BY DANIEL MARSH
Will Nightingale was left with conflicting emotions after a frustrating stalemate for AFC Wimbledon against Accrington Stanley.
The hosts were unable to capitalise on an impressive start, as the visitors equalised and then squandered a chance to lead from the penalty spot inside a five-minute spell towards the end of the first half.
“It’s mixed emotions really,” said Wimbledon captain Nightingale.
“Like the gaffer said, you’ve got to respect the point. Hopefully it will be the point that keeps us up, keeps us safe, so if that’s the case then we’re delighted with that.
“It’s not stopped our momentum and we’ve got to keep going now and push, it’s another game we’ve been unbeaten in with the new gaffer. It’s just frustrating really because I think the three points were there for us today, but at least we held on and were resilient towards the end and made sure we didn’t lose the game.”
After the interval, the hosts struggled to threaten as prominently as they did in the opening 45 minutes, and the visitors threatened on occasions as the game drew to a close. But had striker Billy Kee converted a first-half penalty, the Dons could have been chasing to salvage a point rather than all three after the break.
“We crumbled for the last 15 minutes,” Nightingale said of the Dons’ disappointing end to the first half.
“Billy Kee is a proven goalscorer at this level but thankfully he’s missed the target completely. He’s done us a big favour there. Like I said, hopefully this point is a vital one. We’ve got to make sure it is an important one [gained] rather than two points lost, it all depends on results from our next few games now on whether this is a good point or not.”
A big part of Wimbledon’s resurgence in recent weeks under Downes’ has been down to defensive solidarity and a new playing system, implementing wing-backs and a trio of centre-halves.
However, despite their recent success in keeping things tight, a defensive lapse handed Accrington their leveller, after Paul Kalambayi saw his header back to Aaron Ramsdale pounced upon by Jordan Clark.
“Obviously it’s frustrating, because I felt for the first half hour we were in total control of the game, I never really felt troubled,” said Nightingale.
“As a defender you should never let the ball bounce. We’ll go in on Monday and we’ll review it and have another look at it.
“Everything should be a learning curve really, so if anyone ever makes a mistake you should focus on yourself, make sure you learn from that mistake and obviously go back and make sure it never happens again. If you learn from it, it can be a positive for your career.
“But obviously it’s frustrating for us to allow them to get back into the game, because then I think we did crumble a little bit towards the end of the first half. It’s a shame we let them back into the game so easily, especially considering I felt we were so comfortable.”
The point keeps Wimbledon just inside the relegation zone on goal difference, and there were positives to take from the dominant start and results elsewhere going their way – especially with proceedings at the bottom of the division being so tight.
“The main thing is we didn’t lose, it would have been nice to get the three points and I don’t think many teams down the bottom won, so I think it would have put us right out of it.
“Considering we were 10 points adrift, we’ve done unbelievably to get to this point. But there’s no point resting on our laurels now, because why make all that hard work pointless and for nothing? We’ve got to make sure we follow it through and keep that momentum going.”