THE goal drought is finally over for Adebayo Akinfenwa, Matt Tubbs got another one, the defence kept a clean sheet and a home-grown youngster is wowing them as it all came spectacularly together for Wimbledon to end Burton Albion’s unbeaten start to the season at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday.
The Dons left the Brewers punch-drunk with a commanding 3-0 win over the league leaders in a performance that finally uncorked what quality we suspected they had, but which had been kept bottled up in some muddling recent performances.
The Beast had told us the goals would come and the big fella was true to his word with a well received brace to catapult the Dons to one of their most impressive 90-minute performances under Neal Ardley.
Probably not since the 4-0 hammering of Portsmouth last November has there been such an authoritative team effort as it all clicked on a memorable night for AFC Wimbledon.
Bayo finally cracked it; Tubbs got his eighth goal in all competitions; George Francomb and Sean Rigg sizzled on the flanks; Dannie Bulman relished the midfield physicality; the centre-backs Alan Bennett and Adam Barrett held firm and 17-year-old left-back Ben Harrison proved to many a new star is born with a matured performance beyond his years.
Let’s just put this win into some context: Burton Albion, under in-demand manager Gary Rowett, had won six and drawn one of their opening seven league encounters and were (and still are) the League Two leaders and the early team to beat for this season’s title.
Great goals, was really impressed with how we got bodies back to defend too. Complete team performance. Interview with the big man on way.
— Rob Cornell (@Dons_Sayer_WDON) September 17, 2014
Yet Wimbledon blew them away with a pulsating, high-tempo brand of attack that could have netted more than the three goals. The Brewers had only conceded three goals in the league this season; the Dons got them all in one high-octane evening at ‘home sweet home’ Kingsmeadow.
It was a performance to bottle up and savour, a rarity for hard-bitten Dons fans, who were left wondering just where all that had come from as Wimbledon were a different gravy to the unappetising fare at Accrington Stanley and Carlisle United and further back to the last home games against Hartlepool United and Stevenage.
Last night was 'old school Wimbledon' – not bothered by opponents' league position or form, just went out and pulled their pants down! #COYD
— Ray Armfield (@KentWomble) September 17, 2014
While consistency can be an issue at this level of football, Wimbledon have shown emphatically just what level they can play. The trick will be for Ardley to keep the blue touchpaper lit for other opponents (dare we say, even the lower half ones – at home !)
Bayo captured the headlines from Tubbs, even if the golden boot favourite was red-carded late in the game for a silly indiscretion for a second yellow. The Beast may have said Tubbs can ‘walk on water’, but surely inwardly there was a burning desire to get the goals his resume had promised yet up to Tuesday night had failed to deliver.
— Ollie Lewis (@OllieLewis1) September 16, 2014
Akinfenwa said only last week to his doubters: “The goals will come for me. I’m 32 now and I’m not a kid. I’ve averaged 15 goals a season since 2008 and I’m not panicking yet. When I am I’ll let you know! As a striker you are judged on goals, but as long as I’m making a contribution and a major impact then I’ll be happy.”
Given the roar that greeted his debut Dons goal in the 37th minute to build on Tubbs’s 21st-minute opener, it was just a big a relief to the Wimbledon faithful than to the supremely confident Beast.
“Personally I’m pleased to get off the mark. There was a little under-current that I hadn’t scored yet but goals are like buses; you wait for one and then two come at once. It was a good night’s work,” Bayo said.
Nice to finally get of the mark for the season been a long time coming but hopefully the start of many… http://t.co/gwFijsQrDX
— daRealAAkinfenwa (@daRealAkinfenwa) September 17, 2014
He then switched to Beast Mode: “I’d like to say BMO [Beast Mode On] is always on. Even if I don’t get the goals I’ll try and give my all – that’s the mantra behind BMO – you don’t get the glory but as long as you put the work in and give your all it’s good. That’s a BMO stamp right there with the two goals. It was BMO power. BMO is activated.”
It sounds good, Bayo, that’s alright by us.
The win will at least keep the Ardley curmudgeons at bay for now. The gaffer has struggled to get everyone on board, the inconsistent results/performances don’t help, but it was a night for him to savour as well, especially against a highly-rated rival manager Rowett, who only last week knocked back a job offer from Championship club Blackpool.
“It’s nice to make this a happy place for a change because it hasn’t been for a while. In the last two home games, this one and Southend in the JPT, we did the fans proud,” Ardley said.
“Every single player in the club has been willing B [Akinfenwa] to get his first goal. He’s a fantastic lad and he does so much for the team.
“We haven’t been supplying him with enough and that’s been my bug-bear. We’ve not put in enough crosses and he’s not going to run in behind because that’s Tubbsy’s game.
“He could’ve had four today before he got on the scoresheet.”
While Francomb and Rigg played their part in the dismantling of Burton, home fans got their first long look at Ben Harrison and the reviews have been glowing.
Ardley took a risk playing the youngster just three days after his full first-team debut at Accrington Stanley and up against the leaders’ experienced forward Lucas Akins. Harrison impressed with his tackling, crosses and link play with Rigg. Akins went off injured after 32 minutes. We might have a good one here, folks.
“Ben was fantastic,” Ardley said. “It was an easy decision to make on Saturday because Callum Kennedy was not well. Tonight was harder because Lucas Akins has been causing a lot of problems for full-backs, but I took a brave decision and decided that Ben warranted playing in the team.
“What we have to do now is make sure we look after him. We must not flog him and we need to nurture Ben. Hopefully, Ben and Tom Beere will be good footballers for the future of this football club.”
Ardley now has a decision to make whether to saddle up the teenager for his third game in a week against visiting Morecambe on Saturday. He will have to find a replacement for Tubbs, whose needless red card means he’ll miss the Shrimps.
It was Wimbledon’s first win (and what a win) at home this season and breathes renewed confidence that the Dons could yet still play a role this season.
— Ray Armfield (@KentWomble) September 16, 2014
“Wow! The first 45 minutes was the best football I’ve seen the Dons play for a long, long time. High tempo, quick passing, ruthless cutting of their defence giving chance after chance – it could so easily have been 4-0 after 10 minutes,” Singapore Don waxed on the WDSA Forum.
“Francomb and Rigg down the wings were excellent, Tubbs darting runs and Akinfenwa’s hold-up play and lay-offs….a mesmerising mix of threat on the Burton goal. Delighted that Akinfenwa finally got off the mark with two very well taken goals.
“Young Harrison is a complete natural at left-back, looking assured and confident and very, very able – a great prospect, learning his trade with Barrett playing next to him encouraging and cajoling and leading by example. Bulman was a phenomenal dynamo in midfield yet again, belying his 35 years with his aggression and energy at the heart of the Dons machine. It was just a wonderful, wonderful spectacle of great team football.”
The cracking result will only be consolidated with another positive outing against the fourth-placed Morecambe on Saturday. It’s beholden on Ardley and the team to show it’s not just a flash in the pan and suffer some sort of hang-over after the intoxicating Brewers binge.
“It hurts me when we disappoint 3,000-4,000 people at home and the last thing I said to the players before they went out tonight was that actions speak louder than words. We had done a lot of talking, but we knew what we expected of each other and the players went out and delivered,” Ardley said.
“But we have to master how we win games when we are not free-flowing and playing well. We played really well tonight, but if we don’t have the same qualities on Saturday will we win the game?
There were no sour grapes from Rowett and Burton Albion after their carve up.
“I felt in a typical blood and thunder League Two game as though Wimbledon showed a little bit more desire on the night and more appetite to want to win the game,” Rowett said.
— kevinrye (@kevinrye) September 17, 2014
“It looked like the game meant more to them than it did to us. I’m disappointed with our standards during the game and I was disappointed with the goals.”
The Derby Telegraph described the Dons as “League Two’s tough nuts.”
“A trip to Wimbledon was always going to be a massive test of Burton Albion’s nine-match unbeaten run,” the newspaper’s correspondent wrote.
Poor defending from the Brewers – they haven't conceded three in a match since Fleetwood put four past them in January. #bafc
— Burton Mail Sport (@BurtonMailSport) September 16, 2014
“The physical Dons are a very difficult side to counter – and the Brewers have often struggled in the past against League Two’s tough nuts. Goals from Matt Tubbs and Adebayo Akinfenwa put Burton firmly on the back foot as they failed to deal with Wimbledon’s aggression and physicality.”
The quality in the squad is there, just need the consistency. Good to see @daRealAkinfenwa getting up and running.
— Matt Lowndes (@mattlowndes) September 16, 2014
As high points come, the Burton bombardment will take some beating, but let’s hope it does…
“And suddenly the world is a better place. Thank you Wimbledon; thank you Mr Ardley. Well done Akinfenwa, you never doubted yourself did you!” purred The Wizard of Oz.
Read more views on the WDSA forum match thread