By Chris Slavin
In stark contrast to last season's victory at Oxford United, it was an afternoon to forget for Neal Ardley's men at the Kassam Stadium.
Goals from Wes Thomas, Ricardinho and Xemi Fernandez earned a 3-0 win for Oxford United, as Wimbledon's difficult run continued.
At 1-0, a superb save from Simon Eastwood to deny Cody McDonald in the 46th minute turned out to be the turning point as Oxford doubled the advantage just seconds later.
Neal Ardley decided to select the same side that started Wimbledon's last league game against Rochdale a week ago. It didn't take long for Liam Trotter to go for goal as he shot over after a corner was only half cleared, but Oxford marched into the lead with their first meaningful chance. From a Wimbledon perspective, it was all too easy. Ryan Ledson's defence-splitting pass caught out Deji Oshilaja and Wes Thomas beat Will Nightingale, before striking a clinical angled drive across George Long and into the bottom corner.
At 1-0 down after just 10 minutes, Wimbledon had it all to do and it needed George Long to prevent further damage when he spread himself well to deny Jack Payne. The Dons responded by earning plenty of possession, though it proved difficult to fashion clear-cut chances. Wimbledon's best chance of the half came just after the 20-minute mark when a cross was only half cleared and George Francomb fired just wide.
In a first-half of few chances, both sides struggled to build attacking momentum. Wimbledon did spread the ball around well at times, but found it difficult to create opportunities. Dean Parrett shot wide from 25 yards, before Andy Barcham came even closer with a curler from the edge of the area that flashed just wide after a good team move. There was a setback for Wimbledon on the stroke of half-time when Dean Parrett limped off injured and he was replaced by Harry Forrester. Wimbledon had ended the half on top, without being able to test Oxford goalkeeper Simon Eastwood.
Just seconds into the second-half, Eastwood was required to make a save and it was a brilliant one too as he reacted superbly to tip Cody McDonald's header over the bar after a good cross by Barry Fuller. That proved to be a save of real importance with Oxford breaking down the other end to double the advantage. James Henry clipped a ball to the back post in the 50th minute and Brazilian Ricardinho cracked home emphatically from an acute angle.
It was a mountain to climb for Wimbledon now, but a gilt-edge chance was squandered just a few minutes later when Barcham headed back to set-up Trotter, but he scuffed his shot wide. At 2-0 down, the Dons couldn't really afford to miss such opportunities. At the other end, Payne had a goal-bound shot blocked as Oxford went in search of a third goal. However, Wimbledon did continue to threaten. Lyle Taylor found space on the right, but his cross was straight into the arms of Eastwood with players waiting in the middle for a pull-back. Then Barcham showed fine skill to get down the left and send over a cross, but substitute Darius Charles – on for McDonald – just failed to get there and Tom Soares scuffed the follow-up.
With Wimbledon struggling for a way back into this match, Oxford rubbed salt into the wounds with a goal a few minutes from time through substitute Xemi Fernandez, who followed up after Long had saved Henry's initial effort. It completed a difficult afternoon for Wimbledon and Neal Ardley's men will be aiming to do better at Northampton next Saturday.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, George Francomb, Will Nightingale, Deji Oshilaja, Dean Parrett (Harry Forrester), Tom Soares, Liam Trotter, Cody McDonald (Darius Charles), Lyle Taylor, Andy Barcham.
Pic credit: Simon Davies, Pro Sports Images.