AFC Wimbledon produced a resilient away display at Bradford to stay in League One for another season.
With Southend and Plymouth both winning, the point was essential and The Dons earned a 0-0 draw that was just enough to stay up.
Such a scenario had looked a forlorn hope in March when a draw at Shrewsbury left Wimbledon 10 points off safety, but a superb run of form, completely against the odds, keeps the club in the third tier of English football.
Following the hard-fought win against Wycombe Wanderers, Wally Downes decided to select an unchanged starting line-up for this match. The Dons came into this match unbeaten in six matches and seeking a result that would guarantee League One survival. Though a point was likely to be enough, the manager and his players made the right noises about going all out for maximum points so that no help was required from elsewhere.
Though Wally’s boys were facing a Bradford side already relegated, the Bantams had restored pride by beating Scunthorpe last week and the attitude had to be right from a Wimbledon perspective. Certainly, the fact that Wimbledon were unbeaten away from home since Sunderland at the start of February was a big positive. Before kick-off, both clubs were united in remembering the victims of the Bradford Fire Disaster and an impeccable minute’s silence was observed.
The hosts started on the front foot and Wimbledon were forced to defend deep. Around 2,000 travelling Dons watched their team make a nervy start and Aaron Ramsdale was forced to make a decent save in the 12th minute when he tipped over a drive from outside the area by Kelvin Mellor. From the subsequent corner, James Hanson showed his aerial ability against his old club with an emphatic defensive header to clear the danger. The only goal attempt from Wimbledon in the first half hour came from Anthony Wordsworth, who shot well wide with his appeals for a corner falling on deaf ears. Following a first half hour of little goalmouth incident, Wimbledon started to dominate possession, at least offering a chance to create chances after a slow start.
In the latter stages of the first-half, Bradford came close when Paudie O’Connor flicked on a long throw-in from Mellor and Eoin Doyle got on the end of it, but his shot was just wide. There was an almost instant response from Wimbledon with Seddon finding space on the left and striking a shot that forced Ben Wilson into his first save of the match so far. At half-time, Wimbledon could be pleased with the defensive display, but there had been little to enthuse about from an attacking perspective. However, scores elsewhere at this stage meant that Wimbledon would be safe with a draw.
The second-half started with Wimbledon showing more attacking intent with Joe Pigott at the heart of it. The in-form striker showed impressive sharpness to find space in the area, but his goal-bound shot was blocked and Wordsworth shot wide from the rebound. At the other end, Sean Scannell flashed a shot just wide that Ramsdale appeared to have covered if it had been inside his near post. Wimbledon came so close to making the breakthrough in the 64th minute. Pigott again showed his quality to go through on goal, but his shot was cleared off the line and Hartigan’s follow-up was well saved by Wilson.
Wimbledon’s near miss seemed to galvanise Bradford with the hosts pouring forward and the home support cranking up the atmosphere. However, Wimbledon’s defence, which had been much improved in recent months, held firm under sustained pressure. With 15 minutes to go, it was all still in the balance for Wimbledon. Holding on for a draw would definitely be enough due to scores elsewhere, and The Dons had to look after themselves to try to end the season by stretching that impressive unbeaten away run.
In the latter stages Pinnock struck a fierce drive just wide of the target. As news filtered through that Southend had taken the lead against Sunderland, Wimbledon could not afford to concede or it would have meant relegation. Bradford poured forward in the latter stages and Wimbledon had to hold firm under great pressure, but the defence stayed strong and the final whistle signalled jubilant scenes from players, staff, and supporters.
AFC Wimbledon: Aaron Ramsdale, Will Nightingale, Terell Thomas, Anthony Hartigan, Steve Seddon, James Hanson, Toby Sibbick, Paul Kalambayi, Shane McLoughlin (Mitch Pinnock), Joe Pigott (Rod McDonald) Anthony Wordsworth.