Four takeaways from AFC Wimbledon’s 4-3 loss to Accrington Stanley – Dons’ dismal season finally over as relegation confirmed 

AFC Wimbledon suffered their first relegation as a phoenix club on Saturday after a 4-3 loss at home to Accrington Stanley.

Here are Edmund Brack’s four takeaways from Plough Lane:

HORRENDOUS START, BUT SECOND-HALF CLAWED BACK PRIDE

While the Dons needed to overturn a goal difference of seven and pick up all three points if they were going to have a chance of completing the most incredible Houdini-esque escape, the tweak in shape and wholesale changes failed to yield a successful attacking remedy.

Accrington’s physical presence overpowered the Dons, with the towering trio of Michael Nottingham, Jay Rich-Baghuelou and Ross Sykes absorbing any aerial threat from Dapo Mebude.

The first 45 minutes saw Accrington tease, toy and torment Wimbledon’s defence. Three goals from the visitors with little intervention from the Dons defence saw John Coleman’s side stroll to a comfortable lead.

The half-time whistle on Saturday saw boos forcefully directed towards the players and performance.

The game would have been out of sight if Stanley had been more clinical with a handful of their five shots in the 10 minutes after the second half kicked off.

But Wimbledon’s bright sparks from a bleak season – Ayoub Assal and Jack Rudoni – grabbed the initiative, took their chances, and brought pride back to the second-half performance.

Picture: Lucy Dixon

IT’S FINALLY DONE, RELEGATION HAS LOOMED LARGE FOR SOME TIME

Truthfully, AFC Wimbledon have been stumbling towards League Two since the 2-2 draw with Wycombe in mid-December.

It has been an excruciating 26-game winless run in the league since Wimbledon’s season spun from surprise dark horses for a promotion push to planning for trips to Barrow and Hartlepool away.

The youthful exuberance quickly turned to inexperienced naivety. The inability to take chances presented and needless mistakes to gift the opposition goals led to the side’s confidence rapidly draining.

The Dons have been playing with one hand tied behind their back since the start of the season due to the limited squad, lack of firepower and League One experience.

But once Ollie Palmer – top goalscorer at the time and the player who made everything tick behind him – was sold and not adequately replaced, they were sent to war with a predictable attacking battle plan.

In the harsh reality of professional football, once self-doubt crept into the side, it has been impossible to remove. The damming stat is that the Dons have lost the same points from losing positions [37] as they finished the League One campaign on.

Picture: Lucy Dixon

PLANS FOR NEXT SEASON MUST START NOW

To sum up AFC Wimbledon’s transfer business this season, too many of the incomings were ‘projects’ – players who needed time to develop, flourish and build confidence.

If the Dons are to bounce straight back to the third tier, which Mark Bowen has backed them to do, then the 90 days until the League Two campaign kicks off must be conducted efficiently.

With a manager needed, a permanent chief executive still not appointed, and a playing squad needing drastic attention, there should not be a day of rest behind the scenes as preparations begin for life in a new league.

Rudoni and Assal will have suitors higher up the pyramid, carefully plotting moves to take the duo away from Plough Lane. And several first-team players have still not negotiated new contracts for next season – Alex Woodyard, Ben Heneghan, Cheye Alexander, Nesta Guinness-Walker and Anthony Hartigan, just to name a few.

While Bowen was unable to change Wimbledon’s fortunes or conjure a win from the side – if he is handed the job permanently – his experience in the game could see him draw upon contacts and convince players to help the club with promotion at the first time of asking.

Picture: Keith Gillard

FORGET THE FUTURE, BENDLE IS FOR THE PRESENT 

If there is one glimmer of solace the AFC Wimbledon fans can take from Saturday’s relegation, it is the performance of 17-year-old Alfie Bendle.

In his first professional start for the club, while it was the final game of the season, Bendle looked remarkably comfortable at League One level.

While Dylan Adjei-Hersey was only afforded 45 minutes on his first start, the academy graduates will both be hoping to make an impact on the AFC Wimbledon side in League Two next season.

 

 


 

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