Wigan Athletic 1 v AFC Wimbledon 1
AFC Wimbledon are on the brink of League One safety after surviving a second-half onslaught by title-chasing Wigan Athletic to claim a highly creditable 1-1 draw on Saturday (28 April).
Joe Pigott’s first-half strike means that the Dons now need a solitary point from their two remaining fixtures in order to guarantee safety. Even if they fail to achieve that, both Rochdale and Oldham must win their solitary remaining fixture for the Dons to be sent tumbling down.
The Dons will be hoping to wrap things up when they travel to out-of-form Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday 1 May, ahead of a final-day home encounter against already-relegated Bury (Saturday 5 May, 5:30 pm kick-off).
‘It is a great point, an unbelievable point,’ Dons boss Neal Ardley said on the iFollow Dons channel afterwards. ‘If we can get a point in the last two games we can put smiles on our faces. Only five games ago, when the going was tough and we were on 42 points, we had to really dig in. It’s hard when you are down there and the pressure is on.’
Wimbledon were forced into a late pre-match change when midfielder Tom Soares failed to make it through the warm-up with a back problem, Harry Forrester stepping up off the bench. And the Dons were initially on the back foot as Wigan aimed for the win that would all-but clinch them the League One title, as Gary Roberts shot over from Callum Elder’s cross in the early exchanges and George Long comfortably gathered an on-target Michael Jacobs free-kick.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic, though, as Forrester failed to convert Barry Fuller’s near-post cross, and after 24 minutes the Dons were ahead. Lyle Taylor seized on Dan Burn’s heavy touch just inside the Wigan half before sliding the ball to Pigott who calmly slotted home with his left foot.
Moments later it could have been 2-0 as Dean Parrett charged the length of the field to latch on to Forrester’s long pass. As Parrett reached the penalty box he turned inside a Wigan defender before seeing his placed shot palmed narrowly over by Christian Walton.
Wigan offered little threat for the remainder of the first period but started exerting more pressure from the hour mark. They were unlucky when Fuller accidentally flicked on a Gary Roberts corner and took it away from Long’s grasp, prompting relief when it deflected wide, while the keeper had more luck to deny early Wigan substitute Nick Powell.
There was a degree of controversy about the equaliser when it came in the 69th minute. Deji Oshilaja appeared to be bundled over by Will Grigg as he closed down on the ball, giving Jacobs space to run into before shooting home via a deflection off Fuller.
After that the home side poured forwards and Long came to the fore. First he pulled off a point-blank save from Ryan Colclough, then he tipped Grigg’s close-range hooked volley over the bar. Wigan continued to press, including through six minutes of additional time, but even after losing Jon Meades to injury the Dons managed to hold on for a highly creditable point.
The Dons are now unbeaten in their last five matches and will be desperately hoping that run continues until survival is secured.
Wigan: Walton, Byrne, Dunkley, Burn, Elder, Morsy, Power (Powell 59), Jacobs, Roberts (Vaughan 59), Colclough (Walker 83), Grigg. Subs not used: Perkins, Massey, Bruce, Jones.
Goalscorer: Jacobs 69.
Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Oshilaja, Charles, Kennedy, Barcham, Parrett, Forrester (Kaja 79), Meades (Egan 81), Taylor (Appiah 80), Pigott. Subs not used: Robinson, Sibbick, McDonnell.
Goalscorer: Pigott 24.
Booked: Parrett 66, Appiah 95.
By Rob Crane
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April 30, 2018