Wimbledon produced an away performance full of resilience and spirit to defy league leaders Scunthorpe United today.
It was a hugely encouraging display from the Dons that augured well for the rest of this season as they battled for every ball at Glanford Park to earn a 0-0 draw. It could have been even better as Charlie Wyke headed just wide in the first-half, but Wimbledon needed Ross Worner to make a series of saves to deny Scunthorpe striker Sam Winnall at the other end. The positive outcome offered reward for the 268 Wimbledon supporters that made the trip to North Lincolnshire.
Neal Ardley made just one change to the side that started against Torquay United with Harry Pell returning after illness in place of Luke Moore.
Scunthorpe United were unsurprisingly given a rapturous welcome when they entered the pitch after an excellent run of seven wins in nine games that marched them to the top of League 2. A sign of their strength in depth was that Deon Burton, who earned December’s Sky Bet League 2 player of the year, had to settle for a place on the bench. The hosts started in the manner of a team full of confidence and it needed Will Antwi to make a timely clearance to divert Christian Ribeiro’s cross away from danger. Wimbledon were far from daunted in the opening exchanges though and Charlie Wyke tried his luck with a shot that was well held by Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe, who saved a penalty from Charlie Sheringham when the two sides last met in August.
Wimbledon suffered a big blow in the 10th minute when Andy Frampton came off worse after a clash with Terry Hawkridge and he had to be stretchered off with what appeared to be a serious injury. Aaron Morris replaced Francomb at centre-back in what was a tough test for the former Aldershot man, whose late substitute appearance against Torquay was his first game in 10 months. The Dons had a great chance to make an early breakthrough when George Francomb’s corner picked out Wyke unmarked in the box, but his powerful header flashed just wide. Wimbledon were certainly enjoying plenty of possession early on with Pell showing just why he was given an instant recall with a driving run that almost ended with a chance for Jack Midson.
The visitors had largely held firm during the first 20 minutes, but there was a warning for Wimbledon when Sam Winnall powered through and was only denied by a smart save from Ross Worner. Winnall, who opened the scoring in that entertaining 3-2 win for Wimbledon in the corresponding fixture, then showed his threat once again with a powerful shot from an acute angle that Worner palmed away from danger. It was becoming something of a personal duel between Worner and Winnall with the Dons goalkeeper making another save from the same player just after the half hour. In a evenly-matched first 45 minutes, Wimbledon threatened to make the breakthrough when Alan Bennett got on the end of Francomb’s free-kick, but his header was saved by Slocombe.
Wimbledon had defended resolutely during the first 45 minutes and showed signs of threat at the other end so they could draw plenty of encouragement when the whistle shrilled for half-time.
The second-half started with a real determination from Scunthorpe to make the breakthrough and Worner had to be alert to turn away a cross from Eddie Nolan that turned into a shot. There was relief for Wimbledon 10 minutes into the second-half when Winnall set-up Dave Syers for a great shooting chance, but he blazed over the crossbar. Then Paul Hayes got on the end of a searching cross from Ribeiro, but he was also too high with his shot. The pressure was now starting to mount from the hosts as Wimbledon retreated deeper and deeper against a side that finally started to show why they’re challenging for promotion. Worner had to make his best save yet in the 63rd minute when he reacted superbly to deny Winnall once again after good work on the wing by Syers.
Neal Ardley made a double change in the 65th minute with wingers Kevin Sainte-Luce and Chris Arthur introduced for Wyke and Francomb. That acted as a spark for Wimbledon to attack for the first time after the break and a great ball from Midson allowed Arthur to bear down on goal, but he just had the ball taken off him before he could get a shot in.
Though Wimbledon failed to really build on that in an attacking sense, they continued to offer stubborn resistance at the back and, make no mistake, this was definitely a point gained for a rejuvenated Dons side.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy, Andy Frampton (Aaron Morris), Alan Bennett, George Francomb (Kevin Sainte-Luce), Sammy Moore, Jack Midson, Harry Pell, Will Antwi, Charlie Wyke (Chris Arthur).