AFC Wimbledon 3-3 Bolton Wanderers

  • August 14, 2021 | By Chris Mann
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Bolton were involved in a 3-3 draw for the second successive weekend but the circumstances were completely different in Saturday's stalemate at AFC Wimbledon.

Alex Baptiste's last-minute equaliser in the opening-day clash with Milton Keynes Dons sent supporters away from the University of Bolton Stadium in joyous spirits, but this time out Wanderers somehow managed to lose a two-goal lead as they were made to settle for a point in their first-ever trip to the Wombles' new Plough Lane home.

The Trotters fell behind on 20 minutes as Will Nightingale headed in from close range but they turned the game around and held a lead just seven minutes later after an Eoin Doyle penalty and tap-in from Josh Sheehan put them 2-1 up.

Oladapo Afolayan added a third early in the second-half and many expected the visitors to run away with things from that point on, but two minutes of madness first saw Aaron Pressley pull one back from the spot before fellow substitute Dapo Mebude found the corner to make it 3-3.

Neither side really looked like pushing on to claim a late winner and the nature of the result will leave a sour taste in the mouths of Wanderers supporters, many of whom were seeing their side in action on the road for the first time in 17 months.

After making six changes for the midweek Carabao Cup victory over Barnsley, Ian Evatt reverted back to a team similar to that which took to the field against MK Dons on the opening day.

Joel Dixon and Ricardo Santos both came in against the Tykes and retained their places, with Matt Gilks and George Johnston both dropping to the substitutes' bench.

Playing in front of a capacity crowd for the first time at their new home, Wimbledon perhaps had the better of the opening exchanges in what was a shaky start for both teams.

The first chance of the afternoon arrived with 12 minutes played and fell the way of the hosts, with Jack Rudoni setting his sights from 25 yards before flashing a shot that rolled narrowly wide of Joel Dixon's left-hand post.

The Dons continued to look the more likely scorers and came close once again moments later, with Luke McCormick this time shooting just over from the edge of the box after Baptiste could only partially clear a throw-in from Nesta Guinness-Walker.

It perhaps came as little surprise, then, to see the Wombles break the deadlock on 20 minutes. Slack defending from Wanderers provided Nightingale with an unopposed route into the box, where he rose to head a cross beyond a hesitant Dixon from close range.

That should have spurred the hosts on but, instead, the scores were level just two minutes later as Bolton were awarded a penalty as Afolayan was sent sprawling in the box by goalkeeper Nik Tzanev.

Doyle stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick and slotted in to the 'keeper's left to make it 1-1.

Then, on 27 minutes, Doyle turned provider as his cross from the right picked out the run of Sheehan, who put his first-time volley through the legs of Tzanev to give Wanderers a 2-1 advantage.

Over-confidence almost cost the Trotters that lead within two minutes, with McCormick latching on to a poor header from Afolayan before racing through and putting his effort into the side netting.

Bolton continued to look threatening at the other end and almost added to their lead on the half-hour, with Declan John sending a dipping attempt on to the roof of the net.

Despite that 10-minute burst of quality from both sides, there were no further chances in the remaining part of the half and Wanderers took their lead into the break.

Both managers opted to stick with their starting line-ups as the players returned for the second period, which began with McCormick firing a warning sign with a half-chance that went over the Bolton bar.

Wanderers soon found their stride, though, and went 3-1 up within three minutes of the restart. Gethin Jones burst forward from right-back and played the ball out wide for Amabou Bakayoko, whose cross to the far post was just too far ahead of Doyle but not Afolayan, who prodded in at the far post.

Ollie Palmer headed across the face of goal and behind as Wimbledon looked for an immediate response at the other end, while Bakayoko drilled an effort over the top on the hour.

Bolton had the chance to make it four midway through the half as Antoni Sarcevic played in Afolayan. His cutback picked out Sheehan, only for his goalbound strike to be tipped onto the crossbar by Tzanev.

Wimbledon were handed a lifeline on 74 minutes when Santos' foul on Ayoub Assal gave referee Peter Wright little option but to point to the spot, from which Pressley stepped up to fire past Dixon to make it 3-2.

Then, just moments after play had continued, Mebude advanced down the left-hand side, twisting and turning away from a backtracking Baptiste, before curling his strike into the far corner to bring the scores level and spark wild scenes at Plough Lane.

They could have probably should have made it 4-3 just three minutes later as the visitors struggled to clear their lines inside their own penalty area and Alex Woodyard volleyed agonisingly wide of the target from the edge of the box.

With legs clearly beginning to tire, Evatt made a double change as Lloyd Isgrove and Elias Kachunga replaced Afolayan and Bakayoko on the wings.

However, neither side managed to create any further shooting opportunities and an entertaining game in the capital ended level at 3-3.

Bolton are next in action this coming Tuesday, when they hit the road once again - this time with a trip to Lincoln City.

AFC Wimbledon: Tzanev, Alexander, Heneghan, Nightingale, Guinness-Walker (Lawrence 68), Woodyard, Hartigan, McCormick (Mebude 63), Assal, Rudoni, Palmer (Pressley 64)
Subs Not Used: Oualah, Marsh, Chislett, Kalambayi
Booked: Tzanev, Heneghan, Guinness-Walker, Assal
Goals: Nightingale 20, Pressley 74(pen), Mebude 75

Bolton Wanderers: Dixon, John (Johnston 74), Baptiste, Santos, Jones, Williams, Sheehan, Afolayan (Kachunga 79), Sarcevic, Bakayoko (Isgrove 79), Doyle
Subs Not Used: Gilks, Lee, Brockbank, Thomason
Booked: Sheehan, Jones
Goals: Doyle 23(pen), Sheehan 27, Afolayan 48

Referee: Peter Wright
Attendance: TBC

Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
1 Accrington Stanley 0 0
2 Barnsley 0 0
3 Bolton Wanderers 0 0
4 Bristol Rovers 0 0
5 Burton Albion 0 0
View Full Standings >>


Who is Bolton's 2021/22 Player of the Year?
32.58% Oladapo Afolayan
30.96% Gethin Jones
21.72% Ricardo Almeida Santos
5.51% Declan John
4.05% Kieran Lee
3.08% MJ Williams
1.78% Joel Dixon
0.32% George Johnston