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Fans pack into West Stand as Dons round off pre-season

Wimbledon beaten by League 2 side Scunthorpe

31 July 2021

AFC Wimbledon ended the pre-season with a narrow defeat at the hands of League 2 side Scunthorpe, but Mark Robinson’s side showed plenty of positive signs for when the real business begins.

A 2-1 loss was the outcome on the pitch of today’s well attended test event with 4,000 of our supporters watching Wimbledon turn on the style at times, in particular through attacking talent Luke McCormick. With just one week until our League One opener at Doncaster, the former Chelsea midfielder is likely to be a key man for us heading into the new season – and our supporters were certainly impressed today.  

For the first time since we moved back to Plough Lane, the Dons played in front of a full West Stand, and that was reflected in the noise that greeted the players when they emerged from the tunnel. Everyone connected with our fantastic club had waited a long time to witness such a scenario – and there was a carnival feel about the place. For those of us that had been through the soulless experience of attending behind-closed doors matches, the sound of supporters was music to our ears. That warm matchday feeling of supporters meeting up to watch their team was back. When Robbo walked onto the pitch he was given rapturous applause by our supporters, who answered Bayzo’s pre-match call to make plenty of noise.

Mark Robinson selected a strong side for this final pre-season match of the summer, offering an indication of what the starting 11 will look like for our League opener at Doncaster next Saturday. Henry Lawrence was handed his first Dons start since joining us on loan from Chelsea earlier this week. Though the kick-off time was delayed until 3.25 pm due to Scunthorpe United’s first-team coach being stuck in traffic, Dons supporters didn’t have too long to wait to celebrate a goal. In just the fourth minute, the referee adjudged that Jack Rudoni had been fouled in the box by Scunthorpe goalkeeper Tom Billson, and Ollie Palmer stepped up to convert from 12 yards.

After taking the lead, Wimbledon continued to take the game to their opponents, and fine approach play had our supporters on the edge of their seats. In particular, Luke McCormick and Ayoub Assal caught the eye, two attacking talents that our fans will really enjoy watching this season. McCormick showed his crossing ability with a fine in-swinging free-kick, but Scunthorpe dealt with it before Ben Heneghan could get there. Though the first 20 minutes had been dominated by Robbo’s men, Scunthorpe showed their threat when Ryan Loft forced Nik Tzanev into a good save. That was a sign of things to come as the visitors equalised just after the half hour. The Dons failed to deal with a cross in by Lewis Thompson, and Harry Bunn pounced to fire in a shot that was deflected into the net.

The visitors went ahead for the first time in the 39th minute. Henry Lawrence was adjudged to have fouled Bunn in the box, and Ryan Loft’s spot-kick was straight down the middle, but it had too much power for Tzanev to stop it. McCormick, who was impressive throughout, had a good chance when he found space in the box after a fine Dons move, but Billson made a fine save with his legs.

The second-half started with Wimbledon almost earning the equaliser. Jack Rudoni produced a fine turn and a lovely cross from the right to pick out Palmer on the back post, and a goal appeared inevitable, but his close-range effort was well saved by Billson. McCormick was a real crowd pleaser on the day, showing lovely skill on both flanks to create opportunities. His cut-back from the left again set-up Palmer, but he was once again denied by the keeper.

Just after the hour, Mark Robinson made four substitutions with Paul Kalambayi, Anthony Hartigan, Cheye Alexander, and Aaron Pressley replacing Ben Heneghan, Alex Woodyard, Henry Lawrence, and Ollie Palmer. The changes gave Wimbledon renewed energy and more chances followed. Guinness-Walker had a shot blocked. There was almost a goal to savour for the Dons with 15 minutes left as superb play by McCormick brought the Dons fans to their feet. The skilful midfielder cut inside and unleashed a fierce shot that Billson did brilliantly to save. In the latter stages Tzanev pulled off a fine save at the other end, but McCormick was again denied by Billson. Though it was not the way we wanted pre-season to end with another defeat, the Dons produced a lot of encouraging attacking play for when the real action gets underway.

AFC Wimbledon: Nik Tzanev, Nesta Guinness-Walker, Will Nightingale (Dan Csoka), Ben Heneghan (Paul Kalambayi), Henry Lawrence (Cheye Alexander), George Marsh, Alex Woodyard (Anthony Hartigan) Jack Rudoni (Alfie Bendle), Luke McCormick, Ayoub Assal, Ollie Palmer (Aaron Pressley).

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