Forss 56 Norgaard 81 Watkins 84
BY DANIEL MARSH AT THE CHERRY RED RECORDS STADIUM
AFC Wimbledon played their part in an entertaining encounter which ended in defeat against established Championship outfit Brentford.
After last season’s remarkable late escape from League One relegation, Dons manager Wally Downes and his men will be keen to replicate that exceptional form in the new campaign.
Stern tests against quality teams such as Brentford and tonight’s home friendly Bristol City in their early pre-season schedule will stand them in good stead.
The hosts continued with the 3-5-2 system which served them so well last season, handing debuts at the Cherry Red Records Stadium to Nathan Trott, Nesta Guinness-Walker and Adam Roscrow.
There was also an appearance from former Crystal Palace full-back Jerome Binnom-Williams, who was released by Chesterfield at the end of last season.
Guinness-Walker, plucked from non-league Met Police in the summer, looked bright and sharp both in defence and going forward on the left flank. Although it’s impossible to read too much into pre-season, his sharp performance shows promise for the forthcoming campaign. He combined neatly on more than one occasion with Mitch Pinnock, who was full of endeavour and bite in the middle of the park, and it was the latter’s delivery which was the primary source of Wimbledon’s attacks.
Inside the opening ten minutes, Paul Kalambayi headed wide from a dangerous corner before Pinnock sent a superb ball from deep on the left flank to find Kwesi Appiah in space at the edge of the penalty area. The frontman’s first touch was excellent, but he couldn’t find the finish to match, dragging his low effort wide.
The visitors were intent on playing out from the back, despite constant pressure from the hosts.
Appiah and Roscrow were relentless in pressing alongside the energetic Pinnock and at times Brentford were caught.
On the occasions the visitors did manage to advance up the field they struggled to fashion anything fluent enough to concern Trott as the Dons shaded the opening period.
The second half saw a completely new Brentford team take to the field – including established stars such as Rico Henry and Ollie Watkins – and they immediately looked a more potent outfit, although it was the hosts who continued to come close to the opener. Appiah headed wide when unmarked from another excellent Pinnock delivery, before a terrific free-kick from Anthony Hartigan somehow avoided a flurry of bodies in the middle.
The visitors finally showed their cutting edge as they took the lead through Marcus Forss just before the hour. Dons captain Will Nightingale was under pressure from the striker and couldn’t direct his pass back to Trott properly, the ball skewing up off his knee. Forss raced forward and drove to the by-line before cutting inside and driving low past Trott at his near post.
It was Wimbledon’s turn to make wholesale changes minutes after, as Downes blooded a youthful new 11. But the goal had buoyed the Bees and they began to turn the screw.
Watkins has been linked with a move to the Premier League over the summer, and he showed why with a captivating performance, driving and jinking forward at every opportunity. He forced substitute keeper Nik Tzanev, who impressed in his half-hour cameo, into a splendid one-handed save to deny him from the edge of the area after slick inter-play with Rico Henry.
It was the combination of Henry and Watkins which ultimately took the game beyond the Dons, with Watkins winning the corner which was sent deep at the far post for Christian Norgaard to finish simply.
The two combined again minutes later, with a surging Henry run laying the ball to Watkins inside the area. The maverick weaved in between a couple of defenders before beating Tzanev at his near post to add some gloss to the scoreline for Brentford in a challenging contest which banked Downes’ men some invaluable match sharpness against a team from the Championship’s upper echelons.
AFC Wimbledon (3-5-2) Trott, Stabana, Walker-Guinness, Nightingale, Thomas, Kalambayi, Hartigan, Wagstaff, Pinnock, Roscrow, Appiah. Substitutes used: Tzanev, Collins, McDonald, Binnom-Williams, McLoughlin, Rudoni, Wood, Pigott, Macnab, Kaja, Osew.