AFC Wimbledon were outclassed by Sheffield United in a 4-0 defeat.

The Blades got their goals through Billy Sharp, James Hanson, John Fleck and Ciaran Lafferty on what was a chastening afternoon for the Dons.

And AFC boss Neal Ardley apologised to the AFC Dons fans for their team’s performance.

There were 831 travelling fans watched the Dons comprehensively beaten by potential League One champions in United.

Ardley, never one to shirk responsibility, offered a characteristically honest assessment of his side’s dismal display.

Suffering: AFC Wimbledon fans

“I said when they played us at home that they were the best team in the league and nothing I’ve seen today has changed my mind,” he said.

“If we win our battles and do what we normally do, we give them a game and they have to earn their win.

“Today they were very, very good. We were on the back of a two-week break and we were very, very bad.

“You need to keep the crowd here quiet and we’ve got them up straight away.

“I didn’t think we approached the game right mentally.

Honest: Neal Ardley

“They come at you like they’re 1-0 down in the first minute and we look at the goal we’ve conceded after two minutes and it’s criminal.”

After their game at Gillingham was postponed, Wimbledon had a two-week layoff after their 0-0 draw at Chesterfield.

Ardley dismissed any thought that his team were undercooked for the Blades clash.

“We worked really hard on Sheffield’s system and how we were going to play against it,” he said.

“We made them aware of what we needed to do to make sure they didn’t own the pitch and pin us back.

“You go out there and players do wrong things.

“We didn’t win the ball back in good areas and never really did our stuff.

“That’s not what we tell them to do during the week. It’s disappointing.”

Tormentor: Sheffield United's Billy Sharp (L)

The Kingsmeadow chief had a message for the hundreds of Dons fans making the long journey home.

“I say to the fans that we’re sorry for the performance,” he said.

“They wanted more to shout about and deserved more.

“We’ve come a long way and today the gulf between the clubs has shown. If you'd given us the chance to play at Sheffield United a year ago, we'd have snapped your hand off.

“We’re still very disappointed, because this club is built to upset the odds.”

It was a nightmarish start for visitors. They were behind on two minutes when James Shea spilled a low free-kick and Billy Sharp tapped in the rebound from close range.

Clash: Danny Bulman goes for it

Despite settling into the game and registering long-range efforts through Jake Reeves and Dannie Bulman, the Dons couldn’t cope with United’s movement in the final third. James Hanson tucked home a cutback on debut to make it 2-0 in the 37th minute.

Neal Ardley’s men had a decent spell at the start of the second half and their two main chances fell to Lyle Taylor, driving into the side netting and then watching a back header trickle wide with Simon Moore out of goal trying to clear his lines.

United kept creating good chances and got their third with ten minutes left as John Fleck broke through a weak challenge and slotted a low left-footed strike into the bottom corner past Shea.

It was four in injury-time when the excellent Ciaran Lafferty cut on to his right foot and swept into the far corner.

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