Wimbledon 1 v Oxford 2
Wimbledon’s luck ran out as they went down to a 2-1 home defeat against promotion chasers Oxford United on Saturday (27 February).
The Dons more than matched their opponents but, in contrast to the luck that saw them through to a 1-0 win against Carlisle in midweek, this time they experienced the other side of the coin, with numerous goal attempts thwarted.
Boss Neal Ardley commented on the club’s website: ‘In the first 20 minutes we looked nervous, on edge, and we did not have that composure.
‘Once we settled down and got the goal, we went on an in the second-half we wanted to come out and have a go at them. We had two cleared off the line, the keeper has made two or three good saves, and we had the best chances.’
Unfortunately the Dons were made to pay for mistakes in the run-up to both goals, the first in just the sixth minute.
It could hardly be classed a classic: as the Dons scrambled back to cover a quick Oxford throw the ball hit the back of Dannie Bulman’s legs and fell kindly to Liam Sercombe. Although Kelle Roos partially smothered Sercombe’s shot, it rolled free to Danny Hylton who failed to properly connect from close range but saw his skewed effort hit the scrambling Roos, rebound onto the off-balance Barry Fuller and trickle over the line.
The visitors were dominating at this stage and Hylton went close to adding a second, forcing a full-stretch Roos save to keep it down to a single-goal deficit.
But the Dons slowly began to exert pressure of their own and came close to an equaliser when Paul Robinson thudded a Jake Reeves corner goalwards, only for Benjamin Büchel to produce a save and Lyle Taylor to be unable to force it home from close range.
The deserved equaliser came just after the half hour mark. Jonathan Meades produced a surging run down the left flank and although his intended pass was blocked it fell kindly to Tom Elliott. His effort on goal was blocked but fell kindly for Andy Barcham who was perfectly placed to pick up the loose ball and steer it into the empty net.
The Dons had the ball in the back of the net a second time, courtesy of an Elliott header from a corner, but it was ruled out for a foul by Taylor on Büchel, and had another close encounter when Barcham met Reeves’ corner but was unable to force it over the line.
Wimbledon continued in similar fashion in the second period, with Meades forcing a goal line clearance by Hylton and then Robinson heading wide from the resultant corner.
It was against the overall run of play when Oxford retook the lead just shy of the hour mark. There seemed little threat when the ball was played up to substitute Jordan Bowery on the halfway line but Ryan Sweeney was too tight to his man, allowing Bowery to spin and set off on a surging run towards goal. Although Robinson did his best to shepherd Bowery wide, the Oxford man produced a clinical finish into the far corner to put his side 2-1 ahead.
Despite losing Barcham to a knock, the Dons continued to surge forward, and Elliott forced another save from Büchel following a good throughball by Taylor.
The Dons did lose momentum following the withdrawal of Elliott and then Reeves but still came close to a deserved equaliser with three minutes remaining, when Taylor’s cross was flicked on by Bulman and headed onto the bar by the stretching Sean Rigg.
The players will be hoping for better luck when they travel to runaway leaders Northampton Town on Tuesday (1 March), although the fixture list doesn’t become any easier after that with encounters against play-off contenders Accrington Stanley (Kingsmeadow, 5 March) and Bristol Rovers (away, 8 March).
Wimbledon: Roos, Fuller, Robinson, Sweeney, Meades, Rigg, Reeves (Smith 82), Bulman, Barcham (Francomb 66), Elliott (Akinfenwa 78), Taylor. Subs not used: Shea, Kennedy, Azeez, Fitzpatrick.
Goalscorer: Barcham 33.
Booked: Sweeney 63, Taylor 89.
Oxford Utd: Büchel, Kenny, Mullins, Dunkley, Skarz, MacDonald (Waring 78), Sercombe, Ruffels, O’Dowda, Maguire (Bowery 56), Hylton. Subs not used: Slocombe, Ismail, Ashby, Roberts, Evans.
Goalscorers: Hylton 5, Bowery 59.
Booked: Kenny 85.