By Chris Slavin
A stunning debut goal from Jimmy Abdou earned a very creditable opening day point for the Dons at Scunthorpe today.
Neal Ardley's men came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw that was the least they deserved after completely dominating the second-half at Glanford Park. Abdou's excellent strike in the 67th minute threatened to be the platform for a win in Lincolnshire, but promotion hopefuls Scunthorpe just managed to cling on.
It was a much-changed Wimbledon starting 11 from the side that ended 2016/17 with Neal Ardley including seven summer signings. George Long, Deji Oshilaja, Jimmy Abdou, Kwesi Appiah, Cody McDonald, Liam Trotter and Callum Kennedy were all given the nod to breathe new life into Wimbledon. However, it was a start that nobody in yellow wanted as Scunthorpe struck the opening goal in the sixth minute. Wimbledon were punished for giving the ball away in midfield when Josh Morris picked out Conor Townsend and he struck an absolute screamer that arrowed into the top corner, Long left with no chance whatsoever.
Following that early setback, a good response followed from the Dons. A good spell started when Oshilaja picked out McDonald in space, but he dragged his shot wide. Then Andy Barcham, who made a bright start against his former club, produced a brilliant individual run, before striking a shot that was deflected just wide. At the other end, Hakeeb Adelakun volleyed off target after a quick break from the hosts created the chance.
Wimbledon's forward trio of Appiah, McDonald and Barcham were causing problems with their movement and the equaliser so nearly arrived in the 23rd minute. High pressing forced Scunthorpe into a mistake with a combination of Barcham and Fuller winning the ball. Fuller's lovely cross found Appiah at the back post, but his shot flashed across the face of goal with McDonald just unable to get there to apply the finishing touch. Wimbledon's new-look side had shown promise at times with nice passing and movement in the first-half, certainly it had been a good reaction since conceding the opener.
Both sides came close to a goal before the break. For Wimbledon, Kennedy tried his luck from 30 yards and it was a great effort too as his fierce strike was tipped wide by Scunthorpe goalkeeper Matt Gilks. Scunthorpe threatened again just before half-time when Adelakun picked out Morris, but his shot was straight at Long. The Dons goalkeeper also had to stay alert to retain a well-struck free-kick from Morris, the score remaining at 1-0 at half-time.
Neal Ardley made no half-time changes as his side played towards the Dons travelling support. At the start of the second-half, Wimbledon's midfield three of Abdou, Liam Trotter and Francomb started to get more on the ball with Scunthorpe aiming to hit on the counter-attack. Appiah won yet another free-kick after a good move, but Wimbledon again failed to make the most of a set-piece situation with no one getting on the end of Kennedy's cross. Wimbledon's support started to find their voice just before the hour after a fine Dons move. Kennedy's cross was met at the back post by McDonald, but Abdou's shot was well over the crossbar.
Wimbledon won plenty of free-kicks around the box – mainly through Appiah – but the Dons were unable to make the most of them. With 65 minutes on the clock, Neal Ardley made his first change with Lyle Taylor replacing Appiah up front. Taylor, who had returned in time for the start of 2017/18 after shaking off a calf injury, was straight into the thick of the action as he won a throw-in on the right in a good position. Less than two minutes later, the Dons were on level terms – and what a goal it was too! Abdou latched onto a loose ball and struck a brilliant low drive from 20 yards that found the bottom corner and sent the Dons fans into raptures behind the goal.
All of a sudden, Wimbledon were threatening to get through all the time as Scunthorpe struggled to hang on. A lovely run and pass from Oshilaja found McDonald in space behind the home defence, but he failed to latch onto it and the chance was gone. An even better opportunity followed 14 minutes from time when McDonald's pass picked out Taylor in space in the box, but he shot into the side-netting. As we approached the last 10 minutes, Wimbledon were completely dominating and Liam Trotter's powerful downward header from a Francomb corner was cleared off the line with Scunthorpe just scrambling the ball clear.
Wimbledon continued to go all out for the winner as time elapsed to a conclusion, but it just eluded them in the end. The closest the Dons came was in the last minute of injury-time when McDonald broke free down the left and crossed for Taylor, but he scuffed his shot wide. Nevertheless, it had been a very encouraging opening day display from a new-look Dons side and a performance that will do no harm for confidence heading into the Carabao Cup tie against Brentford on Tuesday night.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Deji Oshilaja, Paul Robinson, George Francomb, Jimmy Abdou, Kwesi Appiah (Lyle Taylor), Cody McDonald, Liam Trotter, Andy Barcham, Callum Kennedy (Will Nightingale).
Pic credit: Simon Davies, Pro Sports Images.