Exeter City 0 v Wimbledon 2
Wimbledon ended 2015 with a much-needed win as they beat Exeter City 2-0 on Bank Holiday Monday (28 December) courtesy of Tom Elliott and Lyle Taylor goals.
The Dons have been in poor form in recent weeks and hadn’t won since the end of October, but this win makes it six consecutive away games unbeaten, a record since the club returned to the Football League.
Neal Ardley’s men were given a pre-match boost with the news that Paul Robinson’s Boxing Day sending-off against Bristol Rovers had been overturned following a successful appeal to the FA.
And the veteran defender and his colleagues were put under initial pressure as Exeter City came forward from the off, James Shea pulling off a save from Craig Woodman in the third minute and Jamie Reid firing wide three minutes later.
But it was the Dons who took the lead just after quarter of an hour. Barry Fuller and George Francomb combined down the right and it was the latter’s looping cross from deep that fell onto the head of Elliott on the edge of the six-yard box and he made no mistake to head home past Bobby Olejnik.
Exeter responded, with Tom Nichols forcing another Shea save from his 20-yard free-kick and Joel Grant spurning an opportunity from close range, while at the home defence had to be alert to scramble clear following a Francomb free-kick.
But the Dons extended their lead in the 32nd minute in retro style: Shea’s long kick from the edge of his own area was missed by Elliott and his marker and fell to Taylor, who showed real composure to loft the ball over Olejnik – a real goal from the Dave Bassett tactical manual of direct play, with Shea credited with the assist.
Elliott – impressing when given a starting berth in place of the out-of-form Bayo Akinfenwa – went close to doubling his tally before the break as the Dons continued to fashion chances.
Their hopes were dealt a knock early in the second period as Taylor was forced off through a minor injury, but the Dons continued to probe as the home side struggled to get back into the encounter.
The closest they came was with three minutes remaining when Alex Nicholls cut in from the left and set up substitute Clinton Morrison, but with his back to goal the veteran striker was forced to stretch to hook in a shot and he saw it rebound off the far post with Shea beaten.
Boss Ardley was pleased with his men afterwards, telling BBC Radio London: ‘I’m delighted. On Saturday we had spent 86 minutes with 10 men and put in a brilliant performance against Bristol Rovers.
‘The energy levels and the commitment the players showed today was phenomenal, with tired legs as well, a lot of people limping and bruised.
‘Two clean sheets and four points is brilliant over the last two games.’
The Dons travel to Cambridge United on Saturday (4 January) and then have a blank weekend before hosting Mansfield Town (16 January).
Exeter: Olejnik, Davies (Watkins 80), Moore-Taylor, Tillson, Woodman, Holmes, Oakley (Ribeiro 82), Nicholls, Grant, Nichols (Morrison 59), Reid. Subs not used: Butterfield, McAllister, Hamon, McCready.
Booked: Tillson 54, Woodman 76.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Robinson, Osborne, Meades, Francomb, Bulman, Reeves, Rigg (Barcham 79), Taylor (Akinfenwa 57), Elliott (Azeez 69). Subs not used: Kennedy, Fitzpatrick, Sweeney, McDonnell.
Goalscorers: Elliott 17, Taylor 31.
Booked: Meades 77.