Wimbledon had to settle for a second successive home draw after they twice squandered the lead against Tranmere Rovers this afternoon.
Though the midweek draw against Plymouth was hailed as a creditable draw, this was more frustrating as Tranmere twice fought back to earn a 2-2 draw after Bayo Akinfenwa had given Wimbledon a 2-1 half-time lead.
With Neal Ardley having rightly been impressed by his side’s performance in the draw against Plymouth, it was therefore no surprise that he selected an unchanged starting line-up. Mickey Adams has already started reshaping Tranmere’s squad since taking over with powerful striker Armand Gnanduillet, who previously scored against the Dons for Chesterfield, joining on loan.
Wimbledon made a bright start with their wingers attempting to provide good service at every opportunity. Sean Rigg was particularly energetic early on and he whipped over an excellent cross that picked out Bayo Akinfenwa, but he headed wide. Rigg then sent over another teasing delivery that was deflected behind for a corner and from the set-piece Adam Barrett headed off target from George Francomb’s cross.
Wimbledon had certainly come out firing from the first whistle and they were rewarded with the opener in the 16th minute. It was a goal to savour for Jack Smith, who struck his first for Wimbledon in style with a delicate chip from the left that just crossed the line before a Tranmere defender could clear it. Though only Smith himself will know if he meant it as a shot or a cross, that mattered little and the Dons had the early goal to seemingly make it tough for a side struggling in League 2.
Before Wimbledon could really press home their advantage they were stunned by a Tranmere equaliser that came completely out of nothing. Gnanduillet was allowed to turn 25 yards out and he struck a low effort that found the bottom corner before James Shea could get across to it. It was a goal that meant Wimbledon struggled to reassert their early superiority, but Rigg was certainly enjoying an impressive first-half. The flying left winger sent over another fine cross that fell nicely for Matt Tubbs, but his effort was blocked. At the other end, there was a worrying moment for the Dons when Tranmere defender Michael Ihiekwe flashed a header just wide from a corner.
Just when it looked like Tranmere would have the morale-booster of going in level at half-time, Wimbledon grabbed the lead again. It was a simple goal in its execution, but very effective as Barry Fuller drove down the right side and sent over a lovely cross to the back post and Akinfenwa headed home emphatically from close range. They may be bottom of the league, but Tranmere were certainly not lacking in spirit and Gnanduillet threatened to draw his side level once again, but this time his shot flashed wide.
Wimbledon struggled to build on that goal for the first 15 minutes after half-time and there was another physical presence for the Dons to deal with just before the hour. Mickey Adams sent on Kayode Odejayi just before the hour to join Gnanduillet up front and it quickly became clear that Tranmere would be hitting their powerful forwards at every opportunity. Odejayi was quickly into the heart of the action and it needed James Shea to deny him making an instant impact. However, it was only a temporary reprieve for Wimbledon. Gnanduillet rose highest in the box and powered home an emphatic header to make it 2-2.
It had been a deserved equaliser for Tranmere as they had shown plenty of spirit in the second-half and Wimbledon had struggled to regain the fluency they showed during spells of the first-half. In an effort to change that Neal Ardley decided to go for a different option and to utilise the pace of Ade Azeez as he entered the fray for Tubbs. At this stage, either side looked capable of snatching victory. The running power of Azeez did offer more threat, but Tranmere continued to bombard Wimbledon’s penalty area.
Wimbledon had their best chance of the second-half with four minutes left when Akinfenwa turned smartly and picked out Azeez running in behind the defence, but he was denied by Tranmere goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams. However, the Dons failed to trouble Fon Williams again in the latter stages and it was not the end to an encouraging October that Wimbledon had wanted.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Jack Smith, Sammy Moore, Adam Barrett, Andy Frampton, Sean Rigg (Callum Kennedy), Dannie Bulman, Bayo Akinfenwa, Matt Tubbs (Ade Azeez), George Francomb (Harry Pell).