This was certainly not the way that Wimbledon would have wanted to end a testing 2012 as Neal Ardley’s men slipped to bottom spot in League 2.
There was no belated Christmas cheer for the Dons as goals from Sean Rigg, Alfie Potter and Tom Craddock earned a deserved 3-0 win for Oxford, who ended the match with 10 men as James Constable was dismissed.
Apart from a promising spell at the start of the second-half, there was little to warm the hearts of the Wimbledon faithful, who again provided great support with a bumper crowd of 4, 401 attending on the day.
Neal Ardley was forced to make three changes from the side which started two weeks ago against Rotherham. With Steven Gregory having gone back to Bournemouth, Rashid Yussuff returned to the starting line-up for his first League 2 start since the defeat at Exeter on 6 November. As expected, Warren Cummings was restored to the side at left-back with Jim Fenlon ruled out through suspension and Paul McCallum partnered Jack Midson up front with Luke Moore out due to illness. It was a hugely significant match for Jason Prior, who was handed a place on the bench after returning from eight months out through injury.
The Dons were fortunate not to be behind in the 11th minute when Potter, an influential figure in Oxford’s 3-2 win in the corresponding fixture, got behind Warren Cummings and sent over a cross that Rigg volleyed just wide. Then Potter struck a fierce drive from an acute angle that forced a fine flying save from Neil Sullivan. Wimbledon produced a strong response, though there was little end product and the closest they came in the first 20 minutes was when McCallum fired over the crossbar from a free-kick. Wimbledon failed to gain a foothold in the possession stakes though and it was therefore no surprise when the visitors took the lead. It was that man Potter who worked his magic again, this time cutting inside and delivering a clever defence-splitting pass that Rigg finished off emphatically from eight yards just after the half hour. It got worse for the Dons in the 37th minute when Rigg sent over a teasing cross that Potter reached before Sullivan and he just got enough on his header for the ball to cross the line before Curtis Osano could clear it.
In a lacklustre first-half from Wimbledon, the closest that they came was in first-half injury time when Midson cut inside and shot just wide from outside the area.
Wimbledon started the second-half with an admirable determination to put things right as they played towards the Tempest End. One fine move ended with Cummings sending over a cross that Toby Ajala (pictured) flicked onto Yussuff, but his shot was deflected just wide. There was better to come from the hosts and they came so close to snatching a lifeline in the 53rd minute. Yussuff, who showed the midfield craft that Wimbledon have so often lacked in his absence, sent over a pinpoint cross which McCallum met superbly with a flying header, but Peter Leven cleared off the line. Then Yussuff fired just wide again as Wimbledon maintained the pressure. Finding a way back into the match proved elusive for the Dons though and they missed another great chance when Ajala’s cross picked out Antwi just six yards out, but he headed wide.
All that home pressure counted for little though in the 64th minute when a mistake by Stacy Long allowed Craddock a clear run on goal and he slotted home to make it 3-0.
With the Dons seemingly heading for a heavy defeat, there was a twist in the tail 20 minutes from time when James Constable was red carded for an alleged elbow on Antwi. Neal Ardley responded by making a double substitution with Christian Jolley and Jason Prior entering the fray for Yussuff and McCallum.
That failed to really change matters though and Wimbledon know they will have to start 2013 in much better fashion when they face Torquay away on New Year’s Day.
AFC Wimbledon: Neil Sullivan, Curtis Osano, Warren Cummings, Yado Mambo Rashid Yussuff (Christian Jolley), Will Antwi, Toby Ajala (Brendan Kiernan), Stacy Long, Jack Midson, Jonathan Meades, Paul McCallum (Jason Prior).