AFC Wimbledon's pursuit of a first victory this season ended in frustration this afternoon with an equaliser from substitute Jason Cummings bagging a point for Shrewsbury.
The Dons had marched into a 1-0 lead before the break, thanks to an own goal by Ethan Ebanks-Landell, but chances to double the advantage were not taken and Shrewsbury hit back in the second-half. It was certainly an encouraging display for long spells, but the search for that first win this season goes on.
Wally Downes made three changes to his starting line-up after last Saturday’s away defeat. Nathan Trott was back in between the sticks after returning from international duty with England Under-21s, the young keeper replacing Joe McDonnell. There was also a significant change up front with Marcus Forss coming in for his home debut and Kwesi Appiah having to settle for a place on the bench. Anthony Hartigan was also recalled to the starting line-up, the midfielder replacing Terell Thomas with Will Nightingale back at centre-back.
Shrewsbury started on the attack and it needed good defending from Ryan Delaney, who was also making his home debut, to cut-out a dangerous cross by Ro-Shaun Williams. However, Wimbledon fashioned a good chance at the other end almost immediately. Forss showed his sharpness to latch onto a through ball, but he was forced a little wide and Shrewsbury keeper Max O’Leary did well to deny him with his feet. Forss certainly started well and his partnership with Joe Pigott showed early promise. Pigott did well to find the young striker with a nice ball, but Forss shot wide after a smart turn just outside the area.
In a first-half that ebbed and flowed, Shrewsbury posed threats of their own. Looking to find space down the flanks, Shrewsbury put together a good move to find Josh Laurent in space, but his cross was just scrambled away before Callum Lang could get on the end of it. The visitors also tested Wimbledon at every opportunity from set-pieces, but Nightingale offered a towering presence at the back to keep Shrewsbury out.
The Dons certainly had the better of it as the first-half progressed and chances followed. Hartigan’s smart free-kick picked out Nightingale, who headed on for Forss, but his header was well held by O’Leary. Pigott also headed over after getting on the end of a good cross by Scott Wagstaff. However, the breakthrough was made by Wimbledon just after the half hour mark. A corner was swung in by Hartigan and Joe Pigott claimed that he got the final touch with his head. The goal was credited as an own goal by Ethan Ebanks-Landell, but no one in blue and yellow cared about how it was scored. What mattered was that Wimbledon had a vital goal to celebrate in pursuit of a first win this season.
Wimbledon had chances to double the advantage before half-time. A quick Dons break ended with Nesta Guinness-Walker sending over a good cross that found Forss just a few yards out, but he shot wide. He appeared to be hauled down as he attempted to divert the ball into the empty net, but appeals fell on deaf ears. Nightingale also had a header cleared off the line by Donald Love and you wondered if Wimbledon would pay the price for failing to find a second goal before the break. Paul Kalamabayi came very close to doing it all by himself with a superb 25-yard strike that O’Leary did well to tip over the crossbar. Another academy product Hartigan had shown that he was worthy of inclusion by spreading the ball around effectively in the first-half and delivering crosses well.
It had certainly been a very encouraging first-half from a Wimbledon perspective, but you sensed that Shrewsbury would hit back at the start of the second-half and that’s what happened. The visitors committed more men forward and Wimbledon were forced back into their defensive third for the first 15 minutes after half-time. However, the centre-back trio of Nightingale, Kalambayi, and Delaney coped well with what Shrewsbury threw at them, the visitors often resorting to the direct approach in pursuit of an equaliser. By the midway point of the second-half, neither side had created a meaningful chance after the break. Despite Shrewsbury attempting to find the equaliser, they had failed to test Nathan Trott as we approached the final 20 minutes.
Despite having barely troubled Wimbledon’s defence, the visitors equalised in the 74th minute. Ryan Giles found space on the Wimbledon left and sent over a lovely cross that picked out Shrewsbury substitute Jason Cummings and he made no mistake shortly after entering as a substitute. Wally Downes had already been waiting to make a change and that happened straight after the goal with Max Sanders coming on for his home debut in place of Callum Reilly. Shortly afterwards, there was a double change for Wimbledon with Adam Roscrow and Michael Folivi replacing Marcus Forss and Joe Pigott. Perhaps the change of personnel up front would give Shrewsbury something different to think about.
Both sides really went all out for a winner in the latter stages. Folivi got around the back twice using his pace and skill. Firstly, his cross was just cut out before a Wimbledon player could get there and then his knock back fell for Roscrow, but his shot was charged down. There was relief in Wimbledon ranks when Josh Laurent powered through on goal, but he shot wide of the target. Nightingale also made a vital last-gasp block to stop Cummings netting a winner. Another point was not exactly what everyone in blue and yellow wanted, but it was a decent display and it could be something to build on in pursuit of that elusive first victory of 2019/20.
AFC Wimbledon: Nathan Trott, Luke O’Neill, Will Nightingale, Scott Wagstaff, Anthony Hartigan, Marcus Forss (Michael Folivi), Nesta Guinness-Walker, Ryan Delaney, Paul Kalambayi, Callum Reilly (Max Sanders), Joe Pigott (Adam Roscrow).
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.