AFC Wimbledon 1, Barnsley 4
(SkyBet League One)
Barnsley produced a barnstorming second half performance which more than wobbled bottom-of-the-table Wimbledon as their improved away form continued in impressive style.
Results on their travels were causing some concern, with four defeats in the last seven league games, but a clean sheet in a 1-0 win at Blackpool followed by a goalless draw at in-form Luton Town stopped the rot, and at Kingsmeadow, despite conceding a first-half goal, the Reds matched their early-season away-day scoring exploits at Rochdale and Peterborough.
Unbeaten in the last seven matches overall, they are now only five points behind table-topping Portmouth, who were beaten 2-1 at Oxford, and four adrift of second-placed Luton, who hammered promotion rivals Peterborough 4-0 despite losing their manager earlier in the week – and the Oakwell team have a game in hand on both of them.
That kind of form, coupled with the return from injury of several players and the signing of winger Jacob Green from Yeovil Town, suggests that there is even better to come from Daniel Stendel’s side.
The 23-year-old Green – on the bench for this game – is quick, direct and has a record not only of scoring goals himself but assisting in far more with his crossing ability. With Mamadou Thiam recently terrorising defences on the left the Reds now appear to have two wide players with all the attributes to provide Kieffer Moore with the aerial service on which he thrives.
Add the goal-poaching prowess of Cauley Woodrow to the attacking mix and there is every reason for optimism in that department.
Central midfield is in the capable hands of Alex Mowatt, Cameron McGeehan and Kenny Dougall – perm any two from those three – while defensively the Reds remain the meanest in the league with regard to conceding goals.
And there is plenty of good back-up in the squad with the likes of Jacob Brown, Victor Adeboyejo, Mike Bahre, Lloyd Isgrove and Adam Jackson.
There is also magnificent back-up supplied by the fans, another ticket sell-out sending 740 journeying south to roar their support.
The Reds took the game to Wimbledon from the first whistle and after Thiam had seen a goalbound effort deflected wide, home goalkeeper Adam Ramsdale made the first of numerous superb saves to deny McGeehan.
It seemed just a matter of time until the first goal, and sure enough it arrived in the 19th minute. Again Thiam was involved, swaying past a defender on the left before unleashing a shot which Ramsdale turned away for a corner. Thiam himself took the flag-kick which Woodrow met with a first-time volley on the turn.
Mowatt was next to test Ramsdale after being put clear by a perceptive through ball from Thiam but then, totally against the run of play, Wimbledon conjured up an out-of-the-blue equaliser, Joe Pigott heading home from a free-kick.
That unexpected breakthrough brought a spell of pressure from a suddenly rejuvenated Wimbledon. Adam Davies had to be on his toes to turn a scorcher from Will Nightingale over the bar and a header from Deji Oshilaja landed on the roof of the net.
An injured Woodrow limped off, to be replaced by Dougall, just before the Reds had a massive let-off on the stroke of half-time, when the unchallenged Jake Jervis somehow or other managed to miss the target from three yards out. Had he taken advantage of some unusually sloppy defensive Barnsley play the outcome of the match might – just might – have been different.
But the Reds took full advantage of their good fortune in the second half, when they were irresistible. Having switched to a 4-5-1 formation as a result of Woodrow’s withdrawal, they tore Wimbledon apart.
It took them only six minutes for lone striker Moore to power home a typical header from a Mowatt cross and from then on it was just a question of how many.
The third goal came in the 65th minute, a Ben Williams cross being flicked on by Moore to Thiam, whose rocket of a shot flew into the top corner of the net.
Thiam has often been criticised, justifiably, for failing to finish off some excellent approach play, but on this occasion he was involved in three of the four goals and most of Barnsley’s best attacking moves in a praiseworthy man-of-the-match performance.
It looked as though Liam Lindsay had made it four but the officials ruled that his header had not crossed the line.
Moore brought another good save from Ramsdale and other chances failed to bring reward until the last minute of regulation time when Thiam – who else? – crossed to the far post, Brown headed down and McGeehan steamed in to slot the ball under the goalkeeper.
By now the army of Barnsley fans were singing ‘up the Football League we go’ with even more fervour and conviction.
And who could blame them?
AFC Wimbledon: Ramsdale; Watson, Nightingale, Oshilaja, Thomas, Pinnock, Kalambayi, Seddon, Barcham (Connolly, 59 miins), Pigott (Wordsworth (69 mins), Jervis.
Barnsley (4-4-2): Davies; Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, Williams (Pinillos, 67 mins); Brown, McGeehan, Mowatt, Thiam; Moore (Adeboyejo, 80 mins), Woodrow (Dougall, 43 mins).
Bookings: Pinnock, Seddon (Wimbledon); Pinnock, Williams (Barnsley).
Referee: Neil Hair.
Attendance: 4,795 (740 Reds).