Wimbledon steadied the ship after a difficult midweek trip to Oxford by securing a point at home to Blackpool today.
The Dons had to show plenty of character to repel Blackpool's second-half pressure, but ended the match with chances to earn victory, the 0-0 draw perhaps fair on the balance of play. The hard-fought point at least provided a positive response after a defeat at Oxford that could have dented confidence in the ranks.
Glyn Hodges made five changes to his starting line-up after the match at Oxford. There was a significant inclusion up front with Kwesi Appiah handed his first start since late November, as Mitch Pinnock had to settle for a place on the bench. Scott Wagstaff, Jack Rudoni, Callum Reilly, and Paul Osew were recalled in place of Shane McLoughlin, Julien Lamy, Max Sanders, and Nesta Guinness-Walker. Wimbledon’s players came into this match aiming to put that disappointment at the Kassam Stadium fully behind them against a Blackpool side that had slipped down to 16th in League One after a disappointing sequence of results.
Wimbledon started the match by showing plenty of attacking intent and Chris Maxwell was forced to make a save just a few minutes in to stop Anthony Hartigan’s shot from outside the box. Appiah looked very sharp early on and he showed his aerial ability to reach a corner first, but his header drifted wide. It had been a very positive start by Wimbledon and a well-worked move almost resulted in the opening goal in the 13th minute. A good passing sequence ended with Luke O’Neill sending over a superb cross from the right that picked out Appiah, who headed just over the crossbar. After being forced onto the back foot by Wimbledon’s bright start, Blackpool had a very good chance to take the lead shortly afterwards with former Aston Villa striker Nathan Delfouneso going clean through, but Joe Day reacted brilliantly to save.
As the first-half wore on, Blackpool started to show glimpses of the form that had them vying for the play-off positions earlier this season in League One. Delfouneso was a constant menace up front and Matty Virtue had a goal-bound shot blocked. As we approached half-time, Wimbledon had to regain a bit of the attacking flow from the start of this game, but Blackpool had noticeably grown in confidence. Rudoni did make Blackpool keeper Chris Maxwell work when he delivered a very dangerous corner from the right that had to be tipped over, but it was proving difficult to create chances during the first-half against a side defending in numbers. The half-time whistle shrilled with the score at 0-0 and only one meaningful chance each for the two sides. Appiah’s header had come closest for Wimbledon and Day did very well to deny Blackpool’s Delfouneso at the other end.
Blackpool started to show a bit more ambition at the start of the second-half and Joe Day was required to make a finger-tip save to stop a corner finding the back of the net. Wimbledon’s on-loan keeper was left exposed just before the hour and it should have been 1-0 to the visitors. A cross was sent over to Blackpool’s left flank and it was flicked back by Gary Madine for Taylor Moore just 10 yards out, but he blazed over the crossbar. It was a difficult spell for Wimbledon and Terell Thomas came to the rescue when he showed good defensive qualities to clear a cross from close to the goal-line. With Wimbledon struggling to make an impact in attack, Glyn Hodges made his first change in the 65th minute with Adam Roscrow replacing Kwesi Appiah.
Delfouneso had a great chance to put Blackpool ahead with 22 minutes left after he was put clean through, but he delayed his shot and the ball was eventually scrambled clear by Mads Sorensen. The Dons had shown plenty of spirit to defy Blackpool’s second-half pressure, but our manager called for more fresh legs with 13 minutes to go as Shane McLoughlin replaced Reilly, who had battled on admirably in midfield after shrugging off a first-half knock. His efforts were certainly appreciated by the home faithful as he made his way off.
With 10 minutes remaining, Wimbledon almost earned the lead through Roscrow, who showed impressive pace to go through on goal and his shot was decent too, but Maxwell just managed to get a hand to it. The Welsh striker was certainly lively after his introduction, showing positive signs that he can emerge from an injury-hit start to his Wimbledon career. As we entered the latter stages, Wimbledon pressed for a winner and it almost came through substitute McLoughlin, who got on the end of a cross at the back post, but his fine shot was superbly saved by Maxwell. A late victory just wasn't to be for Wimbledon, but it was a point that offers something to build on for the coming weeks.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe Day, Luke O’Neill, Terell Thomas (Rod McDonald), Scott Wagstaff, Anthony Hartigan, Kwesi Appiah (Adam Roscrow), Jack Rudoni, Mads Sorensen, Callum Reilly (Shane McLoughlin), Paul Osew, Joe Pigott.