Wimbledon 1 v Northampton Town 1
Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley was a frustrated man after watching his side again squander a host of opportunities as they drew 1-1 with Northampton Town on Tuesday night (29 September).
The Dons created a hatful of chances against the Cobblers but emerged with just a single Adebayo Azeez goal to their credit, leaving Ardley perplexed.
‘You have to take your chances in football and you have to defend set-pieces, which we haven’t all season,’ Ardley told the club’s official website.
‘If you put those two things together we would be in the top three or four.
‘I cannot make any excuses, but all I can say is that we are trying. We are doing our best and I think we have the makings of a decent team.’
With Karleigh Osborne suspended and Will Nightingale out for the season through injury, the Dons drafted in Semi Ajayi on loan from Cardiff City and the central defender made a positive impression on his debut.
But the spotlight fell at the other end of the pitch as the Dons created no fewer than 17 shots compared with Northampton’s four.
The Dons certainly came out of the blocks at a frenetic pace, with Andy Barcham setting up Bayo Akinfenwa, and George Francomb really should have done better when he capitalised on a defensive slip to meet Jon Meades’ looping cross at the far post, only to head woefully off target.
It wasn’t until the 24th minute that the Dons took a deserved lead. Dannie Bulman’s ball forward seemed innocuous enough but Zander Diamond misjudged the bounce, allowing Azeez to spin clear and charge into the box before producing an uncharacteristically composed finish to slot the ball home past the advancing Adam Smith.
While Azeez’s composure in front of goal is growing, in defence Wimbledon seem as fragile as ever, and Northampton scored with 10 minutes remaining in the half after the Dons struggled to clear a succession of corners.
The climax came when a corner was taken short and David Buchanan capitalised to deliver the ball towards the penalty spot where John-Joe O’Toole met it with a glancing header that had James Shea beaten.
Azeez nearly got his second, lobbing Smith only for his effort to be cleared off the line, and substitute Lyle Taylor – introduced just before the break for the injured Akinfenwa – also shot just wide.
Azeez remained involved immediately after the break, first lunging in at the far post and forcing a save from Smith from Taylor’s low cross, and then volleying over from Francomb’s subsequent corner.
Ajayi nearly got a dream debut when he rose in the middle of the box to thump Francomb’s corner towards goal; such was the power behind his header that, even though Smith got strong hands to the ball and palmed it upwards, it still nearly went in underneath the bar.
The litany of chances continued as Taylor received a long Shea kick on the edge of the penalty area, killed the ball dead with his first touch and then fired between the legs of two defenders only to see it centimetres wide and into the side netting with Smith beaten.
And Taylor soon had a second chance, finding himself through one-on-one with Taylor only for the ball to bounce up, hit his knee and roll forward into the keeper’s grateful clasp.
It wasn’t all one way though, as Northampton’s Nicky Adams produced a long-range shot that fizzed narrowly off target.
There was still time for one final Wimbledon effort as Barcham sidestepped his man and crossed to the far post where Sean Rigg contorted himself to try and get a foot to a ball that was narrowly behind him, his end product going narrowly over.
At least dominating and drawing is better than dominating and losing, as the Dons had done at Luton in their previous game. But Ardley will be hoping for better luck as they entertain Barnet on Saturday (3 October).
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Ajayi, Robinson, Meades, Francomb (Kaja 83), Bulman, Reeves, Barcham, Akinfenwa (Taylor 44), Azeez (Rigg 69). Subs not used: Kennedy, Sweeney, McDonnell, Toonga.
Goalscorer: Azeez 24.
Booked: Ajayi 66, Robinson 75.
Northampton: Smith, Furlong, Brisley (Cresswell 64), Diamond, Buchanan, Adams, O’Toole, Byrom, D’Ath (Hackett 87), Richards, Calvert-Lewin (Hoskins 58). Subs not used: Horwood, Lelan, Watson, Clarke.
Goalscorer: O’Toole 35.