AFC Wimbledon's final match of the calendar year ended with a battling draw against Blackpool.
The Dons had to show plenty of resilience to secure a 0-0 draw against a Blackpool side that threatened to edge it. Goalkeeper Tom King made fine saves in the first-half and Wimbledon came closest to scoring when Terell Thomas headed wide from close-range.
It was not the ideal way for Wimbledon to end a difficult year, but it meant a very creditable total of seven points out of nine during the Christmas period.
Wally Downes made just one enforced change to his starting line-up after the victory against Plymouth with James Hanson missing out due to injury. That meant a starting role for Mitch Pinnock, who had bagged the winner in superb style against Plymouth after replacing Hanson in that game.
Blackpool came into this game aiming to get back on track on the road after a run of away defeats and they started well at the Cherry Red Records Stadium. Dons keeper Tom King was forced into action in just the fifth minute, diving to his left to stop a header from Armand Gnanduillet. At the other end, the first hint of a chance for Wimbledon followed when Andy Barcham crossed from the left, but Anthony Wordsworth was just unable to get on the end of it.
It was clear from the outset that Blackpool, managed by Terry McPhillips, were going to have the majority of the possession. Captain Jay Spearing, who has Premier League experience with Liverpool, was an influential figure at the heart of midfield, as he sprayed the ball around effectively. There was a cutting edge too and Chris Taylor struck a superb effort from outside the area that King did very well to save at full stretch. At this stage, Wimbledon were forced into defending deep with a focus on maintaining a good shape to stop Blackpool opening the scoring. There was a good chance for Blackpool midway through the first-half when Ben Heneghan rose highest in the box, but his header was just wide.
With 25 minutes on the clock, Wimbledon had struggled to create anything of note, which was no surprise considering Blackpool had dominated possession so much. However, the Dons did start to come into it after this point. There was a good free-kick opportunity for Mitch Pinnock, but he blazed well over the crossbar, and then Andy Barcham had a half chance after a cross fell nicely for him, but he could not get enough power on his effort and Blackpool keeper Mark Howard gathered.
Wimbledon's chance of the first-half came in the 40th minute when Pinnock curled in a lovely delivery from a corner that picked out Terell Thomas, but he headed wide from close-range. Though it was certainly a missed opportunity, it was an encouraging sign for Wimbledon. The half-time score of 0-0 was probably a fair reflection with Blackpool having had the better of it in the first 20 minutes, but Wimbledon exerting pressure as the half progressed.
Wimbledon started the second-half well. A fine ball from Tennai Watson picked out Jake Jervis down the right and he sent over a dangerous cross, but no one was able to get on the end of it. Then a fine move down the other flank ended with Barcham crossing from the left, but Mark Howard palmed it away from danger. Wally Downes made his first change in the 58th minute with Tyler Burey replacing Jake Jervis. Seventeen-year-old Burey wasted no time making an impact, skipping past a challenge with lovely skill, before being hacked down by Marc Bola, who received a yellow card. Wimbledon supporters really got behind Burey, as he attempted to make a difference with his runs down the right, but Blackpool were proving to be a tough nut to crack.
As we progressed towards the last 20 minutes, both sides continued to go for it. Blackpool's Harry Pritchard had a gilt-edged chance when a cross from the right reached him at the back post, but he hacked over the crossbar. Gnanduillet also had a very good opportunity, but his flick just missed the near post. In between, a goalmouth scramble in the Blackpool box resulted in the ball falling for Terell Thomas, but his goal-bound shot was blocked.
In injury-time, the Dons were fortunate that a header towards his own goal by Thomas was palmed away by King, who didn't know much about it, but defeat would have been harsh on Wimbledon.
AFC Wimbledon: Tom King, Tennai Watson (Toby Sibbick), Ben Purrington, Will Nightingale, Terell Thomas, Anthony Hartigan (Tom Soares), Kwesi Appiah, Jake Jervis (Tyler Burey), Mitch Pinnock, Andy Barcham, Anthony Wordsworth.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.