Dons Frustrated As Northampton Take A Point

Wimbledon 1 v Northampton Town 1

Wimbledon were left frustrated after possibly their best performance of the campaign resulted in only a draw against promotion-chasing Northampton as the teams drew 1-1 at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday night (19 February).

And the Dons fans’ frustration was only increased by what could politely be called an erratic refereeing performance by man-in-the-middle Fred Graham. The home fans were left aggrieved that the Essex whistler:

  • failed to show a red card to Northampton man Joe Widdowson following a horror challenge on Dons defender Jonathan Meades
  • ruled out a second Dons goal for a dubious handball decision against Gary Alexander
  • gave a controversial penalty to Northampton that resulted in bulky striker Adebayo Akinfenwa firing home to salvage a point for the visitors.

No matter how biased the Dons fans’ views might be, it just heightened the sense of frustration on a night when the home side could have finally moved off the bottom of the League Two table.

And that would have been the least that the Dons deserved as they produced a performance worthy of a Football League side, with Pim Balkestein and Alan Bennett commanding in the centre of defence to set the tone for an evening that promised so much.

The Dons’ first opportunity fell to Harry Pell, who again impressed in midfield following his move from Hereford, but his effort deflected just wide.

It wasn’t until just before the half hour that the Dons got the goal that their dominance deserved, Chris Hussey’s corner reaching the unmarked Bennett who headed the ball over the line for his first since joining the club.

But the major talking point of the first half was Northampton’s Widdowson. After falling to the ground under a Wimbledon challenge but failing to win a free kick, the player suddenly leapt up off the ground and lunged in on Meades, leaving the on-loan Bournemouth man writhing in agony on the floor.

Amazingly, referee Graham didn’t even give a free kick and, once a subsequent Northampton shot fizzed just wide of Neil Sullivan’s post, a 22-man altercation took place as the officials lost control of the game.

That set the tone for the rest of the match as both sides went in hard and the officials struggled to get a grip on proceedings.

The Dons thought they had gone 2-0 up when Jack Midson fired home, but Graham ruled the strike out for handball by Alexander in the build-up.

Wimbledon’s pressure didn’t let off in the second period and, although the visitors were having plenty of possession, they rarely achieved a shot on target.

Toby Ajala, in his final game before returning to Bristol City, caused the Northampton defence trouble all evening, but also spurned two glorious chances to extend the Dons’ lead when he had a clear sight of goal.

And the Dons were made to pay with quarter of an hour left when Sullivan was – some felt harshly – adjudged to have brought down Roy O’Donovan in the box. Akinfenwa made no mistake from the spot.

The Dons responded by pressing for the winner, with substitute Kevin Sainte-Luce again impressing in a cameo role, but it was the visitors who came closest to grabbing all three points when Chris Hackett forced Sullivan to make a good save in injury time.

Frustrated as they might be, the Dons will take consolation from this performance as they head into Saturday’s trip to Dagenham & Redbridge. After that is a crucial home game against fellow strugglers Plymouth Argyle at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday 26 February.

Attendance: 4,320

Wimbledon: Sullivan, Meades, Bennett, Balkestein, Hussey, Ajala, Pell, Sweeney (S. Moore 15), L. Moore (Sainte-Luce 81), Alexander, Midson. Subs not used: Jaimez-Ruiz, Mitchel-King, Long, Strutton, Yussuff.

Goalscorer: Bennett 28.

Booked: Alexander 41, Ajala 83.

Northampton: Nicholls, Johnson, Carlisle, Collins (Hackett 60), Langmead, Widdowson, Demontagnac (Platt 71), Tozer, Hornby, Akinfenwa, O’Donovan (Robinson 80). Subs not used: Snedker, Guttridge, Harding, Oyeleke.

Goalscorer: Akinfenwa 76 (pen).

Booked: Collins 23, Hornby 57, Widdowson 65.

By Rob Crane

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February 20, 2013