AFC Wimbledon lost their 100% home record at the hands of a resolute Weston-super-Mare. The West Country outfit took the lead after two minutes thanks to Mark McGregor getting the faintest of touches to a deep left wing cross. An own goal drew the sides level, and that 1-1 score line prevailed despite AFC Wimbledon creating numerous chances.
Terry Brown continued with his consistency in selection, making only one change, the fit again Elliott Godfrey replacing Jake Leberl in midfield. Eight games in and only thirteen different players have started for the Dons this season. This stability of a familiar eleven and the consequent faith Terry Brown has shown these players has reaped rewards thus far this season, with the new-look diamond formation on display.
Weston-super-Mare began the match looking brighter than their hosts, immediately taking the lead thanks to McGregor’s flick and some sloppy Wimbledon defending. Minutes after the goal and the Seagulls nearly doubled their lead from a corner. Not quite the start an expectant 2,934 had been hoping for. However, it was not long before Wimbledon got the ball down and began playing their passing game. Kennedy Adjei and Tom Davis in particular began spraying passes around with impressive accuracy and Jon Main and Tony Finn were linking up well and beginning to prove a nuisance to the Weston-super-Mare back four.
After good work on the left hand side by Chris Hussey and Finn, a first Wimbledon corner was forced on ten minutes. From the resulting delivery Weston-super-Mare were unable to clear their lines and a prolonged period of severe pressure began. Two further corners developed from Wimbledon camping themselves in the final third of the field. Eventually this probing paid off, and from a third corner, Godfrey’s devilish delivery proved too much for the Seagulls, as the unfortunate Charlie Comyn-Platt headed into his own net, under pressure from a team mate.
The 1-1 score was deserved at this stage of the game. However, the final half hour of the first half was played predominantly in the Weston-super-Mare final third, as AFC Wimbledon continued to ask questions of the visitors. To the visitor’s credit, the defence blocked countless goal-bound efforts and when shots did rain in on goal, notably from Luke Garrard and Sam Hatton in the first half, Ryan Northmore was up to the challenge. As the half time whistle blew, the crowd was rightly appreciative of the first half Wimbledon effort. Weston-super-Mare’s long ball tactics had been nullified by Ben Judge and the impressive Alan Inns, while the Seagulls were struggling to find a way to stop Wimbledon surging forward in countless waves of attack. Wimbledon had controlled the game if not found the openings to stamp their authority.
The second half brought with it the rain, but it was Wimbledon who began where they left off, Godfrey having a goal-bound effort blocked on the line after a particularly inventive corner routine from the Wombles. Tony Ricketts reorganised his troops at half time and Weston-super-Mare began creating chances themselves. Holegate and Brown began supporting McGregor more, allowing the Seagulls to venture forward more often, with Holegate narrowly heading over from a corner on the hour. However, with a slightly more adventurous opposition, there were spaces to exploit and on sixty-five minutes Wimbledon did just that, counter-attacking, only for Sam Hatton to stab a shot wide when it seemed easier to score. Minutes later and Godfrey took up a more advanced position, flicking on for Main who found himself one on one, yet the Blue Square South Player of the Month for August could not finish, drawing a fine save from Northmore.
With a quarter of the game remaining, frustration became more apparent both on the pitch and in the crowd, as Wimbledon’s entertaining football and constant attacks were not reflected on the score line. A couple of unsavoury tackles later and Paddock and Judge subsequently picking up bookings. With time running out and the game becoming more stop-start, Terry Brown made his last throw of the dice, sending Leberl, Dean Mason and Luke Pidgen on with minutes left. Weston-super-Mare seemed content for a point and sat back in these remaining stages as Wimbledon searched for ways to break through. After last ditch defending from one particular cross, the ball was cleared to Davis who hit a sumptuous shot against the inside of the post, which, to coin the old cliché, half the ground thought was in. Yet it was despair for the home fans as the ball cannoned back to safety. The dying stages also saw Judge head over and Finn shoot agonisingly wide. Perhaps Wimbledon had not controlled the game in the impressive manner of the first half, but undoubtedly they created a whole host of chances after the break.
Despite the result not being what all had hoped for there is a lot to take from this match. Bar an opening blip which ultimately cost the Dons, the first half was particularly impressive. Wimbledon dominated proceedings, the diamond formation allows Terry Brown’s favoured passing game to be played effectively and the players are seemingly growing in stature in this style. There is always an option available with Adjei sitting in front of the defence and Godfrey just behind the attack, this seemingly links the team well. Adjei and Davis can certainly pick a pass from the evidence today. The narrow midfield formation squeezes the opposition infield, allowing Hussey and Garrard room to surge down the flanks. The results will come if this performance is reproduced regularly at Kingsmeadow. Perhaps, as Terry Brown has indicated in interview, a John Hartson style striker is needed for when the rains come, bringing muddier pitches. One can imagine how much more trouble Main and Finn will cause feeding off flick-ons.
A tough few games are approaching against front-runners Maidenhead United and Hayes & Yeading United and perhaps Wimbledon’s shooting boots are being saved for then. Nevertheless, Wimbledon remain unbeaten, playing attractive football and setting the pace at the start of this season.