AFC Wimbledon followed up their five-star show at Mansfield by ending Wrexham’s unbeaten home record and in the process going some way towards erasing memories of last year’s controversial defeat. Substitute Rashid Yussuff’s goal five minutes before time completed a remarkable second-half fightback by the Dons, who had looked totally out of sorts in the first period.
Wrexham were well organised on the day, snuffing out both Ryan Jackson and Christian Jolley with double defending, and pushing their front players wide to prevent Chris Bush and Sam Hatton from advancing up the pitch in attacking forays. This enabled the home side to take the game to the Dons and pin them back. As a result, Wimbledon were lucky to be just one goal down at the break, as Wrexham’s attacking trio of Andy Mangan, Gareth Taylor and Andy Morrell harried the visitors’ back four.
However, for all their attacking, the Welsh side wasted a number of good opportunities in the opening 20 minutes. Taylor was twice guilty of shooting wide when well placed, and Morrell was unlucky to see his acrobatic volley from ten yards clip the bar.
But Wrexham eventually found the net, just before the half-hour mark. A lovely passing move was finished off by Mangan, who controlled Taylor’s knock-down to hammer the ball into the top corner from 12 yards. Things took a turn for the worse for the Dons when the industrious Sammy Moore was forced off with an injury, to be replaced by Luke Moore.
Wimbledon offered little in response. They went into the interval having failed to register a single shot on target, and in the never-ending Wrexham attacks both Sam Hatton and Steven Gregory had received bookings as they struggled to stem the tide. A fair reflection would have been a 3-0 scoreline in favour of the home side – but when has football been fair?
Incredibly, Wimbledon were level within two minutes of the restart following a rousing half-time talk from manager Terry Brown. Danny Kedwell – who led by example with a display of tireless running – picked out Ryan Jackson on the right. His cross was perfect, finding Christian Jolley ten yards out, and the former Kingstonian man caught the ball with a sweet volley into the bottom corner of the net. The strike registered Jolley’s name on the score-sheet for the fourth game on the trot, taking him to seven for the season.
However, the goal strangely failed to spur the Dons on. Wrexham wrested back the initiative straight away, only to fall foul of more poor finishing – Taylor and Morrell were both guilty of missing the target when well placed. The home fans were now becoming very impatient. Dons goalkeeper Seb Brown was called into action by Mangan 20 minutes from time, making a fine block when the striker found himself in space eight yards from the goal.
The save seemed to deflate the hosts, who created little for the remainder of the game as the Dons started to push forward themselves, creating numerous chances. However, despite the threat posed by sub Luke Moore, whose direct running was unsettling Wrexham’s centre-halves, Wimbledon did not look like scoring either. But with the clock running down, a good run by Sam Hatton led to the Dons stealing all three points.
The right-back linked with Jackson on the right, and he picked out Kedwell in the box with a fine cross. The Dons’ top scorer cushioned his header into the path of Rashid Yussuff, who side-footed home from ten yards having joined the action just three minutes earlier, in place of Ricky Wellard. And it could have got even better when Luke Moore found himself with just the keeper to beat in the final minute of the game – but sliced his shot wide of the post.
A word of praise for the referee, Mr McLaughlin. Those who went to Eastbourne in August will remember the advantage he played when Seb Brown was fouled as he cleared the ball upfield, resulting in Danny Kedwell scoring the winning goal. The official did the same on Saturday, when Hatton started the move that saw Yussuff secure the points, playing a great advantage to ensure that the move was completed in the most welcome of ways.
Manager Terry Brown admitted afterwards that his team were second-best, but they did provide him with something he had been wanting to see: a Dons side winning despite not having played well. If that is the sign of a good team, then league leaders Crawley should be worried. The Sussex side’s draw at Barrow meant that the Dons – who now boasted the best goal difference in the Blue Square Bet Premier – were just one point behind them. With a third of the season now completed, AFC Wimbledon are looking like genuine title contenders.