Oxford United let an early lead slip this afternoon as AFC Wimbledon completed a double over the U's. A goal up through Rob Hall
, United were pegged back by a long-range effort from Dean Parrett and then beaten by a header from Sean Kelly as the Dons overtook them in the League 1 table.
Reverting to the side that won at Rotherham in the last league game, the U’s got off to the perfect start. Skipper John Lundstram
, so influential, started it by taking control of the ball in midfield and getting the ball forward to Hall, 25 yards out and with a bank of Wimbledon defenders in front of him. Hall worked the space beautifully, switching the ball into space and then letting fly with a low effort that flashed past home keeper James Shea and perfectly into the bottom right corner of the net. A former MK Dons forward scoring against Wimbledon…
Hall had already forced left-back Sean Kelly into a clumsy challenge after just four seconds of the match and was looking to take the defender on at every opportunity and United were very much on the front foot, but on 13 minutes the game was level again when Parrett matched Hall in letting fly from similar distance. This time the shot was over the flying Eastwood but the keeper was extremely unlucky to see it crash against the bar, bounce down, hit him and roll back over the line to make it 1-1. An own goal as the ball was heading away from goal, although it was understandably given to Parrett and nobody will argue too much with that.
There was a contrast in styles, as expected, with United patient and Wimbledon more direct; that’s not to say one is right or more effective, but the home side’s set pieces were a constant threat and on 29 minutes led to them taking the lead with a simple looking second goal. Nelson blocked a shot, Parrett swung in the corner from the right and Kelly thumped his header down and into the net past the helpless Eastwood.
Eastwood then kept his side in the game with two excellent saves. They don’t all have to be full-stretch diving efforts, sometimes you need to be alert and on your toes to make big saves. The first came on 34 when Eastwood timed his challenge to perfection to plunge at Dom Poleon’s feet when the striker ran free on to a careless square pass from Ryan Ledson
on half way. United’s early momentum had been halted and it then took another good save on 35 as Eastwood closed down Lyle Taylor after he had become the latest home player to be given too much space inside the area.
Lyle Taylor lifted one further chance wide in injury time and United had let their early advantage slip but they stepped things up after the break and, while still troubled by the Wimbledon power, were also able to start building their own attacks. Ryan Taylor
curled in a terrific effort just after the hour that Shea saved well, and the game became more open but there was always danger at the other end. Wimbledon talisman Tom Elliott was the focus of so much for the Dons and showed his strength on 68 to shove Chey Dunkley
off the ball - no easy feat - and square for Jake Reeves for a well-struck effort that Eastwood once again pushed away.
United had shown a bit of character to stay in the game but only truly found their rhythm in the last 15 minutes as the home side chased, harried and closed them down all over the pitch, especially when they tried to build anything from the back. You write this Yellows side off at your peril and they were inches away from a point when sub Kane Hemmings
flicked a Marvin Johnson
cross just the wrong side of the post on 82, the game going from end to end by then.
The two clubs have shared a journey from the Conference to League One and this was the first time the U's have lost at the Dons in that time. There was plenty of tension in injury time - Eastwood even coming up for a free kick- but there was to be no late drama and United's three-game winning run on the road in the league came to an end.
They move on to Rochdale away next Saturday looking to bounce straight back.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
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