Dons' Carling Cup Campaign Falls Flat

Crawley 3 v Wimbledon 2

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Wimbledon twice let a lead slip as their season got off to an early start with Carling Cup defeat against Crawley Town on Friday (29 July).

The rare Preliminary Round game - inserted into the schedules because of Championship side Birmingham City's European qualification - was always likely to have a slightly unreal atmosphere, with both managers saying it was a tie they would have preferred not to play.

The Dons took the lead after 26 minutes after a brilliant run by Luke Moore. The forward carried the ball forward from the halfway line and evaded three Crawley challenges before slotting home past Michel Kuipers from the edge of the 'D'.

With their tails up, the Dons could have gone 2-0 up but Rashid Yussuff pulled his shot narrowly wide.

The lead lasted 12 minutes before the Dons were undone by Dean Howell's lofted ball to the far side of the penalty area. The ball fell to the unmarked Hope Akpan who blasted home past Seb Brown to level the scores.

Brown had to be alert moments after the restart as some poor defending by Jamie Stuart resulted in a Matt Tubbs effort that the goalkeeper did well to turn behind.

The Dons were back in the lead moments after the half-time break. Christian Jolley's persistence was rewarded when Kyle McFadzean slipped and conceded possession, allowing Jolley to put in a hard low cross that was emphatically turned in from close range by debutant Jack Midson.

But two more goals from the home side put them in the lead. First David Hunt's long throw was flicked on to Sergio Torres, who capitalised on more slack marking at the far post to drive the ball home.

And their third came when Hunt's deep cross was only partially cleared by Jamie Stuart and fell to Matt Tubbs who controlled the dropping ball on his chest before firing home.

The Dons replaced pre-match doubt Gareth Gwillim with the more attacking instincts of Chris Bush and brought on Charlie Ademeno to play with three up front.

Ademeno had an excellent chance to score against his old club when an attempted Bush volley came to him at close range but, with Michel Kuipers grounded, the ball frustratingly wouldn't come out from underneath Ademeno's feet and McFadzean was able to clear.

And the Dons appeared to be given another excellent chance to apply the pressure when Ademeno was fouled just outside the box by home keeper Michel Kuipers. But amazingly referee Darren Deadman gave the free-kick against Ademeno, perhaps influenced by the fact that Kuipers had injured himself in the challenge.

With the Dons seeming to tire, the last incident of the game came in injury time when Crawley's Akpan received his second yellow card - both for time wasting - and was given his marching orders.

Afterwards, manager Terry Brown told the club's official website: "To be honest, we can have no complaints about losing to a very proficient Crawley side.

"The positives for us were one or two good individual performances and the fact that we scored two very good goals, with Luke Moore's in particular being the pick of all five."

The Dons make their eagerly awaited League return next Saturday (6 August) with a sold-out home game against Bristol Rovers. The match kicks off at 12:45 pm and will be shown live on Sky.

The team has been given permission to wear a one-off commemorative replica of the kit that they wore in 1977 when they made their first Football League debut against Halifax Town.

Attendance: 3,205

Crawley Town: Kuipers, Howell, McFadzean, Akpan, Torres, Tubbs (Smith 90), Simpson (Wilson 90), Hunt, Bulman, Dempster, Barnett (Akinde 90). Subs not used: Thomas, Shearer, Wassmer, Neilson.

Goalscorers: Akpan 38, Torres 53, Tubbs 64.

Booked: Akpan 42, 90, Dempster 82.

Sent off: Akpan 90.

Wimbledon: Brown, Hatton, Gwillim (Bush 68), Porter, Stuart, Johnson, Yussuff, Wellard (S. Moore 78), Midson, L. Moore, Jolley (Ademeno 73). Subs not used: Turner, Kiernan, Jones.

Goalscorers: L. Moore 26, Midson 46.

Booked: L. Moore 45, Ademeno 84.

Referee: Darren Deadman (Peterborough).

Rob Crane

July 31, 2011