Defensive Frailties Cost AFC Wimbledon Again In Fleetwood Town Defeat

Fleetwood Town 2 v AFC Wimbledon 0

AFC Wimbledon slumped to another League One defeat as they lost 2-0 at hotly tipped Fleetwood Town on Saturday (19 August) with manager Neal Ardley’s tactical choices again coming under scrutiny.

The Dons have switched to a 4-3-3 formation this season, a system which many supporters feel leaves the full-backs over exposed and the midfield over worked.

Defensive veterans Paul Robinson and Barry Fuller, in particular, seem to have been left tormented by the system, with every league goal conceded by the Dons having come down their right-hand defensive flank.

And that weakness was again in evidence in this match as both Fleetwood goals replicated the pattern.

First Fuller was left attempting to single-handedly cover two Fleetwood players as the Dons team attempted to find its shape. One of them was Devante Cole who was fed by Jordy Hiwula and produced an excellent shot across goal to put the hosts 1-0 ahead after 19 minutes.

And in the second period Fuller was caught out of position up field, allowing Cole to face up to Robinson from near the touchline and cut inside before unleashing another perfectly placed shot across goal and into the far corner.

Both goals were extremely well taken by the Fleetwood man but demonstrated the frailty in Wimbledon’s approach.

In between times the Dons’ hard work did largely stifle Fleetwood’s efforts, but Wimbledon’s strikers rarely looked like ending their long barren run, nor did the team look like ending their winless streak that stretches into last season, as the players were forced to try and take solace from wasted half chances.

One opening came when a ball over the top by Anthony Hartigan found Lyle Taylor clear in space but the striker failed to control the bouncing ball. And just minutes after Fleetwood scored their second Cody McDonald came closest yet for the Dons when from a George Francomb free-kick he headed against the Fleetwood bar.

With 10 minutes remaining Taylor was fed through by Andy Barcham but scuffed his shot and watched as it slowly bobbled wide.

The statistics ended up showing nine Wimbledon shots compared with Fleetwood’s four, but just one of Wimbledon’s was on target whereas both of Fleetwood’s produced a goal.

Manager Neal Ardley’s post-match comments seemed to admit that the team is struggling to cope with the new formation but offered no hint of change.

‘We had been working on our distances from front to back,’ he told the club’s iFollow channel, ‘and the distance was huge for [Fleetwood’s first] goal. We ended up with a two versus one in their favour.

‘For the second goal, we were chasing the game and it had become a bit harder, but we did not get back into our shape quickly enough.’

‘We have got to get our confidence back and that winning feeling. There is no panic. We have to keep believing and keep going.’

Fleetwood: Cairns, Bolger, Pond, Eastham, Coyle, Dempsey, O’Neill (Schwabl 89), Bell, Grant, Hiwula-Mayifuila (Nadesan 93), Cole (Hunter 88). Subs not used: Neal. Burns, Glendon, Ekpolo.

Goalscorer: Cole 19, 57.

Booked: Eastham 59, Hiwula-Mayifuila 78.

Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Kennedy, Robinson, Oshilaja, Hartigan (Trotter 69), Francomb, Abdou, McDonald (Appiah 65), Taylor, Barcham. Subs not used: McDonnell, Nightingale, Sibbick, Kaja, Parrett.

Booked: Robinson 49.

Att: 2,730.

By Rob Crane

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August 21, 2017