AFC Wimbledon 0 Torquay 2
AFC Wimbledon found no home comforts in their first game of 2014 at Kingsmeadow as they went down 2-0 to relegation haunted Torquay this afternoon.
Any hopes of building on last Saturday’s morale-boosting away win at Wycombe last week all but disappeared in an abject first half in which goals from Krystain Pearce and Jayden Stockley left Dons chasing the game.
Neal Ardley’s side were marginally better after the interval when Kevin Saint-Luce provided some threat down the right flank, but despite some pressure a George Francomb shot off the line was the closest they came to reducing the arrears.
Francomb was one of two changes from last week’s win, filling a void left by the sick Harry Pell at the heart of the midfield, while Callum Kennedy resumed left wing-back duties in place of the suspended Jim Fenlon.
Elliott Benyon miss-kicked an early chance as the visitors opened brightly, while at the other end Jack Midson looped a header into the arms of Michael Poke.
Ardley’s men were second best but threatened when Andy Frampton got free at the back post following a 12minute corner, his downward header being blocked to safety.
It was 28 minutes before the game produced a shot on target and when it came it was enough to give the Gulls the lead. It was a goal Will Antwi will have nightmares about after miss-kicking his attempted clearance, allowing Jayden Stockley to unleash a super strike, brilliantly parried by Ross Worner, only for Pearce to react quickly and volley in the rebound.
The hosts should have replied four minutes later when Fuller did well to outpace his man down the right and produce a devilish cross which Poke could only parry to the edge of the box, where Luke Moore with time and space lashed wastefully wide.
Torquay were far the more fluid of the two sides it was no surprise when they doubled their lead three minutes from the break. Slick passing released Anthony O’Connor down the right and his pinpoint cross saw Stockley out-jump Antwi and power a header beyond Worner’s right hand and inside the near post.
Damon Lathrope might have added a third with a long range strike just wide before boos from the home support greeted Darren Deadman’s half-time whistle. Ardley acted immediately upon the restart with a double substitution, throwing on wide men Saint-Luce and Chris Arthur for Alan Bennett and Luke Moore and reverting to a 4-4-2.
Saint-Luce quickly showed his pace drawing a foul from Kevin Micholson for which the full-back was booked. The resulting free-kick saw Kennedy’s excellent delivery fisted clear by a diving Poke.
Saint-Luce was at it again just beyond the hour, just managing to keep the ball in with some neat footwork on the touchline and crossing for Charlie Wyke to head narrowly over the bar as at last Dons threatened to build some sort of momentum.
However, it could have been all over on 62 minutes when Aaron Downes’ header from a left-wing corner was just too high with Worner stranded.
At the other end, Poke sparked a goalmouth scramble when he spilt an innocuous corner from the right, but none of the Dons in the crowded area could capitalize on the error, before another free-kick from Francomb found no-one able to provide a finishing touch.
The hosts’ best chance came on 79 minutes as Wyke headed a left-wing cross into the path of Francomb on the edge of the box. His shot beat Poke, but with fans set to acclaim the first step on the road to an unlikely fight-back, Downes did brilliantly to clear off the line.
Aaron Morris made his debut in the game’s dying embers, but the points were long gone.