AFC Wimbledon had to settle for a point at Adams Park today after a dramatic finale.
The Dons produced an impressive away display against a side chasing promotion and Jack Rudoni's header put us 2-1 up in time added on, but with almost the last kick of the game Joe Jacobson converted a penalty. That was harsh on Wimbledon as it was an away performance at one of the promotion contenders that merited all three points. At 1-0 up after Rudoni's first, the Dons had chances to extend the advantage, twice striking the woodwork, before our former striker Bayo Akinfenwa came off the bench to equalise.
Despite the obvious disappointment of missing out on victory, it was an overall display that showed how far Wimbledon have progressed in recent weeks. Robbo's boys absorbed Wycombe pressure for long spells with a display of resilience and there was plenty of attacking threat at the other end. Certainly, the 742 travelling Dons showed their appreciation for the performance, clapping the players off and singing their full repetoire of Wimbledon songs.
Mark Robinson made just one enforced change to his starting line-up with Dan Csoka missing out due to illness. That meant a recall for Henry Lawrence at left-back with Nesta Guinness-Walker switching to centre-back. In opposition, Bayo Akinfenwa had to settle for a place on the bench.
The Dons got off to the perfect start by taking the lead inside four minutes. A lovely Wimbledon move ended with Paul Osew breaking clear on the right before finding Ollie Palmer, who showed superb vision to pick out Jack Rudoni in the box and he converted from close range. What a start for Wimbledon and our away supporters, who filled most of the away end behind the goal, celebrated loudly.
Wycombe responded by forcing Wimbledon back and a real chance followed when Brandan Hanlan, who scored a hat-trick against us for Bristol Rovers last season, got the better of Nesta Guinness-Walker to go clean through, but Nik Tzanev was out quickly to save with his feet. The hosts piled forward after that, peppering the penalty area with crosses and forcing corners. There was a good chance from a corner when Sam Vokes got on the end of one of them, but his header was wide. However, the Dons showed good resilience to maintain the lead with Ben Heneghan displaying his strength at the heart of defence.
The home side missed a gilt-edged chance to equalise in the 27th minute when Anis Mehmeti’s shot at goal was parried by Tzanev and the ball rebounded into the path of Vokes just a few yards out, but he somehow missed the target. The Dons were fortunate to get away with that one, but Robbo’s boys continued to look sharp in attack. At the other end, Osew showed his growing confidence by cutting inside from the right and unleashing a superb shot that Wycombe keeper David Stockdale did well to touch over the crossbar.
As we approached half-time, Wycombe pressure started to subside and Anthony Hartigan delivered a pass that almost picked out Osew on one of his rampaging runs forward, but Stockdale just got there first. After having to defend diligently for the majority of the first-half as Wycombe attempted to batter their way through, Wimbledon ended the half strongly. Rudoni had two chances to double the advantage. First he struck a goal-bound shot that was blocked, before Lawrence showed fine skill to set him up again, but this time Stockdale got down well to make a good save.
The half-time whistle shrilled with Wimbledon 1-0 up and having coped well with Wycombe’s direct approach, the hosts only really having two meaningful chances to equalise. The second-half started with the conditions worsening at Adams Park, the rain pouring down, and the hosts forced early corners to put Wimbledon under pressure. Tzanev did well to palm one of those away at his near post, before Jack Grimmer headed over the crossbar after getting on the end of another corner.
Wimbledon gradually started to see more of the ball though with Alex Woodyard and Anthony Hartigan gaining good possession and big chances followed to extend the advantage. Assal produced a rampaging run that ended with a pass into the path of Rudoni, who had his shot deflected onto a post. Better was to follow from a Wimbledon perspective as a superb move ended with Assal finding Lawrence, who sent over a cross that McCormick diverted onto a post. From the subsequent corner there was a chance for Palmer, but he headed over the crossbar.
As we approached the midway point of the second-half Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth rolled the dice by making a double change with one of our Wembley heroes Bayo Akinfenwa among those introduced. That turned out to be pivotal as Akinfenwa levelled matters with an opportunistic strike, pouncing on a loose ball outside the area before trying an audacious lob that beat Tzanev. Unsurprisingly, the home side's tails were up after finally equalising and Akinfenwa had a great chance to give Wycombe the lead, but he shot wide from close range after getting on the end of a cross.
Akinfenwa had completely changed the dynamic of this match and Wycombe had a great chance to snatch all three points when he flicked on a long ball to put Jason McCarthy through, but he shot straight into the arms of Tzanev.
That was far from the end of the action though as there was a dramatic twist in the tale. Substitute Egli Kaja showed his quality with a lovely cross from the right that Rudoni headed home for what appeared to be the winner. That signalled ectastic scenes in the away end as our fans celebrated wildly, but there was a sucker punch with almost the last kick of the match. Osew, who had been brilliant once again, was adjudged to have fouled in the box, and Joe Jacobson fired home the spot-kick.
AFC Wimbledon: Nik Tzanev, Henry Lawrence, Alex Woodyard, Anthony Hartigan, Ollie Palmer (Aaron Pressley), Ayoub Assal (Egli Kaja), Jack Rudoni, Nesta Guinness-Walker, Luke McCormick, Ben Heneghan, Paul Osew.