Wimbledon’s final home pre-season match ended with a morale-boosting draw against Championship opposition with Alan Bennett’s header earning a share of the spoils.
The Dons and Charlton served up a 1-1 draw that was far removed from the often turgid nature of matches at this time of year. A crowd of 1,402 watched an entertaining pre-season game that offered Wimbledon encouragement for when the real action gets underway on 3 August. Wimbledon matched their higher level opponents for long spells with a display that was a big step-up from their performances against non league opponents so far.
Neal Ardley unsurprisingly selected a strong 11 for Wimbledon’s toughest pre-season match with Jack Midson, Kevin Sainte-Luce and Alan Bennett among those who stepped up from bench duty on Saturday.
Wimbledon could have been behind in just the sixth minute when Ross Worner made a hash of a clearance and Charlton trialist Adamo Coulibaly was presented with a great chance, but he fired against the far post from close range. However, the Dons looked promising when they did engineer attacks of their own and they should have been ahead in the 13th minute. Kevin Sainte-Luce produced a fine run down the right and when he picked out Luke Moore with a sublime pass a goal looked inevitable, but the forward appeared to be impeded and his subsequent shot struck a post. Then George Francomb came close with a shot just wide of the target from outside the area.
Wimbledon fell behind in the 20th minute when Worner’s less than convincing clearance fell kindly for Danny Green and he picked his spot with a fine finish from 20 yards. Though they may have looked a little shaky at the back, there was no denying Wimbledon’s promise in attack and the hosts were level after half an hour. Francomb, who had already shown his quality from set-pieces during pre-season, swept across a teasing corner and Bennett headed home emphatically for his first Wimbledon goal since the 1-1 draw against Northampton Town in February.
It had been an entertaining first-half at the Cherry Red Records Stadium and Wimbledon’s promising possession football will have pleased Neal Ardley; Harry Pell and Peter Sweeney both impressed in midfield, a partnership that had looked particularly effective before the latter broke his foot last season.
Wimbledon had certainly matched their higher level opponents in the first-half, but they were almost behind just a few minutes after the break when the dangerous Coulibaly turned inside smartly and curled just wide of the far post. However, Wimbledon continued to more than hold their own with Sweeney, who could be a real asset next season, dictating the play in midfield. Charlton showed the difference in class from previous pre-season opposition for Wimbledon by pouncing on any mistakes made. Yann Kermorgant came close after Wimbledon had given the ball away when he lobbed Worner, but the ball drifted just wide. Then the pace of Coulibaly exposed Wimbledon again when he broke free down the right and set-up Danny Hollands, but his shot was cleared off the line by Jim Fenlon.
Neal Ardley again chose to shake things up on the hour with three substitutions; Sammy Moore, Chris Arthur and Andy Frampton replacing George Francomb, Peter Sweeney and Callum Kennedy. More changes followed minutes later with Seb Brown among seven players to enter the fray. Bamba, in particular, was determined to catch the eye and his silky skills certainly livened up supporters in the Tempest End. The Dons, perhaps understandably, failed to maintain their first-half momentum against such high calibre opposition and Seb Brown was called into action to make a decent save from Green.
Though the match faded out as a competitive contest in the latter stages, it was certainly a worthwhile exercise for both sides and Neal Ardley will have taken plenty of positives from Wimbledon’s possession football during spells of this match.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner (Seb Brown), Jim Fenlon (Charlie Fayers), Callum Kennedy (Andy Frampton), Peter Sweeney (Chris Arthur), Will Antwi, Alan Bennett (Rhys Weston), George Francomb (Sammy Moore), Harry Pell (Tom Beere), Luke Moore (Chace Jacquart), Jack Midson (Charlie Strutton), Kevin Sainte-Luce (Youssouf Bamba).