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  • Writer's pictureBy Dan Evans

Wimbledon’s play-off hopes take a hit in frustrating Newport County defeat

AFC Wimbledon (0) 0

Newport County (1) 2 Morris 9’, Jameson 56’

Hopes that the wave of good feeling generated by Wimbledon’s first-ever win against MK since returning to Plough Lane could carry them to League Two play-off success took a hit following defeat to Newport County on Saturday.


The Dons had gone three games unbeaten and not conceded a goal since that memorable late success, moving back into the top seven in the process.


While this loss hardly means that all hope is gone, and it was by no means a performance to suggest it should be, this is the part of the season where results mean everything and little else matters.


Having played more games than several of their rivals, this was a day that possibly summed up why the Dons’ promotion destiny is not currently in their hands.


The confidence built by that recent good run was on full display in the opening minutes, with Wimbledon starting energetically and aggressively; the long throw of Kofi Balmer quickly caused panic among the visiting backline.


But in Offrande Zanzala Newport always had a willing and effective out ball. When he was picked out in the penalty area on nine minutes, he was more than capable of holding off his marker to set up Bryn Morris for an accurate low strike that nestled in the bottom corner.


Sights of goal were hard to come by for Johnnie Jackson’s side, yet there was little indication that their heads dropped following the early setback. Armani Little’s shooting was wayward throughout, but a flowing move involving Jack Currie and Josh Neufville to set him up midway through the first half was a sign of a performance that did not match the final result.


Zanzala remained a threat though, and some more smart play just after the half hour saw him sit down a defender in the penalty area and force Alex Bass into a save.


The game could have turned decisively in Wimbledon’s favour just before half-time. Referee Thomas Parsons penalised Newport’s Kyle Jameson for a tackle on John-Kymani Gordon as he tried to escape the clutches of the last defender. Jameson appeared to win the ball, but given the foul was awarded, Parsons surely should have sent him off.


That decision was all the more significant just 10 minutes into the second half, as after Wimbledon failed to clear a teasing free-kick delivery from Adam Lewis, Jameson was perfectly placed at the back post to steer home the bouncing ball.


Wimbledon reacted well once more, with substitute Josh Kelly looping an effort on to the top of the crossbar after running in behind the Newport defence.


Kelly went close to halving the deficit once more just minutes later, this time angling a shot just wide of the far post after turning neatly on the edge of the box.


The January signing from Solihull Moors has now gone 11 games without a goal, and this cameo may end up being a metaphor that encapsulates Wimbledon’s season as a whole.


For all the moments of promise, and undeniable steps forward following a turgid end to the previous campaign, they still don’t seem to quite have the capacity to end this season by doing something truly special.


Whether they need to add a touch more quality in the summer or just simply need more time to progress as a group under a young manager who has proven he can learn from previous mistakes, this iteration of the Dons feels as though it is heading somewhere.


It may just take a while longer to work out exactly where that is and how quickly it can be achieved.


Wimbledon: (3-4-2-1) Bass – Balmer, O’Toole, Brown (Sasu 60’) – Neufville, Reeves, Little (Ball 70’), Currie – Curtis, Gordon (Kelly 60’) – Bugiel. Subs not used: Tzanev, Pell, Davison, Ogundere.


Newport: (5-3-2) Townsend – Payne, Baker, Bennett, Jameson, Lewis – Charsley (Waite 83’, Morris, Wildig (Jephcott 83’) – Zanzala (Palmer-Houlden 64’), Evans. Subs not used: Maxted, Bright, Bondswell, Sanca.


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