AFC Wimbledon ended that Oxford jinx in emphatic fashion this afternoon with a stunning first-half display in front of the Sky TV cameras.
A total of 531 travelling Dons watched Neal Ardley’s men score three unanswered first-half goals through Tom Elliott, Darius Charles and Andy Barcham. The 3-1 scoreline certainly never flattered AFC Wimbledon, the victory coming at the 13th time of asking against Oxford United.
What a way to do it and there was a sense that Wimbledon have now arrived in League One, the performance combining clinical attacking play and a resilient defensive display.
Neal Ardley made two changes to the side that started in the last league game against Gillingham. Tom Beere missed out due to injury, which meant a recall for Dannie Bulman, and Lyle Taylor came back in for Dominic Poleon.
Wimbledon made a bright start at the Kassam Stadium. A flowing move ended with Jake Reeves and Dean Parrett combining to find Andy Barcham in space on the left, but his cross was cut out. Then Parrett created Wimbledon’s first chance when he threaded a ball through for Barcham, but his shot was straight at Oxford goalkeeper Simon Eastwood. A controversial incident followed shortly afterwards when Elliott headed on a long clearance from James Shea and Lyle Taylor latched onto it, before going down after a challenge from Charlie Raglan. However, referee Darren Deadman adjudged that Taylor had dived and a yellow card was shown. The alternative would have been a straight red for Raglan as he was last man.
The Dons earned a deserved lead in the 20th minute through a well-worked corner routine. Dean Parrett’s delivery to the back post was headed back by Darius Charles and there was no stopping Tom Elliott from close range as he nodded home emphatically. It was Wimbledon’s sixth headed goal of the season so far – the highest out of any team in League One. Shortly afterwards, both sets of fans joined in with a minute’s applause for 20-year-old Oxford fan Lewis Mangan, who passed away recently.
Prior to the goal, Oxford had only threatened when Paul Robinson did well to block a goal-bound shot from Wes Thomas. However, Oxford did show a spirited response after the opener and Liam Sercombe’s shot was agonisingly just wide for the hosts. Robinson also made another superb block to deny Alex MacDonald. Following that brief Oxford surge, Wimbledon once again stamped their authority on the game and it was 2-0 four minutes before half-time. Parrett’s corner was played back to him by Taylor and after he played it too far, the Wimbledon midfielder’s sliding challenge fell to Charles, who curled a brilliant effort into the top corner. Oxford fans and players claimed that Parrett had fouled Thomas, but the referee thought otherwise.
There was even better to come for Wimbledon in first-half injury-time. Bulman had already come close to a third when his curled effort was tipped over by Eastwood, but there was not long to wait for another Dons goal. Jake Reeves, who had been so impressive in the first-half with his excellent passing skills and energy, sent though a lovely ball for Barcham and he gave it the finish it deserved with a clinical strike past Eastwood. At this stage, the Dons were in dream land, and AFC Wimbledon had certainly never had it so good against Oxford United. The 3-0 half-time lead had been fully deserved, Wimbledon’s attacking play having been so impressive.
It threatened to be a different story after the restart with Wimbledon conceding inside three minutes of the second-half. Chris Maguire got in behind on the Oxford right and his cross was diverted into his own net by Charles. Initially, Wimbledon coped well after the setback with Elliott having a header saved by Eastwood, who also stopped Parrett from making it three. However, Wimbledon survived by the skin of their teeth shortly afterwards when Barry Fuller cleared off the line from Phil Edwards and the visitors just managed to scramble the ball to safety.
Midway through the second-half, Neal Ardley made his first change with Tom Elliott replaced by Tyrone Barnett. The chant of “We’ve got Tom Elliott” from the Dons faithful was fully deserved fir another tireless display from the Dons striker. Following a shaky spell for Wimbledon just after conceding, the visitors had largely been untroubled as they closed in on that elusive victory against Oxford United. Wimbledon’s midfield had played a big part in that with Bulman, Parrett and Reeves working so hard in there. Indeed, Neal Ardley decided to go for fresh legs in that department 11 minutes from time when Alfie Egan replaced Parrett. It was another significant moment in Egan’s fledgling career as he came on for his league debut. By that point, Wimbledon had threatened to restore the three-goal advantage when Reeves crossed for Barnett, but his header was just over.
However, the Dons never needed another goal on the day as they survived without too much trouble to end that rotten run against Oxford.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Jon Meades, Paul Robinson, Darius Charles, Dean Parrett (Alfie Egan), Jake Reeves, Dannie Bulman, Tom Elliott (Tyrone Barnett) Lyle Taylor (Dominic Poleon), Andy Barcham.