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  • Writer's pictureBy Dan Evans

Dons held by ten-man Bradford as Assal’s absence continues to prove costly




AFC Wimbledon (0) 0

Bradford City (0) 0


AFC Wimbledon’s uninspiring start to 2023 continued as they were held to a goalless draw by 10-man Bradford City at Plough Lane.


The Dons remain without a win since the turn of the year and have scored just once in three games without influential attacker Ayoub Assal.


A non-transfer related illness for the sought-after Assal has only compounded team alterations forced upon manager Johnnie Jackson by the recall of several of his talented loanees.


The lack of impact from his new additions suggested more work will need to be done before January is out.


A team huddle following the warm-up may have taken place simply to work out which members of Jackson’s squad remained, and quite where those who remained wished to play following a series of formation changes in recent weeks.


Wimbledon did start with greater coherence than in their previous capital outing against Sutton though; a first twenty minutes lacking in quality but full of endeavour got an 8,000 strong home crowd on their side.


Mark Hughes’ Bradford soon began to take control though, dominating possession without ever truly testing Nick Tzanev in the home goal.


The Dons were forced to wait for opportunities to counter-attack, yet their patience so nearly paid off on 27 minutes as Josh Davison charged down the right and shrugged off Romoney Crichlow before seeing a cross to unmarked debutant Sam Pearson blocked.


Jack Currie had a shot deflected into the side netting in the aftermath of the resulting corner, and although Pearson offered a fair impression of the still Assal on the left flank, the first half ended with little to shout about for either set of fans.


The visitors regained control after the break, and after Vadaine Oliver had lacked the requisite bravery to head home a looping Brad Halliday cross, he then saw a goal-bound effort cleared off the Wimbledon goal-line by Huseyin Biler.


That rare moment of excitement was soon followed by another. Bradford’s Jamie Walker escaped with a booking following a forceful attempted tackle on Ethan Chislett in the first half, but he was not so lucky on the hour mark as a late challenge in midfield earned a second yellow.


Chislett was denied by a fine save from Harry Lewis not long after as Bradford failed to clear corner, and the winger came even closer in the final 15 minutes as a free kick destined for the top corner was tipped wide by the goalkeeper.


Even the introduction of Ali Al Hamadi and Armani Little, both signed on Thursday, did little to lift Jackson’s men as the minutes ran down and the play-off spots remained four points out of reach.


Only a late save from Tzanev to keep out an arrowing Richie Smallwood strike ensured the gap did not stretch further.


AFC Wimbledon: (4-2-3-1) Tzanev – Biler, Kalambayi, Pearce, Currie (Brown 86) – Woodyard, Marsh (Al Hamadi 66) – Chislett, Pell (Little 78), Pearson (Senior 66) – Davison. Subs not used: Broome, Gunter, Sasu


Bradford City: (4-3-1-2) Lewis – Halliday, Platt, Crichlow, Foulds – Walker, Smallwood, Gilliead (Nevers 82) – Eisa (Songo'o 82) – Oliver (Cook 77), Costelloe (Sutton 59). Subs not used: Doyle, Chapman, Pereira

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