By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon showed resilience in abundance to secure a battling draw at Oldham Athletic tonight.
A match that ended 0-0 was in stark contrast to the flair and exuberance of Saturday's 3-1 win at Bristol Rovers, but it was admirable for completely different reasons as Neal Ardley's men held firm at a tough venue.
The 0-0 draws against tonight's opponents last season had been frustrating for Wimbledon in some ways, but not this time as the Dons defied an Oldham side with plenty of attacking threat.
The Dons came into this game full of confidence after the impressive win at Bristol Rovers, but in-form Oldham promised to provide a tougher challenge than on Saturday. Neal Ardley made just one change with George Francomb coming in at left-back in place of Jon Meades, who had to settle for the bench on this occasion after playing his first 90 minutes in the league on Saturday.
It was a far different start for Wimbledon than on Saturday with Oldham coming out of the traps quickly and putting the Dons under pressure. In a rare foray forward from Wimbledon during the first half an hour, a lovely ball from Lyle Taylor picked out his strike partner Cody McDonald in behind, but he was brought down by Kean Bryan, who was happy to take a yellow card for his team with Oldham's defence stretched.
Oldham had the ball in the net after 15 minutes when Craig Davies steered home from close-range after George Long had parried a cross, but the flag was up for offside. That lifted the hosts and Cameron Dummigan tried his luck with a drive from 20 yards that Long gratefully watched go wide. As Oldham attempted to turn the screw, Wimbledon held a solid defensive line that the hosts struggled to penetrate. Though Oldham put pressure on, they were mainly restricted to efforts from long-range and Long did well to grasp a well-struck drive from Anthony Gerrard. At the other end, Taylor shot over the crossbar from an acute angle after a quick Wimbledon break. That did not alter the pattern of this game though as Oldham continued to press with Gevaro Nepomuceno firing just wide.
In a five-minute spell leading up to half-time, Wimbledon really came under pressure, with Oldham creating their best chances so far. First, Dummigan sent through a defence-splitting pass that Doyle latched onto behind the Dons defence, but he dragged his shot wide. Then Doyle showed good skills to get down the right, before crossing for Davies, but he headed wide. During the first-half, Wimbledon had struggled to gain a decent share of possession against an Oldham side supported by a passionate home faithful.
Neal Ardley made a half-time change with Jon Meades introduced for Tom Soares, which meant that Francomb switched to right-back. Wimbledon did start to get more on the ball at the start of the second-half and a lovely pass over the top from Liam Trotter picked out Francomb in space, but he was unable to control it and the chance was gone. There was a key moment before the hour when Gevaro Nepomuceno found space down the left and cut back a smart cross that picked out Eoin Doyle, but George Long got down well to save.
With 24 minutes to play, Wimbledon made a change with Anthony Hartigan introduced to take more of a grip on midfield and Cody McDonald was the man to make way. Wimbledon did start to gain more possession to stop pressure building, but Barry Fuller was required to stop Oldham opening the scoring. Following a quick break, Doyle put a ball across the face of goal, but the Dons captain did brilliantly to clear with Oldham players waiting in the middle. Paul Green twice almost made the difference, firstly when he put over a cross that no one was able to reach and then his shot from just outside the box flashed just wide.
Though Oldham continued to press in the latter stages, substitute Paul Robinson almost got on the end of a corner to snatch the points. However, a draw was the outcome to make it four points out of six for Wimbledon and this was definitely a point gained on the balance of play.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Deji Oshilaja, George Francomb (Paul Robinson), Cody McDonald (Anthony Hartigan), Harry Forrester, Liam Trotter, Andy Barcham, Tom Soares (Jon Meades), Darius Charles, Lyle Taylor.