Wimbledon 2 v Exeter 2
Luke Moore scored a brace as Wimbledon twice came from behind to draw 2-2 against Exeter City at Kingsmeadow on Saturday (13 April).
With Exeter seeking a win to boost their play-off hopes and the Dons desperately battling against relegation, it was a frenetic encounter that saw both goalkeepers produce outstanding saves to keep their sides in it.
But it leaves the Dons just three points away from the final relegation spot, with all three of the sides below them having a game in hand.
Goalscorer Moore was started up front alongside Jack Midson because Gary Alexander was unavailable through injury, and the former Ebbsfleet man responded with a bustling display capped by his two strikes.
The Dons started the match by pressing forwards but it was John Sullivan who was the first keeper called into serious action, spectacularly turning away Jamie Cureton’s effort.
It was then the turn of Sullivan’s counterpart, Artur Krysiak, as he twice foiled the Dons in the 14th minute. First, after being beaten to the ball by Kevin Sainte-Luce, he recovered well to tip wide Sammy Moore’s effort. And then from the corner he turned away Alan Bennett’s firm header.
Sullivan was back in action soon afterwards, diving to his left to deny Arron Davies, before Krysiak denied Luke Moore from an acute angle with Sainte-Luce just failing to capitalise on the rebound.
But after their bright start it was again defensive frailties that undid the Dons. Mat Mitchel-King was offered no support from Sammy Moore as Jamie Reid ran at him, with Reid’s eventual shot from outside the area bobbling awkwardly to beat Sullivan into the far corner and make it 1-0 to the visitors.
The second-half was just minutes old when Sullivan was back in action, turning away a drive from Lawson D’Ath, and when the on-loan Charlton goalkeeper was beaten moments later, rounded by Arron Davies, he was relieved to see Pim Balkestein on hand to block Davies’ shot on the line.
With the Dons struggling to get their tempo going following the break, Neal Ardley made an attacking double-substitution, bringing on both Jessie Darko and Charlie Strutton. While Darko was again a frustrating presence with his lack of composure and poor control, Strutton caused the visitors problems with his direct running as the Dons came back into it.
The Dons were level just two minutes after the switch, as Jonathan Meades’ throw-in was only half cleared following a goalmouth scramble and it fell to Luke Moore on the edge of the box, whose drive managed to find its way through and into the back of the net.
And it nearly got even better for the Dons as Midson got on the end of an excellent Chris Hussey cross only to see Krysiak again at his best to keep out the header.
But those Wimbledon defensive frailties were exposed again as Exeter restored their lead just after the hour, Hussey being caught in indecisive mode and allowing Reid time to shoot across Sullivan for his second goal of the game.
Exeter’s lead was short-lived as just moments later Luke Moore was on the scoresheet again, again firing home from outside the box to leave Krysiak frustrated and make it 2-2.
The Dons had an excellent chance to take the lead when Strutton broke clear but Krysiak was out well to block his shot, and Strutton saw another effort from a Luke Moore cross go just wide as the Dons pressed forwards.
There was still more action to come as Balkestein shot just wide after digging the ball out from under his feet, while Sullivan was also alert to deny a Jamie Cureton header as Exeter sought to capitalise on the breakaway.
With time running out and the Dons still seeking three points, they spurned good opportunities with Alan Bennett twice heading over and Darko also being off target.
This was a rousing performance for the Dons who will nevertheless be disappointed that they failed to capture all three points, with relegation rivals Aldershot and Plymouth both losing and the Torquay v Barnet match rained off.
Afterwards, Dons boss Ardley told the club’s official website: ‘It was a great game for the neutral but not for me as I will probably have a few grey hairs in the morning after that.
‘I cannot fault the lads, though, as they looked like a team absolutely fighting for everything and that is all you can ask for at the moment.’
The Dons now have just two games remaining to secure their Football League place, at title-chasing Gillingham next Saturday (20 April) before a final home game against Fleetwood Town the following week (27 April).
Wimbledon: Sullivan, Mitchel-King (Darko 56), Balkestein, Bennett, Hussey, L. Moore, Pell, Meades, Sainte-Luce (Strutton 56), S. Moore, Midson. Subs not used: Jaimez-Ruiz, Antwi, Youga, Long, Yussuff.
Goalscorer: L. Moore 58, 63.
Exeter City: Krysiak, Tully, Woodman, Baldwin, Coles, D’Ath (Gow 80), Doherty, Davies, O’Flynn (Bennett 46), Cureton, Reid. Subs not used: Evans, Dawson, Molesley, Moore-Taylor, Chamberlain.
Goalscorer: Reid 36, 61.
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April 20, 2013