By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon slipped to a first defeat in pre-season after a last-minute Luke Freeman strike, but it was another encouraging display in preparation for when the real action begins.
Championship side QPR snatched a 1-0 victory when Freeman struck from close-range in a late twist after Wimbledon had created several chances to win it. Rangers keeper Matt Ingram had earlier made superb saves to deny Kwesi Appiah and Jon Meades in Wimbledon's third pre-season match.
Certainly, Neal Ardley's men can go off to their training camp in South Wales with morale high after a positive summer so far.
Neal Ardley decided to make just two changes to his starting line-up after the victory at Woking. Tennai Watson was handed his first start in place of Toby Sibbick with Joe McDonnell getting a chance between the sticks instead of Tom King.
Wimbledon made a bright start to this game with Mitch Pinnock once again showing his quality from set pieces. A superbly delivered corner from the summer signing set-up Kwesi Appiah, but his header was just wide. Then another of Pinnock's crosses was met by Will Nightingale, but his soaring header flashed wide of the target. At the other end, Wimbledon restricted QPR to very little and when they did get in behind, Deji Oshilaja showcased the defensive qualities that earned him the Player of the Year award last season. McDonnell showed good handling abilities to gather a cross after QPR forced their first corner.
QPR enjoyed plenty of possession, but they did not make it count until around the half hour mark. Following a spell of pressure from the visitors, Joe McDonnell was twice called into action. First, McDonnell reacted well to deny Ebere Eze from close-range and then he had to stay alert to turn behind a fierce 25-yard strike from the same player. A swift Wimbledon break almost fashioned a chance, but Andy Barcham was just unable to get on the end of a pass into the box from Kwesi Appiah. Wimbledon came closer just before the break with Pinnock again the creator. The tall midfielder delivered a lovely defence-splitting pass that Joe Pigott latched onto, but the striker was just foiled by QPR full-back Jake Bidwell after he attempted to take it past goalkeeper Matt Ingram. Wimbledon could take plenty of positives from more than matching their opponents in a first half that ended 0-0.
Wimbledon started the second-half by taking the game to QPR with Pinnock once again at the forefront of attacking moves. The tall right winger showed a lovely turn of pace after cutting inside to win a free-kick, but Joe Pigott struck the free-kick over the crossbar. Neal Ardley made a double change on the hour with Toby Sibbick and Tom King entering the fray for Watson and McDonnell. QPR had a half chance when substitute Paul Smyth headed over, but it did not turn out to be the signal for the Championship side to dominate. Wimbledon came very close through a well-worked set-piece routine. Pinnock's delivery was once again superb and Appiah met it with an impressive volley that was brilliantly saved by Ingram.
With 20 minutes to go, QPR needed Ingram to be on top form again when he made an excellent finger-tip save to stop a powerful header from Jon Meades. At the other end, Dons substitute King made an impressive save to deny Conor Washington after a defence-splitting pass by Osman Kakay. Neal Ardley changed around virtually the whole team with 11 minutes to go with plenty of home-grown AFC Wimbledon prospects once again given a chance to impress. The visitors threatened to win it through susbstitute Bright Osayi-Samuel, but his curler was just wide of the far post.
The match appeared to be heading towards deadlock, but then came late drama when King just failed to gather a cross from Smyth and Freeman pounced to net the winner.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell (Tom King), Tennai Watson (Toby Sibbick), Will Nightingale (Paul Kalambayi), Deji Oshilaja (Ossama Ashley), Jon Meades (Neset Bellikli), Mitchell Pinnock (Costa Sparta), Tom Soares (Egli Kaja), Liam Trotter (Tyler Burey), Andy Barcham (Alfie Egan), Joe Pigott (Tom Wood), Kwesi Appiah (Kane Crichlow).
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.