BY MAX HALL
The EFL Trophy probably isn’t too prominent on Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley’s list of priorities, but he will be grateful for a first win in eight matches as his young Dons brushed aside Stevenage’s reserves at a largely empty Cherry Red Records Stadium, to book a place in the knockout stages.
The Dons had the perfect start inside 20 seconds, as Kwesi Appiah was sent scampering to the edge of the area behind the visitors’ defence to send a perfect lob sailing over onrushing Stevenage keeper Paul Farman for a peach of a goal.
Stevenage responded by raiding down both flanks but Anthony Wordsworth made it 2-0 in the 29th minute. Appiah won a free-kick 25 yards out from Ronnie Henry as he chased Tom King’s mammoth goal-kick, and although Wordsworth seemed to have wasted the chance by blasting into the wall left-footed, it rebounded back to him on his right and he had another go, firing through a ruck of players with Farman seeing it too late.
Wimbledon boss Ardley will have been less than impressed as an all-too-familiar carelessness crept into his callow side’s play towards the end of the first half, but the Dons made the break intact.
Wordsworth drew a block from Farman seven minutes into the second period after the Stevenage keeper pushed a shot up into the air, and Jake Jervis hit a piledriver into the keeper’s midriff not long after, with the visitors somehow surviving despite calamitous defending at the subsequent two corners.
There was an inevitability about the third goal, which came in the 68th minute as a short corner from the left was chipped to Tyler Garratt and, when his initial effort was blocked, he sent a looping header back into the box which sailed over Farman, distracted by a lurking blue shirt, and dropped into the right-hand side of the net.
Alfie Egan buried a lovely fourth goal 11 minutes from time – given time and space on the edge of the area, he curled a perfect finish around a diving Farman, left-footed.
AFC Wimbledon [4-1-4-1]: King, Watson, Kalambayi, Thomas (Oshilaja, 69), Garratt, Trotter, Burey, Egan, Wordsworth (Hartigan, 69), Jervis, Appiah (Pigott, 75). Subs not used: McDonnell, Wagstaff, Pinnock, Sibbick.
Stevenage [4-2-3-1]: Farman, Vancooten, Henry, Wilkinson, Hunt, Timlin (Iontton, 64), Ball, Sonupe, Kennedy, Seddon (Revell, 53), Newton (Guthrie, 64). Subs not used: Dieng, Wildin, Cuthbert, Ferry.
IMAGE BY PAUL EDWARDS