As one true believer put it: The day the old Dons returned. The day Wimbledon muscled up and beat the fancied Luton Town 1-0 at Kenilworth Road with a goal redolent of the Crazy Gang era.
It could have been Beasant, Fashanu, Gibson route-one as a prodigious punt from James Shea was nodded on by Adebayo Akinfenwa for that man Matt Tubbs to tuck away. Simple in its simplicity, simple in its execution.
— daysofspeed (@daysofspeed) August 16, 2014
Tubbs’s third goal in three games three minutes before the break was enough for the Dons to protect as the back four and goalkeeper Shea held firm for Wimbledon’s first clean sheet of the season after a shaky start to the campaign.
It was a win that should uplift the Dons. Unbeaten in the league after two tough openers, four points and on the face of it, things coming together, especially up front with Bayo and Tubbs.
The local reporter spelled out the reality for deflated Hatters fans who witnessed their first home game back in the Football League after five seasons stewing in the Conference.
“Luton Town saw their party well and truly pooped as they went down to a narrow defeat against AFC Wimbledon,” he wrote. “After having on balance the better of the first half, the step up in quality from the Conference to League Two was highlighted in one moment, Adebayo Akinfenwa flicking on for Matt Tubbs to clinically bury past Mark Tyler.”
It’s patently early days in this season, but the pieces are there if Neal Ardley can join them together.
What also brought the seen-it-all-before smiles back among those Wimbledon supporters of a certain vintage was the reaction from the home fans, with this little vignette on the combustible Luton Outlaws forum:
Constantly haranguing the officials
A forward who commits a foul EVERY time he goes for the ball (for Fashanu read Akinfenwa)
A goal from their first attack, after 43 minutes.
And a bunch of fans who don’t care how ugly the football is, so long as they win.
Is it OK if I go back to really hating them now?
Ah, just like the old days and another Luton fan posted … “Phelan, Wise, Eric Young, Vinnie, Fashanu et al would be proud of their boys today.”
Bayo has played every minute in the Dons’ opening three games of the season, while Tubbs was brought off by Ardley with 15 minutes left to give former Charlton youngster Ade Azeez his first run for his new club.
270 Minutes out of 270 Minutes played by @daRealAkinfenwa
— Daniel Kilcoyne (@djkilcoyne) August 16, 2014
“When you put two clever, experienced players together you hope that you don’t have to over-coach them,” Ardley said.
“Bayo has been phenomenal in every game so far and if he keeps that going I will be chuffed with him. He knows when to hold it up and when to bring other players into the game.
“Matt is anticipating everything that he does. There was still a lot of work to do for Matt when Bayo put him through and it was a wonderful finish. Hopefully a summer of chasing these players is starting to pay off.”
3 in 3 for Matt Tubbs. Clinical.
— Nico (@AFCWnico) August 16, 2014
But while the front two were getting their share of the accolades, so too were the back four, reinforced by the return of on-loan defender Adam Barrett, after he was ineligible for the League Cup tie at Milton Keynes in mid-week.
Skipper Alan Bennett, whose horrendous blunder let Franchise in for their third goal, was resolute at the heart of the defence alongside Barrett and shielding Shea in goal.
“Alan Bennett was struggling a bit in pre-season with a calf injury, but he’s played three games in a week now and played on after having stitches,” Ardley said.
“The back five including the goalkeeper all communicated well and the midfielders were tireless. We dug in under pressure and when we had chances to pass it we did that well and going forward we could have three or four goals.”
“The front two combined well for the goal and the substitutes did great too at a tough time. It was a complete performance and we could have won by a greater margin.”
@ABenno15 you were immense today well played benno
— Matthew Martin (@martimat) August 16, 2014
Shea, who has had a jittery start to his Wimbledon playing career with the defence leaking five goals, looked more comfortable in goal against Luton, with WDSA forum contributor Singapore Don commenting: “Shea had an excellent game in goal making a couple of great saves and commanding catches or punches from crosses.”
— Ray Armfield (@KentWomble) August 16, 2014
And this caught the eye from a Luton supporter as a post-script to the game.
— Stevie J Kilgour (@steviejkilgour) August 16, 2014
“AFC fans are also nauseatingly nice. Chatted to a couple on the train. Had another couple who came up at St Pancras and said they were glad to see us back. FFS, what’s the world coming to when you get on with the fans of a team who have just mugged you.. “
Read more on the WDSA forum match thread