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Will's near-perfect return

7 January 2014

Dons Under-21s held by Southend

Will Nightingale came so close to marking his return after injury with a goal this afternoon as AFC Wimbledon Under-21s missed out on a victory that their second-half dominance deserved.

The Dons had to settle for a 0-0 draw against Southend in a match played on a 3G pitch at Tooting & Mitcham and no one came closer than Nightingale (pictured), who headed against the woodwork just seconds after entering the fray as a second-half substitute.

Seb Brown was required to make a fine save to stop Southend’s Jack Payne from giving the visitors an early lead and Craig Reid also shot just wide. However, the Dons gradually started to get on top as the first-half wore on with lone striker Dan Ageyi causing problems for Southend’s defence. Harry Cooksley was also finding space down the right flank and he was presented with a good shooting chance after fine play from Chace Jacquart, but his shot was charged down.

Towering Dons defender Oluseyi Daley had an impressive game throughout at the back and he had a chance to provide Wimbledon with a half-time lead, but he shot just wide after getting on the end of a set-piece.

Following a first-half of few chances, Wimbledon really stepped it up after the break with Jacquart, playing in the hole behind Ageyi, catching the eye. Ageyi shot wide seconds after the restart and then he set-up Jacquart, who had a shot deflected just wide. Jacquart’s influence was growing as the second-half progressed and more industrious play from the young midfielder set-up Cooksley, but his shot was off target.

Wimbledon came tantalisingly close to breaking the deadlock when Nightingale, who had been sidelined through injury since playing in Wimbledon’s Surrey County Cup win against Badshot Lea, got on the end of a cross with a powerful header, but the ball thudded off a post. George Oakley, who also came on as a second-half substitute, then just failed to get a touch to Jacquart’s fine cross.

After soaking up Wimbledon pressure, Southend almost snatched victory right at the death when Seb Brown made an excellent fingertip save to deny Mitch Pinnock’s long-range effort. Defeat would have been particularly harsh on Wimbledon though and Under-21 Development Coach Shaun North could certainly take encouragement from his side’s second-half display.

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