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Dons denied late victory

5 March 2016

Rally in latter stages fails to yield all three points

Wimbledon failed to score for the first time in 2016 as Neal Ardley’s men had to settle for a point at home to fellow play-off chasers Accrington Stanley.

The 0-0 draw ended Wimbledon’s run of scoring in 10 successive matches and the Dons came so close to snatching victory near the end when Accrington goalkeeper Ross Etheridge was sent off for stopping Lyle Taylor's goal-bound lob outside the box.

Connor Smith also struck a post in the latter stages, but it was not to be on the day for Wimbledon against an Accrington side who showed why they are in promotion contention.

Neal Ardley made just one change from the side that performed so well at Northampton Town in midweek with Smith handed his second start for Wimbledon in place of Dannie Bulman.

In a tepid start to this game that was far removed from the blood and thunder of last week’s first 10 minutes against Oxford, the first half chance came Accrington’s way. Seamus McCartan found space down the right side and delivered a cross that was heading towards Sean McConville at the far post, but Barry Fuller made a timely interception.

A good sign for Wimbledon though was the sight of Lyle Taylor in full flight, the striker showing he had recovered from the knock suffered at Northampton as he chased down a long ball, but his attempted lob was saved by Accrington goalkeeper Ross Etheridge. Wimbledon then put together a fine move that ended with Andy Barcham creating a shooting chance for Barry Fuller, but his goal-bound shot was blocked.

The Dons were twice fortunate to survive just before the half hour as Accrington showed their attacking threat. Jon Meades brought down McCartan just outside the area and Billy Kee’s free-kick from an acute angle flashed just wide. Then Accrington mounted another attack after a lapse in midfield from Jake Reeves and a shot from Seamus Conneely was deflected wide.

In truth, neither side had created a clear-cut chance during a first-half that contained little goalmouth action. In a first 45 minutes that lacked quality, the undoubted moment of the half came when Kelle Roos made a brilliant full stretch save to tip a 20-yard free-kick from McConville around the post. However, the first-half ended in controversy when Billy Kee turned Ryan Sweeney and found the back of the net, but referee Trevor Kettle had already blown for half-time. Accrington players and staff were furious at the decision as they continued to remonstrate with Kettle as the two teams left the field.

On a difficult pitch, Accrington had played the best football in the first-half and Neal Ardley’s men needed to do better in the second-half. Just before the hour came an enforced change for Wimbledon as George Francomb had to depart injured and he was replaced by Sean Rigg. With an hour on the clock, Accrington still held a grip on possession as they spread the ball around well on a difficult surface. Despite their superior possession, Accrington struggled to find a way through a resolute Dons defence, but McConville fired a free-kick just over, before Roos had to be alert to hold a shot from Pietro Mingoia.

   The Dons finally created a chance of note when Lyle Taylor found space to set-up Andy Barcham, but he cut inside and struck wide. Then Sean Rigg found space and delivered a cross that picked out Tom Elliott, but he dragged his shot wide. Neal Ardley made a double change with 21 minutes to go as Bayo Akinfenwa and Dannie Bulman were introduced for Tom Elliott and Andy Barcham.

  Pouncing on a half cleared Jake Reeves corner, Smith let fly with a superb volley that was deflected onto a post. The Dons finished strongly and threatened to win it four minutes from the end of normal time. Paul Robinson won the ball superbly just outside the area and delievered a long ball that Taylor reached first, but his lob was saved by Accrington goalkeeper Ross Etheridge. However, it was clearly handled outside the box and the only outcome was a card for Etheridge. When the game finally got back underway after Accrington substitute goalkeeper Jason Mooney had entered the fray, Taylor’s free-kick was comfortably saved.  Wimbledon came so close to taking the lead 11 minutes from time with Connor Smith just denied his first Dons goal.

Despite late pressure, the Dons were unable to find a winner during the remainder and had to settle for a second successive draw.

AFC Wimbledon: Kelle Roos, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Ryan Sweeney, Jon Meades, Jake Reeves, Connor Smith, Andy Barcham (Dannie Bulman), Tom Elliott (Bayo Akinfenwa), Lyle Taylor, George Francomb (Sean Rigg).

Picture credit: Stuart Butcher, Pro Sports Images.

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