AFC Wimbledon’s spirited second-half fightback just failed to yield a first point in English Football League One.
The Dons produced an all-action display after falling two goals behind and a Darius Charles strike threatened to turn it around, but Scunthorpe just held on for a 2-1 win.Substitutes Tom Elliott and Dean Parrett rejuvenated Wimbledon in the second-half as the hosts penned Scunthorpe back, but the visitors just managed to defend their unbeaten record.
Neal Ardley made two changes to his starting line-up after the weekend defeat to Bolton and both were in attacking positions. Chris Whelpdale was handed an immediate return after recovering from a groin injury with Dean Parrett the man to make way and Tyrone Barnett also came in for his first home start in place of Tom Elliott.
In similar fashion to the bright start Wimbledon made against Bolton, the Dons swept forward from the first whistle and earned a flurry of corners. The first hint of a chance came from one of those when Sean Kelly reached a Jake Reeves cross first, but his glancing header flashed wide. A promising early feature of Wimbledon’s early play was the width offered by Whelpdale and Barcham on the flanks. The latter almost helped make the breakthrough when he sent over a lovely cross that was only half cleared and a goal-bound strike from Jake Reeves was deflected over.
Scunthorpe attacks had been rare in the first 15 minutes, but Ryan Clarke was forced into a good save to stop a powerful low shot from Josh Morris. However, that never changed the flow of this match as Wimbledon continued to swarm forward and the Dons had a goal ruled out after Barnett threatened to open his account. Good wing play from Whelpdale created a shooting chance for Lyle Taylor and though his effort was charged down, Barnett’s header rolled off a post, before his follow-up was ruled out for offside.
A familiar story was starting to unfold for Wimbledon when their opponents took the lead in the 23rd minute. Despite dominating early possession and chances, Wimbledon fell behind yet again when a searching cross from Conor Townsend was met by Tom Hopper and his looping header left Ryan Clarke with no chance. Suddenly, Scunthorpe were transformed and they created several chances to double their advantage. First, Luke Williams latched onto a long ball and only had Clarke to beat, but he dragged his shot wide. Then Hopper’s goal-bound shot was blocked superbly by Sean Kelly. In a worrying spell for Wimbledon, the chances kept coming for Scunthorpe and Kevin Van Veen drilled wide with an angled drive.
Four minutes before the break it got worse for Wimbledon when Darius Charles was adjudged to have fouled Hopper just inside the box. Josh Morris stepped up to convert emphatically and now Wimbledon had a mountain to climb. A good response followed from the Dons and there was so nearly a goal back when a scramble inside the box ended with Charles volleying just wide. At the other end, Wimbledon appeared to have decent claims for a penalty when Tyrone Barnett was impeded in the box.
When the half-time whistle shrilled, the visitors could be pleased with an impressive away performance so far. Indeed, it had been arguably the best half of football an opposing side had produced against Wimbledon so far this season.
Having endured such a difficult end to the second-half, Wimbledon needed a lift and Neal Ardley attempted to provide it with a double half-time change. Dean Parrett and Tom Elliott both entered the fray with Chris Whelpdale and Andy Barcham the men to make way. Jake Reeves took matters into his own hands when he drove forward and cracked a brilliant effort that flashed just over the crossbar.
As we approached the hour mark, Wimbledon really upped the tempo with Scunthorpe now forced to defend deep. Elliott was everywhere as he tortured the Scunthorpe defence with his all-action forward play. He may not have scored, but it was his impact that brought Wimbledon back into the game. A free-kick was swung in by Parrett and Elliott’s towering header bounced back off the crossbar, but Darius Charles was in the right place to slot home. It was completely different now as Wimbledon dominated with wave after wave of attacks. Elliott was so nearly celebrating an equaliser when he got on the end of an excellent cross from Barry Fuller, but his header flashed just side.
The introductions of Elliott and Parrett had rejuvenated Wimbledon into a fightback that captivated the home support. Parrett’s clever midfield play helped Wimbledon dominate possession, but it was Elliott’s second-half display that stole the show. If ever a striker deserved a goal, it was Elliott for this substitute performance and he tried his luck with a curling effort that Scunthorpe goalkeeper Luke Daniels had to watch all the way. In a frantic finale, Wimbledon had legitimate penalty claims waved away when Dominic Poleon appeared to be held back in the area.
Despite late pressure, Scunthorpe held on, but a replication of Wimbledon’s second-half display could bring that elusive first win at Northampton on Saturday.
AFC Wimbledon: Ryan Clarke, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Darius Charles, Sean Kelly, Chris Whelpdale (Dean Parrett), Dannie Bulman, Jake Reeves, Tyrone Barnett, Lyle Taylor (Dominic Poleon), Andy Barcham (Dean Parrett).