AFC Wimbledon sealed a historic promotion to Sky Bet League 1 after beating Plymouth Argyle 2-0 in the Sky Bet League 2 Play-Off Final at Wembley.The Dons, formed in 2002, reached the third tier for the first time in their history, with their sixth promotion in 14 seasons, thanks to goals from Lyle Taylor and Adebayo Akinfenwa.
In what was a tense, even affair at the national stadium, Taylor had to wait until late in the second period for his crucial breakthrough goal, but it capped off a remarkable season for the Dons and a fine personal campaign for the 23-goal front man.
It was a first half of very few chances as both sides opted for a direct approach.
While Dons defender Paul Robinson was getting the better of Argyle’s lone striker Jamille Matt at one end, limiting them to long-range efforts in the opening exchanges, Taylor and strike partner Tom Elliott were proving to be a handful for the Green and White defence.
Taylor had the first sight of goal in the sixth minute when he failed to get a telling connection on a Callum Kennedy free-kick, and he could only find the side-netting after collecting a trademark Elliott flick-on shortly afterwards.
A combination of Kennedy’s set-piece delivery and Elliott’s head caused more havoc midway through the half, in what was the best opening of the first period. The front man headed a delivery back across goal and the experienced Robinson, later named Man of the Match, was thwarted in the six-yard box by Pilgrims defender Kelvin Mellor.
It was more of the same after the restart, but Argyle did manage to create some chances, largely through the lively Carey.
He was brought down on the hour by Connor Smith in a wide position and, although the resulting free-kick came to nothing, another in a more central position just two minutes later forced Dons stopper Roos into a diving save.
A quiet spell was played but, after the influential Adebayo Akinfenwa was introduced from the Wimbledon bench, Taylor had his moment.
Left-back Kennedy failed to beat the first man from a corner but, after the ball came back to him, he delivered a cross that Taylor poked past the sprawling McCormick having nipped in front of Mellor. Shirt off; delirium.
After the goal, Neal Ardley’s men remained on the front foot in the hope of making their lead more comfortable.
The impressive Jake Reeves broke down the right and fed the over-lapping Barry Fuller but McCormick saved well, before the long-serving Pilgrims goalkeeper was called into action minutes later when Akifenwa powered a trademark header at goal. Unlike at Accrington in the semis, this one was tipped over.
As the clock ticked down in injury time the Dons tried to hit Plymouth on the counter, but Taylor and his tired legs failed to convert when one-on-one, barely forcing McCormick into a save.
But the goalkeeper could do nothing when Wimbledon were awarded a penalty a couple of minutes later after substitute Adebayo Azeez had been brought down.
The talismanic Akinfenwa stepped up and sent the Pilgrims stopper the wrong way, and the Dons into Sky Bet League 1.
From a 2002 meeting in The Fox and Grapes pub on Wimbledon common, to the third tier of English football for the 2016/17 season – another chapter in the AFC Wimbledon history books was written.
AFC Wimbledon: Roos (GK), Fuller (capt), Kennedy, Robinson, Charles, Barcham, Bulman, Reeves, Elliott (Akinfenwa 75), Taylor (Azeez 90+5), Smith (Meades 69).
Substitutes not used: Shea, Rigg, Sweeney, Murphy.
Plymouth Argyle: McCormick (GK), Mellor, Sawyer, McHugh, Nelson (capt), Hartley (Forster 86), Carey, Wylde (Reid 82), Jervis (Tanner 66), Matt, Boateng.
Substitutes not used: Harvey, Purrington, Dorel, Houghton.
Referee: Iain Williamson