Wimbledon suffered late heartbreak today with a Luke Waterfall header two minutes from time condemning Neal Ardley’s men to defeat.
A much-improved Dons display had threatened to earn victory with a goal from James Hanson earning a 1-0 half-time lead, but two goals from Waterfall secured a 2-1 victory for Shrewsbury. It was certainly harsh on Wimbledon with the hosts having chances to win it at 1-1, in particular when Mitch Pinnock’s free-kick was tipped onto the woodwork by Shrewsbury keeper Steve Arnold.
Neal Ardley made three changes to the side that started against Luton with Joe Pigott, Mitch Pinnock, and Toby Sibbick recalled in place of Kwesi Appiah, Liam Trotter, and Will Nightingale. There was a blow for Wimbledon in the pre-match warm-up with Rod McDonald injured and that meant Terell Thomas received a late call-up to make his full league debut for Wimbledon. Tyler Burey was therefore on the bench for Wimbledon.
From the outset, Shrewsbury attempted to put pressure on by getting balls into the box, but Wimbledon’s much-changed defence stood up to the challenge well. After dealing with that pressure well, Wimbledon started to really dominate. Pinnock was lively in his recall to the side, offering something different in attack with his dribbling skills. The attacking midfielder’s deliveries are always a useful weapon and he put over a superb cross from the left that was just begging to be slotted home, but no one was able to get on the end of it. With Pigott, who came into this game boosted by signing a new contract with the Dons, and James Hanson working tirelessly up front, Shrewsbury were finding it difficult to cope.
Midway through the first-half, Wimbledon had the best chance so far with Pigott as the instigator. Finding space on the left, the striker sent over a lovely cross that was met at the back post by Tom Soares. However, he didn’t get the best of connections and his shot was deflected wide off James Hanson, who didn’t know much about it. Just after the half hour, Wimbledon had an even better chance. Pinnock’s corner from the right was knocked back by Deji Oshilaja at the back post and it found Thomas in space, but he blazed over the crossbar.
Wimbledon continued to raise the tempo, forcing several corners in succession, and the opening goal eventually resulted from the pressure. Pinnock’s superb corner delivery from the right picked out James Hanson at the back post and he headed home from close-range to notch his second Wimbledon goal since joining in the summer. It was a much-needed goal for the Dons and several of the players went across to the touch-line to celebrate with Neal Ardley. Wimbledon were full value for the lead as the half-time whistle shrilled and the only complaint was that it really could have been more of an advantage to take into the second-half.
There was a blow for Wimbledon in the 52nd minute with Hanson having to come off injured and he was replaced by Jake Jervis. Shrewsbury had steadily started to come into it at the start of the second-half and they were level in the 58th minute. A corner by Greg Docherty was headed on by Aaron Amadi-Holloway and Luke Waterfall cracked home emphatically from close-range. It was a disappointing way for Wimbledon to concede after scoring from a set-piece in the first-half and it was a test of character now for the Dons after a difficult run of results.
Wimbledon stood firm against a Shrewsbury side eager to turn this around and the hosts came so close to regaining the lead in the 69th minute. Following a foul on Joe Pigott just outside the box, Mitch Pinnock curled in a lovely free-kick from 20 yards that Shrewsbury keeper Steve Arnold tipped onto a post. It appeared certain that Wimbledon would finish it off from the rebound, but Shrewsbury defender Matt Sadler did brilliantly to stop Jake Jervis from making it 2-1. In a second-half that could have gone either way, Wimbledon needed Joe McDonnell to make a fine save to deny Oliver Norburn.
With 13 minutes to go, Jervis almost opened his Wimbledon account with a fine shot from outside the area that flashed just wide. Then Wimbledon came even closer when Wagstaff sent over a cross that was flicked on by Jervis to find Pinnock at the back post, but he shot wide. However, this game was on a knife-edge, as shown by a quick Shrewsbury break that almost caught the Dons out. Amadi-Holloway broke through and powered into the area, but Sibbick’s last-ditch tackle was adjudged to be fine by the referee.
It appeared that Wimbledon were set to end the run of defeats, but Shrewsbury won it when a free-kick was crossed to the back post and Waterfall’s header found the back of the net.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Ben Purrington, Deji Oshilaja, Scott Wagstaff, Anthony Hartigan, Mitch Pinnock, James Hanson (Jake Jervis), Tom Soares, Toby Sibbick, Terell Thomas, Joe Pigott.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.