The Dons produced a superb performance full of character and determination to defy the League 2 leaders.
A 1-1 draw was the least Wimbledon deserved from a fantastic game of football and there was no shortage of quality too from the Dons as Lyle Taylor struck a brilliant equaliser.
It was reward for the 376 Dons fans who made the trip on a Tuesday night and they certainly made plenty of noise in the second-half in appreciation of a fine effort from Wimbledon.
The Dons made just one change from the side that started against Oxford with George Francomb recalled in place of Sean Rigg.
Jon Meades had stated in the build-up that Wimbledon would not be just coming to Northampton to play for a draw and a bright start backed that up. Tom Elliott broke free down the right and unleashed a shot from an acute angle that Northampton goalkeeper Adam Smith did well to save. Jake Reeves then tried a snap-shot that sailed over the crossbar.
At the other end, Northampton showed their threat when Ricky Holmes burst down the right flank, but good defensive work from Jon Meades meant that it came to nothing. Nicky Adams also shot over the crossbar as the hosts attempted to force the issue. However, Wimbledon remained compact in their defensive shape and showed plenty of attacking intent from the outset. One flowing move ended with a sight of goal for that man Taylor, but his angled drive was turned away by Smith.
As we reached the 20-minute mark, Northampton started to really threaten with crosses from Adams starting to make life difficult for Wimbledon. The home fans started to sense an 11th win in 12 games was on the cards and they were baying for blood when Elliott caught Zander Diamond late, but the referee decided it was worthy of just a yellow card. Despite Northampton’s threat, Wimbledon retained a good share of possession and Francomb picked out Elliott in plenty of space in the area, but his cross was cut-out.
Wimbledon really started to dominate around the half hour mark. Taylor showed the way by chasing down a lost cause and earning a free-kick on the right just outside the area. Francomb swung it in with a brilliant delivery and Paul Robinson so nearly got on the end of the cross, but it was just deflected wide before he could get there. A succession of corners followed and it needed fine defending from Northampton to defy the visitors. However, the save of the match followed at the other end shortly afterwards when Kelle Roos got down low to his left to make a brilliant stop from a James Collins header.
However, Roos was beaten on the stroke of half-time as Wimbledon conceded from a corner. Considering what had gone before with such a professional job in the first-half from the visitors, it was a disappointing goal to concede as the cross was swung in by Joel Byrom and John-Joe O’Toole had too much space to head home. That spoilt what had been a decent half from Wimbledon, albeit without creating the chances to match good approach play.
The second-half opened with plenty of attacking impetus from Wimbledon and Robinson did well to get in a header from a corner, but Northampton goalkeeper Smith was equal to it. Playing towards the end where travelling Dons watched the game, Neal Ardley’s men dominated possession in the first 15 minutes of the second-half, but they were unable to find a cutting edge.
A key period of the match followed just after the hour mark. Captain Barry Fuller led by example to keep Wimbledon in it as he made a superb clearance off the line to stop a Zander Diamond header making it 2-0. However, the game turned dramatically after a wonderful piece of skill from that man Taylor. Beating his marker on the left side, Taylor cut inside and kept going, before producing a sublime angled drive into the top corner that left Smith with no chance.
Following the equaliser, it was all Wimbledon as Northampton simply couldn’t contain the twin threat of Taylor and Elliott. Taylor had a goal-bound effort blocked and then a header from Andy Barcham flashed over the bar after a good cross from Francomb. As Wimbledon piled on the pressure, another goal seemed inevitable, but Northampton survived by the skin of their teeth. Taylor, who was absolutely everywhere, produced a lovely flick that sent Elliott racing through, but he cracked a shot into the side netting. Then in an incident when Northampton were so lucky to survive, Paul Robinson headed against a post from a corner and Elliott’s follow-up effort was cleared off the line.
In a second-half that was a brilliant advert for League 2 football, Northampton started to exert pressure of their own and it needed fine defending from Robinson and Ryan Sweeney to deny them. The hosts felt aggrieved 15 minutes from time when Bulman cleared off the line and then vociferous penalty appeals were turned down after Roos appeared to bring down a Northampton forward. However, the Dons sprung forward on the break and a shot from Andy Barcham was turned away by Smith. With 10 minutes left, it was a game that could have gone either way. It needed brilliant defensive play from Bulman to stop Northampton getting in again, but that summed up Wimbledon’s resilience on the night.
It had been a pulsating clash at Sixfields Stadium and the Dons deservedly held on for a hugely creditable point at the home of the Champions-elect.
AFC Wimbledon: Kelle Roos, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, George Francomb, Jake Reeves, Tom Elliott, Jon Meades, Andy Barcham (Sean Rigg), Ryan Sweeney, Lyle Taylor (Ade Azeez).