BY RAY ARMFIELD AT THE CHERRY RED RECORDS STADIUM
AFC Wimbledon have not won since these two clubs last met on the penultimate round of League One fixtures last season.
A double from Joe Pigott gave the Dons a vital three points in their relegation battle. It was also the last time Wycombe tasted defeat. So perhaps a stalemate was predictable, despite both teams fielding a number of summer signings, in a match that frankly won’t have fans of either side rushing out to buy the match DVD as a keepsake.
Gareth Ainsworth will complete a creditable seven years in charge of Wanderers next month, but his sides have garnered a reputation for ‘game management’ during his tenure, be that tumbling to the floor at the slightest touch (if you were playing ‘Wycombe Bingo’, the winning ticket was nine minutes) or trying to ensure plenty of additional time at the end of each match when required.
Having marshalled the imposing Adebayo Akinfenwa so well last time, Dons fans would have been relieved to see Will Nightingale return to the starting 11 and once again the skipper won his personal battle.
Although ‘The Beast’ had his moments, notably after the break when Joe Jacobson’s dangerous corner was met by a Darius Charles header which fell kindly for the big striker. who could only sidefoot it wide.
Akinfenwa then thought he had sealed the deal against his old club when Nathan Trott parried Nick Freeman’s low shot into his path but was denied by an offside flag as he tapped home.
The increasingly-impressive Nesta Guinness-Walker revelled in his wing-back role and with Wimbledon playing a fast-tempo opening, his early cross-shot brought a fingertip save from Ryan Allsop.
Scott Wagstaff and Luke O’Neill also threatened, but as the Dons’ momentum waned approaching the interval, Pigott had the hosts’ best chance of the afternoon after capitalising on some indecision by Charles, but a slight bobble meant his curling shot went high and wide.
Attacking the John Green Stand in the second period, Wycombe came out the livelier and after Trott weakly flapped at a Jacobson corner, Scott Kashket couldn’t react quickly enough before Kwesi Appiah scrambled off the line.
Kashket was hauled off by Ainsworth minutes later to be replaced by Josh Parker. After capitulating to late goals at Ipswich 10 days earlier, the angst among home fans was palpable as the Chairboys pushed forward – with Freeman twice spurning decent opportunities – but they were heartened by their first sight of Adam Roscrow a quarter of an hour from the end.
The striker, prolific for Cardiff Metropolitan University last season and dubbed the ‘Welsh Jamie Vardy’, caught the eye with some determined running of the channels and could have capped a lively cameo with a debut goal, but failed to get a clean strike in from 15 yards.
At the other end, Jacobson was handed a golden opportunity from a free-kick on the edge of the area, but ballooned it over to the relief of the majority of the 4,521 crowd.
The point gained ended a tough August for AFC Wimbledon, having been handed early fixtures against Rotherham, Ipswich, Fleetwood and Sunderland – are all expected to be challenging for promotion.
But the harsh reality is that it’s now just that one victory in their last 13 games and ideally manager Wally Downes will have been able to slightly tweak his squad ahead of yesterday’s loan window closing – before next week’s trip to darkest Buckinghamshire.
AFC Wimbledon (5-3-2): Trott 6, O’Neill 6, Nightingale 7, Kalambayi 7, Thomas 7, Guinness-Walker 8, Wagstaff 5, Hartigan 5 (Pinnock 88), Reilly 5, Pigott 5, Appiah 6 (Roscrow 74). Not used: Tzanev, Stabana, McLoughlin, Connolly, Folivi.