Jim Fenlon marked his return to first-team action by striking a fine opener today, but the Dons had to settle for a draw at Dartford.
The full-back, who had not played since February, showed no signs of rustiness when he exchanged passes with Luke Moore and produced a clinical finish and Wimbledon appeared to be coasting to victory when Rhys Weston made it 2-0 in the first-half. However, two late Elliot Bradbrook strikes made it 2-2 at the final whistle.
On one of the hottest days of the year, Wimbledon let the ball do the work to good effect with several new signings finding their feet and youngsters such as Chace Jacquart showing promise.
Neal Ardley decided to play a different team for each half with trialist Rhys Weston starting at centre-back and Youssouf Bamba starting on the wing. Ashley Bayes started in goal with Ross Worner having tweaked an ankle.
Wimbledon dominated the opening exchanges and Alan Julian was tested for the first time in the 14th minute when Sammy Moore struck a fierce drive that was parried by the Dartford goalkeeper and Jack Midson just failed to convert the rebound. That produced an instant response from the hosts and they came close to breaking the deadlock when Wimbledon failed to clear a routine free-kick and Tyrone Sterling’s header was tipped over by Bayes.
It was perhaps understandable that the first water break came just midway through the first-half on a scorching day at Princes Park and Neal Ardley took that opportunity to remind his players of what was expected of them. It did not take long for the message to get across as Wimbledon opened the scoring in fine style. Jim Fenlon played a one-two with Luke Moore and the full-back curled a fine effort into the bottom corner that left Julian with no chance. The Dons wasted no time in pressing home their supremacy and they were 2-0 in front just after the half hour when Weston headed home from Sammy Moore’s cross. Barry Fuller, who looked bright on his debut, then got down the right and set-up a shooting chance for Jack Midson, but his shot was straight at Julian.
The Dons had been barely troubled during the first 45 minutes, but Bayes had to be alert on the stroke of half-time when he palmed away a shot by Lee Noble from an acute angle.
Wimbledon started with virtually a completely different 11 for the second-half with Charlie Fayers having already entered the fray before the break. Fayers created a favourable impression before being replaced midway through the second-half and the youngster curled one effort just wide of the far post. As well as offering the likes of new signing Callum Kennedy a first game in a Wimbledon shirt, the second-half was also a useful exercise for the club’s young professionals. Youssouf Bamba, Fayers, Tom Beere and Chace Jacquart all featured at various times and the latter was particularly impressive in the second-half. The creative midfielder, who ended last season with a superb goal for the Under-18s against Milton Keynes, caught the eye with a fine run and cross that was just headed over by Charlie Sheringham.
Considering all the changes made at half-time, Wimbledon played well in spells. The best move of the match came when George Francomb powered down the left and sent over a cross that Sheringham met first time, but his powerful shot was turned away by Tom Wellhams.
The hosts pulled one back 11 minutes from time when Elliot Bradbrook struck home from close-range and there was a sting in the tail for Wimbledon with just a couple of minutes left when the same player made no mistake from the spot after Alan Bennett was penalised for a foul in the box.
There was still time for Wellhams to make a fine save to deny a long-range effort from Francomb, but the Dons had to settle for a draw on the day.
AFC Wimbledon: Ashley Bayes (Billy Bishop, Jordan Knight), Barry Fuller (Tom Beere), Jim Fenlon (Callum Kennedy), Harry Pell (Peter Sweeney), Rhys Weston (Alan Bennett), Will Antwi (Andy Frampton), Kevin Sainte-Luce (Chris Arthur), Sammy Moore (George Francomb), Youssouf Bamba (Charlie Fayers, Chace Jacquart), Jack Midson (Charlie Sheringham), Luke Moore (Charlie Strutton).