AFC Wimbledon rounded off a fantastic week in style by striking back for a point against automatic promotion contenders Bolton.
A brilliant header from Tom Elliott secured a 1-1 draw that was fully deserved at the Macron Stadium and it signalled an impressive points haul of seven points from the last nine.
The 473 travelling Dons who made the trip watched a very good Wimbledon performance with the visitors playing great football at times and defending resolutely to deny Bolton.
Neal Ardley made three changes from the side that started at Scunthorpe on Tuesday night. Jon Meades, Dannie Bulman, and Tom Elliott all returned to the side in place of Andy Barcham, Dean Parrett and Lyle Taylor.
Wimbledon made a shaky start, struggling to cope with Bolton’s direct style that involved playing off their front men at every opportunity. Early pressure ended with James Shea having to make an excellent point-blank save in the third minute, the Wimbledon defender reacting well to stop a flying header from David Wheater, who had joined the attack. It appeared that Wimbledon had weathered the early storm, defying the barrage of crosses and corners that were swung into the box. However, the most basic of goals was conceded in the 15th minute as Gary Madine rose highest to head home emphatically from a corner.
A good response followed from Wimbledon with Dominic Poleon leading the charge. Straight from kick-off, a fine move ended with Poleon finding space on the left, but he cut inside and his shot was blocked. Then Poleon attempted to replicate his brilliant strike against Scunthorpe in midweek, but this time his shot flashed wide.
As the first-half progressed, Wimbledon really came into it with Jake Reeves and Dannie Bulman seeing plenty of the ball in midfield. Bolton goalkeeper Ben Alnwick was tested for the first time midway through the first-half when he reacted well to deny Poleon from close range after Elliott had caused havoc in the area. A good away following now had something to shout about as Wimbledon dominated at the Macron Stadium. It was therefore no surprise when Wimbledon earned a deserved equaliser. George Francomb delivered a lovely cross to the back post to pick out Elliott, who produced a brilliant header into the bottom corner.
Wimbledon had simply dominated for long spells of the first-half with Jake Reeves orchestrating the play with another impressive midfield performance. Up front, Poleon showed once again that he had rediscovered his barnstorming form from earlier this season as he ran the channels effectively and made life difficult for Bolton at the back. A score of 1-1 at half-time was the least Wimbledon deserved as Neal Ardley’s men had played so well in the first 45 minutes.
The second-half started in similar fashion to the start of this match with Bolton marching forward and Wimbledon needed a brilliant save from James Shea to stay level. After Bulman had conceded a free-kick for handball, Filipe Morais delivered a stunning 25-yard free-kick that was bound for the top corner, but Shea showed superb reactions to tip the ball onto the crossbar and away to safety. Just minutes later Bolton came so close again when Tom Thorpe fired just wide with Shea beaten.
As Bolton drove forward in search of a second goal, Wimbledon were forced to defend deeper and the hosts almost regained the lead when danger-man Morais curled just wide of the goal. As the home faithful really started to raise the decibel levels around the Macron Stadium, Wimbledon had to remain resilient at the back to defy their opponents. Bolton were struggling to find a way through a well drilled Dons defence with Bolton restricted to long-range efforts, Josh Vela powering one of those off target. At the other end, a rare Wimbledon second-half attack ended with Meades in space in the area, but his header was well saved by Alnwick. Neal Ardley made a change with 20 minutes left as Lyle Taylor entered the fray for Poleon, who was given a great ovation from the travelling Dons.
After surviving a spell of Bolton pressure, Wimbledon started to spread the ball around well again and a lovely pass from Dannie Bulman picked out Meades through the middle, but the offside flag was up. At the other end, there was relief for Wimbledon when Morais blazed a gilt-edged chance way over the crossbar. However, the Dons survived fairly comfortably in the end to earn a deserved point.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Jon Meades (Sean Kelly), Dannie Bulman, Will Nightingale, Paul Robinson, George Francomb, Jake Reeves, Tom Elliott (Tyrone Barnett), Dominic Poleon (Lyle Taylor), Tom Soares, Darius Charles.