An injury-time goal from Kwesi Appiah earned a hard-fought draw for Wimbledon today.
It had appeared that Wimbledon were heading towards a 1-0 defeat, but substitute Appiah had other ideas, as he popped up with a header in added time to earn a 1-1 draw.
In the build-up to the first match since his appointment, Glyn Hodges had joked that supporters shouldn't leave early after the dramatic win against Portsmouth - and he was certainly right!
In Wimbledon’s first match for 11 days, Glyn Hodges made just one enforced change to his starting line-up. Max Sanders missed out due to a quad strain that he picked up in training on Thursday and that meant a recall to the side for Anthony Hartigan in central midfield. Lincoln City came into this match seeking a first away win since the opening day of the season against a Wimbledon side aiming for a fourth successive home victory. However, Lincoln had been unfortunate not to earn a point last time out at Portsmouth and they came here with manager Michael Appleton talking in the build-up about the importance of extending the points advantage over Wimbledon.
This was a landmark Wimbledon match in more ways than one. As well as being the first match since the appointment of Glyn Hodges as Wimbledon manager, it marked a special anniversary in Wimbledon’s history. Exactly 130 years ago, Wimbledon’s first match – then we were called Wimbledon Old Centrals FC – was held on 2 November 1889 with a 1-0 victory against Westminster.
Backed by a large travelling support with Lincoln taking up their allocation, Michael Appleton’s side started on the front foot and they had the first shot on goal in the fifth minute through Michael O’Connor, but Nathan Trott saved comfortably. Lincoln also forced a succession of corners, but Wimbledon stayed strong to defend them well. At the other end, Wimbledon put together a fine move when strike partners Joe Pigott and Marcus Forss combined to find Scott Wagstaff in space on the right, but his cross was cut-out before Paul Osew could reach it at the far post.
As we approached the midway point of the first-half, Lincoln exerted pressure that almost brought the opening goal. A fine move by the visitors down the right involving O’Connor and Bruno Andrade ended with Lincoln’s top scorer Tyler Walker attempting to divert the ball home at the near post, but Trott did superbly well to scramble the ball clear. Though he required treatment from medical staff, Trott was soon on his feet and back in the thick of the action. The on-loan West Ham keeper showed impressive reactions to get down to his left and stop Payne’s shot from finding the bottom corner. Trott was unable to stop Lincoln making the breakthrough shortly afterwards though. The goal came about after a quick Lincoln break that started after the referee refused to give a foul on Anthony Wordsworth in the visitors’ final third. The ball was quickly switched to Walker, who found Andrade on the right and his cross was fired home at the near post by Payne.
There was no let-up from Lincoln after taking the lead and an opportunity to double the advantage fell to Walker, but he blazed over the crossbar. The Dons struggled to conjure up a response against a well-drilled Lincoln defence, but Mitch Pinnock did threaten with a superb strike from outside the box, but Josh Vickers got down well to save the shot. The half-time lead for Lincoln was fully deserved and Wimbledon needed more attacking thrust to get anything out of this game. Whatever was said at half-time by Glyn Hodges certainly worked as Wimbledon were a different team after the break.
Shortly after half-time, our manager was forced into a change with Ryan Delaney having to go off injured and that meant a return for Luke O’Neill in defence. Wimbledon came so close to levelling through Marcus Forss, who struck a superb effort from outside the box, but Vickers tipped the ball over the crossbar. From the subsequent corner, Pigott did very well to rise highest in the box, but his powerful header was palmed over by Vickers. As the pressure continued, Terell Thomas sent over a cross that turned into a shot with Vickers again forced to save. It was now all Wimbledon with the likes of Wordsworth and Pinnock managing to get up in support of Pigott and Forss.
Despite the second-half improvement from Wimbledon, Lincoln were defending valiantly and it was proving difficult to find the equaliser. Forss threatened to do it all himself when he beat his marker superbly and cut inside, before striking a fierce effort that flashed over the crossbar. Shane McLoughlin was introduced midway through the second-half with Anthony Hartigan making way and the Irish midfielder injected a bit more drive from midfield as Wimbledon sought that elusive equaliser.
As we approached full-time, Wordsworth shot wide after getting on the end of a corner and it didn't look like the equaliser was coming. However, Appiah headed home emphatically after getting on the end of a cross from O'Neill to send the home supporters into raptures. What a finish yet again and in some ways it felt like a victory.
AFC Wimbledon: Nathan Trott, Terell Thomas, Scott Wagstaff, Anthony Wordsworth, Anthony Hartigan (Shane McLoughlin), Mitch Pinnock (Kwesi Appiah), Marcus Forss, Ryan Delaney (Luke O’Neill), Paul Kalambayi, Paul Osew, Joe Pigott.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.