Wimbledon 1 v Cheltenham 1
Wimbledon rounded off their League Two campaign with a 1-1 draw against already-relegated Cheltenham Town at Kingsmeadow on Saturday (2 May).
The point means that the Dons finish in 15th place, a comfortable 17 points from relegation and with a preserved unbeaten home run of 10 matches.
It is a measure of how far the club has progressed under Neal Ardley – and the impact of the loss of goalscorer extraordinaire Matt Tubbs – that finishing comfortably in midtable with no lingering relegation fears was ultimately seen as a disappointment.
‘There’s a lot right with what we’re doing,’ Ardley told BBC London 94.9 after this match. ‘But we’ve just lacked the ability to score goals and that’s ended up costing us.
‘There’s been a lot of things in my recruitment that I’ve got wrong during the second half of the season that probably cost us. It wasn’t through any fault of my own but the availability of the players.’
If ever a match typified Wimbledon’s season, it was this. Against lowly opposition, they again dominated but had to make do with less than a win.
With youngster Ryan Sweeney again stepping into the starting line-up and impressing, the Dons lined up with three at the back with Jack Smith and Sean Rigg down the flanks, and Alfie Potter playing in a more central role.
And they fashioned the first chance of the match after four minutes when Jack Smith and Tom Beere combined to set up Potter, only for Trevor Carson in the Cheltenham goal to produce a solid save.
Moments later it was Sweeney who showed his passing ability by releasing Craig Tanner, but the on-loan Reading man was off target with his shot.
Potter again forced a save from Carson after capitalising on a Bayo Akinfenwa flick, but moments late the Dons were behind as Cheltenham scored with this first chance of note.
It was a cool finish from Darrell Berry as the Cheltenham man cut inside from near the touchline before calmly slotting home, but Dons keeper James Shea was outraged that the Robins’ man was allowed to advance so far without being on the receiving end of a challenge.
Almost immediately the Dons were almost level, but Tanner again demonstrated his lack of form in front of goal by heading into the arms of Carson, while Akinfenwa also headed off target.
But shortly before the break the Dons were level. Potter played a deep ball in to Akinfenwa and he laid the ball off delightfully for the marauding Smith to dive and head the ball beyond Carson to make it 1-1.
The Dons started with similar attacking momentum in the second period, with Rigg missing an early opportunity following a Potter free-kick, but then somewhat lost their way as the visitors dug in.
It wasn’t until the 65th minute that the Dons carved out their next chance of note, with Potter volleying over an Akinfenwa flick.
A notable substitution came with 12 minutes left when Sammy Moore was brought on to the field for what is widely expected to be his last match in Wimbledon colours, and he was given the captain’s armband by Barry Fuller.
With youngsters David Fitzpatrick and George Oakley also entering the fray, the Dons continued to press and came close in the dying moments when Potter was again involved, seeing his shot saved by Carson, only for Fitzpatrick to just fail to get there to convert the rebound.
Despite this draw and a somewhat disappointing second half to the season, with plenty of young players coming through the club’s development system and eagerly anticipated news regarding the possibility of a return to Plough Lane, the future currently looks bright for the Dons.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Oshilaja, Beere, Smith (Moore 78), Potter, Sweeney, Reeves, Rigg, Tanner (Fitzpatrick 72), Akinfenwa (Oakley 82). Subs not used: Worner, Bulman, Azeez, Goodman.
Goalscorer: Smith 44.
Cheltenham: Carson, Berry, Deaman, Brown, Braham-Barrett, Burns (Bowen 56), Richards, Hanks, Kotwica, Williams (Sterling-James 73), Dale (Lawrence 74). Subs not used: Gould, Sparrow, Harrad, Manset.
Goalscorer: Berry 25.
Booked: Berry 19, Brown 51, Braham-Barrett 92.