AFC WIMBLEDON 4
Forss 5, 11, 52 pen Delanet 72
BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT ROOTS HALL
Goals change games, and the good news for AFC Wimbledon is that Marcus Forss is very good at scoring them.
You had an idea that the striker, 20, could be a special talent just before he joined the Dons on loan. His parent club Brentford signed him on a new four-year deal before they allowed him to head out for a spell of first-team football.
And that move by the Bees is looking very shrewd indeed, because plenty of eyes will be on the Finnish U21 international after a blistering start to life in League One.
Forss walked away from Roots Hall with the matchball, signed by his Dons team-mates, after a first senior hat-trick. There will be more of them, you can be sure.
Not only has he struck seven times in as many games for Wimbledon, he is averaging a goal every 52 minutes – easily the best in the division. The next nearest is Fleetwood Town’s Paddy Madden with 97 minutes. Top-scorer Ivan Toney nets every 106 minutes.
“He might be the best finisher at the club but there are other areas where he needs to learn and improve,” was the assessment of Brentford head coach Thomas Frank when Forss headed to the Dons. “Marcus has huge potential as a goalscorer.”
Forss had four shots from inside the box on Saturday and took three of them.
You’ve got to say that Southend keeper Mark Oxley probably should have done better with the first one – only getting a slight touch with his right foot.
But Forss was in full predatory mode for his second. Oxley parried Terell Thomas’ shot after Max Sanders’ initial effort was blocked but Forss flicked home with his weaker left foot.
And then we get to the penalty for goal number three. Oxley indulged in some kidology – standing left of centre of his goal and pointing to the right. The Dons’ number 15 speared the ball into the opposite top corner. Perfect placement, unstoppable power and impeccable temperament.
Wimbledon are using lethal Forss and it is entirely legal.
The worry is that Brentford could decide to recall him in January.
The Dons experienced the downside of loans last season when Ben Purrington was recalled by Rotherham United and sent straight back out to Charlton Athletic.
As it turned out then, Birmingham City’s Steve Seddon proved a more than adept left-back option for the second half of the 2018-19 campaign.
Goalscorers like Forss are a whole lot harder to replace. And the Bees aren’t exactly blessed with goals – Ollie Watkins has netted seven times in the Championship this season but their only other league scorers are Josh Da Silva and Bryan Mbeumo, both with one.
The key for Wimbledon is to make the most of Forss while he is here.
He was replaced with 11 minutes to go, not moving as easily after a late sliding tackle by Stephen McLaughlin which earned the Southend midfielder a yellow card.
Forss wasn’t the only loanee to catch the eye with Brighton and Hove Albion’s Sanders excellent at the base of the midfield – producing some excellent long-range passing and switching play effectively.
It was his corner kick which saw Ryan Delaney, also a temporary addition from Rochdale, head in the fourth goal of the afternoon.
Wimbledon have scored 12 goals in the last four matches under interim manager Glyn Hodges and could have swelled that figure, especially in the closing stages as they did as they pleased against dispirited hosts.
The confidence of the visitors was readily apparent in their play down the final straight and there were at least a couple of occasions where they nearly finished off lengthy periods in possession with a goal.
Oxley plunged to his left to deny Joe Pigott, who has struck up a good understanding with Forss.
Pigott’s hold-up play was on point and he laid off a Sanders ball for Mitch Pinnock, who spanked a shot narrowly over the crossbar.
It was a wretched afternoon for Southend United, not aided by the fact they were hopelessly off the pace against a Dons side who started fast.
It was raining goals in the opening stages. Timothee Dieng was left unmarked to head in Nathan Ralph’s left-wing cross and halve the deficit – the first League One fixture to see three goals scored in the first 13 minutes since February.
In a battle of the caretaker bosses, the Shrimpers’ Gary Waddock must have felt his troops were back in the contest by the break as they finished the half strongly.
But the fight drained out of them completely after referee Simon Hooper ruled that Delaney had been fouled while looking to attack a Wimbledon corner and Forss completed his hat-trick.
Another byproduct of the Dons’ recent scoring blitz is massaging their goal difference, now minus six and considerably better than fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers and Southend.
Back-to-back League One wins lifted Wimbledon out of the relegation zone on Saturday evening, only for Tranmere Rovers’ 1-0 success at Coventry City a day later to drop them back into it.
There are definitely signs that Wimbledon can be upwardly mobile – especially with the deadly Forss in their ranks – but Saturday’s home match against Portsmouth will be a further indicator of their progression.
AFC Wimbledon (3-5-2): Trott 7, Thomas 7, Delaney 7, Kalambayi 7, Wagstaff 8, Sanders 8, Wordsworth 7 (Hartigan 82), Pinnock 8 (McLoughlin 90+1), Osew 8, Forss 9 (Appiah 79), Pigott 8. Not used: Tzanev, Stabana, Guinness-Walker, Reilly.
PICTURES BY KEITH GILLARD