AFC Wimbledon edged through to the second round of the Emirates FA Cup by winning a penalty shoot-out at Barrow tonight.
The Dons won 4-2 on spot-kicks after Nik Tzanev made a brilliant penalty save to deny Dior Angus. Barrow struck their other penalty over the crossbar and Wimbledon scored all four penalties, Rudoni striking the decisive one to earn a second round tie at home to Crawley on Sunday.
Glyn Hodges made eight changes to his starting line-up, offering real opportunities to players restricted to substitute appearances or run-outs in the Papa John’s Trophy. Only Dan Csoka, Alex Woodyard, and Anthony Hartigan remained from the side that started the midweek defeat to Gillingham. Goalkeeper Connal Trueman missed out due to a shoulder injury suffered in that game, and he was replaced between the sticks by Nik Tzanev. Opponents Barrow also made several changes to the side beaten 4-3 at home to Oldham Athletic on Tuesday.
Wimbledon started swiftly, creating chances early on, and the first of those opportunities came after just 30 seconds when Will Nightingale had a great chance to score, but he shot wide. Just a couple of minutes later, Chislett had a header deflected just wide after a lovely ball into the box by Jack Rudoni. From the subsequent corner there was another chance when Palmer rose highest in the box, but his header flashed just over the crossbar.
Rudoni had made a very bright start to this game, taking up good positions on the right flank and using his skill to orchestrate promising moves. Nesta Guinness-Walker and Cheye Alexander were also taking every opportunity to offer good width on the wings from their respective wide positions. However, as the half wore on Barrow really started to come into this game. Jayden Reid shot just wide for Barrow with a great effort that had Tzanev beaten. Though Palmer had a goal-bound shot blocked, Wimbledon struggled to build on the bright attacking moments of the early stages.
At the other end, Dimitri Sea cracked a shot against a post, as the hosts came so close to making the all-important breakthrough. A quick breakaway by Wimbledon gained momentum when Rudoni was found in space on the left, but his cross had just too much power for Palmer to get a shot away, and the move ended with Anthony Hartigan shooting over the crossbar. The half-time whistle sounded with the score at 0-0 and Wimbledon needing to regain the control from the early stages.
Neither side created anything of note in the first 15 minutes of the second-half, but Wimbledon did start to threaten just after the hour. Rudoni produced a lovely run down the left, before picking out Chislett in the box, and his shot was deflected wide. From the subsequent corner, the ball fell nicely for Chislett again, but this time he shot over the crossbar.
The Dons made a key change in the 66th minute with Joe Pigott entering the fray for Palmer, who had produced an encouraging display in leading the line. In a second-half that offered little in the way of attacking inspiration from both sides with extra-time looking increasingly likely, Tzanev had to stay alert in the Wimbledon goal. First, he reacted well to hold onto Reid’s powerful drive at the second attempt, and then Tzanev just got to a through ball before Kgosi Ntlhe.
In the latter stages Barrow had a big chance to win it. Dior Angus was put clean through on goal, but Tzanev did superbly to get down low and save. The hosts also appealed vociferously for a penalty after Angus went down in the area, but the referee was unimpressed. With a minute of normal time left, Glyn Hodges made a double change with Shane McLoughlin and Ryan Longman introduced for Cheye Alexander and Chislett.
There was a chance for Wimbledon deep into five minutes of injury-time when Rudoni scuffed his corner, but it landed at the feet of Hartigan, and his shot from the edge of the box flashed just over the crossbar. The whistle followed shortly afterwards to signal that an extra 30 minutes were needed to separate these two teams.
Glyn Hodges made his final permitted substitution with Steve Seddon replacing Guinness-Walker, a fourth change allowed to be made during extra-time. Following a slow start to the first period of extra-time, Wimbledon threatened to make the breakthrough. A shot by McLoughlin produced a fairly routine save from Barrow keeper Josh Lillis, but he had to do much better to keep out a shot by Rudoni. Then Lillis was almost deceived by a long-range shot by Nightingale, but he recovered well to save. Pigott also blazed over the crossbar, but a penalty shoot-out was starting to look inevitable as we edged into the second period of extra-time. Wimbledon came closest to winning it in extra-time when Rudoni produced a lovely run on the right to create space, but his shot flashed wide of the far post.
With no goals in normal time or extra time, penalties were required and Tzanev made that all-important save with successful conversions from Longman, McLoughlin, Seddon, and Rudoni earning a 4-2 win on penalties and a place in the second round.
AFC Wimbledon: Nik Tzanev, Dan Csoka, Alex Woodyard, Will Nightingale, Terell Thomas, Cheye Alexander (Shane McLoughlin), Anthony Hartigan, Ollie Palmer (Joe Pigott), Ethan Chislett, Ethan Chislett (Ryan Longman), Jack Rudoni, Nesta Guinness-Walker (Steve Seddon).