Norwood 81 Jackson 90+4
AFC WIMBLEDON 1
BY DANIEL MARSH AT PORTMAN ROAD
The old saying is that the league table doesn’t lie – but AFC Wimbledon boss Wally Downes will feel that the current standings have, at the very least, a hint of deception.
The Dons return of just a solitary point from the 12 available in the opening weeks of the campaign doesn’t tell the true story and certainly isn’t a fair reflection on some of the performances produced – and that’s not just me being kind.
Downes has spoken previously about how his side have had impressive showings in one half of a game but not a complete 90 minutes.
And although he didn’t get the full duration again in Suffolk, it wasn’t far away at all.
For 80 minutes the Dons produced a sterling away performance and looked on course for all three points at a ground where many teams will struggle to snatch just the one.
Wimbledon’s two banks of four restricted their hosts to very little other than pedestrian possession and they also looked a menace on the counter-attack, a combination which the hosts couldn’t work out until an enforced change of shape proved to be the catalyst for their late revival.
Much has been made of Ipswich’s summer capture of goal-machine James Norwood and although he ended up on the scoresheet eventually, he couldn’t get a look in for the first hour of the night.
The hosts’ roster of attacking talent was stifled superbly by the Dons backline, with Downes shaping up with a flat back four. Nesta Guinness-Walker was deployed in a more advanced position ahead of Rod McDonald at left-back.
Norwood was getting no change out of the ever-impressive Paul Kalambayi and Terrell Thomas and Portman Road grew restless. Norwood’s one golden chance was superbly thwarted by the impressive Nathan Trott, the on-loan West Ham United goalkeeper denying the striker after he was put through in the 37th minute.
Just four minutes later and Trott’s save grew in magnitude as Wimbledon snatched the lead with a fine strike.
Michael Folivi did well to hold the ball up and turn his man, laying the ball to Guinness-Walker on the left. The great-grandson of Sir Alec Guinness had the freedom of Suffolk to pick his spot and he aptly ‘used the force’ to steer a rising drive beyond the grasp of Thomas Holy.
The impressive crowd of just under 19,000 settled in at Portman Road – with the hearty travelling contingent of 667 Dons fans in fine voice all night – were silenced until a cascade of boos were unleashed after the half-time whistle.
Although Ipswich rallied somewhat after the restart, it didn’t look as though the breakthrough was going to come with Wimbledon looking comfortable enough.
The match stats – showing the Tractor Boys had 14 attempts on goal with six on target and the lion’s share of possession – didn’t accurately reflect proceedings. Trott was largely left untroubled until the game’s grandstand finish.
There will be slight worries for the Dons from the final 10 minutes. Another late set-piece goal was conceded following Alan Judge’s corner, with five minutes of injury time proving sufficient for them to be stung once more by their hosts.
The Dons have already dropped points when leading three times this season.
With Wally at the wheel – and despite defeat in Suffolk and losing their opening away fixture to Fleetwood – Wimbledon have actually accumulated more points away from home since he replaced Neal Ardley.
So the long journey north to Sunderland tomorrow is far from a foregone conclusion.
If the Dons can replicate the effectiveness of their performance for the first 80 minutes at Ipswich – defensively stout enough to restrict their opponents going forward and a threat on the counter-attack – then there’s no reason they can’t find their first three-point haul of the League One campaign at the Stadium of Light.
AFC Wimbledon (4-4-2): Trott 7, O’Neill 6, Thomas 7, Kalambayi 8, McDonald 7, Guinness-Walker 7, Hartigan 6, Reilly 6, Wagstaff 6, Folivi 6 (Pinnock 72), Appiah 7 (Pigott 86). Not used: Tzanev, Roscrow, Connolly, McLoughlin, Osew.