AFC Wimbledon 1 v Walsall 2
AFC Wimbledon are firmly back in the relegation mire after losing 1-2 at home to Walsall on Saturday (25 November), but Lyle Taylor’s goal was at least good enough to ease some of the more immediate pressure on under-fire manager Neal Ardley.
With the team 0-2 down and putting in a tepid performance, supporters’ discontent was threatening to boil over into outright hostility. But that’s when Taylor capitalised on a good move down the left to pull a goal back – and suddenly much of the pressure was released as the Dons went on to dominate the next half hour of play.
Although they failed to get the additional goal that their play from that moment onwards deserved, the change was still sufficient to curtail any immediate chants for Ardley’s head, despite his second-half substitutions taking the wind out of the Dons’ sails.
Ardley told the club’s iFollow Dons channel afterwards: ‘I’m really disappointed with the way we started the game. The team talk and everything we worked on yesterday was about going hard and seeing what we had left in the last 20 minutes, but it took us half an hour to wake up.
‘Today was about making a fast start, going hard, and seeing what we've got left in the tail end. We did not do that. I am disappointed, but even through that and finding ourselves 2-0 down, we could have won the game 4-2, but we did not take our chances.’
It wasn’t just the Dons who started the match slowly as Walsall were equally lethargic. But the visitors took the lead after 15 minutes when George Long skewed his clearance from a Darius Charles back-pass straight to Erhun Oztumer. The diminutive playmaker didn’t need a second invitation, unleashing the ball from midway into the Wimbledon half, a spectacular long-range shot that Long got his palms to but couldn’t keep out.
Still Wimbledon failed to spark into life and still Walsall mimicked that approach, so it was a surprise when suddenly Walsall went two goals ahead. Zeli Ismail got the better of Jon Meades down the Dons’ left and delivered a low cross that Amadou Bakayoko bundled home at the near post.
Finally, Wimbledon were prompted into life, and with their first attack of note they pulled a goal back. Andy Barcham – one of the few players to get through the early slumber with credit – delivered a cross that Cody McDonald pulled back for Taylor, who had the simple task of converting from the edge of the goal area.
Suddenly Wimbledon were dominant, although as per usual most of their attempts on goal failed to trouble goalkeeper Liam Roberts. The closest they came in the remainder of the first period was when McDonald got a head to another Barcham cross but Roberts was able to clasp on.
The pressure continued in the second period as a blocked Darius Charles shot caused a scramble, Liam Trotter headed wide, and Barry Fuller came in strong at the far post but fired over as he lunged to make contact.
But with half an hour remaining the Dons made a double substitution – George Francomb and Tom Soares coming on to replace the tired pair of Charles and Harry Forrester – and suddenly all the impetus was lost. The slumber returned but the anger from the fans never quite regained its earlier potency.
Wimbledon will need to be more awake when they entertain Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup second round on Sunday 3 December. Then it’s what already looks like a relegation six-pointer when they travel to Bury the following Saturday.
Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Oshilaja, Charles (Soares 75), Meades, Forrester (Francomb 74), Trotter, Hartigan, McDonald, Taylor, Barcham (Kaja 86). Subs not used: Nightingale, Robinson, Abdou, McDonnell.
Goalscorer: Taylor 36.
Booked: Forrester 38.
Walsall: L. Roberts, Kinsella, K. Roberts, Guthrie, Leahy, Ismail (Devlin 83), Chambers, Morris, Bakayoko (Flanagan 61), Oztumer, T. Roberts (Agyei 76). Subs not used: Gillespie, Jackson, Donnellan, Kouhyar.
Goalscorers: Oztumer 15, Bakayoko 31.
Booked: Agyei 81.
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November 27, 2017