Woodyard’s strike gives Dons another three vital points as they see off 10-man Oxford United
By Alessandro Schiavone at Plough Lane
AFC WIMBLEDON 2 OXFORD UNITED 1
AFC Wimbledon have extended their victorious streak to four games after coming from behind to see off Oxford United 2-1 at Plough Lane to strengthen their case for League One survival.
In-demand striker Joe Pigott scored his 18th league goal of the season from the penalty spot to cancel out Josh Ruffel’s opener before Alex Woodyard turned the game on its head for the Dons in the space of two minutes with an excellent finish after he perfectly timed his run into the box.
The hosts had to dig deep to grind out a win as James Henry’s red card and subsequent dismissal for handling the ball in the area proved to be the U’s undoing.
The victory means Wimbledon are 19th and maintain their five-point lead over Northampton who occupy the last relegation spot but have played a game more than the Londoners.
Both sides had nothing to show for their efforts with the game still goalless at the end of an exhilarating end-to-end first half.
Oxford United started brighter and came within a whisker of getting their noses in front after just two minutes when midfielder Henry left two Dons players in his wake but saw his thumping effort repelled by Nikola Tzanev at his near post.
A couple of minutes later another opportunity to punish a static Wimbledon backline went begging for the U’s whenQPR loanee Olamide Shodipo cut inside the area after a marauding run into the box but for his finish to lack sufficientpower to trouble Nikola Tzanev.
Wimbledon had another let-off when Henry ran in behind Will Nightingale before unleashing a brave effort from a tight angle which failed to test Kiwi Tzanev in Wimbledon’s goal.
Cameron Brannagan then attempted to catch Tzanev off his goal but the keeper quickly back-peddled towards his goal and tipped the shot over the bar. A risky feat which he repeated in the second-half when Ruffels saw him too far off his line.
Wimbledon nearly stunned Oxford on the stroke of half-time when Oliver Palmer teed up the unmarked George Dobson just on the edge of the box but the angled effort was dealt with comfortably by Jack Stevens before Joe Pigott nearly headed in with virtually last kick of the first-half.
In the 52th minute, left-back Ruffels broke the deadlock in the hosts’ favour when he delicately picked out the far corner after Shodipo’s cutback.
Wimbledon were a bit unfortunate to be on the wrong side of the scoreline and surely felt hard done by it given the fashion in which they stamped their authority on the game just before the break.
Inspired by Brannagan’s attempt in the first-half, Ruffels nearly scored what would have been a contender for goal of the season when he almost caught Tzanev off his line with a direct free-kick from near the centre-circle.
In the 62th minute, Henry was shown a red card after deliberately handling a goal-bound effort off the line as Pigott stepped up from the spot to nonchalantly slot home his 18th league goal of the season.
There was an air of inevitability about Wimbledon’s second goal as they committed bodies forward in an attempt to capitalise on their numerical superiority and nick a quick second with Oxford’s backline suddenly all over the place.
With momentum and belief suddenly swinging their way, the Dons dramatically turned the game on its head in the space of two minutes when Alex Woodyard blasted home inside the penalty area to net his first goal for the club.
Devoid of ideas and with no options on the rare occasions when they had the ball, the U’s were forced onto the back foot thanks by Wimbledon’s counter-attacking prowess and possession play. It’s fair to say that Oxford were unable to lay a glove on the hosts from the moment they were reduced to 10 men
In the 66th minute, Palmer almost put the game beyond the beleaguered hosts after a quick counter-attack but he saw his goal-bound effort deflected.
In the latter stages of the game, George Dobson again failed to bury his chance before Pigott lifted a close-range shot over the bar under pressure.
The missed opportunities could have come back to haunt Wimbledon but Mark Robinson’s men were never going to let this win slip through their hands after a perfect second half-display.
By wrapping up the three points, the Dons have gone a long way towards achieving League One safety and the way they bounced back after conceding just epitomised a side with a new-found confidence and grit. Who knows where they would be had Robinson been in charge from the start of the season with his players winning six times and drawing five since he took over 16 games ago.
AFC Wimbledon: 13 Tzanev, Alexander 7, Heneghan22, Nightingale 5, Guinness-Walker 18, Assal 17, Dobson 24, Woodyard 4, Rudoni 12, Ollie Palmer 9, Pigott 39
Oxford United: 13 Stevens, 3 Ruffels, 5 Moore, 8 Brannagan, 9 Taylor, 10 Sykes, 12 Long, 17 Henry, 22 Atkinson, 25 Shodipo, 27 Lee