Wimbledon 1 v Walsall 0
Both goalkeepers were in top form as Wimbledon earned a valuable 1-0 win against Walsall at Kingsmeadow on Saturday (25 February).
James Shea and his counterpart Neil Etheridge both produced a number of excellent saves to frustrate their opposition’s forwards as the Dons chalked up their first win in eight matches in all competitions.
With Dannie Bulman doing an excellent man-marking job on diminutive Walsall dangerman Erhun Oztumer, this was a win that Wimbledon on balance just about deserved.
Manager Neal Ardley told DonsPlayer afterwards: ‘We feel we have got the mojo back into the squad.
‘When you go six matches without a win [in the league], you lose that feeling. Today, they have got that feeling back.’
Walsall started brightly, befitting their run of one defeat in eight matches, with Shea into early action to turn away a Jason McCarthy shot. But it wasn’t all one-way traffic, with Andy Barcham in particular causing the Walsall defence problems.
While Dons left-back Sean Kelly had a shot deflected wide, it was Walsall who had perhaps the best chance when Simeon Jackson was fed by Isaiah Osbourne but his lofted effort over the advancing Shea was also over the bar.
It was in the second period that the Dons started to become more threatening as they upped the tempo to cause Walsall problems.
Etheridge was forced into the first of his spectacular saves shortly after the interval when Bulman pounced on a half-cleared cross and shot from distance, Etheridge showing extremely strong hands to somehow turn the ball behind from almost on the line.
The Dons finally made the breakthrough in the 69th minute when Shea’s long kick was flicked on by Tom Elliott and then Barcham and fell to Lyle Taylor. The striker swung and missed with his first effort but the momentum of his flailing leg was enough to pirouette him around and bamboozle his marker, making his second attempt more productive.
Minutes later Etheridge was again denying the Dons a seemingly certain goal as George Francomb’s corner was met by the head of Elliott and seemed destined for the net before Etheridge intervened.
And Elliott should have done better when he was on the end of a surging Francomb run and cross, but the marksman was perhaps too deliberate with his effort and thundered it against the advertising hoardings behind the goal.
The closing moments were backs-to-the-wall for the Dons as in the space of a few injury-time moments James O’Connor’s deflected effort prompted a seemingly jet-propelled Shea to fly across his goal and claw it from underneath the bar, while in the follow-up Scott Laird unleashed a technically perfect volley from outside the box that had Shea beaten but cannoned against the crossbar.
There was still time for Elliott to spurn a chance to put the icing on the cake as he forced another Etheridge stop, but the Dons were overall deserving their victory.
‘It’s an important win,’ Ardley reflected. ‘We played really well at Shrewsbury and we thought we deserved to win. Then we drew at Gillingham and maybe we deserved more from that game, too. Today, with the week we have ahead of us [with away trips to Scunthorpe and Bolton], the result was important.’
Wimbledon: Shea, Francomb, Charles, Robinson, Kelly, Reeves, Bulman, Soares, Barcham, Elliott, Taylor (Poleon 83). Subs not used: Nightingale, Parrett, Fitzpatrick, Barnett, McDonnell, Owens.
Goalscorer: Taylor 68.
Booked: Reeves 64.
Walsall: Etheridge, O’Connell, O’Connor, Preston (Bakayoko 73), McCarthy, Osbourne, Chambers, Morris, Edwards (Laird 86), Oztumer, Jackson. Subs not used: Dobson, MacGillivray, Randall-Hurren, Roberts, Moussa.
Booked: Osbourne 76.
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February 26, 2017