Burton Albion 3
Quinn 34 Templeton 54 Boyce 60
AFC Wimbledon 0
By Dave Hunt-Jackson at The Pirelli Stadium
AFC Wimbledon’s good early season away form deserted them as they were beaten at Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium on Saturday.
While Burton reacted well to their midweek exertions – which saw them knock Aston Villa out of the EFL Cup – the Dons looked lacklustre and tired against their workmanlike but limited hosts and lacked any composure in either penalty area.
Despite this the Brewers look nothing like the quality of the other two relegated sides the Dons have faced this season and were very much flattered by the scoreline, if not the result.
Despite the South Londoners making six changes from their EFL Cup tie they all looked as if they had played the full 90 minutes against West Ham – especially in a first half where they were second to every ball.
After Burton’s Stephen Quinn capitalised on slow defending to open the scoring there was a brief flurry of industry that saw Kwesi Appiah hit the bar then head over when he should have scored but, that aside, Wimbledon produced nothing before the break.
They did look brighter in the second half with Joe Pigott having a shot deflected over and then heading into the ground and over when it looked impossible to miss.
But after Liam Boyce was allowed to shove Will Nightingale off the ball before setting up Burton’s second there was no way back.
Yes, this was yet another embarrassing display by League One officials simply not fit for purpose getting just about every key decision wrong – but Burton would have won without their help as AFC Wimbledon effectively beat themselves.
In a season that has already seen Wimbledon on the wrong end of any number of undeserved results, they have rightly earned plaudits for both their style of play and their commitment. Not this time though, as this fourth successive league defeat had shades of last season about it. There was a lethargy about the visitors that allowed a very ordinary Burton side to look far better than they should have.
Perhaps they have been missing the much-improved Tom Soares, who was absent for all four losses and who seems to bring a solidity missing when he is unavailable.
Perhaps Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley, who would have hoped for a better 46th birthday present, is paying the price for over-rotating his new squad with more than half the team changed from four days earlier.
Two things are clear. AFC Wimbledon are a lot less effective without the width and service Mitch Pinnock.
And Liam Trotter and Anthony Wordsworth have yet to develop a partnership that works in the heart of midfield. Both Soares and young Anthony Hartigan have looked much more effective partnering the Dons’ vice captain.
You have to assume that the goals will come for Appiah, James Hanson – who again looked a class act when he came on with the game lost – and for new loan signing Jake Jervis, whose cameo from the bench offered much encouragement and a rare shot at goal.
If Ardley has used this period of congested fixtures to work out his best side, then now is the time to stick to it.
A weakened side is the least the EFL-ruined Checkatrade Trophy warrants tonight but the Dons must find their form and stop the rot when they visit Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium on Saturday or they will find themselves once again in the League One drop zone.
AFC Wimbledon: King 6 Watson 7 (Pinnock 73) Purrington 7, Oshilaja 6, Nightingale 6, Wagstaff 7 (Hanson 61, 7), Trotter 7, Wordsworth 6, Barcham 6, Appiah 6 (Jervis 61, 7), Pigott 6. Not used: McDonnell,Thomas, Sibbick, Hartigan.