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8 April 2017

AFC Wimbledon 0-1 Bristol Rovers

Attendance: 4,742 (790 away)

Byron Moore scored Rovers' all-time fastest Football League goal as the winger fired home after just twelve seconds to register the only goal of the game at Cherry Red Records Stadium, as Rovers picked up a valuable win on the road against AFC Wimbledon. 

Heading into the encounter, Rovers named four changes to the side that defeated Shrewsbury Town at the Mem last Saturday, with Jake Clarke-Salter, Byron Moore, Stuart Sinclair and Ellis Harrison all coming into the starting XI, with Clarke-Salter making his first start for Rovers since his return from injury.

The hosts were forced into making five changes to the side that lost at Port Vale last weekend, with the notable absence of Tom Elliott from the starting eleven. Dom Poleon was drafted in by Neal Ardley to replace Elliot up front, while Alfie Egan, Dannie Bulman, Jon Meades and Will Nightingale were all recalled to the starting line-up.

It didn't take Rovers long to make an impact in the game, in fact it took just twelve seconds, as a long-ball forward from the back by Tom Lockyer was cushioned by Ellis Harrison into the path of Byron Moore who made no mistake in firing a low volley into the net past James Shea to give Rovers an early lead.

Rovers continued to enjoy the best share of the chances, with Ellis Harrison working the ball to Billy Bodin inside the area, with the winger showing a neat piece of trickery to touch the ball beyond Will Nightingale and was able to slot the ball into the back of the net, but the linesman on the near side had his flag raised for offside to deny Bodin the goal.

Dominic Poleon embarked on a dangerous run into the Rovers area on the twenty-minute mark, but the striker collided with Ryan Sweeney inside the box and was unable to make the most of the threatening position just yards out from the Rovers goal.  

As the half progressed, the hosts started to enjoy more of the possession inside the Rovers half and started to rack up a number of chances on goal, with the best opportunity falling to Lyle Taylor, who found himself in space in front of the Rovers defence and was allowed time to knock the ball onto his favoured right foot before shooting from the fringes of the area, but the striker dragged his effort off target with his shot bouncing harmlessly wide of Joe Lumley's right-hand post. Taylor's chance was quickly followed by a driven cross from the left by Jake Reeves that was flicked towards goal by Dominic Poleon, but his back-heel flick evaded everyone inside the area and Rovers were able to clear the danger. 

Although Rovers still had the goal advantage, it was AFC Wimbledon who had the momentum inside the closing stages of the first half. Lyle Taylor was again involved as he controlled an awkward ball inside the area and was able to steady himself to direct a powerful effort towards goal that Joe Lumley managed to push over the bar.

Lyle Taylor then had two chances in the space of a matter of seconds. The first came from a free-kick just outside the penalty box that the striker opted to drive low towards goal and Tom Lockyer was in the right place to deflect the shot away from danger. Moments later a cross from the left came in at the right height for the striker to attack at the near post, but leaping high in the air Taylor could only slide his effort wide of the target. Taylor, in fact, registered four of the six chances that AFC Wimbledon created during the opening forty-five minutes. 

In the final minute before the break, there was a lengthy delay as a coming together between Lyle Taylor and Daniel Leadbitter resulted in the Rovers' right-back being launched into the advertising boards. Leadbitter looked in immediate discomfort and was unable to continue, with Joe Partington being drafted as his replacement in first-half stoppage time.

After the restart, the hosts were quick to carry on where they had left off in the moments before the half-time break, as Lyle Taylor once again found himself in a position to connect with a cross into the area, but with the ball directed slightly behind the striker he could only attempt an ambitious backheel flick that was gratefully gathered by Joe Lumley inside the six-yard box.

Chances were hard to come by in the second half, as Rovers looked organised in defence, switching to a flat back four, which meant that Joe Partington was promoted into a midfield role, as skipper Tom Lockyer moved to right-back. 

As the hour mark passed, a tempting delivery to the far post from Billy Bodin was met by the leaping Chris Lines, who chose to direct his header back across goal and not towards the target, with the AFC Wimbledon defence able to rush the ball clear before anyone in a yellow shirt was able to connect inside the area.

Rovers had a chance to extend their advantage, as Billy Bodin was allowed the opportunity to run unchallenged into the AFC Wimbledon area, but the winger delayed his shot and his eventual effort was pushed away by the outstretched James Shea.

With fifteen minutes to go a free-kick from the wide right was swung into the Rovers area by George Francomb and was headed clear by an excellent defensive header from Ellis Harrison, who soon after was replaced by Luke James.

In the final minutes, there was a late scare for Rovers as Geroge Francomb advanced to the byline and directed a pass across the face of goal that was poked wide of the target by substitute Darius Charles. The chance for the hosts was quickly followed by a long-range effort from Lyle Taylor that veered well off target from twenty-five yards out. 

Rovers soaked up the late pressure and were able to defend their goal lead, picking up a valuable three points heading into the final four games of the campaign.

Next up for Rovers is the busy period of fixtures over the Easter weekend, which includes a trip to Gillingham on Good Friday, before hosting Oldham Athletic at the Mem on Easter Monday.  

AFC Wimbledon: James Shea (G), George Francomb, Sean Kelly, Paul Robinson (C), Will Nightingale, Jon Meades, Jake Reeves, Dannie Bulman (74' Darius Charles), Alfie Egan (58' David Fitzpatrick), Dom Poleon (54' Tyrone Barnett), Lyle Taylor.

Substitutes: Joe McDonnell (G), Darius Charles, Chris Robertson, Tody Sibbick, Jayden Antwi.

Rovers: Joe Lumley (G), Lee Brown, Tom Lockyer (C), Ryan Sweeney, Jake Clarke-Salter (70' Lee Mansell), Daniel Leadbitter (44' Joe Partington), Stuart Sinclair, Chris Lines, Byron Moore, Billy Bodin, Ellis Harrison (73' Luke James).

Substitutes: Steve Mildenhall (G), Jermaine Easter, Cristian Montano, Robert Harris.

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