AFC Wimbledon were well beaten at Oxford tonight with the hosts slamming five goals past a below-par Dons side.
In a performance far removed from the bold showing at Rotherham on Saturday, Oxford marched to a 5-0 win that that didn't flatter them. Though play-off chasers Oxford were impressive on the night, Wimbledon's performance was well below the standard produced against Rotherham and Ipswich in the last two games.
Glyn Hodges had said in the build-up to this match that he would look to freshen up his side and that’s exactly what he did as three changes were made to the starting line-up. One of those was enforced with Callum Reilly missing out due to injury and that meant a recall for Anthony Hartigan in midfield. Julien Lamy was handed his first AFC Wimbledon start in place of Scott Wagstaff with Nesta Guinness-Walker also coming in on the left for Paul Osew. Wimbledon came into this match on the back of a confidence-boosting draw at League One leaders Rotherham and opponents Oxford were without a win in four. However, a note of caution to that particular statistic was that those games had been against sides flying high in League One and included an FA Cup replay defeat against Premier League team Newcastle.
Wimbledon put together a promising move just a few minutes in with Mitch Pinnock picked out in space, but his shot was too close to Oxford keeper Simon Eastwood. There was a very promising sign for Wimbledon early on when Guinness-Walker powered down the left to pick-out Lamy, who showed good pace to make ground, but his cross was cut out. Pinnock, who was playing on the right side, then showed his crossing ability with a lovely ball to find Joe Pigott, but his shot was saved by Eastwood and the flag was up for offside anyway.
Though Wimbledon showed early promise, it needed two brilliant saves by Joe Day to prevent Oxford opening the scoring in the first quarter of this match. Both opportunities came from crosses delivered from the right side. Nathan Holland put over the first to pick out Matty Taylor and his header appeared certain to open the scoring, but Day reacted superbly to make an excellent finger-tip save. Taylor was denied again shortly afterwards when a cross by James Henry found him and his shot from eight yards was saved again by Day. As we progressed towards the half hour mark, Wimbledon had managed to remain on level terms and Pigott threatened to make a difference at the other end when he pressed well to win the ball, but Eastwood won the race to stop him making the breakthrough.
Considering how the first half hour had gone, it was no surprise that Oxford took the lead and it was a simple goal in its execution. Mark Sykes picked out Henry on the right and his low cross was steered home by Taylor in the 32nd minute. Oxford wasted no time in going for the jugular and the advantage was doubled less than two minutes later. It was too easy from a Wimbledon perspective as the move cut right through the middle with Sykes finding Holland and he finished emphatically. The Dons struggled to conjure up a response and when Mitch Pinnock did put in a lovely cross from the left no one was able to get on the end of it. The half-time score of 2-0 was a fully deserved one for an Oxford side that had offered much more attacking threat than Wimbledon.
Far from finding a way back into this game at the start of the second-half, Wimbledon had a mountain to climb in the 50th minute when Oxford scored again. Marcus Browne powered through the middle and slipped the ball through for Henry, who produced a smart clipped finish past the onrushing Day. Less than five minutes later and it was 4-0 to the hosts. This time, Wimbledon were caught out on the right side and Hollands finished off clinically from close-range. Glyn Hodges responded by making a double change with Kwesi Appiah and Scott Wagstaff replacing Mitch Pinnock and Max Sanders. It was almost five when Marcus Browne struck a shot that cannoned off a post with Day well beaten.
It was a case of attempting to play for nothing other than pride at 4-0 down with more than half an hour left. Substitute Wagstaff had a half chance after being set-up by good play from McLoughlin, but his shot was over the crossbar. That was a rare Wimbledon foray forward in the second-half, but Julien Lamy came so close to a consolation when his shot was well saved by Eastwood. At the other end, Oxford substitute Dan Agyei, our former youth team player, was denied by Day. There was worse to come from a Wimbledon perspective with Taylor slotting home a fifth goal for Oxford and that rounded off a difficult night for everyone connected with the club.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe Day, Luke O’Neill, Terell Thomas, Anthony Hartigan, Mitch Pinnock (Kwesi Appiah), Julien Lamy, Nesta Guinness-Walker, Shane McLoughlin, Max Sanders (Scott Wagstaff), Mads Bech Sorensen, Joe Pigott.
Pic credit: Dennis Goodwin, Pro Sports Images.