The Imps picked up a point against AFC Wimbledon on a wet and blustery afternoon in the capital after a goal in the third minute of stoppage time gave AFC Wimbledon a share of the points.
It could be argued that City deserved to leave the capital with all three points following Jack Payne’s second goal of the season and a first half in which they dominated proceedings but the home side dug deep in the second half and snatched the last gasp leveller from the head of substitute Kwasi Appiah to end a competitive first ever SkyBet League One clash between the two sides.
City made one change to the side which took on Pompey in their last time out in SkyBet League One just over ten days ago for their first ever Football League game against AFC Wimbledon. Jorge Grant the man coming into the side to take on AFC Wimbledon at The Cherry Red Records Stadium, with John Akinde stepping back onto the substitutes bench.
Ahead of kick off the hosts also made just the solitary change from their last game, a 1-0 away defeat to Burton Albion, with Anthony Hartigan coming into their starting eleven replacing the injured Max Sanders.
AFC Wimbledon: Trott, Thomas, Wagstaff, Hartigan, Pinnock, Forss, Delany, Kalambayi, Osew, Pigott, Wordsworth
Substitutes: Tzanev, O’Neill, Appiah, Rudoni, Stabana, Guinness-Walker, McLoughlin
The rain started pouring just as the action got underway at a wet Cherry Red Records Stadium with 700 or so Imps’ fans undercover behind the dugouts. AFC Wimbledon were the side looking to grab the initiative but City were resolute and within a few seconds of each other had two opportunities inside the Wimbledon area. First of all Bruno Andrade dinked in the ball behind for Jorge Grant, but the number 18 couldn’t quite bring it down, then Michael O’Connor lashed a low drive which was well held by Nathan Trott.
Harry Toffolo was to create a further chance, his curling centre was diverted on target by Tyler Walker but once again, Trott was in the right place to save but the momentum was swinging the way of The Imps as City were getting space down the flanks. Wimbledon managed to stem the tide of the visitors attacks just as the rain got heavier, the skies darkened overhead and the floodlights illuminated the pitch.
The home side almost fashioned their first real chance of the game on a smart breakway when Joe Pigott and Scott Wagstaff linked down the right, the latter curled in dangerous cross with Marcus Forss in the box but he didn’t account for Callum Connolly who was in the right place to head clear. But just as the home supporters thought their side were getting on top, The Imps gave them a timely reminder of their attacking threat as O’Connor slid the ball down the right channel for Andrade, his low centre was aimed at Walker and it almost sneaked in at the near post but was just hacked clear. Jack Payne soon after smashed a shot which was swerving left and right and arrowing towards the bottom corner before Trott got down sharply to save as Michael Appleton’s side yet again showed their attacking credentials.
That threat was to come to fruition with half an hour gone, Walker held his run to stay onside on half way, he strode forward looked inside but reversed to Andrade on the overlap and his precise cross was met by PAYNE at the near post who swept home confidently. The Imps were close to doubling the lead within two minutes, Neal Eardley looking for the run of Walker but somehow it was kept out at the second attempt then the striker was to snatch at a good opportunity from a corner as Jason Shackell nodded down but Walker’s strike on the turn rose over the bar.
The game continued to be played in the half of the home side with the pace of Walker, playing on the shoulder of the Wimbledon defence a real threat as he drifted left and right. Paul Kalambayi did well to deny Payne another goalscoring opportunity for City at one end and that stop quickly turned into a dangerous chance up at the other, with Mitch Pinnock hitting a peach of an effort which looked to be heading for the goal but Josh Vickers was there with a fantastic diving stop to his right. The pace of the game wasn’t letting up as City were back in the attacking third just ahead of the break, a great tackle from Payne just inside The Imps’ half brought a ball into the feet of Walker who held the play up, a quick link and overlap with Grant and Toffolo down the left led to the latter crossing but Trott was there to stop the low ball in and keep the home side within reach of the Imps at the break.
AFC Wimbledon 0 The Imps 1
City made a substitute ahead of the second half getting underway, Grant coming off for Jake Hesketh as finally the rain abated to give some respite to the players and the fans which weren’t covered from the elements in the first half.
Forss showed why he’s the Don’s top scorer with their first attempt of the second half with five minutes gone, the on loan Brentford striker hitting a rasping drive which brought the best out of Vickers who tipped over. However, the next involvement from the City ‘keeper brought wholesale applause from the visiting supporters. The Imps’ number one showed lightening reflexes to meet a header at the back post from Pigott that had almost everyone convinced it was heading for the top corner. AFC Wimbledon were piling on the pressure, throwing balls into the box, winning five corners in the opening ten minutes of the second half but City’s defence refused to buckle.
Andrade, who had tormented the home defence in the first half was close to curating another chance for City but the home side cleared. The home fans were getting a little edgy and the atmosphere in the stands seemed to resonate onto the pitch as tackles were growing more robust, with play as a result disjointed but when possible The Imps were trying to control possession.
Forss was doing his best to draw the hosts level, cutting inside from the right then getting his shot away but it kept rising and flew over the top with Vickers covering the frame of the goal. Shots from distance looked like the preferred route to goal for the home side, who were unable to break through the City defence who remained in control.
Andrade hit a low bouncing, skidding effort from around 20 yards out which Trott did very well to hold onto in a moment of positivity from the visitors in the midst of the Wimbledon pressure. City were throwing themselves in front of everything, Toffolo getting in front of a hit from Pinnock and then Connolly rose majestically to beat Pigott to a cross to keep The Imps’ lead intact.
Andrade tried a cute curler from the edge of the box which Trott managed to hold onto as the game went into the final ten minutes and time ticked away from the hosts who were throwing more caution to the wind. City kept their defensive shape and continued to frustrate, Wordsworth hitting a shot across the face of goal much to the chagrin of the home supporters.
With four minutes added time announced, the home side were throwing more direct balls into City territory, first it was Eardley heading away before tremendous defensive work from Shackell, holding off Kalambayi who had been thrown forward from the Don’s defence to support the attack. But it wasn’t to be the centre back who breached the defence it was sub, Kwesi APPIAH who sneaked in to head home a right wing cross beyond Vickers in the 93rd minute to give the home side a share of the spoils.
AFC Wimbledon 1 The Imps 1
1 Nathan TROTT
6 Terell THOMAS
7 Scott WAGSTAFF
8 Anthony HARTIGAN
11 Mitch PINNOCK
15 Marcus FORSS
21 Ryan DELANEY
30 Paul KALAMBAYI
37 Paul OSEW
39 Joe PIGOTT
40 Anthony WORDSWORTH
13 Nik TZANEV
2 Luke O’NEILL (51’ for Delaney)
9 Kwesi APPIAH (78’ for Pinnock)
12 Jack RUDONI
14 Kyron STABANA
18 Nesta GUINNESS-WALKER
19 Shane McLOUGHLIN (69’ for Hartigan)
Booked: Pinnock 45’, Kalambayi 60’, Wagstaff 89’
GOAL: Appiah 93’
21 Josh VICKERS
3 Harry TOFFOLO
4 Michael O’CONNOR
5 Jason SHACKELL
10 Jack PAYNE
11 Bruno ANDRADE
17 Tyler WALKER
18 Jorge GRANT
19 Joe MORRELL
20 Callum CONNOLLY
23 Neal EARDLEY
21 Grant SMITH
22 Aaron LEWIS
24 Max MELBOURNE
26 Harry ANDERSON
28 Jake HESKETH (46’ for Grant)
29 John AKINDE (77’ for Payne)
GOAL: Payne 31’
Booked: Toffolo 62’, Morrell 89’
Referee: James Linington
Assistants: Ian Cooper & Mark Jones
4th Official: Lee Venamore
Attendance: 4,378 (709 Imps’ supporters)