League Two: AFC Wimbledon 3 Bradford City 1
AFC Wimbledon all but banished fears of relegation with a comprehensive victory over Bradford City at The Cherry Red Records Stadium.
The Dons made the most of a man advantage to put in attack after attack in the second half, securing the win with a Billy Knott header and a Jack Midson penalty.
Midson’s conversion from 12 yards was his second successful spot kick of the evening, and he now moves to top scorer in the League.
Bradford had actually made an impressive start, midfielder David Syers’ effort needing a smart block from Dons right-back Sam Hatton.
But in an entertaining half, with Bantams winger Craig Fagan making a nuisance of himself down the Wimbledon left hand side, the Dons took the lead slightly against the run of play.
A Rashid Yusseff cross from the right managed to elude everyone—but only because ex-Sheffield United player Rob Kozluk had been adjudged to haul Dons youngster Billy Knott down illegally.
Midson converted to Jon McLaughlin’s right, although the keeper was extremely unlucky not to push the ball past the post.
Within three minutes Bradford were level. After Andrew Davies had seen his effort cleared at point blank range by Hatton, Fagan’s wicked cross was not well dealt with by home keeper Seb Brown, and the ball looped in off the unfortunate Pim Balkestein.
Yet Fagan’s night was to take a swift turn for the worst. Already booked for a late tackle on Hatton, he attempted to perform some trickery in front of the Wimbledon fans, who were already giving him stick in the far corner.
When his "Cruyff" turn resulted in the ball bouncing out for a harmless throw-in, he stupidly smashed the ball into the Dons fans, leaving referee Darren Deadman with no option but to produce a second yellow.
Fagan will surely be heavily reprimanded by his manager Phil Parkinson for an utterly ludicrous second yellow.
Buoyed by the dismissal, AFC Wimbledon largely controlled the second half. Billy Knott gave them the lead from a close-range header, after some exceptional work by Hatton to keep the ball in play and turn in a devilish cross.
While both Rashid Yusseff and George Moncur had chances to seal the victory, the Dons needed some help from referee Deadman.
A seemingly inoccuous challenge on Jason Euell by Syers resulted in Wimbledon’s second penalty, which Midson dispatched with ease.
“It’s been a really brilliant week for us,” said manager Terry Brown after the game. “We’ve got 30 points to play for. I’d love us to get rid of this little nervous blip and hopefully play some of the football we played near the start of this season.
“It’s never easy against 10 men. We had to be patient but the players worked hard. Bradford looked a potent strike force up front—but for once we had the advantage of 11 vs 10.
“We set the players a target of six points in these last three games, and we did it the hard way. I’d have much rather we got the points earlier than at the end of the run of home games.”
One player unlikely to feature for the rest of this season is Dons captain Jamie Stuart.
“We’ve had a number of enquiries for Jamie, including from other League Two clubs,” Brown revealed. “We want to be safe first before we allow him to go on loan, and we’re nearly there but there’s no such thing as nearly.”
“Jamie’s been a brilliant servant to this club. We would never ever have won promotion without him.”
AFC Wimbledon: Brown, Hatton, Mitchel-King, Gwillim, Balkestein, S Moore, Knott (Djalili), Moncur, Yusseff (Jolley), Midson, Euell (L Moore).
My Man of the Match: Sam Hatton
Adam Harwood is a writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise stated, all quotes are sourced first hand.