AFC WIMBLEDON 0
Evans 19, 30 Hunter 83
BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT THE CHERRY RED RECORDS STADIUM
The Ski Sunday theme music greeted the two sets of players as they headed out onto the snow-dusted Cherry Red Records Stadium – and things only really went downhill from there for AFC Wimbledon.
At times it felt like the Dons would have had more chance of climbing Mount Everest in flip-flops than scoring a goal. This was a desperately poor display and even the usually patient home crowd voiced their disapproval.
Probably the most damning appraisal is that Wimbledon looked every inch a side who are rock-bottom of League One. That hasn’t been the case since Wally Downes came in to replace Neal Ardley and reinvigorated the mood.
“It’s the first time I’ve had a sub-standard performance from them and I hope it’s just a blip,” said Downes.
The home side were painfully short of confidence, with their offensive players failing to make any impression. Joe Pigott’s curler straight at Alex Cairns was their only effort on target. That lack of incision made it feel like game over when Fleetwood moved 2-0 in front on the half-hour mark.
All three goals saw Cod Army attackers react quicker to loose balls. Ched Evans was on hand to rifle home when Ross Wallace’s excellent strike came back off the right post and across the face of goal. And when Aaron Ramsdale turned away a Paddy Madden drive, it was the former Manchester City and Sheffield United striker who was waiting to put the ball home.
Substitute Ashley Hunter headed home when Ramsdale was unable to hold another Evans attempt with seven minutes to go. But the on-loan AFC Bournemouth stopper did keep out Ashley Nadesan as well as deny Evans a hat-trick. The margin of defeat could have been even heavier and that’s without it feeling like Fleetwood even moved out of second or third gear.
The bad news did not end there. Plymouth Argyle’s 2-1 win over Walsall on Tuesday night saw the gap to safety increase to eight points with just 17 matches to go.
It’s tough on Downes. The nature of the loans for the likes of Jake Jervis and Tyler Garratt do not have break clauses which would allow him to free up funds for signings of his own – and Ardley’s summer additions have struggled to make impressions.
There wasn’t a whole load of experience in his midweek line-up and you could certainly say that nobody stepped to the fore in adversity.
Many more displays like this, and the planning can firmly begin for regrouping and rebuilding in League Two.
AFC Wimbledon (4-5-1): Ramsdale 5, Watson 5, Kalambayi 5, Thomas 5, Oshilaja 5, Nightingale 5, Hartigan 5, Pinnock 4, Jervis 4 (Connolly 58, 5), Barcham 5 (Wordsworth 58, 5), Pigott 4 (Wood 84).