Scunthorpe United 1 v AFC Wimbledon 1
AFC Wimbledon earned a creditable 1-1 draw at hotly tipped Scunthorpe United on Saturday (5 August) as they got their 2017/18 season underway, with debutant midfielder Jimmy Abdou scoring the equaliser for the Dons.
Abdou pounced midway through the second half, challenging to win the ball on the edge of the area before shooting home left-footed to earn a share of the spoils that Neal Ardley’s men no more than deserved.
Abdou – on a season-long loan from Millwall – was one of a number of debutants following Ardley’s summer rebuilding. Starting alongside him were goalkeeper George Long (on loan from Sheffield United), Cody McDonald (signed from Gillingham) and Liam Trotter (signed from Bolton), while there were ‘second debuts’ for the returning trio of Deji Oshilaja (from Gillingham), Kwesi Appiah (from Crystal Palace) and Callum Kennedy (from Leyton Orient).
The Dons lined up with the 4-3-3 formation that they unveiled during pre-season matches that had seen them chalk up encouraging victories against Premier League Watford and Championship side Burton Albion.
And following the departure of target man Tom Elliott to Millwall during the summer, the Dons now have a renewed emphasis on trying to play passing football.
But it was the hosts who hit the ground running, taking the lead in their first attack after just six minutes. Oshilaja and Kennedy got in each other’s way down the left flank, allowing Paddy Madden to win possession. His ball in to Josh Morris was swept on towards Conor Townsend who was in acres of space down the Dons’ right. Townsend capitalised by firing across Long into the far side of the goal to make it 1-0 to Scunthorpe.
Wimbledon, though, continued to enjoy most of the possession with the home side content to attack on the counter, but much of their passing was sideways as they struggled to make the breakthrough.
Andy Barcham did manage to get behind the Scunthorpe defence on a number of occasions, and one of his runs resulted in a shot that was deflected off target. And Barcham was involved midway through the first period when he combined to win possession with Fuller, who crossed to Appiah at the far post who shot off target.
The closest the Dons came was when George Francomb’s free-kick was only partially cleared to Kennedy who struck it from distance, forcing Scunthorpe keeper Matt Gilks to stretch to palm the ball away from the top corner of the goal.
Meanwhile, Long had had to be alert to thwart a couple of Scunthorpe half chances, saving twice from Morris.
The Dons visibly upped the tempo in the second period and spent most of it camped in the Scunthorpe half. But it wasn’t until shortly after the introduction of substitute Lyle Taylor in the 65th minute that they got back on equal terms. Taylor’s cross was only partially cleared and Abdou scrapped for the ball on the edge of the D before shooting home in front of the travelling fans.
Wimbledon were well in the ascendancy now, with the goal giving them a further mental lift. Trotter surged through the middle but passed straight at the feet of a defender as he tried to thread the ball to McDonald, and a passing move from the Dons’ own goal-line culminated with McDonald setting up Taylor when he perhaps should have shot, Taylor’s effort ending up in the side netting.
Trotter came close to a debut goal himself, his thumping header from a Francomb corner seeming destined for the back of the net only for Gilks to somehow scoop it away as it already seemed partially over the line.
And even in injury time the Dons were pushing forward, McDonald displaying some quick feet down left to deliver a low cross to Taylor that the former Scunthorpe man mishit.
Ardley said afterwards: ‘In the second half we upped our intensity levels and we could have had three or four goals. The boys had done okay in the first half, but we just wanted them to be even more aggressive in their defending and be on the front foot.
‘If we had taken our chances in the second half we would have taken three points, but we would have taken a point at the start and we are delighted.’
The Dons entertain Championship side Brentford in the first round of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday (8 August) before their opening home match of the league campaign against Shrewsbury (Saturday 12 August).
Scunthorpe: Gilks, Burgess, McArdle, Wallace, Clarke, Ojo, Bishop (Mantom 50), Townsend, Adelakun, Madden (van Veen 74), Morris (Holmes 74). Subs not used: Hopper, Redmond, Goode, Watson.
Goalscorer: Townsend 6.
Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Oshilaja, Robinson, Kennedy (Nightingale 84), Francomb, Abdou, Trotter (Parrett 89), Appiah (Taylor 65), McDonald, Barcham. Subs not used: Sibbick, Kaja, McDonnell, Hartigan.
Goalscorer: Abdou 67.
Booked: Abdou 67.
By Rob Crane
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August 6, 2017