always do,’ he said. ‘It is difficult because I don’t know what I could have done differently during the game.
‘I saw players that had been outstanding all season and they looked like they couldn’t play football today. There were a number of things that left me dumbfounded. When it’s like that, it is very hard to turn it around.’
The Dons weren’t helped by the loss of midfielder Harry Pell, forced to pull out due to a stomach upset, and the suspended Jim Fenlon, meaning returns for the not-yet-fully-fit George Francomb and Callum Kennedy.
Torquay came out at a high tempo, no doubt enjoying the ‘new manager bounce’ following the appointment of Chris Hargreaves as their new boss, with Elliot Benyon and Kevin Nicholson both getting in early shots.
At the other end, Andy Frampton headed just over and Barry Fuller saw a dipping effort off target, but the Dons attack was struggling to make much inroads against a solid Torquay defence.
Torquay took the lead just before the half hour, capitalising after Will Antwi sliced an attempted clearance in his own box. Although Ross Worner did well to save Jayden Stockley’s effort, Krystian Pearce was on hand to blast home and make it 1-0 to the visitors.
Luke Moore wasted a glorious chance to put the Dons level, blazing over when well placed, but there was a sense that if anyone scored again it would be Torquay and it duly happened just before the break.
Kennedy was left trying to cover two players down the left flank which allowed Anthony O’Connor plenty of space to fire in a deep cross that Stockley headed in at the far post.
And there was still time before half-time for Damon Lathrope to fire an effort just off target as Torquay continued to press.
Two goals down at the break, Ardley responded by bringing on Chris Arthur and Kevin Sainte-Luce, switching to a 4-4-2 formation. Sainte-Luce saw plenty of the ball during the second period and his pace clearly unnerved the Torquay defence, but the Dons still struggled to get going.
Torquay came close to extending their lead, with both Aaron Downes and Lathrope heading over from crosses, and the closest that the Dons came was when Francomb’s effort was cleared off the line by Downes.
The Dons will be hoping to put this performance behind them when they visit Scunthorpe United next weekend.
Wimbledon: Worner, Fuller, Kennedy, Frampton, Bennett (Arthur 46), Antwi, S. Moore, Francomb (Morris 89), Midson, Wyke, L. Moore (Sainte-Luce 46). Subs not used: Sheringham, Brown, Jacquart, Nightingale.
Booked: S. Moore 41, Fuller 90.
Torquay: Poke, O’Connor, Nicholson, Lathrope, Pearce, Downes, Mansell, Labadie, Hawley, Stockley (Bodin 81), Benyon. Subs not used: Tonge, Cameron, Chapell, Rice, Goodwin, Craig.
Goalscorers: Pearce 29, Stockley 43.
Booked: Mansell 32, Nicholson 54, Lathrope 74.
By Rob Crane
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January 13, 2014