Luke McCormick notched his first goal in Wimbledon colours with an emphatic strike at Hampton tonight.
Though the Dons failed to really click as an attacking force in the 1-1 draw, McCormick's net-buster offered a positive sign for when the real action begins as he could provide a vital source of goals from midfield. The former Chelsea man's goal came in the 69th minute, and at a time when the Dons really needed it after Hampton had marched into the lead.
Wimbledon were better after the break with greater attacking thrust, and a key factor tonight was that more of our first teamers got 75 minutes under their belts. There is certainly plenty of room for improvement, but Robbo has time on his hands to make the necessary adjustments with two weeks to go until the big kick-off on 7 August at Doncaster Rovers.
A 4-2-2-2 formation was deployed from the outset, young pair Zach Robinson and David Fisher partnered in attack with Luke McCormick and Jack Rudoni given the freedom to support them from advanced positions.
Zaki Oualah was forced into a save in just the second minute when one of Hampton’s trialists tried a shot from outside the box, but our keeper did very well to gather the ball. Wimbledon’s first hint of a chance came in the eighth minute. Good hold-up play by Zach Robinson initially set-up Luke McCormick, who had his shot blocked, and former Hampton striker David Fisher followed up, but his effort was deflected wide. However, the hosts continued to show plenty of attacking intent and Paul Kalambayi reacted well to make a goal-line clearance after the Dons had failed to deal with a cross into the box.
Fine play on the left flank by Paul Osew fashioned Wimbledon’s best chance so far in the 20th minute when his cross picked out Fisher, but he was just unable to force the ball home after the Hampton keeper – another trialist – was out quickly to stop him. Zach Robinson showed exactly why he is rated so highly by Robbo when he skipped around two challenges, before setting McCormick free on the right. Our summer signing delivered a fine cross that was just cut out before Robinson could finish off the move he started. At the other end, Anthony Hartigan was required to show his defensive qualities when he tracked back quickly to stop Hampton’s Ryan Gondoh from leading a breakaway attack.
The half-time whistle shrilled with the score at 0-0 and a dearth of goalscoring opportunities for either side. Certainly, the Dons needed to attack with a higher tempo after the break to secure a second pre-season victory. There was almost an attacking spark created by trialist Alfie Bendle when he sent through a fine through ball to pick out Paul Osew, but he was ruled offside.
With Wimbledon having struggled to make an attacking impression by the hour mark, Hampton grew in confidence and they had two chances in quick succession. The best chance of the game so far fell for Ryan Gondoh when he got on the end of a cross, but he headed wide from close-range. Then Hampton substitute Niko Muir shot just over the crossbar. Ayoub Assal was introduced on the hour and he attemped to make things happen with the energy and dynamism that caught the eye at the end of last season.
The hosts broke the deadlock in the 65th minute when one of their four trialists on the night broke through the middle and struck a fierce shot that Oualah could only help into the net. That setback sparked Wimbledon and less than three minutes later it was 1-1. Substitute Quaine Bartley was the instigator as his cross from the left was diverted onto a post by Hampton defender Ruaridh Donaldson. It appeared that Hampton had got away with it as the ball rolled away from danger, but McCormick cracked home an unstoppable drive from just inside the area.
Robbo made a raft of changes with 15 minutes to play, a host of our young talents entering the fray. Bartley continued to provide an attacking outlet with his direct running, but despite late Dons pressure a winner failed to materialise. Next up is our second match in less than 24 hours with a trip to Dartford tomorrow.
AFC Wimbledon: Zaki Oualah, Paul Osew (Jack Currie), Huseyin Biler (Isaac Ogundere), Darius Charles (James Matthews), Paul Kalambayi (Reuben Mason), Alfie Bendle (Elliott Bolton), Anthony Hartigan (Kwaku Frimpong), Jack Rudoni, (Ayoub Assal) Luke McCormick (Dylan Adjei-Hersey), Zach Robinson (Morgan Williams), David Fisher (Quaine Bartley).
Pic credit: Trevor Williams.