Wimbledon produced an excellent defensive display to deny promotion chasers Burton at the Pirelli Stadium.
Reduced to 10 men with 24 minutes to play after Mark Phillips was red carded, Neal Ardley’s men clung on for a 0-0 draw that they fully merited for a performance full of character.
Deji Oshilaja was particularly impressive at the heart of Wimbledon’s defence as the Dons extended their unbeaten run to four games.
Neal Ardley made four changes to his starting line-up with one of those enforced as Will Nightingale had to make way due to injury. That meant a first start since September for Mark Phillips at centre-back. Wingers George Francomb and Sean Rigg both had to settle for places on the bench with Alfie Potter and Craig Tanner stepping up from the start. Sammy Moore was restored to the midfield with David Connolly on the bench.
Though Burton made a swift start that was to be expected from a side top of the league, Wimbledon offered solidity at the back and limited Burton to very little in the first half hour. Neal Ardley’s men could have been in front after 10 minutes too as they fashioned a great chance to take the lead. Bayo Akinfenwa picked out Craig Tanner down the right and his cross found Alfie Potter just eight yards out, but his shot was too close to Burton goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin, who saved with his legs.
Burton finally threatened just before the half hour mark when Stuart Beavon found space in the box, but James Shea did well to turn his effort onto a post. The Dons showed plenty of resolution to deny Burton as the first half progressed. With no wingers deployed on this occasion, Wimbledon denied Burton space to play their football and there was plenty to admire about their defending. Barry Fuller got a vital touch to deny Ivan Calero an easy chance at the back post and Mark Phillips made a crunching tackle on Tom Naylor.
Moore was doing a great job sitting in front of Wimbledon’s back four and Neal Ardley’s men had coped fairly comfortably with everything that Burton had been able to throw at them in the first half. A sign of Burton’s frustration was a long-range shot from Naylor that sailed well over the crossbar and it was job done from a Wimbledon perspective when the whistle shrilled for half-time.
Wimbledon caused problems for Burton at the start of the second half, in particular down the left flank. Craig Tanner powered through and struck a fierce effort just wide of the far post, before the Dons came even closer when Potter’s shot from an acute angle was cleared off the line from Naylor.
Burton started to build up a head of steam around the hour mark, but the Dons defended stoutly with Deji Oshilaja impressing at the back. Frustration was rising from the home faithful as the hour mark was reached. However, Wimbledon’s task was made much more difficult in the 64thminute when Mark Phillips was red carded after an off the ball incident with Stuart Beavon. That meant a reshuffle for Wimbledon with George Francomb entering the fray for Tanner. Barry Fuller switched to centre-back with Moore filling the right-back spot and Francomb bolstering the midfield.
Neal Ardley made another change 19 minutes from time with Sean Rigg replacing Potter. It wasn’t long before another change was forthcoming as Ade Azeez was sent on for Akinfenwa. The pacy striker was straight into the action as he got to a through ball first, but his header was denied by Burton goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin. Azeez then broke through again, but he was just forced wide by McLaughlin and the chance was gone.
However, Wimbledon continued to show plenty of steel at the back and the final whistle signalled a well-earned away point for the Dons.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, Sammy Moore, Bayo Akinfenwa (Ade Azeez), Mark Phillips, Callum Kennedy, Jake Reeves, Craig Tanner (George Francomb), Alfie Potter (Sean Rigg), Deji Oshilaja.