Bayo Akinfenwa’s downward header inside the box ten minutes from time deservedly earned Wimbledon a point at play-off contenders Leyton Orient.
A much improved second half performance deserved more, but Neal Ardley’s men had to settle for a share of the spoils from a 1-1 draw at the Matchroom Stadium.
There was one change to the starting line-up on duty against Dagenham and Redbridge, with Sean Rigg keeping his place having come on for Callum Kennedy in midweek. The Leyton Orient side featured Sammy Moore, in opposition for the first time since his summer move, against the club he made 183 appearances for.
The hosts opened the scoring with the first meaningful attack of the afternoon after just ten minutes, when John Marquis advanced through the middle and his accurate ball was fired across Ben Wilson by an unopposed Jay Simpson.
Shortly after, Jean-Yves M’voto was shown the first yellow card for holding back Lyle Taylor. A second yellow followed in the 15th minute as Marquis made a late challenge on Dons left-back Jon Meades. Jake Reeves was the first Wimbledon name to go into the book just a minute later after a midfield challenge on former Dons favourite Moore in a keenly contested opening period.
Moore was at the heart of the action against many of his former team-mates, taking a succession of corners and free-kicks in the opening quarter of the game as Orient forced the Dons back. Just after the half hour mark, the ball got caught up between Karleigh Osborne and Bayo Akinfenwa after Dannie Bulman lofted a ball over the Orient defence as the Dons struggled to respond.
Ten minutes before the break George Francomb forced a clearance out of goalkeeper Alex Cisak from a right-sided free-kick. With seven minutes to go before half-time, Dons captain Barry Fuller entered the referee’s notebook as he halted a run from Frazer Shaw.
Cisak was forced into action again, two minutes before the break, as the ball needed clearing from under the cross bar after a cross from an acute angle. As the half drew to a close, Wimbledon had their best spell of possession, but they found it difficult to create opportunities inside the final third.
Francomb struck a free-kick just over Cisak’s crossbar inside the opening minute of the second half, as Wimbledon attempted to pick up where they left off. Francomb fashioned another chance as he carved out an opportunity inside the penalty area only to fire over.
Twelve minutes after the restart, Orient were reduced to ten men when Marquis collected a second yellow after a clash with Paul Robinson inside the centre circle. The Dons continued to exert pressure with the numerical advantage, but again couldn’t come up with an equaliser amid calls for Ade Azeez from an impressive away following of 1,274.
Azeez arrived with twenty minutes to go, coming on for Rigg, as Wimbledon pushed on with three attackers. Fuller and Reeves tried their luck from distance, but were unsuccessful. As the clock ticked down, Cole Kpekawa denied Taylor and Meades forced a point blank save from Cisak.
Wimbledon’s pressure finally paid off ten minutes from time, Azeez making a significant impact on the game as his pin-point cross found the head of Akinfenwa at the far post and he levelled the scores with a diving header.
Neal Ardley attempted to go for the win by immediately introducing Tom Elliott for Dannie Bulman and it became one way traffic as they peppered the Orient goal. Elliott received a yellow card for a challenge on Cisak as the Dons threw everything into getting all three points, but at the final whistle had to settle for just one.
AFC Wimbledon: Ben Wilson, Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman (Tom Elliott), Paul Robinson, George Francomb, Jake Reeves, Bayo Akinfenwa, Sean Rigg (Ade Azeez), Jon Meades, Karleigh Osborne, Lyle Taylor.