An impressive second-half fightback from AFC Wimbledon just failed to yield a share of the spoils against Scunthorpe United today.
Wimbledon had a mountain to climb at 2-0 down before half-time, but headed goals from Liam Trotter and Kwesi Appiah in a rousing second-half threatened to turn it around. However, the visitors edged home 3-2 with Wimbledon's defending for the goals proving costly.
In the end, Neal Ardley's men paid the price for a below-par first-half display, which was in stark contrast to a second-half when the Dons created chance after chance.
With the Dons having earned a valuable away victory last time out, Neal Ardley made just one enforced change to his starting line-up. James Hanson missed out due to a calf injury and that meant a recall for Kwesi Appiah, who was aiming to add to his only goal of the season so far against Walsall. Stuart McCall took charge of his first away game since being appointed as Scunthorpe manager, his home bow having ended in a 3-3 draw against Rochdale last Saturday. The visitors had familiar threats in their line-up, including Lee Novak, who scored a late equaliser here last season.
Wimbledon attempted to make an all-action start, but instead the Dons found themselves 1-0 down in just the eighth minute. Josh Morris swung in a dangerous free-kick from the right flank that looped over Tom King and into the back of the net. In response, Andy Barcham attempted to get the Dons going against one of his former clubs. The flying winger produced a powerful surge down the left, before getting in a cross that was scrambled clear with appeals for handball in the area turned down by referee Charlie Breakspear.
The Dons continued to put pressure on as we approached the midway point of the first-half, forcing corners and free-kicks, but Scunthorpe defended stoutly, in particular when Scott Wagstaff put in a dangerous cross. The first-half was overshadowed by an injury to a Scunthorpe player with on-loan Manchester United full-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson having to be stretchered off after a clash of heads in the box. The game was held up for six minutes to allow the stretcher bearers to do their jobs and Borthwick-Jackson received applause from all sides of the ground as he departed.
Neal Ardley’s men had a mountain to climb in the 33rd minute when Scunthorpe doubled the advantage through a breakaway goal. Following a Dons attack at the other end, the ball was worked quickly to Matthew Lund, who delivered an inch-perfect defence-splitting pass for Morris to go through on goal and he produced a clinical finish that left King with no chance. It was proving tough for Wimbledon to get back into this, but Deji Oshilaja’s header forced Jak Alnwick into his first save. Then a ball into the box was only half cleared and it fell nicely for Rod McDonald, but he blazed over the crossbar. Despite eight minutes of injury-time, Wimbledon were unable to make much of an impression against a well drilled Scunthorpe defence.
With a 2-0 half-time deficit, Wimbledon really needed a good start to the second-half and that’s exactly what happened as the Dons stormed forward searching for a way back into it. The deficit was halved in style in the 50th minute when Tennai Watson delivered a lovely cross from the right that Liam Trotter met with a lovely header past Alnwick. It was game on now and a fine Wimbledon move ended with a good shooting chance for Kwesi Appiah, but he shot wide. Just when a Wimbledon equaliser appeared to be imminent, Scunthorpe earned the cushion of a third goal, just two minutes after Wimbledon’s first. Ryan Colclough found space on the Wimbledon left and sent over a low cross that Ike Ugbo steered home from close-range.
Having conceded so quickly after getting back into the match, it would have been easy for heads to go down among the Wimbledon team, but the Dons stormed back to earn a second goal. It was a cracking goal too with Ben Purrington sending over a lovely cross from the left that Appiah met with a soaring header that left Alnwick with no chance. That was the signal for Wimbledon to pour forward. At times it was like pinball in the box with Scunthorpe hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Twice in quick succession Scunthorpe managed to just clear their lines after goalmouth scrambles and then Charlie Goode made a stunning last-gasp block to deny Appiah’s goal-bound effort. It looked to be a matter of time for a Wimbledon equaliser and substitute Mitch Pinnock curled just wide after a fine move. The Dons then twice came so close to a leveller in quick succession. Alnwick reacted brilliantly to stop a headed own goal, before Oshilaja’s header was cleared off the line.
The Dons really deserved a third goal, but Scunthorpe continued to defend desperately, last-ditch blocks and clearances keeping them in front as we entered the latter stages. With five minutes remaining, Wimbledon came close again when Oshilaja headed just over after a corner was well delivered into the box by Pinnock. Despite Wimbledon pressure, Scunthorpe had weathered the storm and the Dons were unable to create the late chances to threaten an equaliser. The improved second-half display had perhaps warranted a point, but it was just not to be in the end.
AFC Wimbledon: Tom King, Tennai Watson (Toby Sibbick), Ben Purrington, Deji Oshilaja, Scott Wagstaff (Jake Jervis), Kwesi Appiah, Liam Trotter, Andy Barcham (Mitch Pinnock), Tom Soares, Rod McDonald, Joe Pigott.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.