July 2, 2022

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Four takeaways from AFC Wimbledon’s loss at Sheffield Wednesday – improvements clear to see but drop danger increases

3 min read

BY DAVE HUNT-JACKSON

AFC Wimbledon’s new manager Mark Bowen could not prevent them slipping to a sixth successive defeat but Saturday’s 2-1 reverse at Sheffield Wednesday was a result that belied a much-improved display and was cruel to say the least on the South Londoners.

Here are Dave Hunt-Jackson’s takeaways:

THE CHANGE IN MORALE IS NOTICEABLE

 While Bowen has had very little time to work with his new charges the sense of optimism that many Dons fans have found as a result of the appointment was visible from the players as well, not least in the way they shrugged off the early blow of conceding and fought their way back into the game in the first half.

THE CHANGE IN TACTICS IS CLEAR TOO

Despite his very short time in charge, Bowen’s Wimbledon already look very different to the side that he inherited. The 3-5-2 set-up looked more solid defensively and despite a very tough Sheffield Wednesday defence to break down, the Dons looked more of a threat going forward.

Most significantly the high press has gone with Wimbledon defending deeper and with greater numbers in the danger areas. Gone are the seemingly acres of space that open up when half the team are pressing in the opposition box. Gone too is the almost constant recycling of the ball back to Nik Tzanev and, for the most part, the team now seem to be looking to get the ball forward to the two -count them, two – forwards.

Of course without Ollie Palmer and now the injured Sam Cosgrove, Wimbledon are without a conventional target man. But Zach Robinson is a genuinely promising talent whose perceptive pass set up the Dons goal. He is beginning to link up well with his striking partner Ayoub Assal, who poses much more threat when part of a proper strike partnership.

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ANOTHER GREAT ESCAPE WILL BE NEEDED

Results elsewhere leave Wimbledon firmly in the relegation zone and while their fate is not in their own hands there are surely enough points available for them to avoid the drop – but it is going to take a string of performances like this one, and significantly better luck than they had in South Yorkshire, if they are to enjoy another season in League One.

However disappointing the results at Hillsborough and elsewhere, at least there is now the sense that the Dons have the ability to stay up and that wasn’t the case a week ago.

Four takeaways from AFC Wimbledon’s loss at Sheffield Wednesday – improvements clear to see but drop danger increases

IT COULD HAVE BEEN VERY DIFFERENT

It would have been at least one and possibly three points for AFC Wimbledon had Assal found a little more composure when one on one with home keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell. Had he scored what would have been his second of the game and would have given the Dons the lead with just 10 minutes left. Instead he shot straight at the Burnley loanee. The 736 travelling Wimbledon fans will have returned to South London pondering what a difference those dropped points have made to a side now four points adrift of safety. Points dropped at the wrong end of the season and the wrong end of the table may prove fatal to the Dons’ survival hopes.

 More widely the Wimbledon fanbase are also reflecting that things could have been different had Bowen been given 10 or a dozen games to save their team, rather than seven. While survival is still possible, how much more likely would it be if some or all of the points thrown away against the likes of Doncaster, Lincoln and Cheltenham were added to their tally?

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The derby with Charlton Athletic on Tuesday night, as well as trips to fellow strugglers Crewe and Fleetwood, all have the feel of must-win games now.

PICTURES: LUCY DIXON