Wimbledon produced a resolute away performance at the Kassam Stadium to finally end a dismal sequence of results against Oxford United.
The 0-0 draw was certainly not pretty, but it ended a run of eight successive league defeats against United as Wimbledon showed admirable defensive qualities. Adam Barrett and Alan Bennett produced commanding displays at the back to stop the hosts creating any clear-cut chances. Matt Tubbs came closest for Wimbledon early on in a game of few chances. It was a result that also ended Wimbledon’s poor recent away form and Neal Ardley will have been pleased with his side’s defensive solidity.
Neal Ardley made two changes to his starting line-up from the side that started against York with one of those enforced due to Sean Rigg’s suspension. Ade Azeez earned reward for his impressive substitute displays with a starting role and Sammy Moore was recalled in place of George Francomb as the Dons changed their shape to a 4-3-3. The presence of academy products Ryan Sweeney, Tom Beere and George Oakley on the bench offered promise for the future, but there was also plenty of familiar faces from the past at the Kassam Stadium with former Dons Danny Hylton, Alfie Potter, Jonathan Meades and Michael Collins all in Oxford’s squad.
Oxford made a bright start that forced Wimbledon back and the visitors were fortunate when James Roberts got behind their defence and sent over a fierce cross that eluded everyone in the box. However, Wimbledon gradually came into it and they came so close to making a breakthrough in the 10th minute. Frankie Sutherland delivered a clever free-kick that picked out Bayo Akinfenwa and his header found Matt Tubbs, but his shot was tipped wide by Oxford goalkeeper Ryan Clarke. Akinfenwa then rose highest to meet Sutherland’s corner and his looping header was just over the crossbar.
It had been an encouraging opening from the Dons as they aimed to end their jinx against Oxford and on-loan QPR midfielder Sutherland had made a commanding start in midfield. With Francomb on the bench, Sutherland took on responsibility for set pieces, but he also showed his effectiveness in open play with a lovely ball for Azeez, who had his shot from an acute angle deflected just wide. Azeez, who was playing on the left of the front three, showed his threat once again when a Jack Smith pass found him in space, but his effort was too close to Clarke.
As the first-half approached its conclusion, Wimbledon caused Oxford problems again when lovely skill from Akinfenwa found space and his through ball fell nicely for Azeez, but he was narrowly offside. It had been a fairly even first half, but Wimbledon had certainly created the clearer openings and they could certainly draw encouragement from the display so far.
The second-half opened with Wimbledon creating something almost straight from the restart when Dannie Bulman sent over a teasing cross and Azeez just failed to get enough of a connection to trouble Clarke. Dons goalkeeper James Shea had been largely untroubled throughout, but Oxford did threaten when Hylton latched onto a long through ball, but he shot into the side netting. At the other end, Akinfenwa tried his luck with an opportunist strike from 30 yards that flashed just wide.
It was a second-half that failed to catch fire though as both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances. However, Wimbledon had a sticky spell midway through the second-half as Oxford finally started to cause problems. Joe Riley broke down the right side and delivered a smart cut-back that Hylton met with a fierce first time drive, but his shot was just over the crossbar. Then it needed Dons captain Alan Bennett to make a timely interception to clear a dangerous cross from Tareiq Holmes-Dennis.
Neal Ardley made his first change 16 minutes from time with George Francomb introduced for Sutherland. Francomb’s delivery from set-pieces certainly proved useful and he quickly made that count by picking out Jack Smith in space on the left, but his shot across the face of goal was well held by Clarke. As frustration grew among the Oxford faithful, one sensed that Wimbledon started to entertain thoughts of snatching a late win.
However, neither side created anything of note in the latter stages and Wimbledon could take the positive of extending their unbeaten run to three matches.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Jack Smith, Sammy Moore, Adam Barrett, Alan Bennett, Frankie Sutherland (George Francomb), Dannie Bulman, Bayo Akinfenwa, Matt Tubbs, Ade Azeez (George Oakley).