BY SAM SMITH
AFC Wimbledon fell to defeat for the first time in pre-season, losing 1-0 to Queens Park Rangers.
An even game was eventually decided in added-time when Luke Freeman capitalised on a Tom King error to hand Steve McClaren’s side the victory.
The Championship outfit started the brighter and almost led through Matt Smith, but the robust striker headed just over Joe McDonnell’s goal.
The Dons’ first chance came soon after and it was through a Mitch Pinnock set-piece – a major threat in the victory against Reading last week – but Kwesi Appiah headed wide. A Pinnock free-kick – and another chance – followed but Will Nightingale’s powerful effort edged inches wide of Matt Ingram’s goal.
The opening exchanges were entertaining. Both sides were keen to go forward at each opportunity and the players’ fitness levels were excellent given both sides have only recently begun their respective pre-season campaigns.
McDonnell had to be at his best to deny two efforts in quick succession. Clever footwork from Rangers youngster Ebere Eze gifted him some space but the Dons goalkeeper dived low to tip away the effort. The 24-year-old stopper then had to be at full stretch to deny a goal-bound Ryan Manning effort from 25 yards.
Wimbledon should have led on 40 minutes. A half-volley from Pinnock put Joe Pigott through on goal, but the former Charlton Athletic man took too long to decide how to score and his attempts to take the ball around Ingram was unconvincing – allowing Joel Lynch to recover and make a tackle.
Both sides kept the same teams for the beginning of the second half and Pigott could have scored again on 53 minutes – but the forward took too long to either work space or release the onrushing Andy Barcham.
Two outstanding saves late on from Ingram kept the score at 0-0. First, Appiah met Pinnock’s free-kick from the right with a sweet volley from close range, but the QPR keeper somehow reacted quickly enough to tip the powerful effort over the bar. Ingram then spectacularly denied Nightingale’s header from close range.
Neal Ardley introduced plenty of the Dons’ youngsters with 10 minutes to go and they almost held on – only for substitute goalkeeper King to spill an effort in added time and Freeman was on hand to tap home.
Wimbledon host Premier League Brighton at the Cherry Red Records Stadium next Saturday.