Wimbledon 2 v Shrewsbury 2
Wimbledon started the new season with a creditable 2-2 draw against hotly tipped Shrewsbury on Saturday (9 August), with new signings Matt Tubbs and Sean Rigg getting the Dons’ goals.
Manager Neal Ardley started with his new-look strikeforce of Tubbs alongside Adebayo Akinfenwa, and they provided enough evidence to suggest that going forward the Dons will pose other clubs plenty of problems this season.
But it the game ended with defensive jitters again much in display as the Dons hung on to secure what was nonetheless a creditable point.
Shrewsbury, largely rebuilt following their relegation from League One, started the game demonstrating their passing style but the Dons were equally keen, with Tubbs heading just wide following good approach play by George Francomb.
But the Dons fell behind after just 10 minutes after conceding a free kick in a central area outside their box. Liam Lawrence played the ball in a James Collins’ header had enough on it to loop over debutant keeper James Shea, who was just unable to flick it over the bar.
Jordan Clark went close to doubling the visitors’ advantage soon afterwards with a shot that fizzed inches wide of the far post, but Wimbledon soon regained their composure, with Rigg going close to the equaliser only to see his header from Francomb’s cross cleared off the line.
But the Dons did equalise with 25 minutes on the clock as new left-back Jack Smith, in the inside-left channel, turned onto his right foot and delivered a looping cross onto the head of Tubbs and into the back of the net.
Rigg again went close, forcing an excellent point-blank save from Jayson Leutwiler, and the Dons managed to maintain that forward momentum into the second half.
Akinfenwa went close to opening his account for the Dons, using his bulk to fashion a chance from Sammy Moore’s ball into the area, only to shoot over the bar. But the big man was involved again as the Dons took the lead.
Francomb’s cross to the far post evaded Leutwiler and was headed back into the danger area by Tubbs, where Akinfenwa held off the Shrews defenders before squaring it for Riggs to blast home from close range and make it 2-1 to the Dons.
With 15 minutes remaining after that goal, Shrewsbury slowly exerted more and more pressure, and they got their reward with six minutes remaining. Alan Bennett only partially cleared a cross and it fell to Nathaniel Knight-Percival who exploited the acres of space he had been given to drill a low cross that Collins converted for his second goal of the game.
The Shrews continued to press for a winner, with Mark Ellis having an effort deflected wide and in another passage of play the Dons defence somehow blocking three successive efforts before clearing. Scott Vernon also shot over but ultimately a draw was probably a fair result.
Afterwards, Tubbs told the club’s official website: ‘It felt like a defeat because of the way the game went. We got our noses in front and towards the end if could have gone either way.
‘It’s not an ideal start but at least we did not lose, which is the main thing.’
The Dons go into Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup tie at Milton Keynes without on-loan defender Adam Barrett, while Alan Bennett is also a doubt after being stretchered off late on in this game.
They then follow up with league trips to newly promoted Luton Town (16 August) and Southend (19 August).
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, S. Moore, Barrett, Smith, Bulman, Akinfenwa, Rigg, Bennett (Phillips 90), Tubbs, Francomb (Sainte-Luce 92). Subs not used: Worner, Pell, Azeez, Kennedy, Arthur.
Goalscorers: Tubbs 26, Rigg 74.
Booked: Rigg 45, Bulman 66, Fuller 90.
Shrewsbury: Leutwiler, Ellis, Clark, Woods, Knight-Percival, Collins, Akpa-Akpro (Vincent 46), Gayle, Lawrence (Wesolowski 56), Goldson, Vernon. Subs not used: Grandison, Wildig, Caton, Mangan, Halstead.
Goalscorer: Collins 9, 84.
Booked: Wesolowski 58, Knight-Percival 68.