A brace apiece from Joel Byrom and Akpo Sodje gave the Lilywhites a comfortable victory after an excellent performance at the Cherry Red Records Fans’ Stadium.
Byrom opened the scoring, finishing off a flowing move before Sodje’s brace, which sandwiched a close range strike from Wimbledon’s Christian Jolley, all inside the first 23 minutes at the Cherry Red Fan’s Stadium in Kingston and then the former Stevenage man put the icing on the cake just a few minutes after the interval.
No.13 Byrom, returning from injury, captained the side and drilled home the opener just 11 minutes into the game, finishing off on the penalty spot after Jeffrey Monakana had made a lung-busting 50-yard run down the right hand side.
Monakana was in fine form, gaining in confidence after his late winner against AEK Athens on Saturday, and his pace and power was a constant thorn in the side of the home team.
It was 2-0 after 17 minutes. Another trialist, Wolves’ Sam Winnall, was fouled 40 yards out. Goalscorer Byrom crossed deep from a right hand channel. Former Ipswich man Pim Balkestein rose highest, but could only head the ball up in the air and Sodje was on hand to nod home past Seb Brown from the edge of the six yard box.
The goals continued to flow and the Dons reduced the deficit on 20 minutes. Chris Robertson gave away a free kick 25 yards out. Stacy Long drilled it goalwards, but former Benfica keeper Jose Moreira was up to the task to palm the powerful strike away, however, Christian Jolley was quickest to react, drilling home from the right hand corner of the six yard box.
The Lilywhites were hungry to open up a two goal gap again though and three minutes after the goal a long ball was flicked on by Sodje. Winnall collected, spun and shot low and Brown, a former team-mate of John Mousinho at Brentford, was forced to make a fine save. However, from the resulting corner he could not prevent North End’s third as Nicky Wroe’s left wing inswinger was flicked on by Bailey Wright; Sodje smashed the initial shot against Brown, but followed up to slam home from close range.
Will Hayhurst, who later picked up a rare pre-season booking, had an excellent chance to make it four just before the half hour mark. Sam Winnall picked up ball in the midfield and and drove at heart of AFC Wimbledon defence, before a clever ball left to the former youth player who drilled goalwards with pace, but over Brown’s cross bar.
Byrom and Winnall both went close before half-time, but the best chance to make it four ahead of the interval was a hat-trick chance for Sodje. This time a cross came in from Hayhurst on left which found the forward at back post, but his shot was scuffed and the home side managed to clear.
The Home side started the second half much more brightly and Bailey Wright did extremely well to get a block header ion after a strong run and cross from the right by goalscorer Jolley on 50 minutes.
However, North End made it four and Joel Byrom grabbed his second on 52 minutes. Will Hayhurst started the move on the left, playing a ball into the feet of Winnall on left side of the area. He charged at the full back before pulling the ball back for a superbly timed run by Byrom who drilled home left footed from eight yards out into the roof of the net.
Monakana’s feet continued to dazzle under the floodlights during the second half and he danced past two defenders before unleashing an effort just after the hour mark, however, Brown was able to get down and hold on.
A plethora of changes followed the hour mark which disrupted the fluidity of the game, but North End continued to press for more goals and Keith Keane went close to making it five with 18 minutes left on the clock, collecting a clever short corner on the right before drilling and effort that looked to have taken a deflection into the side netting, however, the referee gave a goal kick.
Only a last ditch tackle from Harris denied Winnall a goal after pacy attack from the Lilywhites ended with Holroyd cleverly pulling back from the byline to the trialist, but his shot was blocked at full stretch by Harris to send the ball over the bar for a corner.
Jose Moreira got his gloves warm with a couple of comfortable late saves, but he wasn’t tested in the second half as North End went into cruise control and enjoyed a much deserved victory for their efforts.
PNE Line-up: Moreira, Keane, Buchanan, Wright, Robertson, Monakana Cummins, 70), Wroe (Holmes, 64), Byrom, Hayhurst (Huntington, 64), Sodje (Holroyd, 71), Winnall (Beardsley, 80). Subs Not Used: Stuckmann, Laird, Cansdell-Sherriff, Mousinho.
Referee: Mr Lee Collins