AFC Wimbledon staged a thrilling second-half fightback today, before a last-gasp goal ended the club’s trip to Germany with a defeat.
A superb header from Tommy Wood had dramatically drawn Wimbledon level at 2-2 with five minutes to go, but Moritz Reinhard struck with the last kick of the game to earn a 3-2 win for Kickers Offenbach.
A fantastic atmosphere greeted the two teams as they entered the pitch at the Sparda-Bank-Hessen-Stadion. With around 300-400 travelling Dons amongst the crowd of over 2,343, it made for a cracking pre-match atmosphere and one to savour for those in blue and yellow that had made the trip.
The hosts had the first meaningful chance when Nik Tzanev was forced into a smart save at his near post. However, Wimbledon came closer to opening the scoring in the 21st minute when Michael Folivi turned superbly and struck a fine shot that skimmed the outside of a post. Folivi, who had produced such an impressive cameo upon his reintroduction to the Wimbledon ranks against Bristol City on Tuesday, once again caused problems for the opposition, and his movement helped create space for strike partner Joe Pigott. Wimbledon's top scorer from last season theatened to make the breakthrough, but he was just stopped in his tracks by a last-ditch block before he could shoot.
Kickers Offenbach, who play in the fourth tier of the German League pyramid, put together some fine passing moves as we approached the half hour mark and Tzanev was forced to save again. At the other end, Shane McLoughlin slipped the ball to Mitch Pinnock from a short corner, but his cross evaded everyone in the box. Kickers almost opened the scoring in the 38th minute. Jake Hirst, the Englishman who made a name for himself here with his prolific goalscoring form, thudded a header against the crossbar. That was certainly a touch of fortune for Wimbledon, but The Dons ended the half strongly and could have marched into the lead just before the break. Pinnock, who again caught the eye with his fine deliveries, sent over a lovely in-swinging cross from the right that Pigott just failed to convert at the back post.
Though Kickers had more of the possession and chances, Wimbledon had shown promise in attacking situations, particularly when Folivi and Pigott were given opportunities.
The second-half started in the worst possible way as Wimbledon conceded the first less than a minute into the second-half. Jerome Binnom-Williams was adjudged to have fouled in the box after failing to clear his lines to give Andis Shala a chance from the penalty spot and he made no mistake. Far from settling on the lead, Kickers pushed forward in search of another and it came just three minutes later when Manila Rodas crossed from the left and Kalambayi was only able to divert the ball into his own net.
At 2-0 early in the second-half, Wimbledon had a mountain to climb, but the ascent started on the hour with a well-worked goal. Dylan Connolly found space on the right and delivered a cross that was inch-perfect for Joe Pigott and he produced a composed finish to half the deficit. It was a different game now as Wimbledon started to commit more men forward in search of the equaliser. Though Kickers had opportunities on the break, Wimbledon stayed strong at the back and a raft of substitutions with 15 minutes to go injected new life into the team. One of our Under-18s on the German trip turned out to be the instigator of Wimbledon’s equaliser, which came with five minutes to play. Huseyin Biler showed fine skill to get down the right, before delivering a cross that was swung in the direction of Tommy Wood. There was still a lot of work to do, but Wood showed what he was made of by making it his, soaring above his marker to head home emphatically.
Wood’s goal appeared set to give Wimbledon the perfect finale to a wonderful trip away. The Dons travelling support were roaring out their full repertoire of terrace chants as Wally’s boys closed in on a creditable draw abroad. However, there was one final twist to come and it was a real cruel one to take. A swift break in injury time from the hosts ended with Moritz Reinhard slotting home with what turned out to the final touch of the match. That meant a 3-2 win for Kickers Offenbach, but it failed to take the shine off a proud weekend in Germany for The Dons. As well as boosting all-important match fitness for the squad, a host of young Dons from our Under-18s gained valuable match fitness and the trip spread the word about our special club. Fans, players, club officials, and staff were warmly welcomed by both FC Kaiserslautern and Kickers Offenbach. Based on such a fantastic experience, a return trip for The Dons to Germany in the future could well be on the cards.
AFC Wimbledon: Nik Tzanev, Luke O’Neill (Jack Madelin), Anthony Hartigan, Mitch Pinnock, Dylan Connolly (Huseyin Biler), Michael Folivi (Tommy Wood) Shane McLoughlin (Elliott Bolton), Paul Kalambayi, Archie Procter (Paul Osew), Jerome Binnom-Williams (David Fisher), Joe Pigott (Ayoub Assal).