Wimbledon snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a late winner from Bayo Akinfenwa completing a stirring second half fightback.
The Dons were 1-0 down with five minutes left and heading for a third home League 2 defeat already this season, but goals from Dannie Bulman and Bayo Akinfenwa earned a dramatic 2-1 win.
It was reward for all Wimbledon’s perseverance as Neal Ardley’s men finally broke County’s stern resistance.
Having been impressed with his side’s display in the 1-1 draw at Yeovil last Saturday, Neal Ardley decided to keep an unchanged starting 11. That meant the centre-back pairing of Paul Robinson and Will Nightingale were entrusted with the task of keeping experienced centre forwards Izale McLeod and Jon Stead quiet.
Though Notts County had plenty of early possession, Wimbledon had the better chances in the first 10 minutes. All of the opportunities involved George Francomb. The winger first put over a fine cross that Bayo Akinfenwa got on the end of, but he was only able to head straight into the arms of former Manchester United goalkeeper Roy Carroll. Francomb had an even better chance after Nightingale had been fouled just outside the area, but his free-kick was too high and then he blazed over after good work from Jake Reeves.
However, Wimbledon’s early pressure counted for nothing when Notts County snatched the lead in the 16th minute. A free-kick was swung into the box and Notts County defender Haydn Hollis met the ball with a looping header that James Shea was just unable to reach. A good response to that setback followed from Wimbledon. Within a minute, Andy Barcham sent over a dangerous cross that Thierry Audel met first and he was fortunate that his header bounced off Hollis and away to safety.
The Dons came so close to an equaliser when Akinfenwa met Francomb’s corner with a powerful header, but Carroll showed his class to produce a flying reaction save. In a decent spell for the Dons, Tom Elliott also headed across the face of goal from another Francomb cross, but no one was able to apply the finishing touch.
There was a setback for Wimbledon in the 35th minute when Will Nightingale had to go off injured. The young centre-back made an excellent challenge to stop McLeod in his tracks, but he pulled up near to the touchline and he was withdrawn to fine appreciation from the home faithful. Karleigh Osborne, who was withdrawn through injury in the first-half at Mansfield recently, was handed his first chance since that match.
The hosts continued to put pressure on County and almost earned an equaliser on the stroke of half-time. Elliott won a free-kick on the edge of the area and Francomb swung in a free-kick that Paul Robinson just failed to reach and an unsighted Carroll managed to parry it wide.
Wimbledon struggled for attacking momentum in the first 15 minutes of the second half and Notts County squandered a golden chance to increase their advantage when Adam Campbell sent over a searching cross that found McLeod, but he headed over the crossbar.
With the Dons having made little impression, Neal Ardley made two attacking changes just before the hour mark with Sean Rigg replacing Andy Barcham and Ade Azeez on for Elliott. The substitutions breathed new life into Wimbledon and Neal Ardley’s men started to exert plenty of pressure as they drove forward towards the Chemflow End.
Notts County were proving to be a tough nut to crack as they defended in numbers and Wimbledon struggled to create anything worthwhile. Another chance did follow for Akinfenwa just after the hour when he managed to get there first to reach another corner from Francomb, but he headed over the crossbar.
Wimbledon continued to press forward, but the Dons were not getting much change out of a stubborn away defence. Only half chances followed with Azeez having a low shot saved by Carroll, who also parried a curler from Francomb. However, the Dons continued to put pressure on and they were rewarded five minutes from time with an equaliser. Francomb’s cross was flicked on by Rigg and Dannie Bulman popped up at the far post to steer home from close range.
There was no sign of Wimbledon settling for a draw as they sensed a victory was there for the taking. Azeez forced Carroll into another save, but there was no reprieve for County a minute from the end of normal time. Azeez sent over a superb cross from the right and Akinfenwa headed home emphatically to signal ecstatic scenes from players and fans alike. What a finish at the Cherry Red Records Stadium and fully deserved for the Dons on the balance of play.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Will Nightingale (Karleigh Osborne), Jon Meades, Dannie Bulman, Jake Reeves, Andy Barcham (Sean Rigg), Tom Elliott (Ade Azeez), Bayo Akinfenwa, George Francomb.