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  • By Julian Taylor

Wimbledon too strong for struggling Seasiders


Wimbledon bookended their short stay as tenants of Queens Park Rangers with a hard-fought victory over Blackpool.

A first half strike from Callum Reilly was enough in this final scheduled match at their temporary home, with the finishing touches being applied to the new Plough Lane stadium. The nomadic Wombles will finally be back after a near 30-year absence from their south-west London spiritual home; the opening act planned for 3 November against Doncaster Rovers.

Before then, on Saturday, the small matter of an always controversial trip to Milton Keynes to take on struggling MK Dons; the club which controversially sprung out of the bleak times facing Wimbledon in the early nineties.

Frankly, this was an affair to be quickly dispensed from memory, other than the fact that Reilly took the winning goal with aplomb, with Blackpool losing their discipline, resulting in two red cards for the disappointing visitors.

Wimbledon’s short rental at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium has an altogether unnatural, strange slant to it. The added consequences of Covid-19 in addition to the lack of supporters, the dislocation felt even more pronounced. Happily, of course, the sense of place is finally around the corner for the Wombles, about to cut the ribbons on their ‘real’ homestead in SW19.

The Dons were hoping to push up the League One table from 15th place, although they had lost two and drawn one of their last three games, while Blackpool arrived in west London just above the relegation zone. The Seasiders, in reality, seldom troubled Wimbledon keeper Connal Trueman and were wayward in their finishing.

Wimbledon began brightly, holding most of the possession – and they managed to get in front after 15 minutes. Reilly picked up a loose ball on the left, before cutting inside to find a yard in which to drill a low angled shot into the far corner of the net. A well-taken goal and a perfect start.

The breakthrough allowed the Dons to consolidate and play with more confidence, with Blackpool rarely a threat going forward. Nevertheless, the game was characterised with copious niggles and stoppages until home striker Ryan Longman took aim from around 30 yards with a clever free kick which went inches wide.

Considering the ultra-physical nature of much of the first half, it was perhaps no surprise that Blackpool, frustrated and struggling, saw red. In the 38th minute Ethan Robson went in hard and studs-up on Reilly amid a cluster of combatants, resulting in the midfielder’s dismissal.

Wimbledon began the second half in positive fashion against the ten men from Lancashire, with Longman always a threat in the visitors’ penalty area, albeit the final touches of quality were often missing.

Still, Blackpool, to their credit, maintained a fair amount of urgency without creating any clear cut opportunities, finding the hosts well-drilled at the back. The Dons eventually responded with their extra man, bringing the best out of Chris Maxwell, with the Seasiders’ keeper palming away a Longman shot from ten yards out for a corner.

The worries were exacerbated for Blackpool when they suffered another red card. Defender Daniel Ballard, on loan from Arsenal, was sent off for a late lunge on Shane McLoughlin, capping a dismal night for the Northern Ireland international.

The second goal eluded Wimbledon, with Maxwell saving a strong Reilly shot in the dying moments. There was ample evidence here that the Seasiders are going to find League One a major task this term. Wimbledon, though, merited the points, and will now travel to their nemesis in Milton Keynes with a fair degree of confidence.

AFC Wimbledon: Trueman, O'Neill (Kalambayi 30), Thomas, Csoka, McLoughlin, Chislett, Hartigan, Reilly, Seddon (Guinness-Walker 90), Longman, Pigott (Palmer 79)


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