Last-gasp penalty save gets AFC Wimbledon over the line in crucial six-pointer
AFC Wimbledon (0) 1 Pigott 88
Northampton Town (0) 0
A last-minute penalty save from Nik Tzanev – summoning the spirit of Dickie Guy – gave AFC Wimbledon a priceless win which has given them an almighty boost to their survival hopes.
As wins go, it wasn’t pretty, but boy was it vital. It gives them a big lift going into the Easter programme.
Joe Pigott hammered home his 15th goal of the season from close range on 88 minutes - ending a drought stretching back to early February - after Northampton failed to deal with a corner that fell invitingly.
And it proved enough to settle a dour outcome.
But only just.
In the last action of the game, a foul was spotted on Peter Kioso by the otherwise excellent Luke O’Neill in the final, desperate Northampton attack, but Tzanev dived to his right to keep out the spot-kick from Sam Hoskins – sparking scenes of great joy in the home side and despair in the visitors.
Tzanev's save may not be as famous as the one Guy pulled off at Leeds in a famous FA Cup tie from the 70s or Dave Beasant's 88 cup final moment of glory when he denied John Aldridge, but it could prove so important.
It was a victory the Dons badly needed against their relegation rivals. They have been struggling to convert a glut of draws into the wins they need to escape the trapdoor – five of the previous six matches had been draws.
Wimbledon remain in the bottom four, but they are now level on points with the Cobblers after what was their first win since the February defeat of Gillingham and only their third in the league back at the new Plough Lane.
They are proving much tougher to beat under Mark Robinson but the need for wins is paramount. With just four points separating the bottom six before play, every game is taking on potentially epic proportions at the foot of the League One table. Only two of those six are likely to survive, although Burton, in 18th place, are not out of the woods yet.
Northampton raised themselves above the dotted line with their slender midweek home win over Oxford United but only goal difference separates them from the Dons now.
It was a game of few chances and very little drama until those crazy closing stages.
Ryan Longman was gifted a goal by Charlton last weekend and very nearly claimed another gimmie in the first half when a slack backpass from defender Shaun McWilliams fell into no-man's land and the Dons’ second-highest scorer raced on with only the keeper to beat.
His attempt to lift the ball over Jonathan Mitchell with his left foot failed, though, and the Cobblers’ stopper saved comfortably to deny him a ninth goal of the season.
Longman later wafted another left footer over the bar after cutting in from the right following good work from the ever-industrious Jack Rudoni.
The Dons built up a decent head of steam in the latter stages of the opening 45 minutes and looked as though they might carry on asking most of the questions after the turnaround.
But Northampton repelled the bursts of energy and put the game back on an equal footing.
It looked for all the world as through the afternoon would end in another frustrating draw for Robinson’s side but they somehow got over the line.
Dons: Tzanev – O'Neill, Heneghan, Nightingale, Alexander – Dobson (McLoughlin 76) – Woodyard, Oksanen – Rudoni (Chislett 76) – Longman (Palmer 68), Pigott. Subs not used: Assal, Guinness-Walker, Cox, Osew
Cobblers: Mitchell – Kioso, Jones, Horsfall, Mills – Morris, McWilliams, Watson (Edmondson 90) – Marshall (Ashley-Seal h/t), Rose (Jones 80), Hoskins. Subs not used: Bolger, Korboa, Berry, Sheehan