Lowe 8 Curtis 80
AFC WIMBLEDON 1
BY LAURENCE LOWNE AT FRATTON PARK
Manager Wally Downes sprang a surprise by giving Paul Kalambayi a full league debut – the third member of the academy in the starting 11 alongside Anthony Hartigan and Will Nightingale.
Kalambayi’s inclusion saw Nightingale pushed out of his normal centre-back role, where he has been rock solid with Terell Thomas, and into a holding role.
Kwesi Appiah led the line in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Playing a new formation away at the league leaders showed some bravery by boss Wally Downes. Something similar happened years ago when Andy Thorn became a sweeper – setting the Dons a base to work from.
Trying something different puts questions in the mind of the opposition but it failed to address individual errors and there were far too many in crucial parts of the field in midweek.
A timid start by Wimbledon saw Portsmouth take control and they were soon 1-0 up.
Ronan Curtis rode Tannai Watson’s tackle and Tom King failed to hold his shot, Jamal Lowe sweeping home. It was poor goalkeeping and put the jitters into the back four as Portsmouth looked to run riot.
How Portsmouth failed to add to the scoreline, only they will be able to understand.
Number 10 Lowe had a field day he pulled the defence asunder with skill and confidence; Ben Purrington at left-back had to be on his mettle and got support from the back tracking Andy Barcham.
A lovely demonstration of Lowe’s skill saw him turn in the box on the half-hour mark but fortunately only a tame shot had to be gathered by King.
The Dons lack of pace this season has been a criticism but two of their quickest – Watson and Barcham – spurned a prime counter-attacking chance with the former running into a defender in a two-on-one scenario.
The second half was a revelation for The Dons – dynamic, bright, full of running, putting in crosses, taking on players and shooting.
There was a half-chance from a Purrington cross, but Appiah headed against a defender. Then Nightingale tried from distance, but his accuracy deserted him.
Pompey broke free from defending a corner but Curtis shot wide when clear and in box and with just King to beat.
A long throw just after the hour mark from Mitch Pinnock was headed down to Hartigan on the edge of box but blasted over. Moments later and Hartigan’s accurate 25-yard shot forced Craig MacGillivray into a fine save.
Curtis put another effort wide before there was delight for Wimbledon on 75 minutes. Appiah let fly from 35 yards out and MacGillivray had zero chance as it arrowed home.
Portsmouth are top for a reason, and upped their game.
Millwall loanee Ben Thompson crossed from the right, Purrington dawdled clearing his lines and the ball was headed in from inside the box by Curtis. There was no real challenge from the Dons defence on the cross or the header.
Did Portsmouth deserve to win? Yes, without a doubt.
Did Wimbledon deserve to lose?
Taking the second-half performance in isolation, not at all, but turning up for a full match has been one of the ongoing challenges this season.
When Downes finds a way to get 90 plus minutes out the team, is the day safety will be within reach.
There has a been a revolution already, with just four of the starting 11 who turned out against Portsmouth in October appearing in Tuesday’s game.
AFC Wimbledon (4-1-4-1): King 5, Watson 5, Nightingale 5, Thomas 6, Purrington 5 (Garratt 83), Kalambayi 6, Barcham 4 (Jervis 87), Pinnock 5, Wordsworth 6, Hartigan 5 (Egan 73), Appiah 7. Not used: McDonnell, Trotter, Sibbick, Wood.