Joe Pigott fired home an absolutely crucial leveller in the sixth minute of injury time to earn a valuable point for the Dons tonight.
After passing up a chance to equalise from the penalty spot, Pigott struck a superb goal in the nick of time to earn a 3-3 draw and that takes us up to the 50 points mark that’s usually enough to stay in the division.
The point provided further evidence of Wimbledon’s battling qualities after falling 2-0 down against a Rochdale side intent on preserving their League One status and the Dons refused to give up after going 3-2 down as well. With seven victories, five defeats, and seven draws for Wimbledon since Mark Robinson took over, it’s been an admirable effort in the battle to stay up, and form worthy of finishing much higher in the table.
Mark Robinson made one change to his starting 11 after the draw at Ipswich on Saturday and it was a significant one with Ollie Palmer deemed fit enough to return to the attack after injury. In similar fashion to Saturday’s dashing start at Portman Road, Wimbledon pressed their opponents high, attempting to force mistakes, and that almost paid off in the fourth minute when Jim McNulty’s back pass only just missed the near post. From the subsequent corner, Will Nightingale headed wide.
The visitors showed little attacking ambition in the first 20 minutes, but they did have a chance from a free-kick when the ball was swung in from the left and Gabriel Osho headed wide of the target. That did little to change the flow of this match as Rochdale, a side more noted for going on the attack, defended deep and in numbers. As well as showing plenty of energy to press Rochdale’s defenders, Joe Pigott showed a willingness to create for others and his lovely cross from the left picked out Ayoub Assal, who headed over the crossbar. Wimbledon were showing good quality on the left early on and Jack Rudoni and Nesta Guinness-Walker linked up superbly before the half hour with the latter’s cross just evading Palmer in the box.
Though Wimbledon dominated in the first half hour, Rochdale fashioned a decent chance when Jimmy Keohane cut in from the left and curled in a shot that just missed the far post with Tzanev beaten. Pressure from the visitors was growing as we approached half-time and Rochdale grabbed the lead in the 41st minute. It was a poor goal to concede as a routine corner was swung in by Conor Grant from the left and Jake Beesley applied the finish from just a yard out. Rochdale’s tails were up now and the visitors had vociferous penalty claims turned down just before half-time, but the referee decided that Ben Heneghan’s challenge didn’t merit a spot-kick.
The Dons needed to regain the attacking spark and Luke O’Neill inadvertently almost found the key to the door when his cross from the right bounced off the crossbar. However, the visitors doubled the advantage in the 56th minute when Gabriel Osho got on the end of a long throw-in and his looping header had enough on it to beat Nik Tzanev. Wimbledon had a mountain to climb now, but the response was exactly what was needed in the circumstances. Less than four minutes later the deficit was halved when Ayoub Assal burst down the right flank and delivered a lovely cross that was headed home emphatically by Jack Rudoni.
The goal was a lifeline for Wimbledon with our players sensing now that the comeback was on. The equaliser arrived in the 66th minute after O’Neill’s cross was spilled by Rochdale keeper Jay Lynch and Palmer tapped home from close-range. It appeared the momentum was with Wimbledon now, but another poor goal was conceded in the 73rd minute. A corner was flicked on at the near post and Keohane headed home to put the visitors 3-2 up. In a topsy-turvy second-half, the Dons came so close to an equaliser when substitute Ryan Longman was denied by a point-blank save by Lynch.
With nine minutes remaining, Wimbledon had a golden chance to equalise. Longman’s cross found Palmer in the box and when he was pulled down in the box the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Pigott stepped up, but for the second match in succession his spot-kick was too close to the keeper and Lynch saved.
Despite that setback, Wimbledon kept on going until the end and Pigott struck an absolutely fantastic equaliser with almost the last kick of the game, finishing clinically from just inside the area after latching onto a fine cross by Cheye Alexander.
AFC Wimbledon: Nik Tzanev, Luke O’Neill (Cheye Alexander) Alex Woodyard, Will Nightingale, Ollie Palmer, Jack Rudoni (Shane McLoughlin), Ayoub Assal (Ryan Longman), Nesta Guinness-Walker, Ben Heneghan, George Dobson, Joe Pigott.