Joe McDonnell claimed a clean sheet on his full debut as the Dons held firm to earn a point against promotion-chasers Southend United.
Both sides struck the woodwork in the 0-0 draw, Tom Beere for Wimbledon and Barry Corr for Southend, as Wimbledon steadied the ship after Saturday’s defeat at Hartlepool. Twenty-year-old goalkeeper McDonnell produced a composed display in the absence of James Shea.
Wimbledon made three changes to the starting line-up after defeat at Hartlepool with one of those enforced after an injury to goalkeeper Shea. McDonnell was given the nod to make his first League 2 start and an opportunity to build on his fine substitute appearance at Shrewsbury. Captain Barry Fuller had to settle for a place on the bench with Jack Smith recalled so that meant Dannie Bulman was handed the captain’s armband. Tom Beere also returned in place of Sean Rigg.
It was clear what Southend’s main tactic was going to be from the outset as they peppered Wimbledon’s box with long balls. McDonnell was called into action early on to make a fine save with his legs to deny Barry Corr and that offered the perfect confidence booster for the former Basingstoke Town goalkeeper. With Southend’s direct approach testing Wimbledon’s resolve, Dave Winfield showed that he was up for the challenge when he made a last-ditch interception to stop Corr getting through.
Wimbledon had found it tough to replicate the flowing football that was such an attractive feature of the first-half against Luton Town, but the Dons did start to cause problems around the half hour mark. With Alfie Potter’s energy down the left starting to open up gaps, Wimbledon had the best chance of the half in the 30th minute. Kennedy swung over a dangerous cross that Southend goalkeeper Ted Smith could only parry and Beere cracked the rebound against the crossbar. Following two near misses for the Dons academy product against Cambridge, Beere is edging closer to his first goal at senior level.
The Dons finished the half strongly and so nearly earned reward just before half-time. Good approach play by Craig Tanner resulted in an opening for Deji Oshilaja and he forced Ted Smith into a fine reaction save. Then the Dons appealed for a penalty after Tanner appeared to be impeded by Ben Coker, but referee Graham Scott refused to give it. Despite being put on the back foot early on, Wimbledon had fashioned the two best chances of the first 45 minutes and that offered encouragement for Neal Ardley’s men.
Southend started the second half in a similar manner to how they began the first with Wimbledon forced onto the back foot. However, Winfield and Oshilaja remained resolute at the heart of Wimbledon’s defence and Southend found it tough to create clear-cut chances.
Wimbledon nearly fashioned a chance on the break when Jake Reeves sent a lovely through ball over the top that Alfie Potter almost reached and he would have been through on goal with any touch. With Wimbledon struggling to make any attacking impression by the midway point of the second half, Neal Ardley made a double change. The twin attacking threat of Ade Azeez and Sean Rigg were introduced with Tanner and Potter making way.
However, Southend continued to press and it needed McDonnell to remain composed on his full debut, the young goalkeeper’s fine claim under pressure from Corr showing what he was all about. McDonnell then got the slightest of touches to tip a fierce drive from Corr onto the crossbar, with the ball bouncing onto the line and away to safety. Southend players appealed that it had crossed the line, but the match officials ruled that it was not a goal.
Wimbledon were put under stern pressure in the latter stages, but they just managed to cling on for a creditable point with McDonnell making a great save from substitute Jack Payne in injury-time.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Jack Smith, Callum Kennedy, Jake Reeves, Deji Oshilaja, Dave Winfield, Tom Beere, Dannie Bulman, Craig Tanner (Ade Azeez), Bayo Akinfenwa, Alfie Potter (Sean Rigg).