Harrogate Town 0 AFC Wimbledon 1: Sulphurites fail to fire in dour contest
Tuesday night’s fixture at Wetherby Road was largely a non-event, with Omar Bugiel’s early strike enough to extend the high-flying Dons’ excellent start to the season, while bringing Simon Weaver’s men back down to earth following back-to-back victories.
The Sulphurites, who have struggled for goals this term, were unable to create anything resembling a clear-cut scoring opportunity throughout the 90 minutes, and despite seeing plenty of the ball, never looked like getting themselves back on terms after falling behind.
"They are a good outfit on a good run, but we didn’t prize them open,” Weaver told the Harrogate Advertiser.
"It was a very tight game. I can’t say that they had many chances to score, but neither did we. We passed the ball well in the first half, but in the second we lacked cutting edge. In the final third we were just lacking a bit.
"You have to give Wimbledon credit for snuffing us out, but we have to work hard to be better in terms of end product – better movement inside the box and a better final ball.
"We are trying to pass it and play football our way and we went away from that in the second half on a couple of things which didn’t work out for us, and I take responsibility for that.
"But it’s not for the want of trying, we were throwing substitutes on and trying different things. There was a bit of anxiety, but we are trying to produce a style of play and commit to that and you’re not going to win every game. That said, we can sincerely want a bit more in the attacking third of the pitch.”
The first half was a dull affair, largely due to the effective and organised nature of the Dons’ disciplined work out of possession.
Having got their noses in front as early as the sixth minute when Bugiel was allowed to advance to the edge of the home box and caress a low shot beyond Mark Oxley with the outside of his right boot, the visitors denied Town any time or space to play in.
As a result, the home side spent most of the opening three quarters of an hour passing the ball backwards and sideways before either giving it away or seeing an attack break down when one of their players lost their footing.
Very much lacking a focal point in the final third, it took Harrogate until the 33rd minute to fashion anything resembling a sight of goal.
It came following a determined slalom down the right by the excellent Kayne Ramsay, but with the whole of the goal to aim at 18 yards out, Matty Daly passed the ball straight down the throat of Alex Bass.
Wimbledon carried a bit more menace about them as an offensive force, though they didn’t have to work too hard for chances to extend their advantage as Anthony O’Connor’s under-hit back-pass led to an opportunity for Ali Al-Hamadi, closing down Oxley’s attempted clearance.
Town winger Jeremy Sivi then gave the ball away in midfield, allowing Al-Hamadi to raid at pace down the centre of the pitch and outpace O’Connor before forcing a decent stop out of Oxley.
Daly did hit the target again with a dipping effort from distance shortly before the interval, but Bass was again able to make a routine save from what turned out to be the home side’s last shot in anger on a night in which they mustered just four attempts at goal.
The second half was equally as dour, with Harrogate unable to put the Dons under any kind of pressure despite finishing the game with strikers Luke Armstrong and Josh March on the field.
At the other end, Armani Little and Jake Reeves were both off target with ambitious long-range efforts before substitute Harry Pell’s late header from a corner pressed Oxley into action, however there was little for either set of fans to get too excited about.
Defeat sees Town drop one place in the League Two standings to 19th position ahead of Saturday’s trip to Newport County.