Defiant defensive display earns a point
The Dons produced a resolute defensive performance to frustrate promotion-chasers Portsmouth this afternoon.
A total of 794 travelling Dons fans watched a display full of strong work ethic and steel from their team to earn a 0-0 draw that extended Wimbledon’s unbeaten league run to four matches.
It was certainly a good response after the FA Cup exit to Forest Green with all of Wimbledon's back four impressing, particularly Barry Fuller, who earned the man of the match award from Sky Sports.
There was an impeccably observed minute's silence beforehand to mark Pompey's Remembrance game and in memory of those who lost their lives in Paris on Friday. The French national anthem La Marseillaise was also played and Dons captain Barry Fuller presented a wreath in tribute to those who had lost their lives.
Neal Ardley made two changes from the side that started against Forest Green with Ade Azeez in for the injured Tom Elliott and George Francomb returning for Callum Kennedy.
The Dons made a bright start and actually had the ball in the net through a header from Paul Robinson, but it was ruled out for offside. Then Portsmouth goalkeeper Brian Murphy only just gathered a stinging drive from Sean Rigg at the second attempt.
In a first half hour of very few goalmouth incidents, Wimbledon frustrated the hosts by sitting deep and challenging Pompey to break them down. Wimbledon goalkeeper Ben Wilson did not have a meaningful save to make in the first third of the match, though he did well to claim crosses from Adam McGurk and Enda Stevens as Pompey worked space down the flanks.
The Dons did have fleeting moments of danger in the first-half. Lyle Taylor had a decent shooting opportunity, but he dragged his shot wide. Then Jake Reeves picked out George Francomb in space down the right, but his dangerous cross was well held by Murphy. As we approached half-time, Wimbledon enjoyed plenty of possession and the Pompey faithful started to get restless.
It was noticeable that Sean Rigg was operating more centrally behind the strikers than hugging the left flank and that was giving the hosts a problem. Azeez had a good opportunity in first-half injury time when he got in behind Portsmouth’s defence, but his shot from an acute angle hit the outside of the near post. Having quietened a passionate home crowd and shaded first-half chances, it had been a decent first-half from the Dons. It was going to be interesting to see if Wimbledon were going to show more adventure in the second half in pursuit of a third successive away win.
Wimbledon started the second-half confidently with Jake Reeves coming more into the game in midfield. Reeves so nearly picked out Taylor with a lovely ball through the middle, but the Dons striker just failed to reach it.
Portsmouth finally mounted sustained pressure five minutes after the break and the home crowd started to raise the decibels in Fratton Park. Marc McNulty beat Paul Robinson in a race for the ball and he turned inside to shoot, but a fine last-ditch deflection from Karleigh Osborne diverted it out for a corner. Wilson then produced a point-blank save to deny McNulty, but the offside flag was up.
With Wimbledon struggling to create attacking momentum, Neal Ardley decided to make a change and Bayo Akinfenwa was introduced for Ade Azeez. The Dons had to defend resolutely to stop Portsmouth breaking the deadlock. Barry Fuller got back superbly to stop McNulty getting in and then the Dons defence did just enough to put Christian Burgess off his header as his effort flashed wide from a corner.
Centre-back partners Robinson and Osborne produced plenty of vital defensive clearances to defy Pompey pressure and with 10 minutes left the home fans were voicing their frustrations. Though Wimbledon remained on the back foot in the latter stages, it was far from backs-to-the wall stuff.
Wimbledon had two injury-time corners that they were unable to make the most of, but the final whistle signalled a hard-earned point that keeps Wimbledon on the fringe of the play-off zone.
AFC Wimbledon: Ben Wilson, Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, Paul Robinson, George Francomb, Jake Reeves, Sean Rigg (Callum Kennedy), Jon Meades, Ade Azeez (Bayo Akinfenwa), Karleigh Osborne, Lyle Taylor.
Picture credit: Stuart Butcher, Pro Sports Images.