Oxford United were beaten at home for the first time this season as AFC Wimbledon ended their hoodoo against the U's. The Dons beat United for the first time after losing eight times and drawing two of the previous ten meetings between the clubs.
After ending their wait for an away win at Bolton the previous weekend, United kept faith with the side that finished that game, meaning that Alex MacDonald
and Wes Thomas
started after making big impacts as subs at the Macron Stadium. However, they failed to build on the momentum of that performance and were 3-0 down at the break.
The first ten minutes were tight with two bookings for Wimbledon players underlining the visitors’ commitment. The first was for a scything challenge from Tom Elliott on Chey Dunkley
; a battle that rumbled on all afternoon but an incident which perhaps proved crucial. A less lenient decision might well have led to a red card rather than Elliott being able to head the opening goal.
There was little sign of what was to come in the first 20 minutes or so. Thomas had the first proper effort of the day, an 18th-minute blast blocked by a desperate Don, but a minute later it was the visitors who took the lead, against the run of play, when Darius Charles got up above everyone else to nod a corner back across goal, leaving Elliott with the simple task of steering it past Eastwood and two defenders trying to cover the line.
United, who had yet to win when going behind this season, continued to create half chances as they went for an equaliser. Liam Sercombe
almost stabbed them level on 23 with an effort that rolled perhaps a foot wide of the left-hand post, Maguire had penalty shouts waved away, and MacDonald drove left-footed over the bar on the half hour. MacDonald picked Jon Meades’ pocket and saw a shot blocked again on 39 but the U’s hadn’t made keeper James Shea work anywhere hard enough for all their possession and were made to pay for that just before the break as Wimbledon scored two quick goals.
First, Dannie Bulman forced a corner with a looping effort that went closer to a goal than he managed in 50 very influential games for the U’s. Eastwood tipped it over but from the corner Dean Parrett burst through two men and ran across the edge of the area. He touched the ball too far ahead of him and went through Thomas in trying to retrieve it but ref Darren Deadman decided that he had won the ball in doing so. With the crowd and most of the players waiting for a free kick Charles carried on and belted it past Eastwood from 22 yards out.
United needed to regroup but instead were somehow 3-0 down at the break when Jake Reeves teed up Barcham with a cute through ball and he touched it beyond Eastwood to give his side a three-goal advantage at the interval.
What was needed was a nice early goal in the second half if United were to get back into the game. It almost came two minutes in when MacDonald drove past Meades but couldn’t get his shot away. A minute later and it was game on, though.
From a similar position Maguire, seemingly intent on getting his side back into it single-handedly, claimed the ball and surged past two men to get to the line. He drove the ball across and Charles, at the centre of everything, took his personal match tally to an assist, a goal and an own goal by poking it past the helpless Shea to give the Yellows new hope.
With the home fans now roaring them forward towards them, United had an energy that had been lacking in the first 45 minutes. They were taking risks at the back - Eastwood twice needed to make saves from shots from the edge of the box - but they were also looking far more likely to score. One mighty scramble saw three efforts go close inside six seconds, the first two cleared off the line before Phil Edwards
bicycle kicked the third one over the top.
was forced off with a nasty looking injury - possibly a dislocated shoulder - but time was against the U's by then as the early momentum of the half floundered against some dogged Dons defending.
A first home defeat, unfortunately in front of the Sky cameras. United did improve after the break but the first half had seen the Dons give Oxford a bit of an education.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA
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