A second-half smash-and-grab goal by substitute Emmanuel Osadebe consigned AFC Wimbledon to a 1-0 defeat against Bradford at Plough Lane.

Despite controlling much of the game and creating ample chances, the Dons could not find a breakthrough and slipped to defeat.

They have fallen to 8th in the table, but are only two points behind the automatic promotion spots at this competitive stage of the season.

Osadebe scored with Bradford’s first shot on target, breaking beyond a previously untroubled Wimbledon defence to score. Good chances fell to the Dons afterwards, but Omar Bugiel’s header against the woodwork was the closest they came to an equaliser.

It was a largely cagey game, with defensive resilience rather than attacking brilliance on regular display. Wimbledon controlled the first half and were unruffled at the back, but found fluency in the final third elusive. Bradford were largely comfortable with their own position. It was an empirical case of two sides working equally hard to stop the other.

The first chance, one of few in the first half, fell to James Tilley, who ran beyond the defence as Josh Davison’s flick-on beat it too. Goalkeeper Harry Lewis rushed out and was caught in no-man’s-land, but the winger hurriedly struck his volley at the Bradford number one’s legs.

The half concluded with a bizarre opportunity which involved the winger and Bradford keeper again. Tilley saw Harry Lewis off his line after the latter’s scuffed clearance, and awkwardly hacked a shot on goal from 30 yards, forcing Lewis into a diving recovery save just inside his box.

The defensive showcase continued after the break, with Bradford’s fortifications receiving more consistent scrutiny. It was the left wing that Wimbledon had primarily probed, with Josh Neufville and Jack Currie toiling against the concentrated Bradford right.

On the opposite flank, Tilley was a more effective catalyst. With a surging run from his own half, he set up a great chance for Little by way of a miscued interception. Tilley’s ball to Davison was cleared into Little’s path, but the midfielder slashed his half-volley over the bar from close-range.

Bradford responded immediately with the sucker-punch goal, coming from their first shot on target. Substitute Osadebe displayed real tenacity in anticipating a flick-on, holding off his marker while he burst towards it, and converting the finish past an exasperated Alex Bass.

Wimbledon were unfortunate that the visitors’ first real chance was such a good one and so well taken, and the subsequent moments went against them. The Dons were at their most threatening after the equaliser, but no one could find the goal to bring them back level. Bugiel headed against the post from a corner, then stretched to poke a cross agonisingly beyond the other one. Tilley also had a convincing penalty shout turned down, frustrating the home crowd further.

“Today it’s just one of those days,” said Wimbledon manager Johnnie Jackson.

“Should have a penalty, Omar’s chance– he’s done nothing wrong really with that one at the end, gets his foot on it, it just goes an inch the other side of the post, but the keeper’s beat. You’ve got to take those chances. Armani [Little]’s one he’d expect to score that, but what do you do? You just work harder on the training pitch,” he added.