Match report: Wimbledon 4 Exeter City 12014 ended in a disappointing fashion for Exeter City, who were defeated 4-1 at AFC Wimbledon in the final fixture of the calendar year.
Fine margins at either end of the field proved the difference, as the Dons scored once before the break and three times after – and came close to keeping Exeter out for the duration before conceding late.
Matt Tubbs netted from close-range in the first period, and Adebayo Azeez netted a brace after the break. Adebayo Akinfenwa slotted in a fourth for the Dons before Liam Sercombe placed in a late consolation for the Grecians.
Christian Ribeiro, David Wheeler and Graham Cummins came in to the starting XI after all beginning the previous game on the bench. Consequently Tom Nichols and Clinton Morrison began on the bench, while Matt Grimes was omitted entirely.
City kicked off into a low sun in Kingston which was making life difficult. Indeed the Dons created the first opportunity as a clever flick by Matt Tubbs released Adebayo Azeez on the left, and after burning away from the defence he forced a smart low save from James Hamon.
Liam Sercombe was beginning to cause threats down the right hand side, and after receiving on half-way, he drove to the edge of the area by using the dummy-runs of his teammates before firing over left-footed.
However the hosts were in front in the eighth minute – full-back Callum Kennedy was allowed space to get to the left byline and put in a low, drilled cross for Tubbs to turn in at the near post.
Ryan Harley chanced his arm for an equaliser soon after, shooting from the edge of the area, but just flashing past the post.
Azeez was causing no end of trouble with his pace and it needed a number of City players to intervene in the nick of time in the left-hand side of the box.
Cummins came within inches of getting City back on terms – it was a great flick from Wheeler that allowed his strike-partner to get a touch, but it cannoned back into play off the upright and Wheeler was unable to turn in the rebound.
Then a combination of goalkeeper James Shea and his defence were alive to deny Sercombe a leveller – it was a typically swashbuckling run from Ribeiro that allowed him to cut back from the dead-ball line, but somehow it was kept out by the Dons rear-guard.
Sean Rigg was the latest to have a dig in an action-packed first period as he cut in off the right to shoot left-footed, and it needed a touch over the bar from the head of defender Danny Butterfield.
Cummins squandered a golden chance for the leveller in first-half stoppage time when Scot Bennett delivered a fine low delivery from the right, only to be turned over the bar from six yards by the forward.
Half-time: AFC Wimbledon 1 Exeter City 0
It would prove to be Cummins’ last contribution of the afternoon, as Nichols replaced the Irishman at half-time.
And City were soon chasing a two-goal deficit – the Wombles countered an Exeter corner quickly down the right and a low ball in from the right pinballed around the box before finally being adjudged to have crossed the line by the referee’s assistant – Azeez was credited with the goal.
Dannie Bulman wasn’t far away from making it a third for the Dons as he wound up a swirling effort, but Hamon picked it out the air well.
Jordan Moore-Taylor was introduced for Scot Bennett on the hour, making his first appearance in a Grecians shirt since sustaining a foot injury against Coventry.
The Grecians twice came close to reducing the arrears – firstly David Wheeler flashed a shot just wide of the post after another marauding run from right-back Ribeiro, before an incredible save from goalkeeper Shea denied Harley his first since returning as he got onto a Wheeler knock-down.
Instead the third goal went the home side’s way as Azeez collected a ball across from the left and drilled a smart effort back across goal and into the net.
The Dons might have further extended their lead when full-back Barry Fuller flashed a cross over from the right but Tubbs wasn’t able to get a telling touch, and it was he rather than the ball that ended up sprawled in the net.
But a fourth did come for the hosts – Akinfenwa pounced on a loose ball in Exeter’s six-yard box and tucked in from close range.
City did have one positive to end the year though, as Wheeler showed his tireless energy in stoppage time to charge down the right and pulled a low cross to the edge of the six-yard box for Sercombe to finish neatly.
Full-time: AFC Wimbledon 4 Exeter City 1
AFC Wimbledon: Shea; Fuller, Kennedy, Pell (Sutherland 82), Barrett; Goodman, Rigg (Fitzpatrick 76), Bulman, Azeez (Akinfenwa 72); Tubbs, Francomb.
Unused subs: McDonnell, Bennett, Harrison, Oakley.
Goals: Tubbs (8), Azeez (47, 71), Akinfenwa (86).
Exeter City: Hamon; Ribeiro, Butterfield, Oakley, Woodman; Bennett (Moore-Taylor 60), Harley, Sercombe; Nicholls (Morrison 75), Wheeler, Cummins (Nichols 46).
Unused subs: Pym, Tillson, Keohane, Davies.
Goal: Sercombe (90).
Attendance: 4,417 (563 away).
Referee: Tim Robinson