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Sat 02 May 15

Wimbledon ended the season by extending their unbeaten home run to 10 matches, but there was an element of frustration as the Dons failed to beat relegated Cheltenham Town.

Yet again, Wimbledon fashioned plenty of chances, but they only had one goal to show for it and Neal Ardley’s men had to settle for a 1-1 draw.

The fact that goal came from defender Jack Smith showed exactly why Wimbledon had failed to mount a play-off challenge as deficiencies up front were again highlighted.

It was a draw that meant Wimbledon finished in their highest position since returning to the Football League as the Dons ended the campaign in 15th.  

Neal Ardley had said in the build-up this final game of 2014/15 that he would not be flooding his side with youngsters, but two Dons academy products were recalled to the starting line-up. Ryan Sweeney made his second start at first team level at the back in place of Jake Goodman with Tom Beere replacing Dannie Bulman in midfield. With George Francomb missing out due to injury, Alfie Potter was restored and Craig Tanner was preferred to Ade Azeez.

The Dons made a bright start and that resulted in a first chance created in the fourth minute. Jack Smith and Beere combined well to set-up Potter and his close range effort was beaten out by Cheltenham goalkeeper Trevor Carson. Wimbledon’s bold attacking play was opening up plenty of gaps in the Cheltenham defence and there was another chance shortly afterwards when Sweeney played a lovely ball through for Tanner, but his shot was wide.

Potter was popping up everywhere in the early stages and he was again denied by Carson before 20 minutes had elapsed. Latching onto a flick from Bayo Akinfenwa, Potter cut inside smartly and only had Carson to beat, but his effort was too close to the Cheltenham goalkeeper.

Having dominated the early exchanges, it was a surprise when the visitors opened the scoring with their first shot at goal. Though it was a cracking finish from an acute angle by Darrell Berry as his effort flashed past James Shea and in off a post, he was certainly given too much time and space by Wimbledon’s defence to take aim.

It could have been 1-1 just seconds later when Potter found Tanner yards out, but he headed straight into the arms of Carson. Akinfenwa then had his first chance when he rose highest to meet a deep cross from Barry Fuller, but his header was just wide. However, the Dons were celebrating an equaliser three minutes before half time and it was certainly worth waiting for. Potter’s cross picked out Akinfenwa and his lovely flick was headed home emphatically by Jack Smith. A poignant celebration followed as Akinfenwa held up a number eight shirt in support of Sammy Moore, who returned to the Wimbledon squad for the first time since the death of his mother.

Wimbledon started on the front foot again after half-time and Rigg had a decent chance after a free-kick from Tanner picked him out, but he headed over the crossbar. Despite having already been condemned to relegation, Cheltenham provided stubborn resistance and Wimbledon struggled to recapture their first half fluency. It took until the 65th minute for the Dons to fashion another chance worthy of note when Potter volleyed over after getting on the end of a flick from Akinfenwa.

With the Dons having struggled to make an impression in the second half, Neal Ardley decided to give winger David Fitzpatrick an opportunity and he entered the fray for Craig Tanner. With 12 minutes left, there was another substitution and it was a significant one too as Sammy Moore made a welcome return in place of Jack Smith. Moore was handed the captain’s armband by Barry Fuller to mark his return. George Oakley was also sent on for Akinfenwa as the Dons chased a late goal.

That so nearly came through Potter with two minutes to go, but he was denied by Carson and Fitzpatrick was just unable to get there to convert the rebound. No more chances followed and Wimbledon had to settle for a fourth successive home draw.

AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Jack Smith (Sammy Moore), Tom Beere, Deji Oshilaja, Ryan Sweeney, Alfie Potter, Jake Reeves, Craig Tanner (David Fitzpatrick), Bayo Akinfenwa (George Oakley), Sean Rigg.

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