Oxford United 1 v Wimbledon 3
Three first-half goals set Wimbledon on course for a 3-1 win at Oxford United on Sunday (9 October) – and in a significant milestone for many Dons fans, for the first time the club spent a night above Milton Keynes in the league pyramid.
This victory combined with Milton Keynes’ defeat against Port Vale to leave the Dons proudly in 10th place overnight – but boss Neal Ardley was more pleased to have ended a bad run against Oxford, who hadn’t suffered defeat against the Dons since January 1988.
‘I am absolutely delighted that the Wimbledon fans can say the hoodoo has ended,’ Ardley told the club’s website. ‘I’ve been here a few times when we’ve not deserved to lose and we’ve been on the end of a wrong result.
‘The work-rate was phenomenal. The front three worked hard, the midfield three were everywhere, and the back players had a tough front four to play against but they did it really well.’
The Dons started this encounter brightly, with Andy Barcham shooting tamely at Simon Eastwood and then Lyle Taylor booked for diving when he seemed poised to burst through on goal.
But the lead finally came in the 20th minute. Dean Parrett’s corner was headed back across goal by Darius Charles and Tom Elliott rose above a defender to head home from close range and put the Dons 1-0 ahead.
Liam Sercombe almost grabbed an equaliser when he prodded an effort narrowly off target, then the Dons survived a penalty appeal when Chris Maguire tumbled under a challenge from Barry Fuller.
But the visitors continued to enjoy plenty of possession and a double-blast just before half-time gave them a firm grip on the match.
First Parrett surged along the edge of the penalty area. After a heavy touch conceded possession to Wes Thomas, the Dons man lunged in studs up to release the ball. With Oxford appealing for a free-kick, Charles showed real flair to pick up the loose ball and loop it home from outside the area to make it 2-0.
Then with just seconds remaining Jake Reeves picked up the ball on the halfway line, galloped forward and then released a slide-rule pass inside three Oxford defenders that Andy Barcham capitalised on to shoot home. 3-0 at the break.
Predictably Oxford came out after the interval with all guns blazing and they soon pulled a goal back, Charles attempting to block a Maguire cross but only succeeding in deflecting it in at James Shea’s near post.
And the tone of the afternoon might have changed considerably had Oxford managed to capitalise on a hectic goalmouth scramble soon afterwards. Following a Maguire corner, first Fuller blocked an effort on the line, then Shea showed big hands to block a point-blank follow-up header, and finally an Oxford attacker’s attempt to hook the ball home ended with a horrendously skewed effort when he should have done better.
But Wimbledon survived the wobbly spell and saw out the remainder of the match without much incident, although the introduction of young midfielder Alfie Egan as a substitute for his league debut was a notable moment.
The Dons entertain Oxford’s bitter rivals Swindon Town at Kingsmeadow on Saturday (15 October), before making the long midweek journey to Bury (18 October) and then Peterborough (22 October).
Oxford: Eastwood, Edwards, Dunkley, Raglan, Skarz (Rothwell 76), MacDonald, Sercombe (Johnson 76), Lundstram, Maguire, Hemmings, Thomas (Crowley 64). Subs not used: Nelson, Ruffels, Taylor, Brown.
Goalscorer: Charles 49 (o.g.).
Booked: Dunkley 70, Johnson 81.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Charles, Robinson, Meades, Parrett (Egan 80), Bulman, Reeves, Barcham, Taylor (Poleon 84), Elliott (Barnett 67). Subs not used: Nightingale, Francomb, McDonnell, Robertson.
Goalscorers: Elliott 20, Charles 42, Barcham 45.
Booked: Elliott 10, Taylor 13, Shea 59.
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October 10, 2016