Coincidence is often credited with playing a far greater role in the results of football matches than it perhaps deserves to be. It’s doubtful that Terry Brown gives much credence to it, yet on four occasions this season the Dons have come up against physical sides at Kingsmeadow, and four times the visitors have gone home with the spoils.
Oxford United, Kidderminster Harriers, Kettering Town and now York City have all beaten AFC Wimbledon by a solitary goal. But it’s not just the narrow scorelines that link the defeats. York City were the latest in a seemingly lengthening procession of teams that come to South London with a gameplan and ruthlessly stick to it. More worryingly for Brown is that in the string of three consecutive defeats, the Dons have rarely looked like getting anything from any of them.
A largely forgettable first half, devoid of more than a handful of chances for either side, was more notable for its glut of five bookings in 12 minutes. York seemed destined to lose their discipline and to be obsessed with goading Dons players, Paul Lorraine in particular, into reacting.
First, Michael Rankine was extremely lucky to escape with nothing more than a telling-off for clattering into Lorraine, but his bone-jarring, mid-air challenge suddenly set an ugly precedent. Full-back James Meredith was first into the referee’s book when he needlessly kicked the ball away after being penalised for an equally needless foul. Then BSP top scorer Richard Brodie was yellow-carded for deliberately running into Lorraine and then collapsing on the ground as if he’d been hit with a plank.
A few minutes later, after Brett Johnson had wasted the Dons’ best opportunity when he cut in from the left but saw his right-footed shot bend wide of the far post, Rankine was finally booked. He hauled Lorraine to the ground, but before the referee could brandish the card, City skipper Parslow made his feelings all too obvious, and he went into the book as well. Lorraine then got his yellow, for dissent, shortly afterwards -- referee Hopkins was certainly a lot busier than either keeper. York’s best moment of the half came when Brodie’s cross was headed over by the well-placed Rankine.
York emerged into the driving rain after the interval metaphorically clutching Plan B. Wimbledon had been largely untroubled by Plan A, but its successor proved to be a trickier document to decipher. Judging by how Neil Barrett and Alex Lawless set about winning every loose ball and looking for Brodie and Rankine at every opportunity, Plan B presumably must have read: “Play football”.
City forced a succession of corners as the Dons struggled to keep pace with the changing game, and only a brilliant one-handed save by Seb Brown prevented Brodie from heading in his 18th of the season. But a goal seemed imminent for Martin Foyle’s Minstermen, and on 65 minutes it came. Sam Hatton, who had been having one of his best games in an AFC Wimbledon shirt, tried to run a loose ball out of the penalty area after a corner but lost possession 30 yards from goal. Chris Carruthers whipped a first-time cross into the crowded penalty area, and Rankine reacted first and planted a superb diving header past Brown from 12 yards.
Brodie nearly made it 2-0 soon after, but Brown’s one-handed stop from point-blank range was nothing short of miraculous. Sadly the Dons were unable to capitalise on this escape, and despite the best efforts of the tireless Danny Kedwell and rejuventated Jon Main, Michael Ingham in the York goal was rarely called upon to do anything more onerous than take goal kicks or thump away back-passes.
Main did at least create one good chance when he broke away down the left, waited for Hatton and Lewis Taylor to break into the penalty area, and threaded the ball into the six-yard box, but David McGurk’s interception was well timed, and the home side’s hopes for an equaliser were, to all intents and purposes, over.
In 96 minutes of action Wimbledon created not a single clear-cut chance. The team are clearly missing Chris Hussey’s attacking prowess more than they thought they would. As Terry Brown continues his search for a new left-back, the Dons continue their search for some home form that at least mirrors their away form. Two wins from the first nine home games is mid-table form at best, if that turns into two from ten on Tuesday night, Brown has some more thinking to do.