Wimbledon overcame an early setback and torrential rain to battle to a 2-1 victory over Exeter at Kingsmeadow on Saturday.
The Dons got off to the worse possible start when Jimmy Keohane’s header deflected off Jack Midson into the Wimbledon net after only three minutes.
Minutes later, it could have been two as the lively Keohane volleyed inches over the bar.
Wimbledon came back into the game as the half progressed and looked dangerous from corners as captain Alan Bennett and new signing Darren Jones missed two decent chances in quick succession.
The home side got their reward after 37 minutes when Jack Midson released loanee Charlie Wyke into the right-hand channel.
The striker, on loan from Middlesbrough, battled off a defender before crossing for Luke Moore to tap in.
The half ended in controversy as, after turning down two unconvincing penalty claims, referee Steve Rushton dished out a yellow card to Wimbledon midfielder Sammy Moore for a late tackle on Exeter’s Matt Grimes.
Wimbledon manager Neil Ardley later called the challenge “50-50” but Exeter boss Paul Tisdale was incensed, sprinting across the pitch in his red trousers and flat cap to give the referee an earful at half time.
The injured Grimes came off at half-time for John O’Flynn who introduced himself by blazing over from 10 yards in the 50th minute.
The home fans cranked up the atmosphere and the game remained even until Ardley brought on Kevin Sainte-Luce mid-way through the half.
The Frenchman’s introduction was immediately effective as five minutes later he received the ball on the half-way line and used his pace and a quick turn to beat his defender and set up Jack Midson in the box who placed the ball past a helpless Artur Krysiak.
As a lightning storm erupted there was a risk of the players being called off but the game continued and Exeter went for an equaliser by bringing on two forwards: Sam Parkin and top-scorer Alan Gow.
Exeter never looked like scoring though as the weather disrupted the south-coast side’s intricate, short-passing game.
In fact, it was Don’s super-sub Kevin Sainte-Luce who looked most like scoring, at one point riding four Exeter challenges on a thirty yard run.
It was Sainte-Luce’s name that rang out after the final whistle and manager Neil Ardley was full of praise for his “page, magic and inspiration” but warned that his poor positional awareness, although improving, can cause problems.
Ardley said he was pleased to have won his first home game since November and hoped that the Dons would now repeat last season’s excellent home form.
He also pointed out that his squad had suffered from injuries and that he was pleased with the purchase of centre-half Darren Jones who made his debut on Saturday and hoped to add a striker before the deadline comes.
With their limited budget, Ardley is glad to be out of the relegation zone particularly as he has been trying to avoid the “hoof-it football” that he admitted they played last season and which he did not enjoy watching.
Image courtesy of Rex Features.