AFC Wimbledon were outclassed by Sheffield United in a 4-0 defeat at Bramall Lane.
The Blades got their goals through Billy Sharp, James Hanson, John Fleck and Daniel Lafferty on what was a chastening afternoon for the Dons.
Here are the major talking points.
At the Sharp end
There are teams you don’t want to be chasing the game against in League One and then there’s Sheffield United.
Billy Sharp needs no invitation to play the role of poacher and that’s what he was given in the second minute when James Shea spilled a free-kick into his path.
Equally, Jake Reeves failed to track Sharp’s run into the heart of the six-yard box.
Shea had a real wobble at the end of last season when he lost his place to Kelle Roos but in the context of this campaign, this was an uncharacteristic error from a ‘keeper in whom Neal Ardley clearly has faith.
Ardley made it clear throughout the January window that another central midfielder was all he felt he needed and that’s what he got on deadline day in the shape of Tom Soares.
The Dons boss cited Soares’ good physical stats when introducing the player and he is certainly physically imposing.
He looks to be an asset at this level; Soares seemed to have a knack of being in the right place at the right time defensively and cottoned on to his side’s set-piece routines quickly.
The former million-pound player took a while to get going at Bramall Lane though, giving the ball away several times early on, and may not give the Wimbledon midfield much in the way of guile.
Best laid plans
With a two week break in the lead up to this challenging fixture, Wimbledon had plenty of time to rehearse a game plan to stop Sheffield.
Their plans went out of the window with the early goal, although if their attention was to play on the counter-attack they never really committed the number of players forward in order to do so.
It’s seven away trips without a goal and while Neal Ardley hates being confronted with that stat, he’ll have questions to answer if this continues for much longer.
One win in eight games isn’t a healthy return on paper, but with home games against Charlton and bottom side Coventry coming up, the Dons have a good chance to put some points on the board.
Revenge gone cold
Lyle Taylor came to Bramall Lane with memories of an unhappy spell at the club a few years ago, but was unable to get the goal he would have sorely wanted to prove his former employers wrong.
The Monserrat international came was the closest of the Dons to getting on the scoresheet, though, nearly sneaking a backwards header in and forcing a low save in the dying moments.
Tom Elliott did his best in the first half to try and occupy United’s three central defenders but it was an uphill task.
Blades have that cutting edge
It’s inconceivable that Sheffield United will be in the same division as AFC Wimbledon next season.
Their January outlay alone signified a team that have no intention of visiting Kingsmeadow as a League One side this time next year.
James Hanson and Billy Sharp are almost unplayable as a strike partnership at this level and they know their system, a three-man defence, inside out.
The Dons were only formed in 2002 and United in 1889, so the weight of history was against them, but a bright future awaits the Dons in time.
And now the match...
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.
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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