Dons burst Barton bubble with away win

Fleetwood Town 0 AFC Wimbledon 1

Dave Hunt-Jackson reports from Highbury Stadium, Fleetwood 

AFC Wimbledon got the 2018-19 season off to the perfect start with a thoroughly deserved 1-0 victory at Fleetwood’s Highbury Stadium on Saturday.

For all the transfer activity this summer the Dons’ side featured no less than seven players who were at Kingsmeadow last term. Tom King, Tennai Watson, Ben Purrington and Mitch Pinnock all made their league debuts but it was Joe Pigott and Kwesi Appiah preferred as the starting front two in the first match of the post Lyle Taylor era.

The side who were lead out by last year’s player of the season and new skipper Deji Oshilaja started the first half as they left off last season with real attacking intent and had much the better of the early exchanges with Pigott spurning a great chance to head the Dons in front from Pinnock’s cross.

Pinnock was at the heart of much of Wimbledon’s good work with his pinpoint crosses causing problems for the Fleetwood defence. Indeed better finishing from the front too would have seen the visitors enjoying a comfortable lead at the interval which their dominance of the first half merited.

At the other end of the pitch the two new full backs impressed especially Purrington having only joined the Dons in midweek.

As it was they had to wait until just after the hour mark for Pigott to score the games only goal, bundling in after Andy Barcham headed on Purrington’s cross. Purrington’s assist capped an excellent debut for the Rotherham loanee as part of a solid and mobile young defence.

Indeed one notable double save apart Tom King was largely a spectator and although Bobby Grant thundered a long range effort against the inside of a post a win was nothing less than this new look Wimbledon deserved.

Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the performance though was the attacking intent from the Don’s midfield with Pinnock and Barcham giving some real width and in Pinnock’s case a relentless threat from crosses meaning the two veteran central midfielders had more time and more space.

Liam Trotter therefore had more time to read the gamr and Tom Soares made a couple of purposeful runs at the Fleetwood defence. With the like of Anthony’s Hartigan and Wordsworth and Scott Wagstaff waiting in the wings this team has even more attacking potency available in midfield.

It was a shame that the Don’s biggest aerial threat only appeared as their best crosser left the field but no doubt the 371 travelling Dons’ supporters will be licking their lips at the prospect of James Hanson, who looked lively when he came on as did Wagstaff, getting on the end of Pinnock’s crosses and long throws.

Whilst this was a fine start and encouraging performance that will inspire confidence in the young AFC Wimbledon outfit it is important not to get carried away. There is quality throughout this team but fragility too with two of the three forwards and the ever impressive Will Nightingale having spent too much of their careers on the treatment table. A fourth and even fifth striker would likely get plenty of game time and more recruitment is a must before the transfer window closes.

Whilst the starting back four look excellent it remains to be seen if their understudies will give Ardley the strength in depth to maintain this level of performance but that is for another day and this was an excellent start for the South Londoners.

Fleetwood Town: Cairns, Coyle (Hunter) , Spurr ,Burns, Dempsey, Grant, Evans, McAleny (Madden), Morgan, Sowerby (Marney)

Subs n/u: Paul Jones, Gethin Jones, Nadesan, Sheron

AFC Wimbledon: King 8 Watson 7, Oshilaja 8, Nightingale 7, Purrington 8, Soares 7, Trotter 7, Pinnock 8 (Wagstaff 77-7) Barcham 7 (Garratt 88), Appiah 7 (Hanson 76-7), Pigott 7

Subs n/u: McDonnell, Sibbick, Hartigan,Wordsworth

Yellow cards: Sowerby (Fleetwood Town) Appiah, Trotter (AFC Wimbledon)

Attendance: 3,236 including 371 away supporters

Referee: M Heywood

Match rating: 7

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