Courtesy: Paul Edwards

There was a touch of Championship-level class about Wimbledon’s first win of the season – and their first in League One since March.

Kwesi Appiah’s return to Kingsmeadow in the summer was much heralded by Dons boss Neal Ardley, who believed the Ghana striker should be plying his trade in the second tier of English football.

And the goal with which Appiah opened the scoring with in this victory would certainly grace a higher division.

With his back to goal, the 27-year-old forward flicked the ball past Doncaster’s Andy Butler, span the other side of the centre-half, and calmly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Ian Lawlor from 12 yards.

The finish was of a quality so far removed from the hour of football that had come before it, as neither side could find any energy or inject any impetus in the late-summer heat.

A particularly insipid first-half, in which neither side managed an attempt on target, offered no indication of the ability Appiah – or any of his team-mates, for that matter – could provide.

Indeed, it would have been a most optimistic Wimbledon fan to predict, at the half-time break, that the Dons were going to end their 437-minute wait for a home league goal.

But once Appiah injected his moment of class, a previously morose Kingsmeadow stirred, and Ardley’s men found their zeal.

Just three minutes after the opener, Andy Barcham doubled the lead, dribbling from deep at the heart of the visitors’ defence to fire home a low shot, off Lawlor’s right-hand post, from 25 yards.

It was a deserved goal for the forward, who was Wimbledon’s liveliest player throughout, and ended his own search for a goal, having not scored since February – and not at Kingsmeadow since August 2016.

But despite the Dons’ lack of goals of late, with just one scored in their last 900 minutes of League One football, Ardley was never worried about a lack of firepower in this squad.

“I have every confidence in the forwards we have scoring goals,” he commented after the game. “My job is to get the team enough of the ball and in good positions to create chances for them.”

In the second-half of this encounter, he certainly did his job, although Barcham, who Ardley described as “a real menace”, was key to this.

The 30-year-old’s display, linking nicely with Taylor in and around the 18-yard box, was just lacking with the final pass, in keeping with much of the Dons’ season so far.

It has been poor decision-making in the final third that cost Wimbledon in their first three games, as decent performances at Scunthorpe and Fleetwood were not reflected in points gained.

The lack of service to the industrious yet frustrated Cody McDonald meant the summer signing from Gillingham was unlucky to find himself on the bench for this game, and until his goal, Appiah’s return to the side did not appear merited.

His, and the team’s, improved second-half came likely as a result of a slight tactical change, in which he and Taylor played much closer together as a front-pairing.

Ardley’s preferred 4-3-3 system was still very much in evidence, but with Barcham hugging the touchline and George Francomb offering width on the right from his usual midfield berth, spectators can be forgiven for thinking a more traditional 4-4-2 was in effect.

The fluidity allowed Wimbledon to take charge of affairs, and Lawlor did well to block Barcham from scoring again with 20 minutes to go.

Not that it ever looked like the home side would need another goal to secure their victory. Doncaster, who had won their previous two away games at Blackburn and Bradford in league and cup respectively, could not find any intensity in their play, with George Long only once called into action in the Wimbledon goal.

That said, Callum Kennedy did manage to beat Lawlor, but his shot from a free-kick on the edge of the box hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced clear.

And while a third wouldn’t have flattered the Dons on the evidence of the second period, the home faithful were more than grateful for the two goals they were able to celebrate.

“It was very nice for the team morale to get a clean sheet, a couple of goals, and three points,” said Appiah. “It was nice for me to get a goal and we can push on now.”

They will do so away at Blackpool this weekend. Having ended their search for a win, and a home goal, Wimbledon will now look to secure their first three points on the road since February.

The free-scoring Tangerines will be a test, but under the marshalling of the outstanding Deji Oshilaja at centre-half, the Dons might just need a single goal to really get their season motoring.

  • Report originally written for the South London Press newspaper. Photo: Paul Edwards.

    // Nick Draper – @ngdraper

  • comment_170828


    “Neil Cox also confirmed that the signing of Harry Forrester concludes AFC Wimbledon’s business in terms of new signings for the summer transfer window.”

    So there it was for all to see. A perfunctory sentence almost hidden away in the confirmation of what seemed like the worst-kept transfer secret since Terry Brown ‘unveiled’ Marcus Gayle as his first signing after taking the Dons job. Once you’ve got your head around us doing business with a club the size of Rangers (putting aside the jibes about the League One being a step up in standards from the SPL), on paper, at least, Forrester certainly looks like we’ve traded up from the injury-plagued Chris Whelpdale. But if I’m being honest, he didn’t seem to be the type of player seen by many as being the final piece of the 2017/18 jigsaw.

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    plus_170823

    With the signing of Harry Forrester on a season-long loan being announced after we had recorded this week’s podcast, we thought it would be a good idea to publish our thoughts on our new addition. What does Harry offer us; is it wise that he will be our last signing of the summer; and what does this mean for Andy Barcham and Dean Parrett?

    Episode 96 of the 9yrspodcast, featuring Jon Main, will be available tomorrow on iTunes and YouTube.

    comment_170821

    It’s hardly a secret that football has its own language. It more than likely always has done but it wasn’t until ITV thought that employing Ron Atkinson as a co-commentator was a good idea that football’s language started to become one that was barely comprehensible and at times laudibly laughable.

    “He’s lollipopped one up to the back stick and the big unit’s risen like a salmon and stuck it in the onion bag.”

    I am not sure if Atkinson ever uttered this as a complete sentence, this is more of an amalgam of the worst of his banalities, but what was a collection of ridiculous similes and metaphors in 1996 is now pretty much par for the course in football punditry. Now I’ve done it – par for the course. Not that that’s unusual either – casually dropping in an expression or cliché from another sport entirely into your football commentary. Sky Sports’ Daniel Mann, when he isn’t laughing at his own comments, can’t resist a pun predicated on the rules or sayings from another sport. It’s got to the point now that I don’t watch a Sky game if he’s commentating. Turning the sound down is another option but nobody actually needs to see Burton Albion against Birmingham on a Friday night.

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    comment_170815

    This summer’s arrivals of George Long and Jimmy Abdou marked a change in Neal Ardley’s philosophy regarding our use of the loan system.

    Having had our fingers burned by the likes of Michael Smith and Matt Tubbs, and following the unsuccessful term of Ben Wilson, we ensured our first season in League One was built on a stable squad of permanent signings.

    But needs must. At our level, it is proving increasingly difficult to find players that improve on who came before, especially within budget constraints, and we were forced to find a temporary solution in the centre of midfield and in goal this year.

    This is not an undue concern: neither player will be recalled before the end of the campaign, and we can always repeat the trick next season.

    However, Football League rules limit the number of such players we can bring in, so any more bad luck with injuries may still cost us. Yet it is the absence of a limit on the numbers that can be loaned from a club that is causing us, and our lower league rivals, greater headaches.

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