Wimbledon’s battling away display at the Kassam Stadium was not enough to earn a point as a speculative drive from George Baldock condemned the Dons to defeat late on.
A third successive goal-less draw between the two sides appeared likely entering the final stages, but an 80th minute goal from the Oxford right-back earned a 1-0 victory for the hosts. It was perhaps harsh on Wimbledon as they contributed so much to the game, in particular during a first-half that they dominated.
Having been impressed with his side’s overall display in victory against Barnet, Neal Ardley made just one change to the Wimbledon starting line-up. Sean Rigg, who had spoken in the build-up about taking his starting chance when it came along, was offered an opportunity to make an impression against his old club in place of George Francomb. Indeed, the inclusions of Jon Meades and Dannie Bulman meant that three former Oxford players were aiming to put one over on their former club.
Wimbledon made a bright start at a stadium venue that had seen plenty of dark days for the Dons in past seasons. Neal Ardley’s men dominated possession in the early exchanges and plenty of half chances followed in the first 10 minutes. Rigg was ready to shoot at every opportunity and he dragged a shot wide after Jake Reeves had intelligently picked him out from a short corner.
There was no let-up from Wimbledon with Andy Barcham having a shot deflected wide. Then Azeez used his pace to get behind Oxford’s defence for the first time and produced a fine strike from an acute angle that Oxford goalkeeper Sam Slocombe got down well to save. Rigg then turned inside and unleashed an ambitious shot that Slocombe watched flash wide.
With Jake Reeves and Bulman dictating matters in midfield, Wimbledon continued to control possession as we approached the midway point of the first-half. There was a setback for Wimbledon in the 26th minute though when Semi Ajayi had to go off after suffering a blow to the head and he was replaced by Karleigh Osborne, who had a previous loan spell with Oxford.
In a first half dominated by Wimbledon, Oxford finally threatened in the 30th minute when James Shea reacted superbly to tip over a close-range header from former Dons loanee Danny Hylton. Still, that never changed the pattern of this match as Wimbledon pressed forward in numbers. Wimbledon’s display in the first 45 minutes had certainly silenced the Oxford faithful, but the only criticism was that the visitors had only tested Slocombe once with both sides struggling to create chances.
It was a different story after the break as Oxford exerted sustained pressure on Wimbledon’s defence for the first time. Osborne made a crucial last-ditch interception to stop Hylton going through on goal and then Liam Sercombe beat James Shea with a thunderous drive, but his effort bounced off the crossbar and away to safety.
Osborne was certainly not found wanting after being drafted in and it needed his vital touch to divert a wonderful cross from on-loan Wolves winger Jordan Graham away to safety. With the Dons struggling to retain possession, Neal Ardley decided to put Bayo Akinfenwa on for Ade Azeez. It didn’t take long for Akinfenwa to get involved and his introduction breathed new life into Wimbledon’s attack. A good chance Akinfenwa’s way after a flick-on from Taylor, but he shot over from close range, though in fairness the ball came at him quickly.
Shortly after the introduction of Tom Elliott for Taylor, Wimbledon so nearly grabbed the opener when Bulman struck a superb effort that beat Slocombe, but the ball flashed agonisingly just over. At this stage, it looked like Wimbledon might go on and win it, but they got caught with a sucker-punch. There appeared to be little danger when George Baldock picked up the ball, but he was allowed to run and run and his subsequent shot from 25 yards had just enough on it to beat James Shea via a post.
Wimbledon struggled to hit back in the final stages and only a shot from Bulman, deflected just wide, threatened an equaliser. The Dons will be aiming to get back on track at home to Morecambe next Saturday.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, Paul Robinson, Jake Reeves, Sean Rigg, Jon Meades, Ade Azeez (Bayo Akinfenwa), Andy Barcham, Semi Ajayi (Karleigh Osborne), Lyle Taylor (Tom Elliott).