Wimbledon suffered frustration on home turf tonight after their domination against Northampton yielded only a point.
A final score of 1-1 certainly didn’t reflect the balance of play as Wimbledon pressed Chris Wilder’s men back for long spells, but could not add to an early opener from Ade Azeez.
It had looked like Wimbledon were ready to end their dismal run against Northampton with no victories against them since returning to the Football League.
In the end, a killer touch was lacking from Wimbledon, but there was certainly nothing wrong with the performance yet again.
With the Dons having performed so well in defeat at Luton on Saturday, it was hardly surprising that Neal Ardley decided to keep changes to a minimum. The only change was an enforced one with Karleigh Osborne suspended and that meant new loan signing Semi Ajayi was thrust straight in from the start. There was also a new name on the bench with midfielder Christian Toonga named as a substitute after international clearance came through from FIFA.
Wimbledon made a bright start and a chance followed in the fourth minute when Andy Barcham delivered a fine cross from the left that picked out Bayo Akinfenwa, but he failed to get a proper connection and his effort was wide. In a rampant start from Wimbledon, particularly down the left, Jon Meades sent over a cross that George Francomb met at the back post, but he headed wide.
At the other end, there was an early confidence booster for new boy Ajayi when he showed fine composure to stop Dominic Calvert-Lewin from breaking through on goal. Ajayi also made a towering headed clearance early on, which drew applause from the Chemflow End.
Wimbledon secured the opening goal that was fully deserved on the balance of play in the 24th minute. Dannie Bulman’s raking through ball deceived Northampton defender Zander Diamond and Azeez needed no second invitation to pounce, the striker powering through on goal before delivering a clinical low finish. It was a third goal this season for Azeez, who appears to be showing much greater composure these days when chances come his way.
The Dons failed to build on making a breakthrough though as Northampton started to come into the match and the visitors scored with their first meaningful effort in the 35th minute. It was a goal of real simplicity as a short corner was worked to David Buchanan, who curled in a cross from the left that picked out John-Joe O'Toole and his glancing header left James Shea with no chance.
As we approached half-time, Wimbledon started to take a grip on the game again and Azeez, who was so impressive in the first half, broke through again and lobbed Northampton goalkeeper Adam Smith, but his effort was cleared off the line. There was a setback for Wimbledon on the stroke of half-time when Akinfenwa had to go off injured and he was replaced by Lyle Taylor. It didn’t take long for Taylor to get involved as he burst in from the left and shot just wide.
A 1-1 half-time score line was a little frustrating from a Wimbledon perspective with the hosts having controlled much of the first half.
Wimbledon made a blazing start to the second-half and it could have been 2-1 within the first minute of the second half. Taylor got on the end of a Francomb ball and put a superb cross across the face of goal, but it was just cut out before Azeez could reach it. Then from the subsequent corner Azeez volleyed over from Francomb’s delivery.
The introduction of Taylor had given fresh impetus to Wimbledon’s attack a he dragged Northampton’s defenders all over the place and he looked determined to make up for lost time after his three-match suspension. Ajayi came so close to marking his debut with a goal when he rose high to meet a Francomb corner with a thumping header, but Smith produced a superb reaction save.
With Wimbledon’s high tempo approach understandably starting to abate as we approached the midway point of the second-half, it needed something different to drive the Dons on again. Taylor so nearly provided it when he took down a long kick from Shea superbly and unleashed a powerful low drive that fizzed into the side netting, some Dons fans mistakenly believing it had gone in. With 22 minutes to play, Neal Ardley made a change with Sean Rigg introduced for Azeez, who had never stopped running all night.
Wimbledon had a great chance to win it 15 minutes from time after a brilliant piece of midfield play from Jake Reeves. A sublime through ball from the skilful midfielder picked out Taylor, who had made a great run behind the Northampton defence, but he failed to control the ball and Smith was out quickly to gather.
Northampton had barely been in Wimbledon’s half after the break, but the Dons needed Shea to be alert nine minutes from time when he reacted well to turn away a deflected cross from Adams. It was also Adams who shot just wide as Northampton belatedly showed some ambition. However, Wimbledon had the best chance in the latter stages to win in when Meades put over a cross that eluded goalkeeper Smith, but Rigg was unable to slide the ball in from close range, albeit he was at full stretch.
That was Wimbledon’s last chance and the final whistle signalled a point for Wimbledon from a performance that deserved so much more.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Semi Ajayi, Jon Meades, Dannie Bulman, Jake Reeves, Andy Barcham, Ade Azeez (Sean Rigg), Bayo Akinfenwa (Lyle Taylor), George Francomb (Egli Kaja).