A dramatic injury-time equaliser from substitute Ade Azeez extended Wimbledon’s unbeaten league run today.
Azeez fired home in added time to earn a 1-1 draw, the striker rescuing a point after last season’s promotion nearly men Wycombe had threatened a smash and grab victory.
Gareth Ainsworth’s side had shown little ambition all afternoon and they defended stoutly after taking the lead through Jason McCarthy, before the Dons punished their negative approach right at the death.
Neal Ardley made two changes to his starting line-up with one of those enforced due the suspension of Jake Reeves. Christian Toonga, who only turned 18 recently, was handed his full Wimbledon debut in the midfield engine room and the other change involved a recall for Bayo Akinfenwa, who replaced Ade Azeez up front.
In a highly-charged first half an hour, characterised by midfield battles and referee Phil Gibbs perhaps being a bit too eager to blow his whistle, chances were few and far between. Toonga (pictured) certainly didn’t look out of place as he produced a steady debut alongside the experienced Dannie Bulman in midfield.
Wimbledon did open up gaps early on with Lyle Taylor’s clever runs down the channels causing problems, but Wycombe defended resolutely. Taylor volleyed just over after the ball had pinged around the area and the Wimbledon striker struck another fierce effort just wide after latching onto a long ball.
There was relief in the home ranks midway through the first-half when Ben Wilson’s clearance fell nicely to Luke O’Nien 40 yards out, but his effort was deflected just wide with the Wimbledon goalkeeper off his line. O’Nien was certainly proving to be a livewire when he joined the Wycombe attack and he blazed just wide from outside the area with a shot that had Wilson scrambling across his line.
A key feature of the first-half was a battle between Taylor and Wycombe defender Aaron Pierre, who was sent off in the corresponding fixture last season. Taylor was getting increasingly frustrated by the referee’s failure to award him free-kicks and overall Wimbledon were struggling to create forward momentum against a well drilled Wycombe defence.
The sound of the whistle for half-time meant that these two sides had served up no goals in 135 minutes of football after a 0-0 draw here in April.
That all changed six minutes after half-time though as Wycombe made the breakthrough. It was far from easy on the eye as Jason McCarthy bundled home from close range after the Dons had failed to clear a free-kick, but the Wycombe travelling support certainly didn’t care as they celebrated wildly. There was almost an instant response from Wimbledon as Sean Rigg and Taylor combined well down the left to set-up a shooting chance for Toonga, but he dragged his shot wide.
The Dons failed to build on that though and Neal Ardley therefore decided to make a treble change on the hour. Tom Elliott, Ade Azeez and Callum Kennedy all entered the fray with Bayo Akinfenwa, Sean Rigg and Christian Toonga all making way.
With 20 minutes to go, the Dons had failed to fashion a clear-cut chance against a Wycombe side that showed just why they came so close to promotion last season, Gareth Ainsworth’s side defending resolutely and breaking the game up to stop pressure building. Despite piling bodies forward in the latter stages, it was proving difficult for the Dons to create anything of note against a Wycombe side that had made a reputation for closing games out on their travels.
However, there was a sting in the tail for Wycombe in injury-time as Wimbledon snatched a share of the spoils. A cross from Barry Fuller was headed on by Jon Meades, Tom Elliott made a nuisance of himself in front of Wycombe goalkeeper Matthew Ingram, and Azeez was in the right place to steer home. Though injury-time failed to yield a winner, it felt like a victory for Wimbledon in the circumstances.
AFC Wimbledon: Ben Wilson, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Karleigh Osborne, Jon Meades, Dannie Bulman, Christian Toonga (Callum Kennedy), Sean Rigg (Ade Azeez), George Francomb, Lyle Taylor, Bayo Akinfenwa (Tom Elliott).