By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon extended the unbeaten run to four matches today in an entertaining match at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
In front of a bumper crowd of 4,850, the Dons were twice pegged back against Oldham with goals from Jon Meades and Joe Pigott cancelled out by a double from Duckens Nazon.
Wimbledon gave everything for the cause in the 2-2 draw, showing plenty of effort and commitment, to secure a point that could be crucial in securing a third season in League One.
Neal Ardley was forced to make two changes to his starting line-up with Harry Forrester and Tom Soares both missing out due to injury. That meant recalls for Andy Barcham and Jimmy Abdou. During the build-up to this match, Darius Charles had promised that there would be a high tempo start from the Dons and he was certainly true to his word. Wimbledon flew out of the blocks, committing plenty of men forward in search of an early goal and a flurry of corners were forced early on. There was a scare for Wimbledon though when George Long made a superb reaction save to deny Craig Davies, but early Dons pressure continued and the opening goal arrived in the 10th minute. Jon Meades pounced after Oldham only half cleared a corner and his well-struck shot was deflected in. It was certainly no goal of the season contender, but no one in blue and yellow cared, as the stadium erupted.
Scoring inside 10 minutes was the perfect start for Wimbledon and it was yet another vital goal from Meades with his important equaliser at Gillingham having come almost to the day five years ago. The Dons were rampant now and from the very next attack only a desperate last-gasp challenge stopped Andy Barcham going clean through. Then Lyle Taylor struck a powerful effort that Oldham keeper Johny Placide did well to hold onto. At this stage, Barcham and Taylor were running riot with Oldham struggling to cope. Taylor almost got on the end of a long ball, but Placide got there first, and Joe Pigott was unable to get enough on his chip from the follow-up.
As the first-half progressed, Oldham gradually started to come into it and one or two anxious moments followed. Dan Gardner struck a dangerous low corner that Anthony Gerrard flicked on at the near post and it rolled along the goal-line with no one able to get on the end of it. Then Wimbledon needed Deji Oshilaja to get in a last-ditch challenge to stop Tope Obadeyi going clean through after a quick Oldham break. At the other end, Wimbledon did threaten a second goal when Dean Parrett put over a fine cross from the right that Lyle Taylor just failed to reach. Any touch on it would have meant a certain goal, but Wimbledon had to settle for just the one at the break. It was a case of so far, so good, for the Dons with a good combination of attacking threat and defensive solidity shown in the first-half.
Oldham started the second-half with plenty of attacking intent and they were level in the 51st minute. It was a poor goal from a defensive perspective as Wimbledon failed to deal with a long throw-in from Tom Hamer and the ball fell nicely for Duckens Nazon, who struck an impressive low effort that left George Long with no chance. All of a sudden, the pendelum was swinging Oldham's way and a difficult spell followed. Wimbledon had to show plenty of resilience to deal with several dangerous set-pieces in the next 10 minutes and Oldham substitute Jack Byrne also fired just wide with a powerful drive from just outside the box.
With Oldham having had the better of the first 20 minutes in the second-half, Neal Ardley made a double change with Callum Kennedy and George Francomb introduced for Andy Barcham and Liam Trotter. After coming through that difficult spell, Wimbledon marched back into the lead in the 68th minute when Meades turned from scorer to provider. Showing the resilience that had served Wimbledon so well over the years, Meades powered down the left and showed good awareness to pick out Pigott and he finished clinically.
The lead for Wimbledon didn't last long with Oldham equalising less than six minutes later. Yet again, it was Nazon who showed impressive finishing skills, the Oldham forward pouncing on a loose ball, before producing a powerful drive that left George Long with no chance. There was a significant change for Wimbledon in the 76th minute with Kwesi Appiah entering the action as a substitute, his return coming after being out since December, and he replaced Joe Pigott,
It was an anxious end to this game for Wimbledon as Oldham threatened to win it. You could sense the relief all around the stadium among Wimbledon fans when Nazon's effort was just deflected wide after Aaron Amadi-Holloway's header went right across the face of goal. In injury-time, Lyle Taylor almost had the ball in the back of the net after getting on the end of a cross, but it just missed the target. Wimbledon had given absolutely everything on the day and a battling point takes Neal Ardley's men closer to the survival target.
AFC Wimbledon: George Long, Barry Fuller, Jon Meades, Deji Oshilaja, Darius Charles, Dean Parrett, Jimmy Abdou, Liam Trotter (George Francomb), Andy Barcham (Callum Kennedy), Lyle Taylor, Joe Pigott (Kwesi Appiah).
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.