The final verdict on Portsmouth victory at AFC Wimbledon

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Pompey writer Jordan Cross delivers the final verdict on Saturday’s 2-1 win at AFC Wimbledon.

Breathless Battering

Tom Naylor celebrates his goal from a corner in the win over AFC Wimbledon. Picture: Joe Pepler

Tom Naylor celebrates his goal from a corner in the win over AFC Wimbledon. Picture: Joe Pepler

In a championship fight, the referee would’ve had no choice but to wave off the contest.

So one-sided was Pompey’s first-half battering AFC Wimbledon, under-pressure boss Neal Ardley felt compelled to make a triple change at the break in an effort to get some kind of foothold in the game.

Joe Pigott’s substitution was enforced through illness, but it was a desperate response as the Dons took a fearsome pummelling.

Kenny Jackett’s men were two goals to the good, but a four-goal advantage wouldn’t have been an unfair reflection of what was witnessed in the first half.

Oli Hawkins, Gareth Evans and Tom Naylor all had a couple of chances apiece, with Dion Donohue a tad-harshly booked for a penalty shout.

The good news was Naylor’s goal came from a corner situation where Jackett has been demanding Pompey up their threat.

But the chances were there to put the game well and truly to bed before James Hanson gave the Dons a 63rd-minute lifeline.

Pompey will need to be more ruthless if they aren’t to be punished for profligacy in their promotion bid.

But their counter-attacking might has once again been highlighted as a key destructive force in the joint-best away points return in English football this term.

Rock-solid Rearguard

Pompey supporters should have enjoyed the most comfortable of afternoon’s watching their team maintain their table-topping position.

Instead, the 769 travelling fans and scores of other Blues followers who appeared to find a seat in the home section were left biting their fingernails late on at Kingsmeadow.

James Hanson’s howitzer meant there was nervy final 30 minutes to endure, with the 2-1 scoreline a whole lot closer than it should’ve been.

The difference this season is those fans dotted around AFC Wimbledon’s home believe their side have the defensive steel to see out a victory.

It’s well documented how failure to do so last term hurt Pompey’s aborted play-off bid, prompting plenty of pre-season focus from Kenny Jackett on making his side a sturdier and more robust proposition.

The blocks from his centre-halves epitomised the hunger of his team to protect their victory.

And, although, initially struggling to contain the late waves of Wimbledon attacks, the introduction of an additional midfielder in Ben Close and change in shape to a 4-3-3 saw the home charge stifled.

It’s a testament to Pompey’s defensive steel that for all the late Dons pressure there was little in the way of tangible efforts from them to reflect on.

Man in the Middle

Kenny Jackett had agonised over how to make his team an effective proposition with enforced absences at AFC Wimbledon.

With key man Ronan Curtis on international duty and David Wheeler joining fellow winger Andre Green in the treatment room, the solution was a change of shape and to hand Jamal Lowe a new role as his side travelled up the A3.

Lowe was utilised in an central-attacking position with Oli Hawkins amid three changes from the team who lost their first league game to Gillingham.

Hawkins was viewed as the best option to be used in tandem with his new strike partner’s pace, as Ben Thompson made an effective return to the team in the other change.

The manner in which Lowe tormented the Wimbledon defence was one of the standout features of an irresistible first half from the visitors.

That meant a return to the right wing from his recent central role for Gareth Evans, where he added his fourth goal of the campaign in an effective showing.

And Dion Donohue’s assist for the opener capped a fine week for the Welshman, in which his return offered balance to his side and tempered the absence of Curtis impressively.