U's go top. Full time report
United's magnificent away form continued with another excellent win at Wimbledon this afternoon. Given an early lead by James Constable they added a penalty from sub Deane Smalley in the second half to move top of SkyBet League 2.
Last season Constable was sent off in controversial circumstances on this ground, but this time he perhaps had a point to prove and after five minutes did so in perfect style. Asa Hall did very well out on the right wing and bent in a perfect cross. Constable was unmarked, eight yards from goal, and for the 99th time in United colours he thumped the ball into the net, this time with a perfect downwards header that gave home keeper Ross Worner no chance.
Curiously it was the first time United have scored with a header this season but it gave their superb 854 travelling fans further reason to roar their team on under the leaden London skies.
The home side tried to rally after that early setback but the defensive duo of Michael Raynes and Jake Wright were holding them at arms length in the first 25 minutes, ably assisted by the sometimes under-appreciated but very influential Andy Whing, tracking runners and instinctively in the right place to stamp out danger at source.
United should have had a penalty on the half hour as Rigg was blatantly bundled over as he raced clear on to a well-weighted Constable through ball. Ref Whitestone was perhaps the only person in the ground not to see Barry Fuller shove Rigg over before he could shoot.
Ryan Williams, having a fine game and full of running, burst from half way and was only denied by the legs of Worner on 33 minutes and United could easily have been 2-0 up at the break, although they were grateful that towering centre forward Michael Smith flicked his header over the bar on 34 with the home side’s best chance of the half.
There were howls of protest from the away fans on 41 as Rigg went down in the area again and although nothing was given there was plenty of encouragement if Rigg and Williams could continue to run at their men in the second half.
It almost worked in the fifth minute of the second half when Constable chested the ball into the path of Williams only for the young Australian to slightly mis-hit his volley and send it wide of the left-hand post.
Wimbledon then forced Ryan Clarke into his first save of the afternoon after 52 as he spread himself to deny George Francomb after the Wimbledon man had shunted Wright the wrong way for once.
Williams, who had also nodded a loose ball just wide as Worner waited for the ball to drop into his arms, made way for Deane Smalley, Scott Davies also coming on for the hard-working Hall around the hour mark, at a time when Wimbledon were having their best spell of the match. Their problem was that by committing men forward they were leaving space in behind and on 71 it should have been game, set and match, to use a Wimbledon expression. Smalley bustled his way past his man and charged goalwards, Constable kept pace but when Smalley unselfishly rolled the ball across his strike partner blazed a glorious chance over the top rather than completing his ton.
Constable will have been mightily relieved to see Clarke then come out and save at the feet of Kevin Sainte-Luce two minutes later as the lively substitute sprinted into the box. The game had become end to end by then and on 75 Constable rolled an inviting pass into the box for the once-again excellent Danny Rose, the midfielder flashing in a shot which missed the target by a foot at most.
With Wimbledon pressing forward it was tense stuff but on 81 the game was up and United were top. Smalley once again made up yards to burst past defender Rhys Weston on to a Josh Ruffels through ball. Weston was caught out, Smalley touched the ball across him and was upended. Undoubtedly a penalty; how Weston escaped with just a talking to is the only question. Smalley took the responsibility, seized the ball and drilled it past Worner to make it 2-0 and secure another three points on the road.
A well-deserved three points for United who have a resilience and a well-drilled shape to them that makes them very hard to beat. Four clean sheets in a row since inspirational captain Jake Wright returned and with big players like Kitson, Mullins and Potter to add to the mix there is plenty more to come. In this tightest of divisions there are plenty of thrills and spills ahead this season but right now there are 23 other teams in the division who would swap places with the U's.
See you next weekend at home to Bristol Rovers.
Report by Chris Williams pictures by Darrell Fisher stats by OPTA
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