AFC Wimbledon 1 Crawley 0
Neal Ardley hailed a moment’s inspiration amid 90 of perspiration after AFC Wimbledon’s 1-0 win over Crawley on Saturday.
Paul Robinson settled a dour game when the otherwise excellent Crawley rear-guard gave the former Millwall defender the freedom of the six-yard box to head home seven minutes from time for a win which keeps Dons on course for the playoffs.
Much of the credit for what seemed an unlikely winner should go to man of the match, skipper Barry Fuller, whose quick free-kick and cross created the rare chance on a day when neither side had many clear sights of goal.
And Ardley was honest enough to admit the opportunity might just as easily have arisen at the opposite end but for the vigilance of his own defenders.
“Robbo’s header is one of those moments which can change a game,” he said.
“It can be a long throw or a set piece which kills you at the other end, so I thought it needed one really good delivery and one really good chance to do it.
“Barry Fuller has played a quick free kick into Lyle and followed it. It is a great delivery at pace and if you want someone to come on to it then it would be Robbo.
“We are delighted, but the part which then wins you the game is the clean sheet and the boys all put the shift in for that.”
Crawley’s Sonny Bradley came closest to breaking the deadlock in a dour first half with a glancing header which clipped the top of the bar.
Dons for their part were mainly restricted to efforts from distance before Rhys Murphy finally got a clear sight of goal just before the break only for Charles Dunne to produce a last-ditch tackle just as the Oldham loanee was about to pull the trigger.
A livelier start to the second period saw Dons keeper Kelle Roos at his best to keep out Lee Barnard’s close range shot on the turn, while Jimmy Smith’s dipping drive just cleared the bar with the Dutchman back-pedalling.
An unsavoury moment followed as Jon Meades was pole-axed by what appeared to be an elbow from Sonny Bradley, before an Adebayo Akinfenwa header over the top apart the game resumed its scrappy course.
Dons though had the greater incentive to go for the win and Fuller, magnificent in defence as usual provided the spark with almost the only decent cross of the day for Robinson’s late winner.
He might have had a second himself with a shot parried behind by Jack Rose, but one proved enough for three precious points.
Ardley revealed the win had been a case of last minute.com after a week disrupted by illness and injury both to himself and the likes of Jake Reeves and Tom Elliott.
Therefore, he was just happy to get over the line and move on.
“We have had a rough week where I’ve been off and Tom Elliott came in with Tonsillitis yesterday, he added.
“Jake Reeves had a hamstring tweak and Jon Meades had to go for an X-ray, so we did not know our team until this morning, where we have normally picked our team, done our XI v XI and shape and everything on a Friday.
“I’d told the staff this was going to be the toughest game of our run in in my opinion
“They were beaten 5-1 last week, so were never going to come here gun-ho, but instead sit in and scrap it out.
“So that means you are trying to break down a big, strong team on a poor pitch on which it is hard to move the ball around on at any pace and that means you are not going to go on and win the game comfortably.”