Dons dig in for a point
AFC Wimbledon steadied the ship after midweek FA Cup elimination by digging in for a point at Chesterfield today.
With a squad decimated by injuries and Paul Robinson’s suspension, Wimbledon battled away for a 0-0 draw in front of 363 travelling fans to maintain an unbeaten league run in 2017 so far.
In truth, it was a game of few chances with hosts Chesterfield struggling for momentum under new manager Gary Caldwell and Wimbledon unable to exploit their deficiencies.
Neal Ardley was forced into five changes from the side that started against Sutton in the FA Cup. Academy products Alfie Egan and Tom Beere were joined in the starting line-up by Chris Robertson, Tyrone Barnett and Chris Whelpdale in place of Dean Parrett, Dannie Bulman, Paul Robinson, Lyle Taylor and Tom Elliott. It was Egan’s first league start for the club and there was a youthful feel to Wimbledon’s squad with academy graduates George Oakley, Egli Kaja and Toby Sibbick also on the bench.
With Chesterfield’s players aiming to impress new manager Gary Caldwell, the hosts made a bright start. Tricky wide-man Gboly Ariyibi broke free down the right and put over a cross that was only half cleared to Dion Donohue and his shot was just over the crossbar. At the other end, Wimbledon were almost gifted a goal when a back pass was played short, but goalkeeper Ryan Fulton was sharply off his line to deny Barnett. Whelpdale then showed good vision to pick out Barnett’s decisive run in behind, but the striker’s shot was blocked.
For all of Chesterfield’s possession in the first half hour, James Shea was untested in the Wimbledon goal. Dan Gardner came closest with a shot just wide of the far post. Wimbledon really started to come into it after the first 30 minutes with Dominic Poleon showing good movement up front and midfielders Egan and Jake Reeves starting to commit forward more. A great chance followed for Wimbledon from a Tom Beere corner with the ball falling nicely for Darius Charles, but he blazed over from close-range.
During a first-half devoid of chances, Chesterfield struggled to really get the home faithful going. Against a well-drilled Wimbledon defence, Chesterfield were restricted to shots from distance, Shea watching another effort from Ched Evans flash wide. Wimbledon ended the first-half with an encouraging spell of possession, but the Dons had failed to test Ryan Fulton in the Chesterfield goal during the first 45 minutes.
Chesterfield started on the front foot and created a decent chance when Jay ‘O Shea broke free down the right and crossed for Jon Nolan, but James Shea was well placed at his near post to save. With an hour gone, there had been little in the way of goalmouth action to warm up the crowd on a cold day in Derbyshire. Taking on a Chesterfield side struggling for confidence, one felt that three points could be there for the taking for Wimbledon.
With 18 minutes on the clock, Wimbledon made a double change with George Oakley and George Francomb introduced for Barnett and Egan, who could be pleased with his full debut after a hardworking display. He had offered plenty energy in the engine room alongside Beere and Jake Reeves. Francomb was straight into the action as he cut inside and put over a deep cross that was only half cleared and Poleon struck a fierce drive that Fulton was relieved to see come straight at him. Then from a corner, Whelpdale’s looping header was gathered by Fulton. It had been much better from Wimbledon since the hour mark as Neal Ardley’s men started to threaten a winner.
When Chesterfield did start to up the tempo, Sean Kelly stayed strong to keep out winger Ariyibi with Robertson, Charles and Barry Fuller also offering good protection to Shea. With eight minutes remaining, Dannie Bulman was introduced for Beere. At this point, Chesterfield were pressing for the win and the experience of Bulman was more than useful to bolster midfield. With time running out, Ariyibi put over a dangerous cross that Evans was just unable to reach and that was the last hint of a chance as Wimbledon held out for a point.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Sean Kelly, Alfie Egan (George Francomb), Darius Charles, Chris Robertson, Tom Beere (Dannie Bulman), Jake Reeves, Tyrone Barnett (George Oakley), Dominic Poleon, Chris Whelpdale.