It was Jack and Christian not Eric and Ernie as the Midson and Jolley show rolled into town in Morecambe. AFC Wimbledon’s in-form strike duo took their combined tally to 13 in 12 league games as they shared the goals in a win that allowed the Dons to leapfrog their hosts into third place and an automatic promotion slot.
The Dons put on a sensational all-round team performance against a side who had thrashed title favourites Crawley 6–0 four Saturdays earlier. Manager Terry Brown was quick to point out the 16-point gap between his team and the relegation zone, but he was clearly delighted with both the result and the performance. Importantly, there now is continuity in the team, with only changes forced by injury, and that can only be good for confidence.
Both sides started brightly on a blustery autumnal afternoon which suited the Dons’ passing game better than Morecambe’s more direct approach. Indeed it was the visitors who fashioned the first real chance of the game when Christian Jolley’s run saw him cut along the goal-line only for his pass to elude the onrushing Jack Midson.
Wimbledon continued to press, and four minutes later Rashid Yussuff exchanged passes with Luke Moore within the area only to see his low shot beat Morecambe goalkeeper Barry Roche but come back off the post.
Just a minute later, Gary McDonald fouled Luke Moore in the area and referee Webb pointed to the spot much to Morecambe’s surprise. Whatever correctness of the decision, it was a chance missed – or well saved, depending on your perspective – as Luke Moore’s penalty was saved by Roche.
The Dons continued to have the better of the play, but then blew another chance to open the scoring when Yussuff fired over with just Roche to beat.
Morecambe’s response to their opponents’ profligacy was to take the lead themselves. After 20 minutes, Laurence Wilson’s corner found an unmarked Stewart Drummond who fired the ball high into the net to put his side 1–0 up. Fingers were pointed as to who was responsible for the defensive lapse, but credit to Morecambe for a well-worked set piece.
Terry Brown spoke after the game about his players’ resilience, previously demonstrated at Bradford City two weeks before. To the players’ credit they never broke stride despite falling behind, and 15 minutes later Midson grabbed his eighth league goal of the season as his low drive beat Roche at the near post to restore parity.
Although Chris Bush picked up a yellow in the first half, he stepped into the left-back position and gave an assured performance, and kept Morecambe’s live-wire Izak Reid under control – so much so that Reid was substituted at half-time.
Although Jamie Stuart was caught in possession in his own area in time added on at the end of the first half, Drummond thankfully could not take advantage and add to the score, and the sides went in level. Thankfully, this was not to be a “game of two halves”: Wimbledon dominated the second just as they had the first.
Much has been said about Sammy Moore’s new midfield defensive role, and Jim Bentley mentioned after the game that he had to change his side’s formation to counter the Dons’ midfield diamond, which creates room for their passing game. Sammy Moore ran proceedings from in front of the back four, and the visitors’ slick passing continued to ask questions of a well-drilled Morecambe defence.
Sam Hatton almost found Lee Minshull’s head with a fine cross, Yussuff’s shot was saved by the legs of Roche, and Midson fired over from 30 yards as the Dons enjoyed most of the possession and pressed for a second goal.
AFC Wimbledon are fortunate to have two excellent goalkeepers. Jack Turner had shown his quality in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy four days before; on this occasion Seb Brown reminded the Dons’ 413 travelling supporters why he was first choice. On 74 minutes he produced a great save to deny Kevin Ellison’s low shot – the home side’s only meaningful chance of the second half.
Sammy Moore had a shot blocked, and Max Porter and Ryan Jackson replaced Minshull and Luke Moore, before the game was settled on 82 minutes. Hatton produced an inviting cross and Jolley accepted the invitation, placing a fine header beyond Roche and into the far corner.
After his earlier miss from the penalty spot, Luke Moore really had something to celebrate – but that celebration took him back onto the pitch and earned him a yellow card from the referee. Harsh, perhaps, but correct by the letter of the law.
The ease with which the Dons held out for their second successive 2–1 win on their travels after being a goal down – and their fourth consecutive league victory – was impressive. “One thing you can’t buy is confidence,” said a very happy Terry Brown after the match. On this showing, his players would have it in abundance for the visit of former manager Dario Gradi and his Crewe side the following Saturday.