Town: JaysonLeutwiler, Mickey Demetriou, Liam Lawrence (c) (Bobby Grant, 90), Jordan Clark, Connor Goldson, Jermaine Grandison (Connor Randall, 90), James Collins, Ryan Woods, Mark Ellis, Scott Vernon, Tyrone Barnett (Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, 73)
Subs not used: Mark Halstead, Cameron Gayle, Mikael Mandron, Ashley Vincent
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea (Joe McDonnell, 23), Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, George Francomb, Adebayo Azeez (Adebayo Akinfenwa, 63), Callum Kennedy, Jake Reeves, Craig Tanner, David Connolly (Sean Rigg, 68), David Winfield, Adedeji Oshilaja
Subs not used: Jack Smith, Sammy Moore, Tom Beere, Alfie Potter
Referee: A. Haynes
Assistants: J. Mainwaring & D. Meeson
Fourth Official: S. Copeland
Attendance: 4,992 (327 from AFCW)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
Fortress Greenhous remains unbreached after Shrewsbury Town added the name of AFC Wimbledon to the list of victims at their Oteley Road base. Goals in each half from skipper Liam Lawrence and Scott Vernon, helped Micky Mellon’s side maintain their position at the top of SKY Bet League Two after a comfortable 2-0 win.
Team news saw Mellon make good use of the strength in his squad by dropping Bobby Grant and Cameron Gayle to the bench. Vernon and Jordan Clark were both rewarded for their influential performances as second half substitutes in midweek, which led to the most dramatic of finales at Brunton Park to take Town top.
Shrews got the game started with the floodlights illuminating a gloomy sky, and the blues attacking the Pro-Vision North Stand end of the stadium.
There was a very early yellow card shown to Dons’ Adebayo Azeez for a challenge that dumped Connor Goldson to the floor on the far side. From the long free-kick forward, Tyrone Barnett flashed a crisply hit left footer a yard over James Shea’s crossbar.
A smart counter by the home side saw Lawrence carry the ball through central midfield and play a perfectly weighted ball into the path of Vernon. He had options to his right but took the shot on and again it flew over the top. Clark’s effort a minute later – and all this inside of 10 minutes – suffered a similar fate.
Town were switching play from right to left with some excellent cross-field switches. They looked in the mood to start brightly with most of their recent exploits in front of goal tending to come in the latter stages of games.
Goalkeeper Shea needed lengthy treatment when he was pole-axed in the middle of defenders and forwards, who’d moved towards the back post to cut out Mickey Demetriou’s deep, probing cross.
A stretcher was summoned and Wimbledon were forced into a switch with Shea plainly in some distress. Joe McDonnell took his place, with almost eight minutes taken to ensure the stricken keeper received the best medical attention before being carried off the field.
The stoppage certainly affected the tempo of the match with Salop not quite as inventive as they had been. Lawrence was central to everything Town did when advancing forward, and ably assisted by the talents of Clark and the busy Ryan Woods, Shrewsbury still carried the greater threat.
Jayson Leutwiler made a routine save to hold on to George Francomb’s 25 yard drive with the Wombles happy to have taken the sting out of the game since the loss of their goalkeeper. McDonnell had been tested with a few crosses but had coped admirably with each one.
Mark Ellis was booked when he blocked the run of Azeez after he’d wriggled away from Woods, but the set-piece led to nothing.
The stadium clock ticked to 45 minutes but with injuries to Goldson and Shea, it came as no surprise when the 4th official held up the board indicating a further eight minutes. James Collins headed just wide from Jermaine Grandison’s cross in the first of the added on minutes, but Wimbledon couldn’t hold out. Another Grandison cross was headed weakly away and Lawrence showed wonderful technique to get over the ball and fire powerfully into the corner of the net with a well aimed swing of his left boot.
Half-Time: Town 1 AFC Wimbledon 0
Four minutes after the restart Town doubled their lead, and Vernon had his first league goal in blue and amber. Lawrence this time turned provider, finding the head of Vernon with a smart delivery from a corner which saw the striker rid himself of his marker, to bury the ball beyond McDonnell for two-nil.
It was the perfect start for Mellon’s side who are nigh-on impossible to beat here without a two goal head start! Collins nearly made it three with a venomous shot from 25 yards that smashed against the bar on 53 minutes, and Barnett would have done 60 seconds later had he been able to sort his feet out when two Dons’ defenders made a hash of cutting out Collins’ inviting low centre.
As the play switched to the other end, Azeez had a good chance for Wimbledon but Leutwiler blocked off his header positioning himself well to save at the near post.
Town looked really good in possession. They were very patient in their build-up play with plenty of short, controlled passes, stretching their opponents with excellent ball retention. At two adrift, Dons boss Neil Ardley had no option but to shake things up and called on the unmistakable figure of Adebayo Akinfenwa to spark his team into life with less than half an hour remaining.
Mellon withdrew Barnett for Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro on 73 minutes and almost immediately Jake Reeves flashed one just wide for the visitors.
Lawrence ought to have wrapped it up after excellent work from Vernon with 13 minutes to go. He put a chance on a plate for the midfielder but Lawrence blazed wildly over with what looked like a much easier chance than the one he scored from in first half stoppage time. Clark also went close for Town moments later but his measured effort drifted away from goal.
Former Shrew Dave Winfield then used all his experience to out-muscle Akpa Akpro whose please for a penalty fell on deaf ears. And although the home fans bellowed their disapproval, it didn’t look like a pen from the press area.
Town were much the better side and another penalty appeal – this time when Clark took a tumble – was waved away by Mr. Haines who’d refereed the game really well. Winfield was booked for a poor challenge on Collins in front of the dug-outs, and the cat-calls from the stands made it clear that Wombles’ new capture wasn’t exactly being missed in these parts.
Collins headed weekly at McDonnell when Lawrence’s superb cross deserved a better outcome, but Shrews by now were in cruise control. Vernon was growing into the game with confidence sky high after breaking his duck. He was showing not only some nice touches, but really good awareness of those around him.
Top scorer Collins nearly netted again in stoppage time - not once but twice - but he’d already done more than his bit in time added on this week. Dons were almost being played with by the end such was Salop’s supremacy. This is a confident bunch and not having lost here in 45 League Two matches, why shouldn’t they be?
Full-Time: Town 2 AFC Wimbledon 0