Dons Face Final Relegation Showdown

Gillingham 2 v Wimbledon 2

Wimbledon have a ‘must win’ final day of the season if they are to survive as a Football League side, despite a creditable 2-2 draw at champions Gillingham on Saturday (20 April).

Typically of the Dons’ luck this season, while Neal Ardley’s men were gaining their point, the majority of the other contenders at the bottom – Aldershot, Barnet, Accrington Stanley, Torquay and York – were all winning, leaving the Dons back in the drop zone.

So now the Dons know that they must win their final game of the season – at home against Fleetwood Town next Saturday (27 April) – if they are to survive, with a three-point haul guaranteed to take them above at least Dagenham & Redbridge or York City, who play each other in east London.

Anything less than a win would, with the Dons’ poor goal difference, see the club drop back into Conference football after just two seasons in the Football League.

After this Gillingham draw, Ardley told the club’s website: ‘To come back from 2-0 down at the home of the champions is a fantastic achievement. That point could be crucial for us because it is still in our own hands now for the last game of the season.’

But the Gillingham game started badly for the Dons who were 2-0 down inside the opening 25 minutes. Cheered on by a capacity crowd, the home side took the lead in the 12th minute as Deon Burton seized on Pim Balkestein’s weak header to blast home.

And it was 2-0 when ex-Don Danny Kedwell headed home Chris Whelpdale’s left-wing cross to put the Dons in serious trouble.

But Wimbledon rallied after the break and started to come into it, with Luke Moore and Chris Hussey off target with the Dons’ first meaningful attempts of the game, before the recalled Jason Prior took too long and saw an opportunity go begging.

As the Dons pushed forward, the home side were able to exploit space at the other end and Myles Weston shot against the bar as Gillingham attempted to make it 3-0.

The introduction of Charlie Strutton again proved pivotal for the Dons as his relentless chasing earned a corner from which Balkestein headed straight at Gills keeper Stuart Nelson.

The Dons got back into it after 65 minutes when Jonathan Meades crossed and Strutton laid the ball off for Jack Midson to score and make it 2-1.

And with eight minutes left the Dons were back on level terms as Midson turned creator, breaking down the left and crossing for Meades who stabbed home to tie the scores.

Wimbledon continued to pile forward with the home side attempting to hang on to the point that would get them the championship, but they nearly lost it when substitute Gary Alexander struck a superb shot that hit the post and bounced away.

Dons fans will be hoping that next week the team pick up where they left off in front of what is sure to be a sell-out Kingsmeadow crowd as they seek to avoid relegation after two seasons back in the Football League.

Attendance: 11,172

Gillingham: Nelson, Fish, Legge, Barrett, Frampton, Gregory, Whelpdale (Weston 46), Allen, Lee, Kedwell, Burton (Birchall 77). Subs not used: Forecast, East, Davies, Dack, Muggleton.

Goalscorers: Burton 12, Kedwell 23.

Booked: Whelpdale 25.

Wimbledon: Sullivan, Mitchel-King (Osano 60), Balkestein, Bennett, Hussey, L. Moore, Pell, Meades, S. Moore (Alexander 79), Prior (Strutton 60), Midson. Subs not used: Jaimez-Ruiz, Long, Sainte-Luce, Antwi.

Goalscorers: Midson 65, Meades 82.

Booked: Osano 88.

League Two – bottom






Torquay United




Plymouth Argyle




York City




Dagenham & Redbridge












Aldershot Town



                           Final-day fixtures

Dagenham & Redbridge    v     York City

Northampton Town     v     Barnet

Rochdale     v     Plymouth Argyle

Rotherham United     v     Aldershot Town

Torquay United     v     Bristol Rovers

Wimbledon     v     Fleetwood Town

By Rob Crane

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April 20, 2013