AFC Wimbledon secured a first home victory of the season at the seventh time of asking with yet another important goal from Joe Pigott.
Pigott, who has scored so many vital goals since joining Wimbledon in January, struck the all-important winner once again in a 2-1 victory against Oxford United. However, the Dons had heroes at the other end too with Wimbledon’s defence, led by captain Deji Oshilaja, defending valiantly to defy an Oxford fightback.
John Motson, who famously quipped, ‘The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club’ back in 1988, was an interested spectator 30 years on since that landmark Wimbledon triumph and his presence perhaps provided a lucky charm for the current crop. Introduced to supporters on the half-time PA, Motson spoke warmly about the potential of visiting Plough Lane in the future with the site of Wimbledon’s new stadium close to the venue where he commentated on many a Dons fixture back in the day.
While the prospect of a new stadium is a tantalising prospect for everyone connected with the club, the onus for now is on Wimbledon remaining in the third tier when that happens and this was an important victory, even though it’s still early in the season.
Neal Ardley made two changes to his starting line-up after the defeat at Accrington Stanley with Jake Jervis in for his full home league debut in place of James Hanson. Scott Wagstaff was rewarded for his goal last week with a recall to the team in place of Mitch Pinnock.
Facing an Oxford side with three points less before this game, Wimbledon’s players knew that this was an opportunity to register a first home victory this season. However, it needed a superb stop from Joe McDonnell to prevent Oxford taking the lead, the recently recalled keeper making a finger-tip save from former Liverpool midfielder Cameron Brannagan. Oxford’s bright start continued and Tennai Watson showed good alertness to divert a deep cross wide of the far post. Ricky Holmes also shot over the crossbar as Oxford attempted to turn the heat up on Wimbledon.
Following Oxford’s good start, Wimbledon gradually came into it with Jervis showing up really well in attack. The pacy forward proved to be a handful for Oxford’s defence with his movement in behind and his dangerous cross from the left deserved more than just a corner. Wimbledon marched into the lead in the 20th minute with Scott Wagstaff showing that he had fully rediscovered his scoring touch after Accrington last week. Andy Barcham sent over a cross that was flicked on at the near post by Jake Jervis and Wagstaff was in the right place to head home.
Wimbledon attempted to continue the momentum and the cushion of a second goal followed in the 32nd minute. Joe Pigott showed good strength to beat Oxford captain John Mousinho just outside that area, before producing a fine low finish. It is a mark of Pigott’s improvement since joining in January that it appeared inevitable that the net would bulge when he took aim. A sixth goal of the season followed with a powerful drive that Oxford keeper Jonathan Mitchell was unable to keep out. A strong response followed from Oxford with the visitors forcing corners that Wimbledon did well to clear. Jon Obika also had a goal-bound shot blocked as Oxford sought a way back into the match.
It looked like Wimbledon would go in with a two-goal advantage at the break, but Oxford crucially halved the deficit in the 44th minute. Holmes showed good awareness to set-up a shooting chance for Brannagan and his superb finish left McDonnell with no chance. In contrast to previous home matches this season, Wimbledon had been clinical in front of goal with both shots on target in the first-half resulting in goals.
Oxford sensed after half-time that there was a way back into this game for them and they threatened an equaliser in the 52nd minute. James Henry powered into the area and set his sights on goal, but Ben Purrington produced a superb last-ditch challenge and Ricky Holmes blazed the rebound over the crossbar. Oxford committed more men forward around the hour mark and Wimbledon were forced into a spell of resilient defending. Holmes had another shot blocked and Gavin Whyte flashed a shot just wide as the visitors continued to apply pressure. With skilful midfielder Brannagan getting on the ball in midfield, Wimbledon had to do a lot of hard work without the ball, closing down space to limit their opponents getting clear-cut chances.
Wimbledon had certainly defended well by the midway point of the first-half, but Neal Ardley decided that something different was required to get the Dons playing again. A double change was made in the 68th minute with Anthony Wordsworth and Kwesi Appiah introduced in place of Barcham and Pigott. Wordsworth was quickly involved and he struck an effort over the crossbar from outside the area. Though Oxford continued to have the majority of possession, Wimbledon continued to defend valiantly and the lack of clear-cut chances in the latter stages highlighted the resilience shown. As anxiety among the home faithful increased, substitute Will Nightingale made an impotant block and Wimbledon defended a couple of late corners really well. The final whistle was reward for stout defending from the Dons and this was a vital victory for Neal Ardley’s men.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Tennai Watson, Ben Purrington, Deji Oshilaja, Scott Wagstaff, Jake Jervis, Liam Trotter, Andy Barcham (Anthony Wordsworth), Tom Soares, Rod McDonald, Joe Pigott (Kwesi Appiah).
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.