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Four takeaways from AFC Wimbledon’s 2-0 win over Tranmere – Assal unstoppable and Pell helps combat League Two’s dark arts

AFC Wimbledon made it six League Two games unbeaten as they brushed aside 10-man Tranmere at Prenton Park on Saturday.

Ethan Chislett and Ayoub Assal, who had scored the goals that saw off Weymouth in midweek in the FA Cup, were at it again as they shot the Dons to a win that sees them now just five points off the play-off places.

Goals in each half, either side of a red card for Dynel Simeu, gave the increasingly consistent visitors a thoroughly deserved victory against an overly physical Rovers side whose only goal threat was the Kane Hemmings penalty, superbly saved by Nik Tzanev.

Here are Dave Hunt-Jackson’s takeaways.

PRODUCTION LINE DELIVERS AGAIN

With Jack Currie unable to fully shake off his midweek knock, Dons boss Johnnie Jackson handed a full league debut to Huseyin Biler – and the youngster did not disappoint. Just as Currie before him, he has taken to League Two football like a duck to water.

With Paul Kalambayi and Issac Ogundere also starting it meant three of the back four were products of the AFC Wimbledon academy. Add Nik Tzanev and Ayoub Assal to the mix and nearly half the starting line-up were homegrown, as were substitutes Alfie Bendle and Quaine Bartley.

It is a huge compliment to Biler that Currie was hardly missed. He looked assured on the ball both going forward and in defence. He was never fazed as the host resorted to rough-house tactics when they realised they could not compete with the superior footballing skills of the South Londoners.

TOUGH BUT PLEASANT DILEMMA

Chris Gunter may be starting for Wales in the World Cup on Monday evening but he will have to fight for his place when he returns to his club side. Issac Ogundere was excellent again as he contributed in no small part to a third consecutive league clean sheet and is growing in confidence with every performance.

Ayoub Assal, at the other end of the pitch, is simply unstoppable and keeping him in January could well decide whether the Dons start next season in League One or League Two. Hopefully the lessons of last season when Ollie Palmer was allowed to leave in January have been well and truly learned.

Jackson will have to find a way of maintaining Assal’s goalscoring streak while accommodating the return of Nathan Young-Coombes, who arrives back from Brentford on Monday.  Young-Coombes clearly demonstrated before he was injured that he will score and create goals for fun at this level. Given the form of Assal and Josh Davison, it will be very tempting to play a front three but the now regular midfield four of Alex Woodyard, Harry Pell, Ethan Chislett and Paris Maghoma all look too good to drop.

Quite how veterans Alex Pearce and Lee Brown, when fit, get back into the side is anyone’s guess.

Jackson has his work cut out keeping all of his personnel happy.

PELL LEADS DONS AGAINST THE DARK ARTS

Even more so than in League One there is a decidedly ugly side to life in League Two. Although none of Wimbledon’s opponents have come close to the appalling behaviour of leaders Leyton Orient, Tranmere nevertheless tried their best. Aside from the elbow to Harry Pell, that led to the dismissal, there were at least two other challenges that should have also have resulted in red cards. Wimbledon have a streetwise midfield general in Pell, who is quick to draw attention to opposition fouls and who winds up opponents. The young side around him are learning quickly and the composure that the likes of Biler, Currie and Ogundere show when faced with players determined to resort to foul play does them enormous credit. This is a Wimbledon side that will not be pushed around and the naivete of last season is a thing of the past.

WINNING HABIT

Wimbledon are unbeaten in nine games in all competitions and find themselves in round two of the FA Cup and closing in on the play-off berths.

All Dons fans will remember all too clearly the long runs without a win under Mark Robinson, Glyn Hodges and, before them, Neal Ardley. The South Londoners are certainly overdue a long unbeaten run.

Tuesday’s EFL Trophy match and Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Chesterfield offer the chance of extending two cup runs and taking the unbeaten sequence into double figures, while the seven points garnered from three difficult League Two fixtures have underlined the potential for this young side to bounce back to League One.

It’s an old cliche but winning, like losing, is a habit and from a frankly very disappointing start to the season Wimbledon have a real chance to build on their recent form and to continue to unlock their considerable potential.

One thing is for sure, there is a much more positive feeling than even just a month or so ago.

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