Ryan helps steady the ship
Wimbledon extended their unbeaten home run to eight matches, but there was an element of frustration after the Dons came close to finally beating Oxford United.
At the tenth time of asking since returning to the Football League, Wimbledon created chances to put Oxford to the sword, but the two sides battled for a 0-0 result that was the same as at the Kassam Stadium in November. Defences came out on top and it was a match that Ryan Sweeney will never forget as he earned the sponsor’s man of the match award on his full debut to help the Dons get back on track after the heavy defeat to Dagenham.
It could have been better as Wimbledon pressed late on for a winner with Ade Azeez and Bayo Akinfenwa both coming close, but they just came up short in search of the three points.
Neal Ardley made three changes to his starting line-up and that included a significant inclusion at the back with 17-year-old academy product Sweeney stepping up for his full debut. Jake Goodman was the man to make way with Ross Worner and Alfie Potter also having to settle for places on the bench to accommodate returns for James Shea and Jack Smith.
minute when George Francomb swung over a lovely cross that Bayo Akinfenwa headed over.thThere was a warning for Wimbledon inside two minutes when former Dons loanee Danny Hylton fired over the crossbar. In a tight start that reflected the proximity of the two sides in League 2, Wimbledon fashioned their first chance in the 10
Due to injury, it had been six weeks since Shea’s last appearance and he had a lucky escape in his first match back when he dropped a cross from George Baldock after colliding with a post and he was fortunate that Barry Fuller was there to clear the ball. Oxford showed plenty of attacking threat in the first half with Hylton looking sharp on his return to the Cherry Red Records Stadium and his strike partner Patrick Hoban tried his luck with an acrobatic effort that flashed just over.
Wimbledon really started to come into it as the first half progressed and the Dons had several promising moments. That included the best move so far when Akinfenwa rose superbly to meet a cross and Sean Rigg met his flick with a thunderous volley that Oxford goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown did well to tip wide. Rigg looked particularly sharp in attack and he delivered a lovely cross to the back post that Akinfenwa headed over the crossbar.
The Dons had enjoyed a decent spell before the break, but there was a let-off for the hosts when Kemar Roofe cut inside and struck a lovely curler that was just wide of the far post. There had been nothing between these two sides in a previous 0-0 draw at the Kassam Stadium in November and the first half suggested that it was going to be tough to separate them again.
Wimbledon suffered a blow 10 minutes after the break when Deji Oshilaja landed head first on the ground after an aerial challenge and he had to be stretchered off after receiving treatment for around six minutes. That severely disrupted the flow of this game and so too did a head injury to Sean Rigg, who carried on with a bandage applied to his head.
There was a scare for Wimbledon when Hylton won the ball deep in the Dons half and picked out Andy Whing, but his chip was just wide of the far post. At the other end, Wimbledon started to build momentum and Rigg sent over a dangerous cross that Akinfenwa just failed to reach.
Both sides attempted to create chances as we entered the latter stages of this game and Shea had to be out quickly to deny Hylton. Wimbledon twice came within a whisker of taking the lead within a matter of minutes. First, Rigg appeared to have broken the deadlock when he headed home emphatically from Francomb’s cross and then the same player forced Ashdown into a fine point-blank save.
With 11 minutes of added time, both sides still had an opportunity to go for it and Neal Ardley decided to send on Tom Beere in place of Francomb. Ade Azeez had earlier entered the fray for Craig Tanner as the Dons desperately sought an attacking edge.
Wimbledon came closest in the latter stages with Azeez having a volley well saved by Ashdown and Akinfenwa almost snatched a winner, but the final whistle at least signalled that the Dons are unbeaten against Oxford this season.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Jack Smith, Dannie Bulman, Deji Oshilaja (Jake Goodman), Ryan Sweeney, George Francomb (Tom Beere), Jake Reeves, Craig Tanner (Ade Azeez), Bayo Akinfenwa, Sean Rigg.