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29 December 2014

Stephen Alley's take on Boxing Day defeat

On a wet and windy Boxing Day, Pompey were looking to back up their second half performance against Cheltenham with a win against Wimbledon.

Pompey made two changes from the side that drew against Cheltenham, with Webster and Westcarr coming in for Devera and Atangana. AFC Wimbledon also made two changes from their last outing with Azeez and Sutherland coming in for Akinfenwa and Moore.

It was Pompey who kicked the game off attacking the Milton end, and it didn’t take long for Pompey to unwrap the Wimbledon defence, with Wallace getting a cross in after taking it past two defenders, only for Westcarr to shoot over the bar.

However, that didn’t seem to dent their confidence as they came straight back at the Wimbledon backline, this time with Wallace and Westcarr playing a lovely one-two to get away from the defenders, but unfortunately their hard work did not get the reward it deserved with Wallace’s cross avoiding all contact.

It was only two minutes later that Wallace was in again as he managed to pull the ball back to the unmarked Taylor, who could only fire it against the back of the defender and out for a throw. This gave Danny Hollands the chance to test the defence’s aerial ability with a long throw which was flicked on by Taylor, but only into the advertising boards behind the goal.

That was the last of the attacking threat that Pompey possessed, as on five minutes Wimbledon began to get a foothold on the game by creating their first notable chance, winning a corner off some horrendous defending. However, luckily for the Fratton faithful, Paul Jones was there to yet again save the day.

Moments later, Wimbledon had another corner, which was cleared but only as far as the taker who crossed it back in towards Adam Barrett who could only fire over the top of Paul Jones’s goal. But on the next attack, it was the Wombles who took the lead with a short free-kick to Frankie Sutherland who curled one into the top right hand corner of the goal. Once again it is the defence the Pompey fans are going to be looking at for this one, as it looked like they were still asleep. Pompey 0-1 AFC Wimbledon.

For the next couple of minutes, it was about keeping the deficit at only one goal, and this was achieved as the ball was played from defence to defence without either side really gaining any yards. This game of ‘head tennis’ was finally broken, but for the wrong team, as Adebayo Azeez had a shot which was comfortably held by Paul Jones.

And from Jones’ kick out, Pompey won a free-kick in line with the edge of the technical area, with Adam Webster taking it, but to the dissatisfaction of the majority inside Fratton Park the free-kick couldn’t even beat the first man.

The Pompey fans almost had some Christmas cheer as Lee Holmes whipped in a corner which was chested down by Jack Whatmough into Ryan Taylor’s path, but he could only smash the ball onto the foot of the post. And this pressure continued as Jack Whatmough played a ball over the top towards Craig Westcarr who won a corner, but yet again the delivery was not up to scratch as AFC Wimbledon won the ball back through a mix-up between Webster and Butler, leading to Butler pulling Matt Tubbs back by his shirt, and being shown the first yellow card of the game.

Once again, this free-kick was quickly taken and led to the second goal of the game, as the Pompey defence once again failed to switch on as Tubbs cut into the penalty area and fired the ball across Paul Jones and into the far corner, leading to a chorus of boos from those in attendance at Fratton Park. Pompey 0-2 AFC Wimbledon.

With yet another two-goal deficit for Pompey to come back from, a long ball was played towards Webster, who plucked the ball out of the sky, and faked to dribble past the defender, but was taken out and Pompey were awarded the free-kick. The ball was then switched towards Marcus Bean, but it was only a lost cause that he was chasing, and once the ball had left the edge of the pitch, the Wimbledon fans sarcastically cheered.

And on 25 minutes, there was some more Christmas frustration for Pompey as Webster floated a cross into the box, only for both strikers to leave the ball for each other with the goal at their mercy. Soon Wimbledon were in behind the Pompey back-line again as Azeez skilled two defenders but over-hit his pass to Tubbs, and even after this the defence still struggled to clear the ball, finally kicking the ball out for a Wimbledon throw.

The frustration was now starting to transfer from the stands onto the pitch, as the players were beginning to give away cheap free-kicks. But it was the fans that were to be left frustrated after Pompey’s next attack, as Westcarr played a long ball over the top of the defence towards Taylor, however there was way too much pace on the ball, and it trickled into the keeper’s grasp.

And with half-time approaching, it was the referee who was to wind up the Pompey fans next, as the shouts for a penalty from the home sections of Fratton Park, were waved away by the official. With only three minutes of the first 45 to go, Robinson picked up a needless yellow card for a foul on the edge of the box. Luckily for him, the resultant free kick ricocheted off the wall into Paul Jones’ grasp. Half Time Pompey 0-2 AFC Wimbledon. It was a shambolic display.

Unsurprisingly, the Pompey players were sent out early for the second half. Andy Awford decided to reshuffle as Nigel Atangana replaced Lee Holmes. But the pattern of the game was still unchanged, as just into the second half, the visitors won a corner after a dangerous looking attack was halted by a deflection behind by Adam Webster, and luckily the set piece was gratefully grasped by Paul Jones.

But, five minutes into the second half, Andy’s team talk started to kick into action when a Danny Hollands long throw was met by the head of Jack Whatmough, only to go narrowly past the near post. And just moments later, Hollands was at it again, as he and Butler played a one-two on the edge of the box leading to a crossing opportunity, which was well blocked behind by the defender. 

The concerted spell of pressure from Pompey continued as they won another corner after some good play down the right from Wallace and Atangana, but, to the Fratton faithful’s frustration, the corner was easily caught by the Wimbledon keeper without any pressure being applied.

However, the Pompey fans did have something to cheer after Dan Butler put in the type of tackle that most fans in League Two love. But the Pompey fans were not cheering for long, as Wimbledon crossed the ball to Matt Tubbs who controlled it well, but fortunately Paul Jones was there to jump on the ball and end any danger.

Five minutes later, Danny Hollands had a chance at the other end as he had a clear shot, but the defender did well to get back and jump in the line of the ball and deflect it for another Pompey corner. From the corner Westcarr nodded the ball wide after being found free in the centre of the box. And it was Westcarr who had Pompey’s next and probably best chance of the game, as neat footwork from Wallace played him clean through, but as he went to take it around the goalkeeper, he got his fingers to the ball to save his team, and keep the score difference at two.

But that difference could easily have been halved as Ryan Taylor controlled a long ball on his chest and played it into Jed Wallace’s path, but he could only volley wide of the target. Then came the moment that basically ended Pompey’s hopes of rescuing anything from the game, as an ill-timed challenge from Dan Butler led to him picking up his second yellow card of the game. He will be suspended for Luton on Sunday after he brought down George Francomb by the corner flag that Wimbledon were defending.

Up to that point, Pompey were beginning to dominate. With 10 men that was going to be almost impossible to maintain. However, Awford still had to go for it to try to rescue something, so he brought on Andy Barcham for Danny Hollands. Unsurprisingly, this substitution didn’t seem to change the game at all, as Pompey were almost caught out again, when Adebayo Azeez used his pace to take the ball around Paul Jones only for the Pompey keeper to recover and prevent AFC Wimbledon putting even more gloss on the score line.

The home fans even suggested they might like to go home. When the final whistle was blown, the stadium was filled with a chorus of deafening boos, from the Pompey fans, followed by the chant of ‘that was embarrassing’.

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