Fleetwood 2 v Wimbledon 2
Wimbledon had victory snatched from their grasp as they conceded an injury-time equaliser against Fleetwood Town on Saturday (26 November), drawing 2-2 against their fellow play-off chasers.
This was always going to be a tricky encounter against a Fleetwood team that, going into this match, was below the Dons on goal difference, but the result nevertheless stretches the Dons’ impressive run to just two defeats in 17 league matches.
But boss Neal Ardley was concerned that both goals that Wimbledon let in were identikit headers from Fleetwood attacking corners.
‘We have to learn from it,’ he told the club’s website, ‘but we are never going to be mistake free all the way through.
‘The boys over the course of the last few weeks have put an incredible amount into it. There are some really tired bodies.
‘Although we are disappointed to lose two points, I think that a draw was probably what we deserved from it.’
Fleetwood started this match on the front foot, seeking to capitalise on a makeshift Dons back four that was deprived full-backs Barry Fuller and Jon Meades through suspension.
But it was a more direct route that gave them the lead after 12 minutes as the towering Cian Bolger got ahead of his marker Paul Robinson to thump home a header from a corner.
And they nearly doubled their advantage in the 21st minute when Bobby Grant unleashed a spectacular 30-yard effort that had James Shea beaten all-ends up but cannoned back off the post and away.
Wimbledon were struggling to get going, looking lethargic after a sequence of matches in quick succession, and it wasn’t until shortly before the interval that they fashioned their first serious opportunity, Dom Poleon bursting clear but symbolising the fatigue by shooting straight at Fleetwood keeper Alex Cairns.
And Fleetwood nearly capitalised before the break, as first Shea had to display quick feet to adjust and turn away a deflected Grant shot that seemed destined for the back of the net, then Ashley Hunter blazed over from close range following another corner.
Wimbledon made a double switch at the break, with Sean Kelly replacing youngster Seth Owens at left-back and Tom Elliott coming on to replace the again-disappointing Tyrone Barnett, and Elliott was soon in the thick of the action.
The big striker needed no time to make an impact, as the second half was just a couple of minutes old when he rose to head home a Dean Parrett corner, with Poleon on hand to make sure that the ball nestled in the back of the net.
And soon afterwards Elliott nearly got a second, meeting a Poleon cross first time to force a good save from Cairns.
To emphasise that this was now a match in the balance, the Dons had to be alert to avoid falling behind again, in particular when Kelly scampered back to clear off the line after Kyle Dempsey rounded Shea.
The Dons finally got their chance with quarter of an hour remaining when Elliott and Joe Davis grappled, seemingly just outside the box. As Elliott tumbled, referee Lee Swabey pointed to the spot and up stepped Parrett to convert emphatically and make it 2-1 to the Dons.
It could have been more as first Chris Whelpdale and then Poleon, with a trademark surge, squandered chances.
And the Dons were made to pay into injury time when another Fleetwood corner was met by another powerful Fleetwood header, this time Conor McLaughlin getting ahead of Elliott to head home emphatically and secure a point that, in truth, his side deserved.
Wimbledon next travel to Curzon Ashton, hoping to avoid a second-round FA Cup upset on Sunday 4 December, before it’s back to league action with a trip to Milton Keynes on Saturday 10 December, with a 1pm kick-off.
Wimbledon: Shea, Francomb, Robinson, Robertson, Owens (Kelly 45), Bulman, Reeves, Parrett (Beere 87), Whelpdale, Barnett (Elliott 45), Poleon. Subs not used: Nightingale, Kaja, McDonnell, Egan.
Goalscorers: Elliott 47, Parrett 75 (pen).
Booked: Poleon 31.
Fleetwood: Cairns, Bolger, Pond, Davis (Nirennold 76), McLaughlin, Dempsey, Glendon (Sowerby 83), Grant, Bell, Hunter (Cole 71), Ball. Subs not used: Neal, Jonsson, Long, Ekpolo.
Goalscorers: Bolger 12, McLaughlin 92.
Booked: Davis 75.
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November 28, 2016