Wimbledon extended their unbeaten run to four matches tonight, but not in the way they would have wanted as they were held to a point by Plymouth.
The 1-1 draw meant that Wimbledon slipped back into the bottom two with the only consolation being that Neal Ardley’s men stopped rock-bottom Plymouth from leapfrogging them in the table.
All the action that mattered came in the first-half with Jason Banton opening the scoring in the 26th minute with Harry Pell redeeming himself for an error in the build-up by striking the equaliser less than 60 seconds later.
A sign of Wimbledon’s recent improvement was that Neal Ardley made just one enforced change to the side that won at Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday. With Jonathan Meades having failed a late fitness test due to an ankle injury, Mat Mitchel-King continued in the right-back slot that he ended Saturday’s match in.
The Dons came into this match in buoyant mood after taking seven points out of nine, but they were almost brought down to earth in just the third minute when Banton got behind Luke Moore on Wimbledon’s right side and forced a decent save from Neil Sullivan. That at least stirred Wimbledon into action after a slow start and the hosts came close when Mitchel-King was first to a Sammy Moore corner and Jack Midson just failed to connect with a flick-on from close range. Wimbledon gradually started to turn the screw as the first-half wore on and they produced their best move of the match when Sammy Moore and Luke Moore combined to send Gary Alexander free down the right and his cross was so close to reaching Brennan Dickenson.
Wimbledon fell behind in the 26th minute though when Plymouth punished Pell for giving the ball away in midfield. Reuben Reid wasted no time finding Banton in space and he turned Chris Hussey, before finishing superbly from an acute angle past Sullivan’s despairing dive. Crucially though, Plymouth were not allowed to gain in confidence after taking the lead as Wimbledon drew level within a minute. Brennan Dickenson broke free down the left and though Midson’s initial shot from the cross was denied by Plymouth goalkeeper Cole, Pell was in the right place to make amends for that earlier mistake by notching his first Wimbledon goal.
In an entertaining first-half that saw both sides attacking with gusto, Wimbledon were fortunate not to fall behind again when Ronan Murray squandered a gilt-edged opportunity from close range. At the other end, Dickenson, who had an impressive first-half, had a good chance to put Wimbledon ahead, but he fired wide from an acute angle. The half-time score of 1-1 was a fair reflection on the balance of play and there was no sign of either side putting defence first in this bottom of the table scrap.
Wimbledon made a half-time change with Jesse Darko replacing Dickenson up front and the substitute came close to opening his account for the club when he turned smartly and fired a shot just over the crossbar. Indeed, it was a promising start to the second-half from the Dons as they started to take control of the match. The hosts came close to snatching the lead on the hour when Pell got on the end of a Sammy Moore corner, but his header was cleared off the line by Anthony Charles.
However, with the Dons struggling to break down a stubborn Plymouth defence, Neal Ardley introduced Kevin Sainte-Luce to the attack in place of Luke Moore with 20 minutes to go. Wimbledon tested Plymouth goalkeeper Cole for the first time a minute later when Sammy Moore let fly from 20 yards, but his effort was tipped over. The visitors were proving to be a tough nut to crack as they battled for every ball and they restricted Wimbledon to few chances in what was a much tighter second-half. Sainte-Luce did inject some much-needed energy and drive into Wimbledon’s performance and he threatened to make a decisive impact again when his goal-bound shot was blocked. Sammy Moore was also denied again by Cole, but it was not to be for Wimbledon on the night.
Having to settle for a point felt like a disappointment with Wimbledon having had such a good run coming into this match, but they at least showed the necessary fight to deny Plymouth and maintain their unbeaten run.
AFC Wimbledon: Neil Sullivan, Mat Mitchel-King, Chris Hussey, Sammy Moore, Alan Bennett, Pim Balkestein, Brennan Dickenson (Jesse Darko), Harry Pell, Gary Alexander, Jack Midson, Luke Moore (Kevin Sainte-Luce).