George Oakley on target for Wimbledon
Wimbledon frustrated Luton Town for the second time this season at Kenilworth Road with a performance that showed admirable battling qualities.
Almost four months since the first-team earned a 1-0 win at the same venue, Alan Reeves’ development squad earned a creditable 1-1 draw against a Luton side that had scored 23 goals in eight matches before this game.
Though George Oakley (pictured) gave Dons a first-half lead, Luton dominated in the second-half and it needed resolute defending from Wimbledon to earn a point from this Final Third Development League fixture.
The opening exchanges of this development fixture at Kenilworth Road started at a high-tempo with both sides including first-teamers eager to make an impact. Luton had Pelly Ruddock Mpanza and Luke Rooney among their ranks, but it was Wimbledon’s first-team players who proved more effective early on. Kevin Sainte-Luce cracked a shot against a post in the fourth minute with Luton goalkeeper Elliot Justham beaten.
Wimbledon earned reward for a bright start in the ninth minute and it was a goal of real quality too. A flowing move ended with Sainte-Luce finding Callum Kennedy in space down the left and his lovely cross was headed home at the back post by George Oakley. Kennedy, who was playing in a more advanced role with Ben Harrison deployed at left-back, had an influential first-half. Kennedy produced another fine run down the left that ended with a smart cut-back for Oakley, but this time the striker was denied by Luton goalkeeper Elliot Justham.
Luton stormed back into the match and Harrison rescued the Dons with a last-ditch clearance from just a few yards out after Joe McDonnell had made a fine save to deny Rooney. McDonnell was also called into action to deny Ricky Miller and Ruddock Mpanza flashed a fierce drive just wide. However, Wimbledon came through that sticky spell and recaptured their earlier dominance. David Fitzpatrick produced a lovely run down the right and put a fine cross over that Kennedy headed too close to Justham.
Kennedy was everywhere in the first-half as he staked a strong claim for Sunday’s FA Cup tie at Wycombe Wanderers and he curled a free-kick expertly around the wall that Justham did well to tip over the crossbar. Wimbledon’s young backline of Callum Wilson, Ryan Sweeney, Will Nightingale, and Harrison had coped well with everything Luton had thrown at them in the first-half and the Dons deservedly went in 1-0 up at the break.
Fitzpatrick, who produced a lively display on the right, created a great chance for Sainte-Luce shortly after the restart, but he shot straight at Justham. However, Wimbledon came under considerable pressure in the second-half from a Luton side eager to get back among the goals after a prolific season so far. With the Dons forced to defend deep after the break, McDonnell reacted well to deny Rooney and Harrison cleared Miller’s follow-up off the line.
Wimbledon started to regain their attacking fluency of the first-half just after the hour mark and Kennedy so nearly sealed victory with a fierce drive that Justham did well to save at the second attempt. However, Luton forced Wimbledon back for long spells and they were rewarded with an equaliser 13 minutes from time. There appeared to be little danger when Jim Stevenson latched onto a loose ball 25 yards out, but his dipping effort looped over McDonnell and into the back of the net.
It was all Luton after their equaliser and there was a scare for Wimbledon when Miller lobbed McDonnell, but watched his effort sail agonisingly over the crossbar. Sweeney produced a brilliant last-ditch effort to stop Rooney netting a late winner and Wimbledon were relieved to watch Miller blaze over the crossbar in added time.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Callum Wilson, Ben Harrison, Jake Nicholson, Will Nightingale, Ryan Sweeney, David Fitzpatrick, Kevin Sainte-Luce, George Oakley, Chace Jacquart, Callum Kennedy.