Dons are staying up, despite losing 3-1 at home to Pompey
By Alessandro Schiavone at Plough Lane AFC WIMBLEDON 1 – 3 PORTSMOUTH
AFC Wimbledon slumped to a bittersweet first defeat in seven League One outings after surrendering a one-goal lead to lose 3-1 against promotion hopefuls Portsmouth at Plough Lane, but simultaneous defeats by Northampton and Rochdale mean the Dons have secured survival with one game to go.
The Dons started on the front foot and got off the mark through Joe Pigott, but were unable to hold onto their slender lead for longer than a minute as Ronan Curtis cancelled out his strike to set the stage for a Pompey revival.
The quick equaliser was Wimbledon’s psychological undoing and with the Dons having their backs against the wall and still trying to come to terms with Curtis’ quick equaliser, Portsmouth smelled blood and began to turn the screw.
And Danny Cowley’s promotion-chasing men were not in a charitable mood, netting twice in quick succession thanks to an unlikely brace by defender Lee Brown.
The second-half was about damage-limitation for Mark Robinson’s shell-shocked men as Portsmouth came closer to a fourth than Wimbledon to a second in numerous occasions.
Versatile Portsmouth striker Curtis set the alarm bells ringing less than a minute into the game when, unmarked in the penalty area, he came within a whisker of giving Portsmouth the lead but skied his effort after a cutback from Marcus Harness.
Five minutes later, the hosts missed a golden opportunity of their own when Jack Rudoni miscued his volley under pressure, before the 19-year old again tested Pompey goalie Craig MacGillivray with a low, angled drive from 20 yards out.
After 21 minutes, Ryan Longman saw his volley effortlessly saved by Scotsman MacGillivray as the incisive and fleet-footed Dons continued to push forward with the game deadlocked at 0-0.
The Dons attacked with a certain degree of efficiency in the opening stages and looked in charge of the game with Portsmouth all over the place defensively.
A minute later Joe Pigott, who was anonymous and peripheral until that point, punished a static Pompey backline when he gave Wimbledon the lead with an unerring finish when through on goal to net his 20th goal of that season and possibly his last at Plough Lane after rumours emerged of a proposed move to Premier League side Watford.
At first, it looked as though the 27-year old was in an offside position but the goal stood as a headed pass forward by one of his teammates was deflected off Ben Close, allowing Pigott to fire his team ahead on merit.
Conceding the goal was probably the shock to the system promotion hopefuls Portsmouth required to liven up before they began to run riot.
Less than a minute after falling behind, the visitors drew level courtesy of Curtis who was on hand to slam home the equaliser after the Dons’ backline failed to deal with a low ball in from Marcus Harness down the right.
Minutes later, Pigott was denied a second goal by an outstanding save with his feet by MacGillivray.
With momentum eluding the hosts and confidence running through the Pompey’s veins, they laid siege to Nik Tzanev's goal. John Marquis came close in the 33th minute but slammed straight at the goalkeeper before Tom Naylor saw his flick fly over the crossbar from 18 yards.
Three minutes later, Ryan Williams tried to catch Tsanev out but his effort from outside the penalty area went wide.
Pigott then leaped into the air at the far post but flicked his header straight at the keeper before the game spiralled out of control for the Dons on the stroke of half-time as they conceded twice without reply.
In the 45th minute, Lee Brown completed the turnaround when his composed finish got the better of the Dons' no.1 after an overlapping, Gary Neville-esque run.
Minutes later, the irrepressible 30-year old left-back capped off an impressive individual display when he drifted away from his marker to give Pompey a two-goal first-half advantage after expertly toe-poking the ball into the net.
In the second-half, the Dons had chances to pull one back but Pigott, despite a strong work ethic and endeavour, could not do much on his own in the opposition’s area. His free-kick was pushed away by the goalkeeper before the Scotsman also clawed his header away.
Left-back Brown, who was given licence to go forward came close again but could not finish.
Did Portsmouth manager Cowley identify Wimbledon’s right-back as a weak spot and instruct his players to direct traffic down that side? It looked that way as Wimbledon were unable to nullify the threats coming down the left with Cheye Alexander and co enduring a torrid afternoon.
In the dying minutes of the game, Tzanev pulled off spectacular back-to-back saves to deny Marquis on a one-on-one before the Kiwi goalie, his side's man of the match, had the last laugh again when he got a hand to a low ball across the six-yard area, denying the former Leyton Orient centre-forward to apply the finishing touch.
13 Nikola Tzanev, 7 Cheye Alexander, 22 Ben Heneghan, 5 Will Nightingale, 18 Nesta Guinness-Walker- 29 Ryan Longman, 24 George Dobson, 4 Alex Woodyard, 12 Jack Rudoni, 9 Ollie Palmer, 39 Joe Pigott
1 Craig MacGillivray, 2 Callum Johnson- 20 Sean Raggett, 5 Paul Downing, 3 Lee Brown, 4 Tom Naylor, 8 Ben Close, 11 Ronan Curtis, 7 Ryan Williams, 19 Marcus Harness, 9 John Marquis