AFC Wimbledon’s resurgence in 2018 continues
AFC WIMBLEDON 4
Abdou 14 Barcham 59 McDonald 65, 80
BY DAVE HUNT-JACKSON AT VALLEY PARADE
AFC Wimbledon stunned play-off hopefuls Bradford with arguably their best performance of the season. A combination of clinical finishing, outstanding defending and brave refereeing saw the Dons run out 4-0 winners at a ground that has seen many a heavy defeat for them over the years.
It was a fourth clean sheet in a row for the South Londoners and means they remain unbeaten in the league in 2018. More importantly it was another polished performance to go with not only their recent league displays but also the Wembley showing against Tottenham in the FA Cup.
Wimbledon’s 2017 was inconsistent and often saw poor performances with them frequently struggling to find the net or even look like scoring, especially on their travels. Nothing typified that more than an abject showing at the same venue in April.
It’s very early, but 2018 has been a year of high tempo performances with the Dons creating chances and by-and-large taking them. This consistency was reflected in Neal Ardley’s selection of the same starting 11 that had beaten Blackpool a week earlier.
In truth, they never really looked like missing out on the points.
From the time Jimmy Abdou casually passed Lyle Taylor’s cutback past Rouven Sattelmaier to give the Dons a 14th-minute lead the result was almost never in doubt.
The visitors were nevertheless grateful, for once, to some excellent refereeing from Geoff Eltringham and his assistant shortly after the break. Wimbledon old boy Dominic Poleon thought he had scored from
close range – the goal was given and Bradford were lining up for the restart. But Eltringham was persuaded to consult with the assistant who had failed to realise a deflection in the build-up came from Bradford’s Matt Killgallon by which time Poleon was a yard offside. Eltringham then correctly reversed his decision to the ire of most of the 19,000-plus crowd.
Ardley was quick to flag up the referee’s bravery in getting to the right decision in his post-match interview.
It is pure conjecture that the result would have been different had the goal stood but the fact is that AFC Wimbledon added three further unanswered strikes to put their hosts to the sword.
Andy Barcham slotted in Cody McDonald’s pass as Bradford’s defence stood and watched then McDonald shrugged off Nathaniel Knight-Percival before completing a fine solo effort.
Most pleasing was McDonald’s second and Wimbledon’s fourth as the ex-Gillingham marksman teamed up with new boy Joe Pigott to score following a lovely one-two.
Not only did it show an under- standing between the two but it was a second highly-promising substi- tute appearance from Pigott. The former Maidstone man had only one thing on his mind when he latched onto McDonald’s exquisite flick and that was to lay a perfect ball back into his path, setting the Dons num- ber 10 clear on goal and free to round off an exceptional individual and team performance.
The result moved Wimbledon to 16th in the League One table – four points clear of safety – ahead of two more trips north and they will go into Saturday’s game at high-flying Rotherham in great heart.
While League One football next season is far from assured, it soon will be if the Dons can reproduce this level of performance.
If they carry on playing as they have so far in 2018 then Ardley’s men will surely finish closer to the play-off zone than the drop zone.
Showing a confidence not seen since the run that led to the League Two play-off triumph, there is much to be hopeful about for the rest of this season and beyond.
AFC Wimbledon (4-3-3): Long 7, Fran- comb 7 (Meades 77) , Abdou 7 (Hartigan 82), Charles 8, Fuller 7, Oshilaja 8, Soares 6, Trot- ter 7, Barcham 7, McDonald 9 Taylor 7 (Pig- ott 70, 8). Not used: McDonnell, Robinson, Forrester, Kennedy.