Rochdale 1 v Wimbledon 1
Ryan Clarke’s own goal deep into injury deprived Wimbledon of their first victory of the season as they were held 1-1 at Rochdale on Saturday (27 August).
The Dons goalkeeper, who has endured a difficult start to his Kingsmeadow career, went up to punch clear a corner at his near post but, attempting to reach over Paul Robinson and a Rochdale attacker, only succeeded in diverting the ball into the back of his own net.
It was cruel luck on the Dons who had looked set for their first three-point haul after taking an early first-half lead through Andy Barcham.
‘We were close to nicking the game and I think that is what we would have done,’ boss Neal Ardley told the club’s website afterwards. ‘Even when they went down to 10 men [following the second-half dismissal of Callum Camps] they kept going.
‘There is loads to work on but we are certainly positive about what we are doing. I said to the boys afterwards that, “We do not turn on each other.” Part of what we had last season and what we want this season is team spirit and an unbelievable work ethic. We will try to keep that going.’
The Dons certainly started this encounter brightly enough. There seemed little danger as Chris Whelpdale’s forward run was shepherded to the corner flag, but he somehow managed to get his leg around an excellent delivery into the box where Barcham belied his height to rise and head the Dons into a 1-0 lead after just 12 minutes.
And Barcham seemed poised for a second within the opening half hour when Lyle Taylor found space on the right but Rochdale keeper Conrad Logan managed to gather the cross with Barcham poised to convert at the far post.
Although Whelpdale also had a shot charged down, the hosts were enjoying the majority of the possession. But it wasn’t until Steven Davies fired an effort wide that they had a meaningful attempt on goal.
And at the other end the Dons were still threatening, with Tom Elliott attempting to chalk up his first goal of the season but seeing his shot blocked by Harrison McGahey.
In the second half, Rochdale had two golden opportunities to grab the equaliser.
First a long ball split the Wimbledon defence and Ian Henderson rounded Clarke, only to shoot wide with the angle narrowing.
And then in the 67th minute Matthew Lund was unmarked following a corner but headed wide.
With the Dons increasingly forced to defend, Clarke was forced into action to deny Henderson, with Jon Meades blocking the follow-up, while Jamie Allen also had a shot that hit the bar.
With Rochdale’s Camps being sent off for two quick-fire bookings in the final 10 minutes, it looked like the Dons’ chances of holding out for that first win were increasing, only for Clarke’s mistake to undo all of the hard work.
The Dons will resume their quest as they play two back-to-back home fixtures against Chesterfield (3 September) and Sheffield United (10 September).
Rochdale: Logan, Cannon, Canavan, McGahey, McNulty, Lund (Odelusi 67), McDermott (Camps 45), Davies (Andrew 56), Allen, Mendez-Laing, Henderson. Subs not used: Lillis, Rafferty, Tanser, Thompson.
Goalscorer: Clarke (o.g.) 90+5.
Booked: Camps 81, Mendez-Laing 90+4.
Sent-off: Camps 82.
Goalscorer: Barcham 12.
Wimbledon: Clarke, Fuller, Charles, Robinson, Meades, Whelpdale (Parrett 63), Bulman, Reeves, Barcham, Elliott (Barnett 63), Taylor (Francomb 72). Subs not used: Shea, Nightingale, Poleon, Kelly.
Booked: Robinson 9, Meades 30, Francomb 85, Reeves 90+3.
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August 30, 2016