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AFC Wimbledon 2 Old Actonians 2
AFC Wimbledon were held at home by Old Actonians, who battled back from a two-goal deficit to claim a point at Old Tenisonians Sports Club.
The match, between two contenders for promotion from the London & South East Counties Regional League, was an enthralling contest full of commitment and passion where the Dons dominated the first half and the visitors lifted their game greatly after the break drawing level with 15 minutes to play. Even so, it took two superb saves from Naomi Swift to deny Wimbledon a crucial third goal and ensure that the West Londoners returned home with a share of the spoils.
AFC Wimbledon, fresh from an excellent Surrey FA Cup win over FAWPL side Crystal Palace, started with good pace and found a couple of dangerous situations before Actonians' Natasha Cree fired over their first effort from 20 yards on eight minutes. Caz Bisson, who was excellent throughout for the hosts, was narrowly wide with a curled effort from distance and then Sian Wylie went close from a cross from the left. Wimbledon took the lead midway through the half when a low left wing cross was guided home at the near post by Bisson.
Wimbledon continued to dominate as Actonians could not find any forward momentum. Bisson was just wide of the far post after a fine run and curled shot. A foul on the same player led to the second goal. Libby Suchley drove in a perfect 25-yard shot from wide on the left which flew inside Swift's near post on 33 minutes.
Another Suchley effort, this time from a corner, hit the near post and flew behind as AFC Wimbledon maintained their control right to the break.
Actonians returned with much more resolve and started to win control of the midfield battle from early in the half. Cree created danger on the right wing and provided a lovely cross for Hanna Olofsson to fire in a shot which Dons keeper Lianne Tylee did well to turn away. The same player then found space to fire a shot just over from 20 yards as Actonians pressed forward, inspired by the work and clever touches of Carla Williams. Sharon Odofin went close on 54 minutes when set up in front of goal by Williams and Cree.
The introduction of Chelsea Berlin into midfield just before the hour proved the catalyst for the visitors' comeback, Williams reacting quickest to a through ball to finish past Tyree to halve the arrears.
A Berlin free kick from 30 yards was safely held by Tyree before Wimbledon started to find the attacking purpose which had marked their first half domination. Probably the critical moment of the contest came on 67 minutes. Bisson once again escaped her markers and played in an inviting low ball towards the advancing Jess Trimnell eight yards out in front of goal. Swift produced an outstanding save to race out and deflect Trimnell's first time shot wide of goal. Both players needed lengthy treatment from the resulting collision.
Actonians levelled soon after the injury break. Williams did well on the right and found Berlin centrally, 40 yards out. Her first time effort on goal was perfectly placed and dropped in under the bar in the top right corner for an outrageous equaliser.
Wimbledon were stung into action by this setback and pressed forward for most of the remainder of the match. Within a minute, Bisson had set up Wylie for a stinging drive ten yards out but Swift produced an excellent reaction save to turn the ball over the bar. Wimbledon forced numerous corners and had three free kicks in dangerous areas but Actonians showed great resolve to deal with everything thrown at them. At the other end, Cree and Williams both found dangerous positions but were unable to hit the target as the match became stretched through eight minutes of added time. A final half chance for the hosts saw Rebecca Sargeant shooting wide from the edge of the area and the points were shared.
In the end, the result was probably a fair one. Wimbledon will surely feel that they should have taken the match given their two goal lead, but Actonians played with heart and spirit right through the team after being second best in the first half. What is certain is that both teams provided a quality spectacle and will surely be challenging leaders Fulham FC Foundation, who won away at Eastbourne Town to stretch their advantage in a most competitive league.
AFC Wimbledon: Lianne Tylee, Linsey Clarke, Sian Wylie, Jess Trimnell, Caz Bisson, Libby Suchley, Ellen Martin, Sian Houghton-North, Emma Keady, Alysha Clements, Lauren Carnell. Subs: Bianca Walker, Rebecca Sargeant, Jordanne Hoesli-Atkins, Fleur Robinson, Clare Hedley-Smith.
Old Actonians: Naomi Swift, Sinead Friel, Catherine Murphy, Leah Taylor, Lafe Uche, Hanna Olofsson, Nathalie Randall, Rosie Stone, Sharon Odofin, Carla Williams, Natasha Cree. Subs: Chelsea Berlin, Linda Fox, Nikki Wright, Shadia Edwards-Dashti, Sinthujah Sooriyakumar.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Ellen Martin is held off by Sharon Odofin
(middle) Natasha Cree on the attack, pursued by Linsey Clarke
(bottom) Alysha Clements closes down Carla Williams
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