Dons Resilient But Slip Back Into Drop Zone

Wimbledon 1 v Plymouth 1

A below-par Wimbledon side fell back into the relegation places on Tuesday night (26 February) with a 1-1 draw against fellow strugglers Plymouth Argyle.

It was just ‘one of those days’ for the Dons who – except for the back four – failed to ever really get out of first gear but still did comfortably enough to avoid defeat.

Boss Neal Ardley told BBC London 94.9: ‘I always felt it was going to be a tough game. You have two teams that are fighting for their lives.

‘In the first half they caused us problems but we mastered it in the end. I am satisfied as we worked hard.

‘You are always looking to win your home games but it was important not to lose it. We’ll try and keep the momentum going.’

It’s now just two defeats for the Dons since the turn of the year, despite the fact that they went into this game without a fit right-back available for selection. Mat Mitchel-King filled in and he performed admirably as the back four looked composed throughout.

The Dons carved out a golden-edged opportunity when Gary Alexander was released down the right by the Moores Sammy and Luke, but his cross just failed to find Brennan Dickenson at the far post.

But it was the visitors who took the lead, capitalising on a mistake by Harry Pell in midfield. Reuben Reid seized possession and played a long ball to release Guy Branston, who made no mistake by firing home past Neil Sullivan.

One of the Dons’ traits this season has been fragile confidence, but it was indicative of their renewed vigour in recent weeks that they were level straight from the kick-off.

Dickenson rampaged down the left flank and Midson met his cross with an effort that was blocked by former Wimbledon loanee Jake Cole. However, the ball fell kindly for Pell who made amends for his mistake for the Plymouth goal by converting gleefully for his first goal for the club.

The Dons suffered a blow at half-time as Dickenson had to be withdrawn due to a tight chest, but his replacement Jesse Darko soon came close to putting the Dons ahead when he fired over after a smart turn.

And just before the hour Pell nearly got his second of the evening but he saw his effort following a Sammy Moore corner cleared off the line by Anthony Charles.

Moore himself came close when he saw a firm 20-yard effort tipped over by Cole, but a second goal and three potentially crucial points wasn’t to come.

Nevertheless, a few months ago a Wimbledon display of this determination and application would have been considered a ‘best-of-season’ performance. It is a measure of the improvement over recent months that the Dons fans trooping away from Kingsmeadow did so with a sense of disappointment rather than satisfaction.

This Saturday, the Dons face a tricky trip to promotion-chasing Cheltenham Town – and former players Kaid Mohamed and Byron Harrison – before hosting York City a week later.

Attendance: 4,480

Wimbledon: Sullivan, Bennett, Mitchel-King, Balkestein, Hussey, L. Moore (Sainte-Luce 70), S. Moore, Pell, Midson, Dickenson (Darko 46), Alexander. Subs not used: Jaimez-Ruiz, Cummings, Long, Kiernan, Strutton.

Goalscorer: Pell 28.

Plymouth: Cole, Blanchard, Branston, Charles, Bhasera, Murray, Cox, Hourihane, Banton (Richards 33), Reid, Ugwu (Chadwick 65). Subs not used: Chenoweth, Cowan-Hall, Young, Wotton, Gurrieri.

Goalscorer: Banton 26.

Booked: Richards 85, Cowan-Hall 90.

By Rob Crane

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February 28, 2013