Byron Harrison maintained his recent hot streak to rescue a point for the Dons and provide Neal Ardley with his first point as AFC Wimbledon manager.
It was the fourth successive match in which Byron had scored and his seventh goal of the season secured a 1-1 draw that was the least Wimbledon deserved on the day.
While it was not quite the triumphant return to the scene of our play-off semi-final first leg win in May 2011, it could be another pivotal moment for the club if Neal Ardley can build on this performance.
The signs were certainly encouraging as the Dons showed character to battle back and played a brand of football that was very pleasing on the eye.
Wimbledon made three changes from the side that started against Cheltenham with the most notable being the return of Curtis Osano, who made his first competitive start for the Dons.
Stacy Long and Sammy Moore also returned to the midfield engine room with Luke Moore, Rashid Yussuff and Louis Harris all having to settle for a place on the bench.
The visitors made a bright start and they could have been in front in just the fourth minute when Steven Gregory sent over a teasing cross from the left that Byron Harrison perhaps should have done better with, but he headed wide from close range. George Francomb, who was pushed forward into an attacking right midfield role, figured prominently in the opening exchanges and he tested Scott Davies with a powerful 20-yard drive that the Fleetwood goalkeeper did well to beat away.
However, such a promising opening spell from the Dons counted for nothing in the 10th minute when the Cod Army took the lead with their very first attack. Wimbledon were caught out on their right side with a pass from David Ball finding Steven Gillespie, who cut inside and found the far corner with a shot that Seb Brown got a hand to, but could not keep out. The Dons produced a spirited response though and yet again Francomb got down the right side and delivered a cross that Harrison headed wide with a glancing header.
There was a big blow for Wimbledon in the 20th minute though when Sammy Moore had to go off injured and he was replaced by Rashid Yussuff. Neal Ardley’s men continued to boss the midfield and therefore the lion’s share of possession with Fleetwood retreating further into their defensive shells. If there was a criticism of Wimbledon’s encouraging performance in the first half hour, it was that they failed to create much for our forward pair of Jack Midson and Byron Harrison.
Fleetwood comfortably dealt with the Wimbledon threat for the rest of the first-half, but Will Antwi did have a chance on the stroke of half-time from a Francomb corner, but he headed over the crossbar.
The second-half started in a similar manner to the way the first 45 minutes had ended with Wimbledon dominating possession and their best move of the match resulted in a chance that Jack Midson would often do better with. A long ball from Yado Mambo picked out Midson and after a clever one-two with Stacy Long, our number 10 dragged his shot wide of the target. Midson did have the ball in the back of the net shortly afterwards when he tapped home after Harrison’s initial shot was saved by Davies, but he was ruled out for offside. The Dons were rewarded for their pressure in the 61st minute when Harrison added to his account this season. After winning the free-kick himself, Harrison headed home smartly after an excellent free-kick from Rashid Yussuff. In truth, it was the least that Wimbledon deserved as they had dominated for long spells, the question now was whether they could build on it and secure a much-needed three points. Yussuff was certainly doing his bit to make that happen as he offered a powerful presence in midfield, dictating the play from the centre of the park and offering a useful outlet with his dribbling skills.
Neal Ardley made a substitution 16 minutes from time with Curtis Haynes Brown coming on for his first Dons appearance since the defeat to Rochdale as he replaced Jim Fenlon. With the Dons were pushing for a win, they were almost caught with another sucker-punch 12 minutes from time when it needed Yado Mambo to produce an impressive last-ditch challenge to deny Gillesepie his second of the match.
The Dons came so close to snatching all three points in the 90th minute when Francomb's free-kick was charged down and his follow-up effort was cleared off the line. Harrison also curled wide of the far post with a well curled effort as the Dons had to settle for a creditable point.
Seb Brown, Curtis Osano, Stacy Long, Sammy Moore (Rashid Yussuff), Byron Harrison, Jack Midson, Jim Fenlon (Curtis Haynes Brown), George Francomb, Steven Gregory, Will Antwi, Yado Mambo.