By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon suffered more home frustration today with Rochdale's stubborn resistance denying Neal Ardley's men.
The Dons offered moments of good attacking play, but it was not sustained enough to break down the visitors with a 0-0 draw as the outcome.
It meant that Wimbledon's difficult start to the season at home continued and now the Dons will be aiming to reignite the campaign with away trips to Oxford and Northampton coming up.
Despite defeat at Southend on Tuesday, the manager had seen enough promise in that performance to select exactly the same starting 11 and substitutes. With Rochdale having kept three successive clean sheets coming into this game, it was clear that Wimbledon would require a repeat of the tempo and intensity shown in the second-half of the previous home victory against Doncaster.
The Dons made a bright start with Andy Barcham's direct running at the heart of it. After a couple of early Wimbledon corners came to nothing, Barcham produced a lovely run down the left and cut the ball back, but Cody McDonald was just unable to get on the end of it. Shortly afterwards, Barcham linked up well with Parrett, who cut inside and curled an effort just wide. The Wimbledon momentum continued in the first 20 minutes and another half chance followed when Barcham found space on the edge of the area, but his shot lacked the power to really test Rochdale goalkeeper Josh Lillis.
With half an hour gone, Rochdale had failed to test Dons keeper George Long with the visitors happy to sit back in numbers and hit on the break. Wimbledon had shown flashes of promising attacking play, without really being able to exert sustained pressure. Another good team move in the 35th minute ended with McDonald fouled just outside the area and Dean Parrett's subsequent free-kick was just too long for Deji Oshilaja at the back post. That summed up Wimbledon's half with plenty of promising situations earned through good passing movements, but without the end product to match.
Rochdale finally mustered an attempt on goal six minutes before the break and Wimbledon needed George Long to pull off another fine save when he dived to his left to parry a point-blank header from Donervon Daniels. At the other end, a fine run down the left by Oshilaja resulted in a cross that McDonald headed over the crossbar. The half-time 0-0 score-line at least offered something to build on for Wimbledon with Neal's boys having had to chase the game in recent home matches.
Wimbledon produced a high tempo start to the second-half and so nearly had a goal to celebrate less than two minutes in when Taylor's searching cross picked out Barcham, but his flick flashed agonisingly wide of the far post. A fine move involving Liam Trotter and Taylor then created a shooting chance for Barry Fuller, but his shot was well held by Lillis. As the second-half progressed, Wimbledon committed more men forward and Liam Trotter produced a couple of cracking runs down the left, but his crosses were unable to pick out anyone in the box.
With 64 minutes on the clock and Wimbledon struggling to break Rochdale down, Neal Ardley decided to go for a different option with Darius Charles introduced for McDonald. Shortly afterwards, the manager made a double change. Harry Forrester, who had produced several promising cameos since joining in August came on for Dean Parrett and Jimmy Abdou replaced Barcham. Rochdale had certainly succeeded in frustrating Wimbledon by the 75-minute mark, the visitors showing little ambition. A header from Calvin Andrew – deflected over – had been the only threat from Rochdale so far.
With Charles in attack, Wimbledon were now looking to utilise his aerial prowess and feed off the second balls. Forrester showed flashes of what he could do and one of his impressive crosses from a corner picked out Deji Oshilaja, but his header was wide. There was only one team attempting to win this match in the last 10 minutes and Wimbledon almost found the key to the door when Oshilaja found Forrester on the left and his cross just eluded Charles in the box. Despite Wimbledon continuing to try and force pressure, there was no way through and Rochdale held out for a draw that had appeared to be their aim from the outset.
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 (Jimmy Abdou).
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.