Mark Robinson hails ‘superb’ Wimbledon response as second-half goals sink Oxford
AFC Wimbledon boss Mark Robinson revealed some frank words at half-time inspired their second-half comeback against high-flying Oxford.
The hosts turned a 1-0 deficit at the break into a 3-1 victory which ended their four-game winless streak in League One and stopped their opponents from going top of the table.
Jordan Thorniley, Matt Taylor and James Henry all spurned decent chances for Oxford before they went in front on the stroke of half-time, Mark Sykes robbing Anthony Hartigan of the ball and slotting past Nik Tzanev.
The Dons had wasted a good chance of their own by that point when the impressive Dapo Mebude fired straight at Jordan Stevens, but they came out all guns blazing for the second half.
Jack Rudoni levelled after 55 minutes when he got on the end of Will Nightingale’s knock-down from Hartigan’s deep free-kick before Nightingale himself headed in a Hartigan corner 12 minutes from time.
And, with Oxford pushing for an equaliser, Rudoni punished them on the counter-attack with a neat finish after Ayoub Assal had set him free.
Robinson said: “We are delighted to have got the win in the way that we did. We were not at our best in the first half, but we had a good chat in the dressing room about needing more.
“The response from the players was superb and we thoroughly deserved that victory. It was an impressive performance against a good side in the second half.
“Jack (Rudoni) showed that he can be a real handful and took his goals very well.
“We showed excellent character to keep pushing until the end to get the win. The belief was there that we could get three points and we are very pleased that the efforts of the players was rewarded.”
Wimbledon dedicated the win to supporter Jack Lonergan, who died at the age of 28 last month.
“The win is a perfect tribute to Jack Lonergan,” added Robinson. “The fans in the ground played a big part and created a really good atmosphere that helped push the players on.
“It has been a few games since our last win and we will enjoy this tonight.”
Oxford were left to rue what might have been as two set-pieces and a counter-attack proved their undoing after they had put themselves in a strong position.
They looked consistently dangerous in attack and could easily have scored more. Cameron Brannagan sent Anthony Forde’s cross inches wide of the far post at 1-1, on top of their first-half chances.
Instead, manager Karl Robinson was left frustrated.
“We have missed chances and that is the top line,” he said. “We have spoken about set-pieces and taking chances and we have made the same mistakes again.
“We dominated most parts of the game, but we did not defend set-pieces properly and that is something we have to look at.
“There are aspects where players have to be better at. It is a bitter pill, it hurts and it is something that we have got to put right.
“We gave away a silly free-kick for their first goal. We know our physical output is a little less as a team right now. We need a bit more height in our back four. We had a chat about this in the dressing room.
“We missed chances at 1-1 and at 2-1 and then we got done by set plays. We can analyse it as much as we want but that is as clear as it gets.
“It is a setback and we have to dust ourselves down now.”