BY DANIEL MARSH
It’s been far from a happy new year for AFC Wimbledon.
It’s now just a solitary point from the last 24 available after Tuesday night’s 4-0 dismantling on the South Coast.
The Dons could hardly be any worse off at the moment. Their last success in the league – a gritty 2-1 victory over Peterborough back at the start of December – feels like an eternity ago.
Some of the fanbase are beginning to grow restless but in Glyn Hodges’ defence, this is the first real run of dire results he has had since replacing Wally Downes in September 2019.
The way Hodges impressively halted Wimbledon’s abysmal start to the 2019-20 season earned him the role on a permanent basis.
But things have gone off the boil recently. This run is reminiscent of the one which Hodges managed to snap 18 months ago. It is by far the biggest test of his Wimbledon managerial career, and he will know that something needs to change, and quickly, for the Dons to halt this miserable slide.
A clean sheet would be a start, to try and inspire some confidence into a fragile Wimbledon defence.
Their backline has leaked 23 goals in the last eight games. Four of those came at Fratton Park on Tuesday night.
Portsmouth are a top team but they brushed the Dons aside with the handbrake still on. The goals they notched, particularly in the first half, were soft from the visitors’ perspective.
All three of the yellow shirts in the six-yard box failed to react to Ryan Williams’ flicked header, which was bundled home by John Marquis for the opener.
Williams’ strike from range shortly afterwards was a beauty, but there will be disappointment that he managed to squeeze his effort through a couple of bodies. Perhaps that can be excused due to the quality of the strike.
To concede a second goal from a set-piece in just four days will be a disappointment. Sean Raggett seemed to rise above everyone with ease to effectively kill the game off before the break.
Wimbledon’s season has been constantly blighted by slack defensive work, and it has effectively erased Wimbledon’s promising start to the campaign and left them in the relegation zone. There’s still plenty of time to turn the tide, but Wimbledon will know, better than most, the importance of goal difference after the dramatic conclusion to the 2018-19 campaign.
Hodges’ men have dropped 21 points from losing positions – the most of any club in England’s top four leagues.
But in the last five games they’ve conceded first and failed to recover. It felt like heads dropped after Sunderland struck early last weekend. It was a similar story on Tuesday night, despite looking pretty comfortable before Marquis’ opener. Once first blood had been drawn by the hosts, you got the impression that there was no way back.
No-one really expects Wimbledon to take points off the likes of Sunderland and Portsmouth. But it’s been far too easy for opponents in recent games.
The Dons have had defensive frailties for the majority of the season and recently the goals have dried up. The trip to Pompey was the second time in as many games where they have been completely devoid of any creativity.
When they visited Sunderland last month, the Dons set up in a similar fashion and looked a threat on the counter all game. The industrious duo of Jack Rudoni and Ryan Longman were a constant thorn in the side of the Black Cats. Both were ineffectual on Tuesday night. There was little in the way of creativity from anyone else on the pitch.
It’s something that needs an urgent resolution. Being impotent in front of goal and open at the back is a recipe for disaster.
If you’re looking for a positive spin, at least the majority of Wimbledon’s points this season have come on the road, with Crewe and Doncaster next up in back-to-back away assignments.
Both Hodges and the Dons are in desperate need of some happy travels over the next seven days.
Ryan Williams. The tricky Portsmouth forward ran a rattled Dons backline ragged.
Williams’ super strike from range left Sam Walker with no chance, and left Wimbledon with a mountain to climb.
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