AFC Wimbledon 1 v Scunthorpe 1
AFC Wimbledon finally showed a bit of spirit in their relegation battle as they set out to take the match to Scunthorpe United on Saturday (7 April) before being pegged back by a late equaliser to draw 1-1. Will Nightingale got the goal for Wimbledon, his first for the club.
Although disappointed by the full-time result, Dons fans left the ground with renewed optimism after seeing their team battle rather than display the limited ambition that has become manager Neal Ardley’s hallmark.
It capped a tumultuous week for the Dons. After supporter discontent finally bubbled over following Good Friday’s lame defeat against Fleetwood Town, the club hierarchy seemed to react by pulling up the draw bridge. First the club’s AGM, originally scheduled for after the Scunthorpe match, was moved to 11am in a move widely seen as an attempt to stifle expressions of discontent before being postponed altogether. Then club chief executive Erik Samuelson earned ire in some quarters by issuing a ‘rallying call’ statement that some perceived as criticising fans for their lack of support.
But all that was forgotten as Ardley finally set out to take a match to the opposition. Although forced to field Lyle Taylor as a lone striker, he was ably supported by Harry Forrester, Dean Parrett and Egli Kaja as the Dons showed fluid attacking movement from the off.
And the attacking intent was rewarded as early as the fourth minute. Will Nightingale stayed forward after Parrett’s corner was only partially dealt with by the visiting defence, and was perfectly placed to head home Forrester’s cross as the Dons made the best of starts.
Minutes later the Dons were agonisingly close to doubling their advantage as Forrester swished in from the right-hand touchline before squeezing an early shot between two defenders that had Scunthorpe keeper Matt Gilks beaten but cannoned back off the crossbar. Taylor kept the ball active and crossed in for Kaja to backheel to Parrett, but although the midfielder converted the flag was up for offside.
With the visitors limited to possession but few chances, the Dons continued to press throughout the half, with Taylor, Parrett, Deji Oshilaja and Liam Trotter all going close.
Perhaps inevitably, it was difficult to maintain that momentum in the second period as the visitors came more into the match. But even then it wasn’t until the hour mark that George Long was forced into serious action, comfortably saving Jordan Clarke’s effort from outside the box.
With players tiring, Forrester and Parrett were replaced – the latter after suffering a slight knock – as perhaps the old Ardley defensive mentality started to creep back in. But then Scunthorpe scored with a sucker punch. A direct ball down the left flank released Duane Holmes who had got behind Barry Fuller. With the remainder of the Dons defence struggling to get back, Holmes’ low cross was easily converted from close range by Lee Novak.
Although deflated, the Dons attempted to make the best of six minutes of stoppage time by bringing on Lloyd Sam for his debut after signing from DC United. After Taylor was hauled down on the edge of the Scunthorpe box when clean through – a decision that perplexingly only earned a booking for the offender – the former Charlton man fired the free-kick into the wall before hooking the rebound back over the massed ranks. Trotter converted Taylor’s flick-on but again the offside flag was up to thwart the Dons.
The positive performance, if not the final result, will give Wimbledon fans renewed hope as they entertain Charlton Athletic at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday 10 April. After that it’s two important games against fellow relegation strugglers as the Dons travel to Walsall (14 April) before hosting Oldham Athletic (21 April).
Wimbledon: Long, Fuller, Oshilaja, Nightingale, Meades, Parrett (Abdou 78), Soares, Trotter, Kaja (Sam 88), Taylor, Forrester (Barcham 74). Subs not used: Robinson, Francomb, Kennedy, McDonnell.
Goalscorer: Nightingale 4.
Booked: Oshilaja 26.
Scunthorpe: Gilks, Clarke, Wallace, McArdle, Townsend, Yates, Holmes, Bishop, Morris (Hopper 90), Adelakun (McGeehan 62), Toney (Novak 73). Subs not used: Crofts, Vermijl, Burgess, Watson.
Goalscorer: Novak 84.
Booked: McArdle 82, Wallace 94.
By Rob Crane
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April 6, 2018