Daniel Marsh’s big-match verdict on AFC Wimbledon 1 Lincoln City 2 – EFL need a clear Covid-19 cases cut-off point for matches to be postponed

BY DANIEL MARSH

Three fixtures were postponed last weekend due to Covid-19 cases. Wimbledon’s clash with Lincoln wasn’t one of them – despite a request for it to be cancelled.

Dons manager Glyn Hodges gave an insight into the decision after the match, with the EFL deeming the Wimbledon’s squad “big enough” to cope with the disruptions. Wimbledon were missing four players with positive tests and another player was self-isolating. Lincoln were without their manager, Michael Appleton and another of their players pulled out on the morning of the match.

It’s quite baffling that there are no set quotas or thresholds in place in the current circumstances to legislate how these matters should be decided. How many players need to be affected for common sense to prevail?

Wednesday’s scheduled game with Wigan was postponed after the Latics reported a number of positive Covid-19 tests. The EFL statement reads that the circumstances regarding the postponement will be the subject of an investigation in accordance with their regulations. Maybe they’d be better off spending that time trying to implement an actual strategy for these matters rather than their current hit and hope approach.

With that said, Hodges was fair in his assessment that the game going ahead shouldn’t be blamed for the defeat. Wimbledon’s bench played host to an abundance of academy graduates, but the 11 players who took to the field were senior players, and they were more than capable of competing with the high-flying visitors.

They did compete, too. Lincoln showed flashes of brilliance but bar a five minute spell shortly after Tayo Edun’s well-struck opener, they never really threatened to take over. The Dons gave as good as they got and a point would have probably been a fair result. But ultimately it was another late goal – gifted through a defensive lapse – that condemned Wimbledon to a third consecutive reverse.

This was a decent performance for the most part against strong opposition, but there’s no getting away from the fact that the Dons are in the middle of a bleak run. They’ve picked up just a solitary point from the last 18 available, with Tom Hopper’s late winner for the Imps the 12th goal that they’ve shipped in the past five games.

Paul Kalambayi’s late miscue which effectively handed Lincoln the points was unfortunate – but it’s hardly an isolated incident. It’s yet another mistake to add to a catalogue of defensive errors which have haunted Wimbledon this term.

Those defensive woes have taken the shine off of what was Wimbledon’s best ever start to a season in the third tier. They now sit just one place above the drop zone. In fact, only four teams have leaked more than the 33 goals that Wimbledon have conceded so far this term – and three of those four are sat just below them in the relegation places.

The switch to a back five was the catalyst for the clubs iconic escape from relegation a couple of years ago, but the defensive stability it’s supposed to bring just hasn’t been there for the Dons this season. It’s been quite the opposite at times. At the moment you feel that Wimbledon will have to outscore opponents rather than shut them out.

In light of this, perhaps there’s a debate to be had about whether or not that approach has served its purpose and lost a touch of its efficacy this term

Any team would struggle to pick up points when conceding twice a game, which has occured in the Dons last three games. It’s vital goals start to arrive from other areas and not just from Ryan Longman and top-scorer Joe Pigott if they are to outshoot other sides.

Ollie Palmer breaking his Wimbledon duck with a towering header at the back post to restore parity in the first half was a positive. His impact since arriving from Crawley Town in the summer has been a slow-burner following a groin operation during the initial Covid period. But he probably had his best showing in a Dons shirt at the weekend.

Extra focus will be on the aforementioned due of Longman and Pigott with the January transfer window now open.

Hodges told The South London Press last week that he “doesn’t expect” Brighton loanee Longman to be recalled by Brighton despite claims of interest from other teams in the EFL. Pigott was also claimed to be of interest to clubs higher in the EFL in the last transfer window after a sensational season to date. Keeping hold of those two will surely be the priority this month – even more so than bolstering a struggling backline.

STAR MAN

Shane McLoughlin. Stuck to his task well at wing-back and provided another fine delivery to assist the Dons equalising goal.

BEST MOMENT

Ollie Palmer breaking his Wimbledon duck with a textbook header at the back post. Used that boost to put in his best performance in a Dons shirt.

PICTURES: KEITH GILLARD


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