Daniel Marsh’s big-match verdict as AFC Wimbledon’s game plan works as they bank impressive point at Stadium of Light

BY DANIEL MARSH

Wimbledon’s second-half capitulation at Charlton on Saturday meant that they had conceded nine goals in their previous two League One outings. Understandably, that may have left some fearing the worst ahead of a long journey north to the Stadium of Light.

But Glyn Hodges’ charges have generally fared better on their travels this season – epitomised by Tuesday night’s result. A point gained in the backyard of the division’s biggest team isn’t something to be sniffed at.

The game plan was to sit deep and hurt Sunderland on the break – and for the majority of the game it worked a treat. The hosts dominated possession but they failed to convert that into any fluent goal threat – it was the Dons who had the better chances.

Joe Pigott has been Wimbledon’s talisman this season, and he reached double figures with his cool penalty on the night. The Dons skipper has been involved in 14 goals this season – no player in League One can better that number. His contribution this season has been priceless for Wimbledon even beyond those goals – his experience leading the line has brought the best out of some of the club’s fleeting young stars who support him.

One of those who have benefited most from Pigott’s sensational form this season has been Ryan Longman.

The Brighton loanee was undoubtedly the Dons’ star man in midweek.

The tricky forward embarked on a swashbuckling solo run down the right flank early in the first half to set the tone for his performance.

He tormented his marker at every opportunity, and he was instrumental in a Wimbledon performance which grew more impressive as time wore on.

Jack Rudoni made his mark in a similar fashion on the opposite side and won the Wimbledon penalty, but it was Longman who really stole the show. He was unfortunate not to cap a sterling display with the goal it deserved – his strike crashing back off the Sunderland crossbar just moments after the hosts had drawn level.

Wimbledon have conjured up magic time and time again in the loan market over the past few seasons since their promotion to League One. The pivotal contributions of Aaron Ramsdale and Marcus Forss are just two of the coups that stand out in recent memory – Longman looks to be the latest rabbit that the Dons’ recruitment team have managed to pull out of their hat.

Unfortunately another one of Wimbledon’s habits has proven to be surrendering points from winning positions. They went in at the break against Charlton with a slender advantage which was quickly extinguished. Unfortunately for the Dons, they couldn’t hold on to their lead on Tuesday night either.

Slack defending has proved costly on more than one occasion this season, yet for the most part Wimbledon kept their hosts at bay in midweek. But with five defenders on the pitch, there might be a tinge of disappointment over the Sunderland equaliser.

Bailey Wright managed to shrug off Shane McLoughlin with relative ease at the far post before lashing beyond Connal Trueman.

In truth, that goal seemed to spur Wimbledon on and they finished the game looking by far the more likely victors. Late chances for Terell Thomas and Pigott saw the Dons almost snatch that elusive winner they probably deserved.

But that Sunderland goal also represents another occasion that the Dons have conceded points this term.

In fact, failing to see out games in which they’ve held the upper hand has cost Glyn Hodges’ men a staggering 21 points already this season. Unsurprisingly, that is the most in League One.

No side can be expected to be immune to losing points. But having a lost points tally that high before the season is even halfway complete will have alarm bells ringing. The Dons will be hoping that tally won’t come back to haunt them come May. Picking up points – even singular – at daunting places like the Stadium of Light will go some way to ensuring that it won’t.

STAR MAN
Ryan Longman. Was a constant thorn in the Sunderland side all evening with his positive runs forward. Unlucky not to cap a fine display with a deserved goal.

BEST MOMENT
Longman’s eye-catching solo run in the first half deserved a goal. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be.

 


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