If there was ever a game which perfectly symbolised the old ‘Crazy Gang’ spirit of Wimbledon, it was the blockbuster the Dons played out with Plymouth Argyle on Saturday.
It almost feels criminal – with the return to Plough Lane still at least a month away – that this 4-4 spectacle was showcased in west London and not SW17.
Glyn Hodges’ side were slow out of the blocks, but fought back well to level through Joe Pigott in the 18th minute after George Cooper had fired the visitors in front.
Following a stunning second from Conor Grant, it was probably a harsh scoreline on the hosts at the break. Fast forward an hour or so, and there could be few complaints with a point from a ridiculous game which had more than 40 efforts on goal.
In fact, had it not been for the woodwork and some shoddy Argyle finishing late in the day, the Dons could have ended up pointless. Goals from Shane McLoughlin, a second for Pigott and Ryan Longman had turned the tide. But unfortunately, some socially-distanced defending and a brace of close-range headers would ultimately undo the impressive attacking work which enabled Wimbledon to establish a 4-2 lead.
Hodges was frank in his assessment after the match, questioning his side’s “belief” in seeing games out. It’s hard to argue with him after a second consecutive week of failing to hold on to a lead.
The manner in which it happened would have stung too. To fight back and score three goals in 20 minutes to turn the game on its head was exemplary from the Dons. Unfortunately, to concede twice in just shy of two minutes to surrender that turnaround is criminal.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a new trend for Wimbledon – last season they lost a staggering 22 points from winning positions. If they are to avoid another relegation battle, it’s a habit they must cut out in this campaign.
But, if we are making comparisons to last season, there is plenty to draw encouragement from too. Last season, it took Wimbledon six games to record the two points which they’ve already accrued this term.
The additions of Longman and Ethan Chislett have added some much-needed goal threat, with both making their mark early on in yellow and blue. Chislett would have had to have gone some way to match his debut last week at Northampton, but he helped to bring a bit more attacking impetus to the Dons midfield at the weekend ahead of Callum Reilly and Alex Woodyard.
Longman was a constant menace, with endless running and energy against a fragile Argyle backline. It was his turn to net his first senior goal this week, a cool, dinked finish over Mike Cooper to seemingly put Wimbledon out of sight before Plymouth’s revival.
Both will provide some much needed support for Pigott, who felt at times like the Dons’ only realistic source of goals after the loss of Marcus Forss last term. That no longer feels like the case.
Pigott himself was a shining example for his younger peers in attack, with a real captain’s performance. He got himself on the scoresheet twice – the second an exemplary free-kick from 20 yards. After just two games, he’s already registered two goals and three assists – more than anyone else in League One so far. The Dons certainly seem to have goals in them this term, with summer signing Ollie Palmer still to enter the fray.
The six goals they’ve netted in two games has however been matched by the six they’ve conceded. The focus going forward will be on tightening that statistic up. The Dons manager admitted that there were fundamentals of the team’s play which didn’t happen from the first whistle. Defensively, Wimbledon have to be better – they can’t rely on scoring four goals to ensure they get something out of games.
Hodges also insisted in his post-match presser that he doesn’t want to be in another relegation battle this year. Despite spurning two points at the weekend, the early signs are certainly more promising than they were this time last season.
There are of course no guarantees in life, but whatever happens, you certainly do get the impression that it will be anything but boring watching Wimbledon this season.
Joe Pigott. A real captain’s performance from the stand-in skipper, who looks revitalised this term. Two goals, an assist and some top hold up play.
Pigott’s lofted free-kick was a super effort to give the Dons the lead for the first time in a match full of exciting moments.
PICTURES: KEITH GILLARD
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