Stevenage put in a superb performance to claim all three points away at AFC Wimbledon this afternoon with a 3-2 win.
Boro had to come from behind for the victory, responding to Matt Tubbs’ opener with goals from Dean Wells, debutant Cameron Lancaster and Charlie Lee before Adebyao Azeez set up a nervous finish late on.
Manager Graham Westley handed new signing Cameron Lancaster a start just a day after signing whilst there were also welcome returns for Ronnie Henry and Tom Pett. Calvin Zola and Conor Calcutt joined Adam Marriott, Roarie Deacon, Jon Ashton and Chris Day on the bench.
Much has been made of AFC Wimbledon’s strike force of Tubbs and Akinfenwa ahead of this season and within three minutes the latter had rattled the woodwork, meeting a Callum Kennedy cross at the back post and powering his header against the post.
The pair were to go on to have a lively opening 45 minutes with Akinfenwa putting himself about and winning several headers and Tubbs always a threat with clever runs through the backline. Fortunately Dean Wells and Darius Charles, occupying a more defensive role for this game, were there to sweep up the majority of those dangerous balls.
At the other end Lancaster was looking lively for Boro and tested Shea with a low 14th minute effort from a Walton corner.
Tubbs has been a massive thorn in Boro’s side in the past, finding the back of the net of a number of occasions and with 18 minutes gone you’d have bet your house on his personal tally against Stevenage increasing once again. Akinfenwa showed incredible strength on the edge of the box to poke the ball through to the former Crawley man, who uncharacteristically poked wide.
The lively Tom Pett fired wide after a mazy run down the Boro left before that man Tubbs did find himself on the scoresheet, tucking home a low cross after Sainte-Luce had robbed Charles to give the Dons a 33rd minute lead.
To their credit through Boro kept up the pressure and when Charlie Lee danced his way towards goal and was hauled down by Dannie Bulman, Stevenage had a free-kick 30 yards out. Up stepped Simon Walton to curl a beauty towards the top corner only for Shea to produce a wonderful save to tip the ball onto the ball. Fortunately for Graham Westley’s men there was Dean Wells in the right place at the right time to nod home the equaliser. Game on.
If the first half saw a fairly even game, the second was one of dominance for Stevenage. Walton and Bond saw shots fly over and Shea saved a Lee shot, after another mazy run, as Boro launched wave after wave of attack on the Dons goal.
Stevenage kept up the pressure and when Lee again beat his man out wide just before the hour and fired in a beauty of a cross, it only needed a touch from a Boro man to find the back of the net. Fortunately for the Dons there wasn’t a Stevenage man in the six yard box and the danger was gone.
However Boro finally found the back of the net moments later and in spectacular style. When Cameron Lancaster picked up the ball on the left touchline and looked up there looked little danger for Wimbledon, however he turned and whipped in a marvellous effort which curled right over Shea into the far corner. Cross? Shot? Nobody cared. Boro led 2-1 and it was well deserved.
Sam Beasant had to be alert to punch away a dangerous cross as Wimbledon mounted a rare attack and Walton curled another free-kick just wide before Boro further extended their lead with 20 minutes remaining.
Yet another Stevenage attack was cleared only as far as Okimo, who was given all the time in the world to put in a superb cross for Charlie Lee to power home a third. The 280 travelling Boro fans in that corner were delirious.
Roarie Deacon and Adam Marriott came on as Graham Westley opted for fresh legs in the final 10 moments, with the visitors looking to punish Wimbledon on the break once again.
Neil Ardley’s men naturally rallied in the closing stages and despite Beasant denying Tubbs with a superb low save, the hosts did pull one back in the fifth minute of injury time when sub Adebayo Azeez netted from close range.
It was too little, too late though for Wimbledon and it was Stevenage who took all three points after a superb performance.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Kennedy (Azeez 68), Moore, Barrett, Bennett, Rigg, Bulman, Akinfenwa, Tubbs, Sainte-Luce (Phillips 54)
Subs not used: McDonnell, Nicholson, Pell, Harrison, Beere
Stevenage: Beasant, Henry, Wells, Charles, Okimo, Whelpdale, Bond, Walton, Lee (Deacon 78), Pett, Lancaster (Calcutt 67)
Subs not used: Day, Ashton, Zola, Marriott
Referee: D Handley
Attendance: 3,791 (280 Stevenage)