Doncaster Rovers 0 v AFC Wimbledon 0
AFC Wimbledon will play League One football again next season after securing their status with a 0-0 draw at Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday night (1 May). The Dons went into this match knowing that a point would be sufficient to ensure their survival and duly got it.
The result means they can go into their final match of the season on Saturday, at Kingsmeadow against Bury, without fearing a nail-biting conclusion to the season. ‘We can all take a deep breath now and look forward to Saturday,’ boss Neal Ardley said on the iFollow Dons channel, ‘not to celebrate us being wonderful, just to celebrate that we are a League One team. That should not be taken for granted. After that we can look at how we are going to improve next season.’
The Dons could have won this close encounter but were also indebted to goalkeeper George Long at the other end for pulling off a number of saves. The form of Long has been one of the highlights of the season and contributed hugely to the Dons avoiding the drop.
A quiet first period saw Wimbledon enjoy the upper hand in terms of possession without creating many clear-cut openings. The closest they came to the breakthrough was shortly before the break when a number of passes culminated with the ball reaching Jon Meades on the left corner of the box, and his shot flew just wide of the goal.
The home side came into it more after the break but it was again the Dons who threatened to take the lead when Long’s long clearance went all the way through to Lyle Taylor in the inside-right channel, but his half volley took a deflection off a defender’s legs and bounced narrowly over the bar for a corner.
Long had to be alert to gather low down from John Marquis’s close-range header and shortly afterwards Doncaster sub Rodney Kongolo screwed his shot wide when he should have done better. And as the home side continued to press Long was again forced into action to palm away a long-range Ben Whiteman shot that had skidded awkwardly off the turf.
But the final significant chances of the match fell to Kwesi Appiah, making his second substitute appearance after recovering from a long-term injury. The first came with quarter of an hour when a sequence of head tennis around the box ended up the ball being headed back into the mixer by Harry Forrester, with Appiah hooking the falling ball over Rovers keeper Ian Lawlor but also narrowly over the bar.
And an even more clear-cut chance came with four minutes remaining as Jimmy Abdou delivered a cross from the goal-line that Taylor flicked on with his heel. Appiah’s shot seemed destined for the back of the net but took a deflection off a Doncaster defender and ended up wide of the target.
Wimbledon are now unbeaten in six matches since the catastrophic Good Friday home defeat against Fleetwood Town, a run that has ensured their League One survival. ‘The pressure down at the bottom is a lot tougher than winning the play-offs,’ Ardley said. ‘When you reflect and look at the budgets of some of the other teams that have already gone down, it’s no mean feat to stay up.
‘We are not saying, “What a wonderful season we’ve had, everything has been brilliant, and we deserve loads of pats on the back.” We are saying that with six games to go we went on a six-game unbeaten run when the pressure was on and the squad really fought for each other. We’ve got out of it when other clubs haven’t.’
The Dons’ final match of the season against Bury on Saturday is already sold out. It starts with a 5.30pm kick-off.
Doncaster: Lawlor, Mason, Butler, Anderson, Blair, Houghton, Whiteman, Beestin (Kiwomya 60), Ben Khemis (Amos 75), Marquis, May (Kongolo 45). Subs not used: McCullough, Baudry, Marosi, Morris.
Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Oshilaja, Charles, Kennedy, Barcham, Parrett (Forrester 73), Abdou, Meades, Taylor, Pigott (Appiah 64). Subs not used: Robinson, Sibbick, Kaja, McDonnell, Egan.
Booked: Barcham 89.
By Rob Crane
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May 2, 2018