REPORT | AFC Wimbledon 0-2 Southend
by Scott Hatley
Phil Brown marked his 4th anniversary as Southend boss with a vital 2-0 win away at AFC Wimbledon thanks to goals from Nile Ranger and Simon Cox.
Ranger broke the deadlock with a superb individual effort in a first half lacking in clear openings, twisting and turning his way into the area before finding the bottom corner.
The Dons had only lost one of their last 10 games at Kingsmeadow and Southend went about making that two from 11 as Simon Cox lashed the Blues 2-0 in front midway through the second half.
Southend beat Wimbledon 3-0 in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day and they went close to repeating that trick as substitute Theo Robinson hit the outside of the post late on.
2-0 though was more than enough for the Blues who put daylight between themselves and Millwall in the play-off race after the Lions lost 1-0 earlier in the day to Swindon Town.
The win was the perfect anniversary gift for Brown, four years to the day that he took the helm at Roots Hall in 2013, and their third straight win in the league.
The Blues gaffer made three changes to his side following the win over Walsall last Saturday, with Jason Demetriou, Adam Thompson and last weekend’s match-winner Simon Cox coming in.
The hosts fought out a 0-0 draw away at high-flying Fleetwood last time out and they began the brighter, creating the first chance after just two minutes with Tom Elliott’s header going over.
Anthony Wordsworth came close to giving Southend the lead but he was denied as his low, curling effort was brilliantly tipped around the post by the on-loan Arsenal goalkeeper James Shea.
And in a scrappy half short of chances, it took a moment of brilliance from Nile Ranger to break the deadlock as he gave Southend the lead in the 35th minute with a superb individual effort.
The Blues striker twisted and turned his way into the penalty area before having the composure to slot the ball into the bottom corner to put Southend in front at the interval.
Much like the first half, the Dons created an early chance in the second half when George Francomb’s miss-hit shot fell kindly for Elliott who slashed wide.
Southend were gifted a glorious chance to double the lead when Jake Reeves inexplicably gave the ball away to Ranger. With Cox up with him, Ranger went alone but was unable to get a shot away as he was held off by the recovering Paul Robinson.
But the Blues took advantage of another error from the home side just moments later as Cox fired Southend two goals in front with a thunderous strike.
The Dons failed to clear their lines after some pin-ball in the middle of the park, allowing Cox to pick the ball up. At the second attempt, Southend’s top-scorer beat his man and found himself in a shooting position, having no hesitation in firing the ball beyond Shea from 20-yards out.
The 792 travelling Southend fans were thoroughly enjoying their day in the spring sunshine in Kingston-upon-Thames as the Blues took a huge step towards a vital three points in the race for the play-offs.
And in the final 10 minutes Southend went within a post’s width of a third goal as substitute Theo Robinson broke clear of the Dons back line, hitting the outside of the post with his prod at goal.
The Dons had a late opportunity to make for a nervy finish in injury time as a goal-mouth scramble was hurriedly cleared away by the Blues, as the final whistle blew on a superb afternoon at Kingsmeadow.
AFC Wimbledon XI | Shea, Meades, Nightingale, Robinson (C), Francomb, Reeves, Elliott (Barnett 82’), Soares (Parrett 68’), Barcham, Charles, Taylor (Poleon 82’). Subs Not Used: McDonnell, Fitzpatrick, Kelly, Egan
Blues XI | Smith, Coker, Wordsworth, Thompson, Cox (Robinson 75’), McLaughlin, Atkinson, Leonard, Demetriou, Ferdinand (C), Ranger. Subs Not Used: White, Timlin, Fortune, Amos, McGlashan, Robinson, Inniss
Referee: N Kinseley
Assistants: M Wilson & A Aylott
Fourth Official: E Kaye
AFC Wimbledon: None
Southend United: Nile Ranger 35’, Simon Cox 64’
AFC Wimbledon: Lyle Taylor 70’
Southend United: None