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19 April 2019 Venue The Cherry Red Records Stadium Attendance

Kick off 15:00 (UK)

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Focus On: AFC Wimbledon

18 April 2019

By Gerry Prewett.

With 4 games of the season to go, Rovers travel to the Cherry Red Records Fans Stadium to face a relegation-threatened, but an in form, AFC Wimbledon.

Despite last weekend’s dramatic win, Rovers are not quite safe themselves yet and will be for points to edge closer to the final hurdle of safety.

In their last six games the Dons have the 9th best set of results in the Division. It is their away form that is so impressive ranking second, above even Luton.

The Dons have banked 21 points from their last 11 League One matches, with only Luton, Charlton and Sunderland claiming more. Having been rock bottom when Wally Downes took over, the Dons looked doomed. Neil Ardley was very reluctantly shown the door and Downes invited back to the Club he loves so much. Much like Rovers, Wimbledon were not getting thrashed but found goals hard to come by.

Downes commented, “We’ve done a lot of hard work in the last few months and it has paid off, let’s hope it pays off this month as well. That [producing title-winning form] was the challenge set us [to beat the drop]. Everyone at the club has stepped up; from the office right through to the kitmen or people in the bars who are all volunteers. It’s been like a promotion push and we’re still on track to achieve what we want to do.”

Wimbledon have also seen their injury issues dissipate, reflected in the fact that Michael Folivi, Andy Barcham, Deji Oshilaja, Mitch Pinnock, Kwesi Appiah and Shane McLoughlin are all back in contention for first team places.

On Saturday, when Rovers were seeing off a spirited Bradford City team, the Dons ground out a 0-0 at Oxford. Dons’ keeper Aaron Ramsdale made two excellent saves, the best with his legs from Oxford substitute Jamie Mackie in the 71st minute just after the striker had come off the bench.

The visitors had a good early opportunity, with James Hanson heading over, but the U's then began to assert themselves with Mark Sykes catching the eye in midfield. Luke Garbutt was denied by a fine save from Ramsdale when he connected with Gavin Whyte's pull-back.

And after Jerome Sinclair poked a shot wide at full-stretch as Ramsdale raced out, Cameron Brannagan fired against the outside of the post. A succession of stoppages for injuries disrupted the flow early in the second half, which finished with the home side pressing hard for a winner, but unable to find it.

The Dons remain in the bottom four, but are now crucially just one point behind Rochdale and Scunthorpe above them.

Speaking after the game Downes was full of praise for the work ethic of his team and especially keeper Ramsdale, “Everyone in front of him, especially the front two, worked their socks off. The midfield boys put themselves about, the defenders defended for their lives when the ball came in. When all of that failed Aaron did his job and he did it superbly.”

“The good thing is that we’ve come away with a point and I can now highlight the errors to them. We can watch it in the classroom and continue their education. There was nothing calamitous and we got away with it.”

“If I was Oxford’s manager I would be thinking they had the better of it and they should have won. But I am really pleased that we got a point because with the effort we put in we deserved it.”

Rovers record in these ties is excellent with 8 wins, 2 draws and 3 defeats in the 13 games played. The first game was actually AFC’s very first League game at the start of the 2011/12 season. The live televised match provided great entertainment. Goals by McGleish and Harrold had Rovers cruising within 20 minutes. AFC then fought back and Stuart was on the scoresheet 7 minutes before half-time. On 67 minutes Kingsmeadow erupted as Ademeno pulled AFC level. It was left for Adam Virgo to spoil the party with an 84th minute penalty to take all 3 points back down the M4 to Bristol.

Rovers should have had the game out of Wimbledon's reach by half time, but allowed their hosts to get back on level terms before they settled things with that late penalty. The team contained ten players making their Rovers league debut.

The following season an appalling first half display saw Rovers give away 3 goals in 14 minutes to lose any chance of taking anything from the game. To cap it all they finished the game with ten men after Tom Parkes picked up his second yellow card of the evening on 83 minutes.

It was no real surprise when Wimbledon took the lead on 14 minutes. A ball in from the right seemed to catch everyone by surprise and appeared to hit Gary Kenneth on the shin and roll into an unguarded net. Incessant pressure from the home side saw them rewarded with a second goal on the half hour mark. Midson was the provider, slipping the ball out to the right to Rashid Yussuff who comfortably slid the ball past Neil Etheridge from six yards.

Three minutes later goal number three arrived. Tom Parkes was penalised with a yellow card for a poor challenge out on the right, George Francomb floated the free kick into the area and Antwi was credited with the final touch, though from the stand it appeared to go in off of Kenneth

With just 18 minutes remaining Rovers recovered some semblance of dignity when David Clarkson set up Eaves for the fourth goal of his brief Rovers career. Winning possession some 25 yards from goal, he squared the ball to his strike partner who fired a superb shot into the top corner of the net.

Any hopes of a dramatic fight back were dashed seven minutes from time when Parkes made a rash challenge on Luke Moore and was booked for his efforts. It was his second booking of the evening, and he headed for the dressing room knowing he faced another suspension.

In 2016/17 season Rovers won both games, 2-0 on New Years Eve at the Mem and 1-0 at the Cherry Red Records Fans Stadium on 8th April, with a Billy Bodin goal in the first minute.

Last season roles were reversed, as was the scoring with Joe Piggott getting a last minute winner for the home team

Don’s keeper Aaron Ramsdale is confident about Wimbledon’s prospects of survival, “We’re in a great position. We’re a point off two teams and a win off two others, so we’ve got a great run-in. We’ve got Bristol Rovers at home on Good Friday. Luton is a bit of a free-hit, so hopefully we can get something there if they are already in party-mode. Then it’s Wycombe at home and one big push up at Bradford, who probably will have already been relegated by then.”

“We’ve just got to keep fighting; it’s what this club is all about. We have the fans and the players singing off the same hymn sheet and I believe we can stay up.

“When you look into the story and see documentaries and hear Glyn and the gaffer speak, you don’t want to see what might happen. We’re trying everything in our powers to make this a special season from a bad season, if that makes sense!”

Speaking about the Oxford result he said,  “It was a great point on the road. When you think about it, we could have caved-in and not picked up anything. The lads showed great fight and resilience and we’ve ground out a very good point. It was a learning curve, but thankfully we got through to the end.

“It’s brilliant when the fans are singing your name. Even though there are thirteen other players involved, 1,300 people singing your name is a special moment. Other than that, they filled their section of the stand and didn’t stop singing and it really does drive you on at times. You can hear a little moan and groan because we haven’t played well, but they know it could be a great point come the end of the season. “

 

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Match Reports

Match Report: AFC Wimbledon 1-1 Rovers

19 April 2019

Ollie Clarke scored his second 25-yarder in the space of the week to earn Rovers a point away at AFC Wimbledon on Good Friday.

The Dons took the lead through Joe Pigott's curling effort in the first half, but O.Clarke cancelled it out with a sensational effort from range inside the final 15 minutes to earn a share of the spoils. 

Rovers made just two changes from the win over Bradford, as Gavin Reilly came in as a straight swap with Tom Nichols to join Jonson Clarke-Harris up top.

Joe Partington earned his first start since the 4-0 win at home to Blackpool at the start of March, meaning Liam Sercombe dropped to the bench. 

On a wonderfully sunny day in South West London, Rovers arguably started the brightest but without carving out any notable opportunities; the hosts were aware of Clarke-Harris capabilities and making that apparent when he was charged down on the edge of the box by not just one but two blue shirts.

Following his distance strike last weekend against Bradford City, O.Clarke tried one from a similar area, however this time saw it skip wide of the post.

O.Clarke was involved again on 17 minutes when he got in down the right flank before firing a decent ball to the near post that Reilly got his head to but saw it deflect behind for a corner.

The hosts got forward well a few moments later, with a cutback finding its way to James Hanson who struck it first time, but it was well blocked Abu Ogogo.

It marked a good spell for Wimbledon which they went on to take advantage of, as Pigott curled what was admittedly an excellent finish into the top corner from just inside the area.

The Dons continued in a positive manner and had Rovers on the back foot for five minutes or so, but Clarke-Harris won a good free kick on the right wing to relieve pressure and a good chance went begging from the delivery.

Ed Upson found O.Clarke unmarked at the back post and the midfielder hit it on the half-volley but seemed to lean back as he did and saw the ball sail over the bar.

Up the other end Rovers very nearly went two down, first Jack Bonham clawed out Steven Seddon's header with a superb save before Tony Craig came to the rescue with goal-line clearance on Anthony Wordsworth's low drive. 

Rovers almost found an equaliser through an unlikely source and manner, as James Clarke received the ball 30 yards out and drove a sweetly struck shot at goal and it flew just a whisker wide of the target.

Walley Downes' side finished the half the stronger side, however Rovers were able to withstand the pressure to go into the break with just the one-goal disadvantage.

The action resumed in a rather docile manner, with neither side threatening much inside the first 10 minutes of the second half. 

Rovers best chance certainly of the half and perhaps the game, fell to Reilly just past the hour mark.

O.Clarke turned two defenders excellently 25 yards out before slipping a cute pass through to Reilly who was one-on-one. He opted to use his left foot and try to bend it past the keeper but Aaron Ramsdale got down really well to deny the Scotsman.

Graham Coughlan went for his first change on 65 minutes, as he ramped up the attacking threat by bringing on Alex Rodman for Partington. 

Dons sub Michael Folivi went close from outside the box, curling a decent strike just over the bar, a few moments before Rovers used their two remaining changes; Sercombe and Alex Jakubiak on for Tareiq Holmes-Dennis and Reilly.

Rovers continued to prob for an equaliser - the ball sat up nicely for Upson to hit a volley outside the area but it was straight down Ramsdale's throat. 

Then on 77 minutes, they did find a leveller and it came through emphatic fashion, as O.Clarke who shifted the ball onto his 'weaker' left foot from 25 yards and bent the ball expertly into the top corner. 

The Dons had a great chance to restore their lead inside the final five minutes, but Folivi couldn't guide his glanced header either side of the keeper as the game finished level. 

Rovers XI: Jack Bonham, Joe Partington (Alex Rodman, 65'), James Clarke, Tom Lockyer (C), Tony Craig, Tareiq Holmes-Dennis (Liam Sercombe, 71'), Abu Ogogo, Ed Upson, Ollie Clarke, Gavin Reilly (Alex Jakubiak 71'), Jonson Clarke-Harris.

Unused subs: Adam Smith (GK), Stuart Sinclair, Alfie Kilgour, Tom Nichols.

AFC Wimbledon XI: Aaron Ramsdale (GK), Will Nightingale, Rod McDonald, Paul Kalambayi, Steve Seddon, Toby Sibbick, Scott Wagstaff (Dylan Connolly, 82'), Anthony Hartigan (Tom Soares, 83'), Anthony Wordsworth, Joe Pigott (Michael Folivi, 65'), James Hanson.

Unused subs: Joe McDonnell (GK), Terell Thomas, Mitch Pinnock, Shane McLaughlin.

Attendance: 4,850 (774 away).

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Ticket News

Ticket Update: AFC Wimbledon SOLD OUT

15 April 2019

Tickets for Friday's Sky Bet League fixture at AFC Wimbledon are now SOLD OUT!

Rovers head to south London to face AFC Wimbledon on Friday, 19th April for a 3pm kick-off - with over 800 Rovers supporters making the trip to the Cherry Red Records Stadium.

Supporters should be aware that away fans won't be allowed in the bars located at the ground on Friday. 

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