• Julian Taylor at Plough Lane

Dashing Dobson helps Wombles salvage deserved point against Wigan



AFC WIMBLEDON 1 WIGAN ATHLETIC 1


AFC Wimbledon earned a vital point in their ongoing battle to avoid relegation from League One, thanks to a superb 79th minute header by George Dobson.


It was no more than the Dons merited on a night when they perhaps could and should have claimed a win.


While this particular outcome is not ideal in terms of points, at least Mark Robinson’s men have managed to lift themselves off the bottom – pressurizing both Wigan and Northampton Town.


Thanks to Dobson ending the growing second half frustration, psychologically, the Dons’ mood will presumably, be a little more buoyant ahead of a challenging spell of games. And with Charlton Athletic coming to Plough Lane for a London derby on Saturday, there is another opportunity to push on in this, the maiden season, back at the spiritual home.


With the hosts bottom of the table going into a potentially profitable clash against their fellow strugglers from Lancashire, this was arguably a must-win game for Robinson’s side, more than most of late. At least Wimbledon’s last outing, a scoreless draw at Burton Albion, was something to build on for a team that had hitherto claimed only seven league victories all season. If there was a portent, one of those came at Wigan, a little over a month ago.


Amid very blustery conditions around south-west London, the early exchanges were fully committed and evenly dispersed, with the Dons’ Cheye Alexander having a header saved by Wigan keeper and captain Jamie Jones.


Unsurprisingly, Wimbledon’s talisman, Joe Pigott, obliged with the best chance in 12 minutes. The striker, picking up possession at the edge of the penalty area from Ryan Longman, whipped a curling left foot effort which whizzed a yard wide. It was a significant warning for the Latics.


Longman, meanwhile, was particularly busy, but the midfielder really should have done better with a drive in the 25th minute which was easily gathered by Jones.


Leam Richardson’s Latics, while organised and confident enough, struggled to create openings of their own in the first half, the windy elements clearly affecting both sides to an extent. Fortunately for the Wombles, Wigan certainly lacked accuracy when faced with promising sightings of goal.


Wimbledon were pressing gamely for majority of the first half, but, like the visitors, simply lacked the necessary ingenuity in the final third. For all that, could Pigott add to his ten-goal tally after the break?


Wigan right-back Tendayi Darikwa surged forward a mere minute following the restart and his angled low shot was well dealt with by Dons’ keeper Nik Tzanev. Lee Evans then tested Tzanev with a free kick as the hosts appeared momentarily ill-at-ease. The Latics’ approach, clearly more aggressive, a likely consequence of Richardson’s half time brief.


Wimbledon made an enforced change in 52 minutes, sending on Brentford loanee, Jaakko Oksanen, for injured Callum Reilly. Longman was very much a focal point as the Wombles started to create chances at last, but Longman was profligate on a couple of occasions, shooting straight at Jones, before screwing a left foot shot wide. Still, the fare on offer was more dynamic compared to the initial 45 minutes.


Regrettably for Wimbledon, needing to inject life into their relegation battle, they were caught out in 57 minutes when Wigan took advantage of a breakaway to clinically take the lead.


Fastening onto a long ball, Dan Gardner was suitably composed to set up Proctor lurking eight yards square on goal – and the striker, on loan from Rotherham United, slotted into the corner of the net with admirable composure.


Wimbledon responded well from the setback, and Pigott went close flashing a header wide around the hour mark from a corner. The onus on Robinson’s men to take the initiative was, on the other hand, leaving the occasional gap for Wigan to counter-attack. Pigott and Longman were linking up well going forward in the Dons search for a leveller.


The hosts’ enthusiasm couldn’t be denied – yet their final ball, often supplied by Longman on the left flank, was seldom met by a team mate in the danger area, with the Latics defending well.


Eventually, with eleven minutes remaining, Wimbledon grabbed the equaliser they fully deserved. Longman, on yet another foray down the right, whipped in a cross and midfielder Dobson timed his run into the box to perfection to bullet a header into the right hand corner of the net, leaving Jones with no chance. A fine – and very timely – intervention.


Pressing on in search of a winner, somehow, in stoppage time, Ollie Palmer couldn’t force home from a couple of yards out from Dobson’s cross. A golden opportunity for all three points – but this embattled Wimbledon side remain very much alive.


Wombles: Tzanev, Guinness-Walker, Nightingale, Johnson, Alexander (O’Neill 73), Dobson, Reilly (Oksanen 52), Palmer, Rudoni (Osew 73), Longman, Pigott