Akinfenwa strikes as 10-men Orient thwart Dons

Leyton Orient 1 v Wimbledon 1

Wimbledon had to be content with a point after coming from behind to dominate the second period of this 1-1 draw at Leyton Orient on Saturday (28 November).

The Dons spent most of the second half camped in the hosts’ half after Orient had John Marquis sent off and adopted a 5-4-0 formation to try to preserve their lead.

Although Bayo Akinfenwa got an equaliser, it wasn’t enough for more as even a late switch to four up front failed to overwhelm the massed-ranks of Leyton Orient defenders.

‘We totally deserved all three points,’ claimed manager Neal Ardley on the club’s website after the final whistle.

‘The fans were unbelievable today as they willed everything on as they could see two full-backs playing as wingers and we ended up with four strikers in the box, but it’s so difficult when the opposition put six or seven players across a line.

‘A couple didn’t drop for us, the goalkeeper has made what can only be described as a world-class save, but we’ve got the goal in the end.’

But the game had started in sluggish fashion for the Dons as they fell behind in the 10th minute. Dannie Bulman’s tame header was intercepted in midfield and Marquis released Orient’s top scorer Jay Simpson, who surged between Karleigh Osborne and Jon Meades before firing home an effort that Ben Wilson got his right hand to but couldn’t keep out.

A flurry of bookings around the quarter-hour mark included one for Marquis that was to have later implications, and slowly the Dons came back into the half, especially after pushing Sean Rigg forward to play alongside Akinfenwa and Lyle Taylor in a 4-3-3 formation.

But for all their huff and puff in the swirling wind, the Dons failed to fashion clear first-half chances. Their luck was epitomised shortly before the break when the ball fell in the goal area but no fewer than three Dons players contrived to compete for amongst themselves, resulting in the chance going begging.

The Dons managed to keep the impetus going after the break, with George Francomb firing an early free-kick from a central position only narrowly over Alex Cisak’s bar

And soon afterwards, Francomb was again involved, combining with Taylor and Jake Reeves down the right before turning inside his man, but his eventual effort with his weaker left foot went over as he collapsed under the challenge of an onrushing Orient defender.

Then came the moment that totally altered Orient’s mind set. Paul Robinson and Marquis competed for a dropping ball on the halfway line but Marquis went in with his studs high, catching Robinson on the knee. Referee Darren Handley had no option but to show the Orient man a second yellow card.

That evaporated any attacking ambitions that the home side might have had as they retreated towards their own box in numbers, often having lines of five and four players compacted together in the area.

Given the freedom of the rest of the pitch, Wimbledon set about trying to exploit the flanks to get behind the massed ranks of red shirts.

And they nearly got their reward when Taylor smuggled the ball between two red shirts to release Barry Fuller down the right, but when his cross into the middle was met by a firm Meades header it prompted a reflex save from Cisak to keep his side ahead.

The equaliser finally came with 10 minutes remaining. Substitute Ade Azeez made a clever run to latch on to a clever Reeves through ball, then delivered a cross to the far post when Akinfenwa threw his considerable bulk to head the ball home.

The Dons didn’t rest on their laurels as they immediately replaced Bulman with Tom Elliott to get for forwards onto the pitch, and Elliott nearly got a late winner but the referee pulled him up for a foul on Cisak as the home side desperately wound down the clock.

The Dons have a blank weekend ahead as they have already been knocked out of the FA Cup, but they return to league action on 12 December when they entertain Stevenage.

Leyton Orient: Cisak, Clohessy, Kpekawa, Mvoto, Shaw, Payne, Moore (James 95), Pritchard, Simpson (Turgott 75), Palmer (Baudry 56), Marquis. Subs not used: Dunne, McAnuff, Kashket, Sargeant.

Goalscorer: Simpson 10.

Booked: Mvoto 12, Marquis 15, Cisak 95.

Sent off: Marquis 57.

Wimbledon: Wilson, Fuller, Robinson, Osborne, Meades, Francomb, Bulman (Elliott 81), Reeves, Rigg (Azeez 71), Akinfenwa, Taylor. Subs not used: Kennedy, Sweeney, McDonnell, Kaja, Toonga.

Goalscorer: Akinfenwa 80.

Booked: Reeves 17, Fuller 39, Elliott 89.

Att: 6,024.

By Rob Crane

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November 30, 2015