AFC Wimbledon 3-0 Ipswich Town: Woeful Blues well-beaten at Plough Lane in 'season-defining' game

James Norwood voices his frustrations after missing a chance against AFC Wimbledon

James Norwood voices his frustrations after missing a chance against AFC Wimbledon - Credit: Pagepix

Ipswich Town were beaten after 28 minutes of their ‘season-defining’ game away at AFC Wimbledon. 

In a match manager Paul Cook admitted would play a decisive role in whether the Blues will make the League One play-offs, Town were already two down by the time Josh Harrop was sent off for a challenge on Nesta Guinness-Walker, before the game had reached the half-hour mark. 

The hosts had already established themselves as the dominant side before Will Nightingale had headed home the opener on 21, with Jack Rudoni adding the second as Town failed to deal with a ball onto the box, leaving a free header inside the area. 

Cook’s men had been bullied by physical strikers Joe Piggott and Oli Palmer and couldn’t cope with their hosts attacking full-backs and clever midfield play, with the task of coming from two down always beyond a side who have been woefully lacking in attack of late. 

James Norwood is just off the pace as he fails to meet a first half cross against AFC Wimbledon

James Norwood is just off the pace as he fails to meet a first half cross against AFC Wimbledon - Credit: Pagepix

Ryan Longman made it three in the dying moments, with Town never showing an sign of a fightback despite a slightly improved display in the second half.  

Whether this loss does indeed define Town’s season remains to be seen, but all of the frailties which have haunted the Blues throughout the season were all on display as they once again drew a blank. 

Charlton manager Nigel Adkins was in attendance at this game, ahead of Town’s visit to The Valley on Saturday, and he’ll have seen little that will worry an Addicks side who have picked up nicely since he replaced Lee Bowyer as manager. 

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Defeat leaves Town five points from the League One play-offs in ninth as things stand, with games still ongoing this evening, having also played a game more than Lincoln City in sixth.  

Ipswich are still theoretically still in striking range with six games to play but, once again, the issues highlighted by this loss are why a late charge for the top six seems increasingly unlikely. 

Cook made three changes to his side for the Blues’ first visit to the home of the Dons, with the headline news seeing James Norwood return in attack alongside Aaron Drinan. 

Alan Judge and Harrop both came into the side, with Armando Dobra, Teddy Bishop and Andre Dozzell, with the latter pair dropping to the bench. 

Both sides were vocal from the start, more so than in recent games, with the game played at a frenetic pace as a group of five Town fans watched on from an elevated perch atop a block of flats behind one of the Plough Lane goals. 

Town fans on the roof of a building overlooking Plough Lane for Ipswich's game against AFC Wimbledon

Town fans on the roof of a building overlooking Plough Lane for Ipswich's game against AFC Wimbledon - Credit: Pagepix

The Blues’ first chance of the game came down the right flank as Harrop laid the ball back to Gwion Edwards, who crossed well for Drinan to attack. The Irishman couldn’t get enough on his effort to threaten the goal, though.  

Drinan was the source of Town’s first shot on target in 229 minutes as, after Flynn Downes had superbly ridden a tackle and driven into Wimbledon territory, the striker took aim and drove straight at New Zealander Nik Tzanev in the Dons goal. 

Ipswich keeper Tomas Holy’s first action was to push a Joe Piggott shot round his post but, from the corner which followed, the hosts took the lead as defender Will Nightingale powered a header into the back of the Town net. 

Town looked to respond, with Drinan rushing Tzanev into a clearance as he met a ball by the touchline, which gave Edwards the chance to try and fire back into an empty net. Nesta Guinness-Walker did an excellent job to get back and tackle, though.  

Town’s task got harder as Luke O’Neill was given far too much room to cross for Rudoni to head home the Dons’ second, before the task became almost impossible once Harrop was sent off for his late challenge on Guinness-Walker. 

Cook slumped to his seat with his head in his hands, surely knowing the game was up. 

The hosts were well on top for the remainder of the opening half, stretching Town and continuing to put crosses into the box, and were nearly three up at the start of the second as Holy did well to block Ayoub Assal’s shot before the attacker’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Nsiala.   

The Blues had some decent moments in attack but weren’t able to test the goalkeeper, before Cook made four changes as he introduced Keanan Bennetts, Andre Dozzell, Freddie Sears and then Teddy Bishop. 

The game had been up for some time, though, as the half continued to drift before Kayden Jackson emerged from the bench as Cook made his final change by withdrawing Norwood, whose final act was to head over a deep cross from Luke Woolfenden. 

Cook’s changes had little impact, with Longman adding the third as time ticked down, converting a square ball from former Ipswich midfielder Shane McLoughlin inside the box. 

The game was already well beyond Town by then, though. 

AFC Wimbledon: Tzanev, O'Neill (Alexander, 76), Nightingale, Kalambayi, Guinness-Walker (Osew, 76); Woodyard, Dobson, Rudoni (McLoughlin, 64), Assal (Oksanen, 64); Piggott, Palmer (Longman, 69)

Subs: Cox, Csoka

Ipswich Town: Holy; Woolfenden, Nsiala, Chambers; Edwards (Bennetts, 63), Ward (Bishop, 69), Downes, Judge (Dozzell, 63), Harrop; Norwood (Jackson, 80), Drinan (Sears, 63)

Subs: Cornell, McGuinness

Josh Harrop sent off - 28

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