BY DANIEL MARSH
AFC Wimbledon fell to a narrow 2-1 defeat at the hands of Oxford United in their final game of the decade.
Dons skipper Joe Pigott cancelled out an unfortunate Shane McLoughlin own goal, before a clinical finish from Mark Sykes midway through the second half condemned Glyn Hodges’ side to their second defeat in six League One games.
The visitors started brightly and were good value when they took the lead on 26 minutes. Oxford had focused most of their attacks down the flanks, and full-back Sam Long overlapped ahead of Marks Sykes before playing a wicked delivery to the far post which the unfortunate McLoughlin could do little about bar diverting into his own net.
Taking the lead seemed to drive the visitors forward with a renewed vigour, and they looked a constant threat going forward. They continued to target the Dons in wide area, with Sykes in particular looking a menace. Unfortunately for Oxford, they failed to convert their promising play into anything more that.
Home keeper Nathan Trott would have had his heart in his mouth just 10 minutes after conceding, as he tried to be a little too clever with Jamie Mackie closing in at the cost of a corner, but it could have proved far more costly on another occasion.
Wimbledon rallied in the final 10 minutes of the half. Marcus Forss twice forced visiting keeper Jordan Archer to muddy his gloves from range, albeit without overexerting the former Millwall man. He did, however, need to be at his best to tip over a Terrell Thomas header from point-blank range to keep his clean sheet intact on the stroke of half time, as the Dons looked a real threat from set-pieces.
But it took the hosts barely 60 seconds of the second half to find a way past Archer. Luke O’Neill’s central delivery was volleyed home with aplomb by Pigott at the far post.
Wimbledon looked far more dangerous than they did in the opening period but were dealt a sucker punch when Oxford took the lead again. An excellent ball was played through the Dons defence by Shandon Baptiste, setting Sykes free to finish superbly past Trott into the far corner.
The Dons almost had an immediate reply, as Jack Rudoni superbly won possession on halfway before combining with Forss to set Pigott away. The Dons skipper did superbly to fashion a strike on goal, Archer making a meal of the save and forcing United into some desperate defending to preserve their advantage.
The final third of the game was open and frantic at times as Wimbledon searched for an equaliser, but Oxford survived relatively comfortably to ensure all three points.
PICTURES BY PAUL EDWARDS
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