The Dons dominated a second half against a depleted Bradford team to run out comfortable 3-1 winners and take an important step toward League 2 security. Despite scoring all four goals, however, they were still unable to deliver a clean sheet in a home game for the first time this season.
Terry Brown kept a 4-4-2 formation but rang the changes in personnel again, despite Saturday’s win against Dagenham & Redbridge. Christian Jolley dropped down to the bench and Byron Harrison was sidelined. George Moncur came in for Jolley and Jason Euell came in alongside Jack Midson as Brown searched for another goal scorer to take the weight off Jack Midson. Meanwhile, Mat Mitchel-King had recovered from his eye injury to resume at the back in an unchanged back five.
The first half was an eventful affair with three bookings, including a sending off, a penalty and an own goal. The Dons started brightly with man-of-the-match Billy Knott prominent as he worked the ball forward at pace, but chances were proving hard to create. After a good opening 15 minutes, it was Bradford who nearly took the lead when, after a corner had been half-cleared, a strong shot from the edge of the box was hoofed off the line by Sam Hatton. And it was Hatton a few minutes later who cleared his lines with a header when Seb Brown looked beaten.
Apart from a Jason Euell shot on the turn, hit straight at the ‘keeper, the Dons didn’t look like scoring until, from a set piece Rob Kozluk, the Bradford right back, climbed all over Knott and conceded a penalty. Up stepped Jack Midson to take it – the ‘keeper got a strong hand to it but it was hit hard enough to go through him and into the net.
Could the Dons keep a clean sheet? Well they hadn’t done so at home in the League before today and they didn’t in this game. A fine right wing cross eluded everyone, including an onrushing Bradford forward, but Pim Balkestein was racing back and couldn’t avoid the ball, turning it gently into his own net.
And so to the sending off. Throughout the first half, Bradford had been robust in their challenges and Fagan had already been cautioned when, trying a trick to beat his man, he inadvertently kicked the ball into touch. In an apparent fit of pique as the crowd mocked him, he went on to kick it into the crowd. Out came a second yellow card and off went Fagan.
Half time came with the scores level. The second half wasn’t quite as dramatic as the first and possibly the most noteworthy event was the Dons keeping a clean sheet for a full 45 minutes. After dominating the early play, Wimbledon took the lead again when, following a delightful little flick from Euell, Hatton managed to reach the ball on the bye line and lift it towards the far post where three Dons forward were advancing. Fittingly, given his overall performance, it was Knott who got to the ball first and headed it powerfully into the top of the net.
With the Dons giving a textbook display of how to spread the play and tire a ten-man team, only Kyle Reid showed any threat down the left hand side, but Hatton generally dealt with him well. The game was settled when a second crass challenge in the penalty area saw Euell win his side a penalty. Up stepped Jack Midson and he sent the ball into the opposite side of the goal from his first effort, while the ‘keeper went the same way as before.
After this it was just a case of the Dons continuing to threaten while a disheartened Bradford tried hard to get into the game – to no effect. A rejuvenated Dons team has now gained six points from the last two games and can look back on this game with a quiet satisfaction.
And so to Bristol Rovers on Saturday.