AFC Wimbledon earned a first point of the season today, but it was something of a missed opportunity with Accrington Stanley playing the final 29 minutes with 10 men.
The Dons had earned a half-time lead and appeared set to secure all three points when Zaine Francis-Angol was sent off, but Colby Bishop equalised almost immediately and it ended 1-1.
Wally Downes made three changes to his start line-up after the midweek Carabao Cup tie. After warming up for this with a match for our development squad against AFC Bournemouth, Nathan Trott came in for his Dons league debut in place of Nik Tzanev. Michael Folivi came in for Kwesi Appiah and Rod McDonald replaced Dylan Connolly, as the manager reverted back to the 3-5-2 formation that served him well during last season’s Great Escape. In the pre-match warm-up, all of our players wore ‘LEAD US HOME’ T-shirts in support of the crowdfunding initiative for the new stadium.
Wimbledon started swiftly, taking the game to Accrington from the outset and forcing the visitors back. Callum Reilly’s shot in the first minute was saved by Accrington keeper Dimitar Evtimov after Joe Pigott had flicked on a lovely cross from the left by Nesta Guinness-Walker. Michael Folivi found space in the box after a fine Wimbledon move, but his goal-bound shot was blocked. Then Terell Thomas almost got a shot away, but an Accrington player got there first to clear the ball out for a corner. It had certainly been a high-tempo start by Wimbledon with several corners earned to put Accrington under pressure, but the visitors defended doggedly early on.
Accrington’s first hint of a chance came in the 10th minute when Sean McConville, who had often been a thorn in Wimbledon’s side in past meetings, struck a shot from outside the area that was deflected just wide. That was the spark for Accrington to exert a bit of pressure of their own, forcing a succession of corners, but Wimbledon managed to stay strong at the back. At the other end, Folivi got in behind again, but he was just stopped by a last-ditch challenge before getting his shot off. Shortly afterwards, Luke O’Neill curled wide from a decent free-kick opportunity 25 yards out.
In a first-half that ebbed and flowed, there was relief in the Wimbledon ranks when Colby Bishop just failed to connect from close-range. The visitors had found space on their right and any touch on the cross would have resulted in a certain goal, but Bishop was unable to get on the end of it. Wimbledon put together a fine move just before the half hour mark with Scott Wagstaff and Michael Folivi combining effectively, but Callum Reilly was unable to make the most of the opportunity. The visitors had come into it gradually as the half had progressed and twice they almost scored through Courtney Baker-Richardson. His first header just cleared the crossbar, but his second effort – also after getting on the end of a corner – required Nathan Trott to make a superb finger-tip save.
Trott’s save became even more important in the 42nd minute when Wimbledon earned the lead. A good move ended with Luke O’Neill delivering a wicked cross from the right that Ross Sykes diverted into his own net before Michael Folivi could get there. It may have been a scrappy goal, but no one in blue and yellow cared as Wimbledon took a 1-0 lead into the break.
Though Folivi looked sharp at the start of the second-half, Wimbledon were unable to press home the advantage. However, there appeared to be a big boost for The Dons just after the hour when Zaine Francis-Angol was shown a second yellow card for a late challenge. There was little time for Wimbledon to make that count though as Accrington equalised just three minutes later. Bishop, who had looked sharp all afternoon, scored with a fine poacher’s goal, heading home at the near post after getting on the end of a cross from the left.
Following that setback, Wimbledon struggled to get going again and Wally Downes made a double change in the 70th minute. Mitch Pinnock and Paul Osew were introduced for Callum Reilly and Nesta Guinness-Walker. Osew’s direct running down the left had certainly made a difference in midweek and he immediately won a corner for Wimbledon after one of his trademark runs. With 10 minutes left, Wimbledon created a chance when Osew and McDonald combined to set-up Mitch Pinnock, but his shot was well gathered by Evtimov.
The Dons were unable to build-up sustained pressure in the latter stages. McDonald had a header well saved and in the fourth minute of injury-time Paul Kalambayi had a header tipped over the crossbar. The final whistle was blown almost immediately and Wimbledon had to settle for a point that at least gets Wally's boys off the mark, albeit not in the circumstances we all would have wanted.
AFC Wimbledon: Nathan Trott, Luke O’Neill, Rod McDonald, Terell Thomas, Scott Wagstaff (Shane McLoughlin), Anthony Hartigan, Michael Folivi, Nesta Guinness-Walker (Paul Osew), Paul Kalambayi, Callum Reilly (Mitch Pinnock), Joe Pigott.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.