Date: 31st March 2014 at 5:40pm
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Yet again Wimbledon ‘lacked quality in the final third’ as they failed to score after conceding early against Mansfield Town in Nottinghamshire on Saturday.

The Stags grabbed a seventh-minute opener despite the Dons playing five at the back and preserved their advantage for a 1-0 win.

There would be no ‘Ardley Time’ heart-fluttering excitement in stoppage time for Wimbledon for a fourth straight game.

It again underlined Wimbledon’s toothlessness in front of goal and is the 17th time the team has gone without scoring and the seventh 1-0 defeat this season. No doubt where Neal Ardley has to reinforce for next season as the attack again let the Dons down.

So the Dons have failed to score in two encounters with promoted Mansfield Town this season after a similar ‘horrible’ scoreless draw at Kingsmeadow last December.

But no structural damage was done to Wimbledon’s season survival hopes with a ‘as you were’ eight-point buffer still intact after Northampton Town crashed to a 0-3 loss to Bury at home with a dwindling six games left in the campaign.

Yet the loss means after 40 games Wimbledon are on exactly the same points (48) they were at this stage last season and in the same 16th spot. The only discernible difference is that the current Dons are one point better off to the drop zone.

Last season Ardley’s team squeezed out another five points in the remaining six games to survive on the final day. This time the job is yet to be done, but a win or two against Bristol Rovers (home), Southend United (away), Newport County (home), Plymouth Argyle (away), Morecambe (home) and Accrington Stanley (away) is required to make sure of a fourth season in League Two.

No doubt it’s hard incremental work for Wimbledon and next weekend’s visit of a desperate Bristol Rovers, with a new manager Darrell Clarke installed, will continue the unremitting struggle for points. [BTW, Rovers got up 1-0 over Morecambe at home with a 94th-minute winner from Kaid Mohamed this weekend.]

It was a physical battle with the unfussy Stags. Darren Jones, back after missing the mid-week draw at Northampton Town with an elbow injury, was forced off in the 15th minute after receiving a kick to the head from Anthony Howell, who was subsequently booked for the challenge.

Mansfield were already in front after just seven minutes when Mansfield captain Adam Murray delivered a free-kick which eluded everyone including goalkeeper Ross Worner, who was deceived by the bounce. There have been a few of those lately for Worner.

So with Jones out of action, Ardley reverted to a 4-4-2 formation with new loan signing Kwesi Appiah coming on for his Dons debut.

Appiah had a couple of scoring chances, but George Francomb butchered the best one missing an open goal from eight yards with no defenders near him.

Alan Bennett came close to a late equaliser with a header which was cleared off the line.

It doesn’t say much for Wimbledon’s strike force that the leading scorers are Andy Frampton, Luke Moore, Harry Pell and Jack Midson all with four goals after the lamented departure of on-loan striker Michael Smith in January.

Ardley would not have relished talking after the match about another missed opportunity.

“It is real disappointment, but the lads had a go and they battled hard,” he said. “We knew it was going to be physical and they would go route one. They made it hard, but we lacked quality when we did get in the right areas. We made the wrong decisions.

“George Francomb had a great chance early in the second-half and if anyone should be full of confidence it should be him. But that’s the story of the day.

“We were chasing the game, but I don’t remember them looking like troubling us. It’s one rubbish goal and it goes right under the arms of the goalkeeper. We have to take it on the chin. It was a horrible game on a bobbly pitch against a team that were never going to play through midfield at all.

“I thought we could have got one back, but we lacked quality in the final third.”

Ardley is hoping Appiah will find some scoring form in the remaining games.

“Kwesi looked a threat at times,” he said. “He needs a bit of match sharpness because he had a couple of weeks at Palace out with a niggle. Kwesi is coming back from that and hopefully he will get better with games and help take us where we want to go.”

It’s a case of what might have been. Mansfield Town won and are now 12th and 10 points clear of danger. Victory would have tipped the Dons over 50 points.

It’s to be hoped that Wimbledon get those necessary points before too long as fans have been kept dangling interminably with just two wins since January.

Written by Onyadon aka Rob Smith.

Rob writes the Wimbledon Downunder Supporters’ Association (WDSA) blog and lets us use this blog with his permission. To view WDSA – Click Here.

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