James Coppinger’s injury time goal means Rovers take a point from Plough Lane.
A Joe Piggot brace had looked set to create a happy homecoming for AFC Wimbledon but Coppinger’s late equaliser meant the teams shared the points.
It was a match in which Rovers dominated in all areas and would have been surprised to find themselves after enjoying the best of the opening stages. Matt Smith’s equaliser seemed to kick Rovers up a gear. Chances came and went for Rovers, but they failed to capitalise of their possession and pressure and were made to pay when Piggot scored his second with less than ten minutes remaining.
It had looked like Darren Moore’s men would be left with nothing to show for their efforts but Coppinger was in the right place at the right time to snatch a point.
Darren Moore named an unchanged side after Rovers’ impressive win against Lincoln City four days previously. With Reece James reprising his role in the centre of the park and Joe Wright at right back.
Rovers had the better start at The Dons’ new ground – a ground so new that parts of it were still being built – with Ben Whiteman being allowed to pull the strings in the centre of the park. It was the skipper’s pass into Fejiri Okenabirhie that gave the striker his first opportunity of the evening though he was well martialled by The Dons centre-backs.
It was Whiteman who registered the first shot of the evening, a curling left-footed effort which didn’t curl enough to trouble keeper Connal Trueman.
Moore’s men were forced to be patient as Dons seemed to concede possession and pick up any attempted through-balls. It was a tactic that seemed to be working as passed by Whiteman, Reece James and Matt Smith were picked off as they tried to find the runs of the front three.
Despite dominating the early possession, Wimbledon proved how dangerous they could be and punished Rovers with their first real attack of the game. Steve Seddon’s cross was an awkward one for Josef Bursik – he got something to it but the ball fell kindly for Joe Pigott. The host’s no.9 had the whole goal to aim at and duly slotted away.
The lead didn’t last long, however, and Rovers got one back through Smith. The Welshman did really well in the build up showing real tenacity to win the ball back and play it to Whiteman. Whiteman’s ball out to Jon Taylor who found Smith with his cross. Smith attempted to cross the ball but it ricocheted back to him and he slotted away calmly.
Taylor had a chance to give Rovers the lead minutes later. Whiteman was involved again dropping the ball neatly over the defender and into the no.11’s path. Wimbledon’s defence did really well to get back and block the shot. And Smith could have had a penalty when he was bundled over after being found in the penalty box by a neat pass from Okenabirhie.
Rovers still had plenty of defending to do but they answered all of Wimbledon’s questions with the host’s best chance coming as Rovers played themselves into trouble. A loose pass by Bursik was pounced on by Ryan Longman but some shrewd defending from Reece James saw him race back and disposes the forward with ease.
Josh Sims had the final chance of the half. Tireless running by Danny Amos meant the left back was able to stab the ball out to the Southampton loanee. Sims cut inside well and curled the ball towards the far post as Rovers fans will have seen him do plenty of times since arriving at the club, but Trueman did well to get down to his left and punch the ball clear.
Moore made his first change at the break. With Brad Halliday coming on to replace Wright – the latter was already on a booking. With little change in the came he made his second substitution just over ten minutes into the second half with James Coppinger replacing Danny Amos. The no.26 first touch was a pass to Whiteman who scooped his shot narrowly over the bar.
Rovers began to dominate possession and push forward until Wimbledon were camped in their own half. Chances came and went for Okenabirhie, and Cameron John without either doing enough to trouble keeper Trueman, while an effort from Halliday required a save after it took a wicked deflection making it tricky for the keeper.
Whiteman continued to cause the home side problems – he appeared to be alone in the box as he ran to meet Taylor’s cross but his header was straight at Trueman.
It was Sims who had Rovers best chance to get a winner. He jinked away from trailing leg of Will Nightingale and shot towards the near post. Connal Trueman, who had a really good night between the sticks, got down well to make the save.
Pigott looked set to make himself the homecoming hero with less than ten minutes on the clock. He was first to react to a cross into the Rovers box and fired home to earn a win for Wimbledon but Coppinger had other ideas and his shot looped over Trueman meaning Rovers took a point from the capital.