BY DAVE HUNT-JACKSON
AFC Wimbledon produced a quite breathtaking display to sweep aside Accrington Stanley at the Wham Stadium on Saturday with both Ollie Palmer and Ayoub Assal netting twice as they tore their hosts apart.
Head coach Mark Robinson had spoken in the week about the improvement he has seen since since taking over and this was proof positive if it was needed. In fact this was arguably the best Wimbledon performance since the Wembley play-off final that got them into League One.
Whether they remain there remains to be seen but they will not need to play this well in that many of their remaining seven games to ensure their survival.
It is dangerous to read too much into one result and for most of the match Accrington were poor, but perhaps that was because they were not allowed to be anything more by the in-your-face aggressive tactics of the visitors.
Even with the game long won the South Londoners’ intensity never dropped and although they relaxed as key players were substituted they didn’t give their hosts a sniff at getting back into the game.
The only obvious difference to so elevate the performance was a change to the strikeforce with Palmer joining Joe Pigott as Ryan Longman dropped to the bench. Palmer was unplayable and Accrington were dead and buried by the time he took a well-earned rest after 75 minutes.
Palmer’s ability to retain possession, whether played to feet or head, was exemplary, his finishing deadly and the cross for Assal’s first goal sublime.
With Pigott as the lone targetman it is easy enough to nullify the Dons’ attacking ambitions but Palmer means that the threat is doubled.
The extra space that the second striker creates means more space for the midfield and the likes of Jack Rudoni, Assal and Nesta Guinness-Walker are hungry to exploit that extra space.
In one fell swoop Wimbledon have gone from looking somewhat one dimensional going forward to being able to attack from all angles and Accrington were blown away as they marauded forward.
In Assal they have a young player who has, in a handful of games, made himself almost indispensible and none of the many young talents that have emerged from the academy, even Rudoni, have had such an impact so quickly.
AFC Wimbledon have seven games left and apart from the “six-pointers” against fellow strugglers Swindon and Rochdale, all are tough – not least the two against Ipswich, a team Wimbledon have never beaten.
They have shown what they are capable of with this performance and the prospects of League One football to greet the fans when they are finally allowed into Plough Lane suddenly seem much brighter.
Ollie Palmer. As impressive an all-round performance by a Wimbledon striker since Lyle Taylor, on the same ground, in 2015.
Palmer’s wonderful cross to set up Assal for Wimbledon’s third goal.
PICTURES: SEAN GOSLING
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