MATCH REPORT: AFC Wimbledon 0 Fleetwood 1

The sight of Fleetwood Town chairman Andy Pilley giving a rain-soaked John Sheridan a massive bear hug at full-time showed how much these three points meant to the club.

Friday, 30th March 2018, 3:58 pm
Updated Saturday, 31st March 2018, 2:06 pm
Fleetwood Town's Ash Eastham and referee Charles Breakspear watch on as the groundstaff tackle the pitch

The sight of Fleetwood Town chairman Andy Pilley giving a rain-soaked John Sheridan a massive bear hug at full-time showed how much these three points meant to the club.Jack Sowerby’s strike ensured it was not just a Good Friday for Fleetwood Town but a great one as they defied the weather to beat AFC Wimbledon 1-0.Sowerby’s 22nd-minute effort was the difference, though it owed much to the sodden conditions as Fleetwood forward Conor McAleny pounced on a loose ball at the back to tee-up the midfielder.It was a neat spot by McAleny but Sowerby showed his strength to shrug off a Dons defender and rifle the ball home left-footed.It was a huge three points that moved Fleetwood eight points clear of the League One drop zone, but you could not help but wonder how this game was not abandoned with all the patches of water.Credit to both teams, though, who waded through the mud to make it to 90 minutes with no help from the Wimbledon ground staff at half-time.The weather made an impact from the off as Sheridan named an unchanged side for the third game in a row and it was no coincidence that the same 11 fired Town to their third straight win.Fleetwood started the day three points clear of the Dons and so it was no surprise that Neal Ardley’s men started with intent, though Fleetwood kept them at bay, with Harry Forrester’s effort easily claimed by Cairns.Sowerby got his eye in early as he nearly scored a goal- of-the-season contender, the ball whizzing just past the right stick from outside the box. Barry Fuller fired way over the bar but Fleetwood exploited the conditions to take the lead through Sowerby.McAleny had wheeled round to applaud Sowerby for his earlier effort, and after spotting that the midfielder had his eye in, his team-mate slid the ball to him moments later and the ex-Squires Gate man showed his pedigree.But that goal only spurred the hosts on to push forward, with Fuller creating a chance before they wasted a golden opportunity to level.Lyle Taylor found himself unmarked and in acres of space at the back post. He took aim for the corner but his radar was off – he should have taken a touch, with Fleetwood’s defence at sea.The pitch continued to deteriorate and Fleetwood nearly increased their lead. Hunter raced forward from his new left wing-back role and whipped the ball up to Paddy Madden. After he nodded over from a prime position in the six-yard box, the front man was relieved to see the offside flag.For some reason the rollers did not come back out during half-time, with the groundstaff idle, despite Town substitute Bobby Grant and chairman Andy Pilley urging them to get on with the job.Referee Charles Breakspear eventually came out to assess the pitch and declared it fit for purpose. The second half went ahead, though conditions continued to worsen.The hosts appeared in no hurry to come back out but they went for the jugular when they did in a bid to get back on even terms. Wimbledon saw the ball ping around the box before Taylor was eventually flagged offside.But that played into Town’s hands, with Kyle Dempsey countering and whipping a ball into the mix that just evaded the run of Hunter.Similarly, Cian Bolger’s header from a Hunter set-piece just missed the run of McAleny at the back stick.Then up stepped Alex Cairns. You could argue the three clean sheets before this one were down to the defence and not the keeper, though they had helped to restore Cairns’ confidence and he saved Town several times in yesterday’s second 45.He needed to be at full stretch to tip away a Taylor effort as the game became scrappy, with the pitch defying both teams’ efforts to play a passing game on the floor. Liam Trotter’s effort flew over the bar before the game looked to have ended in the 70th minute. However, it turned out the referee had merely suspended play temporarily as he called on the rollers to deal with a problematic puddle in the middle of Town’s half.The ground staff took their time and Pilley clapped them off afterwards – you had to question why this had not taken place during the interval. Play resumed but the rain continued to pour as Wimbledon pressed for a leveller. They threw everything at Fleetwood but Taylor bundled the ball over the bar and Cairns was on hand once again to thwart Parrett.Attack-minded opponents suit this pacy Fleetwood side, with Hunter breaking free and seeing his left-footed effort stopped by George Long.Grant fired way over but Fleetwood had to hold on at the other end.But this side refused to buckle, with some heroic blocks and tackles throughout the ranks ensuring this six-match unbeaten run rolled on efficiently, unlike the ground staff’s equipment for removing surface water.

AFC Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Meades, Oshilaja, Nightingale, Parrett (Robinson, 79), Soares, Trotter, Forrester (Barcham, 85), Taylor, Kaja. Subs: McDonnell, Robinson, Francomb, Abdou, Same, Kennedy.

Fleetwood: Cairns, Eastham, Pond, Bolger, Coyle, Dempsey, Diagouraga, Sowerby, Hunter, Madden (Grant, 78), McAleny (Hiwula, 73). Subs: Neal, Hiwula, Burns, Grant, Glendon, Jones, Biggins.

Referee: C Breakspear.