Before the match kicked off, an RAF helicopter landed on the pitch to deliver the match ball and a large poppy to launch the Royal British Legion poppy appeal. Fans from both sides warmly applauded – and, it has to be said, the helicopter was the highlight of an afternoon on which the AFC Wimbledon team sought to halt the flow of goals against them, parking the proverbial bus in Shrewsbury’s shiny 10,000-capacity stadium.
Assistant manager Stuart Cash and first-team coach Simon Bassey led out the Dons, and after the game Cash was able to report to absent boss Terry Brown that AFC Wimbledon had put an end to a run of three costly defeats to claim a point at high-flying Shrewsbury and a much needed, confidence-building clean sheet in the process.
Influential front man Christian Jolley was missing through injury, and with Luke Moore also out of the side, in came Rashid Yussuff on the right and James Mulley on the left to give support to lone striker and leading scorer Jack Midson, as Wimbledon tightened up to a 4–5–1 formation which occasionally switched to 4–1–4–1. Sammy Moore again grafted in midfield and put in crucial tackles in front of the back four throughout the match.
A match devoid of much open play started brightly for both teams. Ricky Wellard had the Dons’ best opportunity in the fourth minute when from the edge of the penalty area on the right he let fly a shot that came off the crossbar and bounced clear before a Wimbledon striker could apply a further touch. Just a minute later, Shrewsbury responded as lively winger Lionel Ainsworth forced a save out of Seb Brown from an attempt on the edge of the penalty area.
One of Shrewsbury’s more lively players, Mark Wright, was clattered in the 13th minute by Brett Johnson and shown a yellow card by referee Stuart Rushton. The crowd may well have thought that this would be the first of many for the Dons, but that proved untrue: the visitors competed strongly but fairly to ensure that Shrewsbury were kept at bay, with little goalmouth action as a result.
Yussuff and Midson worked on trying to find a way past a strong Shrews back line led commandingly by skipper Ian Sharps. At the other end, Ainsworth found a way through the Dons defence on 23 minutes but was halted from close in without getting a shot away.
Having got the first 45 minutes under their belts without conceding, Wimbledon faced an ever sterner test in the second half. On-loan West Ham centre-back Callum McNaughton, who had come under scrutiny for his mistakes at Torquay the Tuesday before, rediscovered some much-needed resolve alongside captain Jamie Stuart and worked hard on man-marking the awkward Marvin Morgan. The former Yeading and Woking forward had been a summer transfer target of the Dons, whose 500-plus travelling supporters felt that he deserved a yellow card much sooner than the 91st minute.
However, it was Shane Cansdell-Sherriff who collected the first of four Shrewsbury yellows for a challenge on Midson on 52 minutes around the halfway line. McNaughton was forced to deal with Morgan’s strike partner Tom Bradshaw on 54 minutes, and despite appeals no penalty was awarded for the challenge.
Morgan did manage to open up the Dons defence just after the hour mark, but when the ball fell to Wright he put it just wide. Wright and Morgan continued to pose threats heading into the last quarter, using their pace to good effect, but the Dons defended resolutely and prevented the home side from creating any clear-cut chances.
With the Dons now coming under increasing pressure, Morgan went down in the area after 76 minutes, but again the decision failed to go Shrewsbury’s way. Giant Jermaine Grandison collected a yellow for a challenge on Moore in the aftermath. Sharps soon followed a minute later for stopping substitute Kieran Djilali in his tracks. From the next attack, a fine through-ball from Djilali almost caught out keeper Chris Neal, who caught the ball while under pressure from Midson and appeared to step back over the line, but his blushes were averted as the home side were awarded a free-kick.
With six minutes left, a Shrewsbury effort on the edge of the box struck Stuart, who collected a yellow while protesting his innocence against claims of handball. The set-piece looked a tricky proposition for the Dons defence, but Brown produced a fine save from the curling ball, flying through the air to meet substitute Matt Richards’ accurate delivery and sending the ball away for a corner. Wimbledon’s determination to take something away from this game held out through the five minutes of added time.