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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Scunthorpe struggle in bid to maintain playoff push in League One

Late leveller for fortunate Iron at Wimbledon

Scunthorpe skipper Rory McArdle
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Sky Bet League One

AFC Wimbledon 1 Scunthorpe 1
Nightingale 4          Novak 84

The race for the Sky Bet League One playoffs is tight with only two points separating fifth-placed Plymouth from Scunthorpe in ninth but the Iron will need to show massive improvement from this 1-1 draw at AFC Wimbledon to get themselves in the promotion picture.

Scunny, with only one win in their last 14 games, started like a side lacking in confidence and short of ideas. They were lucky to be just the one goal down following a whirlwind Wimbledon start which saw the hosts open the scoring through centre-back Will Nightingale, who converted Harry Forrester's cross having nearly broken the deadlock moments before.

Forrester also smacked the crossbar and Dean Parrett had a goal ruled out in a tight offside call - all of this was inside the opening ten minutes - as Scunthorpe failed to deal with Wimbledon's aggressive, high-tempo start.

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Scunthorpe were losing battles all over the pitch with captain Rory McArdle constantly troubled by balls over the top towards speedy striker Lyle Taylor, formerly of United, and the midfield pair of Neal Bishop and Ryan Yates were bullied by Wimbledon's physicality.

Parrett shot just wide, Liam Trotter blazed over following excellent work from Taylor and shell-shocked Scunthorpe headed for the dressing room in a state. They had recorded no shots on or off target and had only one corner, while Wimbledon also had the edge in terms of possession.

Striker Ivan Toney, although isolated, hardly helped himself with his poor movement and there was little in the way of creativity from the attacking trio behind of Hakeeb Adelakun, Duane Holmes and Josh Morris.

Scunny failed to get a foothold in the match, not helped by the poor distribution of keeper Matt Gilks, and it was slight surprise that boss Nick Daws left the same 11 on the pitch for the first hour in the a 4-2-3-1 formation.

However, the changes he eventually opted for made a difference with substitute Cameron McGeehan showing promise in the number ten position and Bishop beginning to get a grip on midfield before Lee Novak, on for Toney, slid in for a late equaliser after good work from Holmes.

There's no doubt Holmes looked better out wide, having started centrally, and the decision of Daws to move him from the centre to the right and then left paid dividends. 

If anyone was going to win late on it looked more likely to be Scunthorpe, yet two shots on target having spent most of the match chasing the game was a poor effort and better will be needed in their six-pointers to come against Charlton (away) and Plymouth (home).

The opposition

Wimbledon will feel as though this game was theirs for the taking and it could be a costly two points dropped at the end of the season for the relegation-threatened Wombles.

Neal Ardley's men, in a 4-1-4-1 formation, came flying out of the traps and were well on top in the first half.

Defenders Nightingale and Deji Oshilaja are a threat from dead-ball situations. Tom Soares, who sits just in front of the back four, and Liam Trotter are physical in midfield and Taylor's pace as well as his willingness to press opponents can be a nuisance for defenders.

Wimbledon like to hit Taylor early with balls in behind while the technical ability comes from Parrett and Forrester, who switch positions at times.

Forrester has a free role off the left flank with Parrett making runs in support of Taylor, although in the second half both were substituted as Wimbledon attempted to shut up shop.

They got too deep too early in an attempt to hold on and that cost them. Charlton would have to be fancied to win Tuesday's London derby before the Dons' pivotal fixtures against relegation rivals Walsall and Oldham.

I would not be in a rush to take the 5-4 about Wimbledon going down, but it is clearly going to be a close scrap.

AFC Wimbledon 4-1-4-1: Long; Fuller, Nightingale, Oshilaja, Meades; Soares; Kaja (Sam 88), Trotter, Parrett (Abdou 78), Forrester (Barcham 74); Taylor.

Scunthorpe 4-2-3-1: Gilks; Clarke, McArdle, Wallace, Townsend; Bishop, Yates; Adelakun (McGeehan 62), Holmes, Morris (Hopper 90); Toney (Novak 73). 

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Scunny, with one win in 14, started like a side lacking in confidence and short of ideas
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