AFC Wimbledon showed plenty of spirit and fight for the survival scrap ahead by digging in to deny Ipswich Town tonight.
On-loan Cardiff City keeper Joe Day made a string of impressive saves to earn a hard-fought 0-0 draw against a a side chasing promotion. Though Day made a big difference, plenty of credit must go to Wimbledon's defending on the night. Maintaining a good defensive shape and showing plenty of discipline, it meant that it was hardly backs-to-the-wall stuff from a Wimbledon perspective.
Glyn Hodges made two changes to his starting line-up after the narrow defeat against Fleetwood Town. Max Sanders was back at the heart of midfield after injury with Jack Rudoni having to settle for a place on the bench and Rod McDonald started in defence with Mads Sorensen not fully recovered from the head injury he suffered on Saturday. The two sides were looking for a much-needed victory for different reasons. Wimbledon sought the points to pull further clear of the drop zone in League One, but Ipswich needed a win to propel themselves back into the play-off spots. Though the Tractor Boys had suffered three successive defeats, those losses had come against promotion-chasers Peterborough, Rotherham, and Sunderland.
The match started with Ipswich enjoying the lion’s share of possession, without really threatening as Wimbledon soaked up pressure well, maintaining a good defensive shape. A first hint of a chance for Wimbledon came when Mitch Pinnock pressed high and won the ball well, before setting up Joe Pigott, but his shot was charged down. As we approached the midway point of the first-half, there was a clear pattern to this game with Ipswich dominating possession, without making much of an impression against a well-drilled Dons defence. There had been little end product from Ipswich in the first half an hour, but neither goalkeeper had been tested in the first third of this match. Mitch Pinnock and Joe Pigott had worked tirelessly up front and showed good touches at times, but Wimbledon had not been able to get enough players up in support to put any sustained pressure on.
Wimbledon’s midfield had worked very hard to press Ipswich with Callum Reilly’s tackling proving to be very useful. It had proven difficult for his midfield partners Sanders and Anthony Hartigan to get on the ball as Ipswich had so much of the possession. Sanders attempted to make things happen by dribbling past three challenges, but he was just stopped before making progress into the area. At the other end, Ipswich came so close to making the breakthrough in the 41st minute. James Norwood pounced on a half-cleared set-piece and struck a thunderous effort that crashed against the crossbar and away to safety. It was big relief for Wimbledon, especially as the near miss came so close to half-time.
It remained 0-0 heading into half-time and Wimbledon could take encouragement from limiting a promotion-chasing side to very little in the way of chances. At the start of the second-half, Ipswich continued to enjoy most of the possession, but Wimbledon held firm. Shane McLoughlin was tenacious with his tackling on the right side, showing commitment in abundance to stop his old club making progress. With 10 minutes gone in the second-half, Ipswich danger-man Norwood threatened to change matters. First, he struck a goal-bound shot that was well blocked by Rod McDonald, the ball deflected wide, and then Joe Day showed good reflexes to make a fine save from Norwood’s low drive. At the other end, Wimbledon had struggled to fashion a chance of note, but Terell Thomas almost found the key to the door when he powered through the middle and found Joe Pigott, but he was just unable to make the most of the half chance.
It needed superb goalkeeping by Joe Day to stop Ipswich taking the lead in the 67th minute. A loose pass out from the back was pounced upon by Norwood and he went through on goal, but Day was out quickly and spread himself well to deny the Ipswich striker. At the other end, Joe Pigott got on the end of a well delivered free-kick by Mitch Pinnock, but he headed it wide of the target. Wimbledon needed a simply superb save by Joe Day to stop Ipswich making the breakthrough, as he dived full length to his left to tip substitute Will Keane’s powerful drive wide.
In the final 10 minutes Ipswich continued to pour forward and Day was required to make another good save to deny Ipswich substitute Freddie Sears. The Dons were defending diligently to stop the pressure becoming too sustained and our supporters were playing their part by getting behind the team. As we entered three minutes of injury-time, Wimbledon earned a corner and though it was cleared, the attack ended with Joe Pigott shooting just wide. Despite Ipswich commiting men forward in the latter stages in pursuit of a winner, Wimbledon could even have snatched it when Joe Pigott shot just wide. The final whistle signalled a praiseworthy point for Wimbledon and an end to a two-match losing sequence, offering encouragement for the tough matches ahead.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe Day, Luke O’Neill, Rod McDonald, Terell Thomas, Anthony Hartigan, Mitch Pinnock, Shane McLoughlin, Max Sanders (Jack Rudoni), Callum Reilly (Scott Wagstaff), Paul Osew, Joe Pigott.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.