Wimbledon 0 v Southend 0
Joe McDonnell kept a clean sheet on his full debut as Wimbledon held promotion-chasing Southend United to a 0-0 draw on Tuesday (3 March) – but only courtesy of a refereeing mistake.
The 20-year-old goalkeeper, who moved from Basingstoke Town last summer, was thrown in following an injury to James Shea, who has been in outstanding form for the Dons this season.
And he put in a solid display despite experiencing relief as a Barry Corr effort was seemingly incorrectly adjudged not to have crossed the line midway through the second half.
But Wimbledon deserved a slice of luck in this hard-fought, scrappy League Two encounter, especially after having a strong penalty claim turned down after Craig Tanner was pole-axed in the box during the first period.
‘Southend are big, strong and powerful,’ boss Neal Ardley told the club’s website afterwards. ‘They are one of the better teams to have come here this season.
‘I’m not going to apologise for the performance because it was tough against them. We had to dig in, try and stay in the game, and then maybe have a couple of moments when we could nick a goal.’
The Dons started with another tweaked line-up as they managed their resources through back-to-back midweek fixtures, with Barry Fuller and Sean Rigg both missing out on the starting line-up.
McDonnell was forced into action early on, saving with his legs from a Corr effort as the visitors sought to get the ball into the box early, while Dave Winfield also had to be alert to deny the same opponent.
But Wimbledon went close on the half-hour when Alfie Potter again scampered clear down the left and delivered a cross that Southend keeper Ted Smith could only palm on to Tom Beere, whose effort from a narrow angle hit the bar.
Deji Oshilaja also forced a save from Smith, but the talking point of the first period came shortly before the interval as Tanner broke free in the box and was charged into by Ben Coker. With the home crowd fully expecting a penalty kick, there was incredulity when play was waved on.
The second period continued in much the same vein, with few goalscoring opportunities for either side, and Wimbledon often having to play on the counterattack. Both Potter and substitute Adebayo Azeez had opportunities after latching onto nicely weighted balls over the top only to spurn their chances.
And the Dons were almost made to pay when Corr turned inside and curled a dipping left-footed effort that McDonnell turned onto the bar. The ball appeared to bounce down over the line but the match officials cut short the celebrations of Corr and the travelling fans as they again made a controversial decision to play on.
Given their recent results, Wimbledon might be disappointed with their performance in this match, but a point against a Southend side entrenched in the play-off places shouldn’t be viewed with too much disappointment.
The Dons get a chance to overturn recent history by claiming an unexpected victory against a struggling side when they entertain York City at Kingsmeadow on Saturday (7 March), before making the long journey to Exeter the following week.
Wimbledon: McDonnell, Smith, Oshilaja, Winfield, Kennedy, Beere, Bulman, Reeves, Potter (Rigg 68), Tanner (Azeez 68), Akinfenwa. Subs not used: Worner, Fuller, Moore, Phillips, Connolly.
Southend: Smith, White, Thompson, Prosser, Coker, Worrall, Leonard, Atkinson (Payne 66), Timlin, Pigott, Corr (Cassidy 78). Subs not used: Bentley, Weston, Hurst, Deegan, Binnom-Williams.