AFC Wimbledon secured their first win of the new League One season with an outstanding performance at Fleetwood’s Highbury Stadium on Saturday.
Steve Seddon was thrust straight back into the side he had helped “escape” from relegation two season earlier and rewarded gaffer Glyn Hodges with a superbly struck 41st-minute winner.
At the other end Jaakko Oksanen added much-needed steel in front of the visitors’ defence with an outstanding league debut. The Brentford loanee showed fine ball skills and robust tackling to inspire a welcome first clean sheet.
Indeed so improved was the South Londoners’ defensive display that Fleetwood were limited to a long range Danny Andrew shot that struck the crossbar and a Callum Camps effort that forced a good save from the excellent Connal Trueman.
What was most impressive was how quickly this new-look team have gelled into a side that look organised and effective both in possession and without the ball. They hustled and harried Fleetwood, giving them no time on the ball. Oksanen and Alex Woodyard were everywhere and the forwards were pressing the Fleetwood backline at every opportunity.
While Neal Ardley had been all about the statistics around possession Hodges’ focus is on statistics around goals – not how much possession his charges have but what they do with it.
The Dons look to move the ball quickly with Seddon and Shane McLoughlin especially impressive down the flanks.
Joe Pigott and Ryan Longman have struck up a quick and effective understanding and with Pigott’s hold up and set up play and Longman’s pace and forceful runs they have a genuine multi-dimensional threat to which Ollie Palmer will only add to when he is fit.
Following the 4-4 goal-fest with Plymouth and surrendering the lead – both against them and twice at Northampton – Hodges had rightly demanded an improved defensive display.
Against a team touted for the play-offs or better he certainly got it. Make no mistake, Fleetwood will win far more games than they lose this season and this was a real test of this rebuilt Wimbledon side. They passed with flying colours. They showed they are quick and hungry both on the pitch and off it judging by the speed with which they have learned the lessons of the previous week.
Yes, it is very early in this season but this was a fine display and the Dons, on this evidence, should be looking to the top rather than the bottom half of the table
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the job that Hodges and assistant Nick Daws have done with rebuilding the squad can be seem from the bench on Saturday. The promising Adam Roscrow is fourth in the pecking order up front. Club captain Will Nightingale and the excellent Ethan Chislett were also confined to the bench. Wimbledon finally have genuine strength in depth.
PICTURES BY SEAN GOSLING
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