Wimbledon were again on the receiving end of a deflected goal for the second time in less than a week, but even though Nik Tzanev produced some impressive saves in both halves our unbeaten start to the season came to an end.
Carl Winchester’s strike from distance midway through the second half took an unfortunate bounce on the way through to goal that beat the New Zealand international. In truth though, the Dons didn’t produce enough to come away with something from the Stadium of Light.
There were five changes to the Dons starting line-up, with Cheye Alexander, Ben Heneghan, Anthony Hartigan, Luke McCormick and Ollie Palmer coming in, after the midweek draw with Gillingham at Plough Lane.
It was Wimbledon who created the first opportunity, with the ball crossed in for Ethan Chislett who curled a low effort just wide of Sunderland keeper Anthony Patterson and the post. Shortly after, Henry Lawrence got back well to see the ball out of play, denying a Sunderland attack. Three minutes later, Alexander covered another Sunderland move on the other flank.
Sunderland’s Lynden Gooch picked up the first yellow of the afternoon, for a foul on McCormick in the 18th minute. Midway through the first half, the hosts found their feet and managed to get in behind the five-strong Dons back line, with Tzanev making a great one-handed save to deny Gooch in the 25th minute.
Moments later, Sunderland’s Luke O’Nien also went into the referee’s book for the foul on Chislett. The Dons did well to keep their composure at the back and when Sunderland did have another opportunity, with seven minutes before the break, Dan Neil headed high over the bar from a cross.
With half-time approaching, Tzanev got done well to smother the ball close to his goal line and snuff out another chance for Neil from an Elliot Embleton cross. While Sunderland had most of the attacking opportunities, Wimbledon did well to deal with what they had to offer and Tzanev stayed alert at the key moments as both sides went in goalless at the break.
It was Sunderland who were quickest out of the blocks at the start of the second half. Gooch set Ross Stewart away, but again Tzanev pulled off an excellent save for Wimbledon. Aiden McGeady then produced a tantalising ball into the box for two of his teammates, but this time Nightingale was back there to help out. With ten minutes of the second half gone, Tzanev tipped a ball over from distance.
Wimbledon continued to come under pressure, approaching the hour mark, as Alex Pritchard shot wide from distance. On the hour, Mark Robinson switched Jack Rudoni for Chislett. Rudoni was quickly into the game, combining with Ayoub Assal, but Assal was judged to have fouled O’Nien and then received the Dons first yellow of the afternoon.
Tzanev was finally beaten in the 64th minute though when a speculative shot from Carl Winchester from about 25 yards out took a deflection and ended up in the back of the net. With just over twenty minutes to go, Aaron Pressley replaced Luke McCormick. Sunderland continued to apply the pressure, in search of a second, but despite a few goalmouth scrambles Wimbledon’s defence managed to clear.
Wimbledon stayed positive in their approach and brought on Dapo Mebude for Assal with just under a quarter of an hour remaining, in front of a crowd of 29,093. Ollie Palmer made Patterson dive for the ball, three minutes into time added on, but the Dons came up short and were unable to find an equaliser.
AFC Wimbledon: Tzanev, Lawrence, Nightingale, Heneghan, Alexander, Hartigan, Woodyard, Chislett (Rudoni), McCormick (Pressley), Assal (Mebude), Palmer.