Don’t panic, Mr Robinson! – Five takeaways from AFC Wimbledon’s first home league defeat at the season

SOME SIDES WILL GO ROUTE ONE

AFC Wimbledon head coach Mark Robinson likes his players to press high – but the deciding score in this game was perversely a sign of how this can compel teams to punt the ball forward. 

In this instance, a ball lumped upfield – as the only remaining option when midfielders are getting nowhere – was left for Nik Tzanev, who did not come to gather. Visiting striker Ryan Hardie got there first and swivelled around the keeper and the chasing Ben Heneghan before stroking into an empty net.

GOALS – HOWEVER UNDESERVED – WIN GAMES

Robinson has told his players not to be too carried away by a victory or to get too downcast about a defeat. Those wise words will be on his young stars’ minds this weekend, after a frustrating home loss on the back of cavalier victories over Oxford, Portsmouth and Morecambe.

The Dons’ defeat was only their second in 11 matches, so should not send any panic through Plough Lane.  But it is a sobering reminder that their effusive, possession-based style needs to be capped by goals – and will have to be married to defensive security, if they are to maintain their challenge at the right end of the table. 

AFC Wimbledon v Plymouth Argyle SkyBet League One, Plough Lane, 18 September 2021

AYOUB ASSAL CAN’T DO IT ALL BY HIMSELF

Academy graduate Ayoub Assal scored a worldie in the 4-3 win over Morecambe last weekend. But defences have seen what he can do and will put a cordon of defenders on him, as Plymouth did. 

The young attacker can conjure a magical twist and turn to get around one defender, but he cannot do that against three. There will be niggly nudges and shoves as he twists and turns, but he will still suck defenders in from now on. So he must learn to feed a team-mate, to free someone else up to cause damage too.

AFC Wimbledon v Plymouth Argyle SkyBet League One, Plough Lane, 18 September 2021

SET-PIECES WILL NOT ALWAYS DELIVER

Neat triangles are an effective weapon at League One level and in the first 20 minutes enabled the Dons to get around the back of the Argyle defence several times. AFC Wimbledon dominated the first third of the 90 minutes. They made a total of 484 passes, compared to Plymouth’s 319, so they did their best to try and carve a path through the sturdy – and occasionally desperate – Argyle defence.

Set pieces have also been a very effective weapon for Wimbledon – they have scored most of their goals that way. But the Dons’ two big defenders, who are a big threat at free-kicks and corners, cannot be relied on for all of them. When the Dons tried to aim directly at the target from around the edge of the box, usually through Anthony Hartigan, the chances were squandered.

AFC Wimbledon v Plymouth Argyle SkyBet League One, Plough Lane, 18 September 2021

TEAMS MIGHT ONLY BE INTERESTED IN TAKING THE POINTS AT PLOUGH LANE

Plymouth leapfrogged their hosts after a workmanlike defensive display that had little spark but plenty of canny tactical touches. Manager Ryan Lowe has spent almost his entire career in the bottom two divisions of the Football League. He knows exactly how to carve out an efficient if unexciting victory at flamboyant opponents. They had some swagger, mostly from midfielder Ryan Broom, but other than that barely tried to express themselves. They played out from the back, but for most of the first period barely got out of their own half until the 41st minute – though the chances they carved out then was probably the best of the game – James Wilson’s stubbed shot was blocked on the line by Will Nightingale.

The transformed Dons and their exciting youngsters will face many other teams set up like this in the weeks to come. It could be a difficult, but also a maturing process. Compared to the crucial progress the club has to make in the league at this level through games like these, Wednesday’s EFL Cup third round tie at Arsenal is just a sideshow.

PICTURES: KEITH GILLARD

 


 

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