AFC Wimbledon 1-3 West Ham United Six Things: 10-man Wombles bow out with pride

Rice, Snograss, Diop and Zabaleta celebrate – @SkyFootball

Despite producing a heroic, catenaccio performance, AFC Wimbledon’s 10-men suffered late heartbreak in a 3-1 defeat to West Ham United. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Pigott’s dream start

West Ham appeared to underestimate AFC Wimbledon’s threat from long throws and set pieces, both of which were taken by the impressive Mitch Pinnock. The former Dover winger’s corner, as early as the second minute, found at the near post Joe Pigott, who showed great strength to beat Angelo Ogbonna in the air and head home. Neal Ardley commented afterwards that he expected James Hanson to do the most damage from dead ball scenarios, but it was the ex-Charlton striker who did the damage here.

Over-zealous McDonald

After signing for Wimbledon from Coventry in the summer, centre-back Rod McDonald had found himself second choice behind the excellent Will Nightingale and Deji Oshilaja. He was understandably desperate to prove his worth but this counted against him: first, an almost Vinnie Jones-esque challenge on Robert Snodgrass earned a yellow card, before the ex-Northampton man then tugged Hernandez from just outside the box for a second yellow. His dismissal ruined Wimbledon’s plans because, rather than play early balls into Pigott and Hanson to get Wagstaff, Anthony Hartigan and Pinnock running off them, they had only Hanson up top and everyone else stuck in the defensive third. Hanson does not have the required pace to carry a counter-attack in isolation, so it was incredibly difficult for the team to make headway going forward.

Nightingale heals Wimbledon

Shortly after the red card, Pigott was replaced by Nightingale, who would become a prominent figure. The Hammers’ pressure was relentless; there was not a five-minute period that passed without Nightingale making a crucial block in the box. Not that he was the only one chipping in: young Toby Sibbick, standing in for injured right-back Tennai Watson, showed great positional awareness while wide man Wagstaff also made two off-the-line clearances within a two-minute period.

Diop’s drive

Felipe Anderson added creativity and penetration after replacing Pedro Obiang at the break but still, The Irons were still unable to unlock this sturdy unit. Against defensive opposition, it can be helpful if centre-backs can contribute going forward and Issa Diop provided a fine example of why. With space blocked out for the more advanced players, the summer signing from Toulose had time to take a touch and unleash a wonderful long-range drive which flew inside the near-post. Moments later, the same player crashed the bar as West Ham turned up the heat.

Ogbonna’s late-winner

Deji Oshilaja had just made the second of two excellent second half blocks from Robert Snodgrass when the Scot took an 83rd-minute corner; unfortunately, that was the one moment Oshilaja couldn’t maintain the incredibly high standards he had set throughout the match. The former Gillingham centre-back understandably looked mentally drained and temporarily lost his balance to allow Ogbonna to head home, before Javier Hernandez added a third in injury-time. It would be unreasonable to say that the East Londoners didn’t deserve to win this, but the path to their first win under Manuel Pellegrini – and the Third Round of the EFL Cup – was not a smooth one.

Pride for The Wombles

West Ham might have won, but the night will be remembered for the courage AFC Wimbledon showed despite the numerical disadvantage. With the club likely to move to it’s spiritual home of Plough Lane midway through next season, they are looking for memories with which to leave Kingsmeadow; this is certainly an evening on which they can look back with pride.