The Dons showed plenty of resilience to dig in for a point at Coventry City today.
A second minute goal from Jake Jervis had given Wimbledon an opportunity at the Ricoh Arena, but the visitors had to defend well to deny Coventry all three points after an equaliser from Luke Thomas. A total of 667 travelling Dons watched Wally Downes’s men secure a 1-1 draw that came after a last-gasp strike from Liam Kelly had thudded off the crossbar.
AFC Wimbledon came into this match aiming to secure league points on the road after the morale boost provided by last Saturday’s last-gasp FA Cup at Fleetwood Town. Wally Downes made three changes to his starting line-up with Deji Oshilaja, Jake Jervis, and Tyler Garratt making the 11 in place of Terell Thomas, Kwesi Appiah, and Ben Purrington. Appiah (hamstring) joined Thomas on the injury list with Purrington having departed the club on Friday.
There was a perfect start for Wimbledon at the Ricoh Arena with a goal after just 72 seconds. Anthony Hartigan’s corner was nodded on at the near post by Paul Kalambayi and though Coventry keeper Lee Burge kept the ball out, the ball fell nicely for Jervis, who slotted it home. What a start for Wimbledon in pursuit of a first league win in 2019. A spirited response followed from Coventry though and the Dons had to defend resolutely to stay in front. The first instance of that came when Luke Thomas got in behind and pulled the ball back for Jordy Hiwula, whose shot was on target, but Garratt did really well to block. A shot from Tom Bayliss was also charged down, as Coventry sought to restore parity.
At the other end, Wimbledon looked dangerous on the break and it was almost 2-0 when Mitch Pinnock struck a fierce effort that bounced off the crossbar and away to safety. That did not change the pattern of this match though, as Coventry continued to press. Aaron Ramsdale was called into action for the first time when he reacted well to tip a shot from Liam Kelly over the crossbar. Thomas also shot wide after finding space in the box.
As we approached the half hour mark, there was a worrying moment for Wimbledon when a pass from Bright Enobakhare put Hiwula clean through. The Coventry man just had Ramsdale to beat, but the on-loan keeper was quick to come off his line and block the effort. Ramsdale also had to stay alert to save a shot from Sam McCallum shortly afterwards. In a first-half that mostly involved defending from a Dons perspective, Jervis attempted to notch his second, but Lee Burge got down well to save his shot. A half-time 1-0 lead was reward for Wimbledon staying strong in defence against a Coventry team who marched forward at every opportunity.
Coventry continued to pile forward at the start of the second and the Dons were fortunate that a shot from Tom Bayliss was deflected just wide of the target. Wimbledon also needed a vital interception from Tyler Garratt to stop Coventry equalising after a quick break from the hosts. However, there was no reprieve for Wimbledon just after the hour, as Coventry benefited from a slice of fortune. Luke Thomas cut in from the right and his shot left Ramsdale with no chance as it took a wicked deflection.
Far from that equaliser signalling an all-out attacking assault from the hosts, it appeared to galvanise Wimbledon. Anthony Hartigan and Anthony Wordsworth started to see a bit more of the ball in midfield and Wally Downes was perhaps sensing that the three points could still be up for grabs when he made a double change in the 69th minute. Dylan Connolly came on for his Wimbledon debut with Jervis making way and Joe Pigott also entered the fray for Garratt. It didn’t take long for Connolly to show a glimpse of what he could offer Wimbledon. A lovely run from the Irish winger set-up Andy Barcham and his pass found Pigott, but he took too long and the chance was gone.
As we edged towards the latter stages Wimbledon looked the more likely to win it. Andy Barcham had a shot saved by Burge and in the final minutes a Dons corner was only half cleared and Anthony Wordsworth’s goal-bound shot was charged down. At the other end, Wimbledon were almost caught out after a quick Coventry break, but Hiwula scuffed his effort from close range. Kelly also thudded a shot against the crossbar, but defeat would have been harsh on Wimbledon and it was a good point for the Dons against a side flying high in the top half of League One.
AFC Wimbledon: Aaron Ramsdale, Tennai Watson, Deji Oshilaja, Will Nightingale, Anthony Hartigan, Jake Jervis (Dylan Connolly), Mitch Pinnock, Tyler Garratt (Joe Pigott), Andy Barcham, Paul Kalambayi, Anthony Wordsworth.
Pic credit: Simon Davies, Pro Sports Images.