REPORT AFC Wimbledon 1 Oxford United 2
Oxford United stood up to a tough physical test at Wimbledon today to pick up another important three points. A first-half goal from Danny Hylton was cancelled out by an Andy Barcham goal for the Dons before Jordan Bowery came off the bench to fire home a superb goal, worthy of winning any match.
It was the U’s who struck first when Hylton scrambled home his tenth of the season. It only took five minutes for the goal to arrive: a quick throw on the right and a ball into the box that bobbled around was knocked goalwards and former Wimbledon striker Hylton slid in to make sure it crossed the line from six-yards out.
Hylton, up front in place of Bowery, worked his socks off up front as always as the game developed into a fascinating clash of styles. The U’s were patient in possession, Josh Ruffels steadying the ship in midfield in place of the injured John Lundstram and Callum O’Dowda seeing plenty of the ball in the number 10 role, while the home side were more direct and looking to hit striker Tom Elliott as early as possible. lronic then that Hylton almost doubled the lead on 14 by stabbing a long ball from Liam Sercombe at goal and forcing home keeper Kelle Roos into an excellent save.
Former U’s winger Sean Rigg had Wimbledon’s first true effort of the afternoon with a powerful header after 21 minutes that Benji Buchel touched over the bar but Hylton remained at the centre of everything and went close with a 23rd-minute shot that went a yard wide after good work by Chris Maguire on the left wing. Maguire also had the audacity to try and chip the keeper from half way after 28 minutes, but Wimbledon were edging closer and Buchel was taking a battering at any set piece. The keeper did well to cling on to a Paul Robinson header on 26, while central defenders Johnny Mullins and Chey Dunkley were big, brave and alert as they stood up to the barrage.
However, an equaliser was on the cards and came on 34 as Barcham started and ended the move. Having won the ball in midfield he allowed another former United man, Jon Meades, to charge into the box and set up a shot at goal which the diving Buchel pushed away, only for Barcham to poke back past him to make it 1-1.
It had been an enthralling half and United had soaked up a fair amount of pressure, but they were level at the break and still in the game. It stayed that way when first Hylton got back to hack a goalbound effort from Meades off the line five minutes into the second half and then Buchel got down well to save a Rigg shot on 56.
United had been forced to dig deep but whenever they have had to do that this season they seem to find a way to come back strong. Bowery, on for Maguire, loves to get on the ball and run at goal and when Buchel launched a swift counter move in the 58th minute, Bowery was on to the ball just inside the Wimbledon half and only had eyes for goal. Hylton's clever run inside took defenders away and Bowery's pace took him into the penalty area. There was precious little goal to aim at but the powerful striker threaded the ball between Roos's despairing dive and the far post for an expertly taken fifth goal of the season.
Back came Wimbledon, Buchel making another outstanding save from giant forward Elliott on 74 and Dunkley, Kenny, Mullins and Skarz threw their bodies into blocks and challenges; the whole side defending for their lives when required and looking increasingly dangerous on the break.
Kingsmeadow has been a happy hunting ground for the U's who hadn't conceded a goal on the ground let alone lost, and having regained the lead they looked doubly determined not to relinquish it for a second time. The closest Wimbledon came was another Rigg header on 86 that bounced into the welcoming arms of Buchel from the crossbar, but the keeper had earned that little bit of luck with some crucial saves along the way.
United have lost just one out of the last 14 away league games, winning the last five, and have overcome all manner of different challenges along the way. Today was a tough test against a side that had won seven of their last eight matches. The U's passed that test with flying colours.
See you on Tuesday, at home to York.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher stats by Opta
See highlights and reaction in Yellow Player HD