A Luke Moore double was just not enough to plunder all three points for Wimbledon today after a pulsating second-half at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
Wimbledon showed plenty of spirit and fight to earn a 2-2 draw that could prove crucial in the survival stakes, but it was also a case of what might have been with the Dons missing late chances to clinch victory.
Neal Ardley made just two changes from the side that started at Bristol Rovers with Kevin Sainte-Luce replacing the injured Gary Alexander and Mat Mitchel-King preferred to Kelly Youga.
The Wimbledon manager had appealed to the club’s fans to really get behind his side for such a crucial match and they certainly responded to that plea. An attendance of 4,749 was the biggest of the season at the Cherry Red Records Stadium and the Tempest End was perhaps the loudest it had been all season, sparked by a bright start from Wimbledon. Harry Pell drove the Dons forward with a determined run that ended with Kevin Sainte-Luce having a goal-bound shot just blocked.
However, after such a bright start Wimbledon were caught with a sucker-punch when Jamie Cureton found space and produced a fine curler from 10 yards and Dons goalkeeper John Sullivan had to make a flying save. It was an all-action start to this game and Wimbledon twice came close to breaking the deadlock in the 14th minute. Firstly, Sainte-Luce reached a through ball before Exeter goalkeeper Artur Krysiak and Luke Moore set-up a shooting chance for Sammy Moore, who had his shot tipped wide by Krysiak. The Exeter goalkeeper then made an even better save to just turn away Alan Bennett’s header from the subsequent corner. In a frantic first 20 minutes, Sullivan made the best save yet when he dived to his left to deny Arron Davies with a fingertip stop.
Wimbledon opened the game at a ferocious pace though and Luke Moore made Krysiak work again with a decent strike from an acute angle and Sainte-Luce was just unable to get there for the rebound. The Dons undeservedly fell behind in the 37th minute with a goal that was a poor one to concede. Jamie Reid cut inside and unleashed a shot from 20 yards that deceived Sullivan, who seemed to see it late, and the ball nestled in the bottom corner. The Dons did produce a spirited response to that setback and forced a succession of corners as the first-half drew to a close, but they failed to trouble Krysiak again before the half-time whistle.
The second-half opened with Sullivan having to be alert to turn away a stinging drive from Lawson D’Ath. Wimbledon came so close to falling 2-0 behind in the 48th minute. Reid cut through the Wimbledon defence and put Davies clean through and he rounded Sullivan before striking a shot that Pim Balkestein superbly cleared off the line. With Wimbledon having made no impression as an attacking force during the opening stages of the second-half, Neal Ardley made a bold double substitution. Charlie Strutton replaced Mat Mitchel-King with Jesse Darko also entering the fray for Sainte-Luce in the 56th minute. Less than two minutes later, Wimbledon were level when a long throw from Jonathan Meades was only half cleared and Luke Moore’s drive found its way into the bottom corner. Wimbledon were so nearly back in front from their next attack when Midson got on the end of a Hussey cross with a soaring header, but Krysiak produced an excellent save.It seemed as through the momentum was now with Wimbledon, but Reid proved to be a thorn in their side once again in the 61st minute when he tried his luck from an acute angle and the shot found its way into the bottom corner past Sullivan’s despairing dive. Yet again, the Dons bounced back though – and it was that man Luke Moore. The forward struck in emphatic fashion just two minutes later with a superb 25-yard drive that left Krysiak with no chance. Wimbledon’s tails were now up once again and substitute Strutton had a great chance to put his side ahead for the first time when he was clean through, but Krysiak got down well to save. Luke Moore then set-up another fine chance for Strutton with a superb cross, but the forward could not get enough on his header and the ball fizzed wide. It was all Wimbledon now and they came close once again when Balkestein got on the end of Midson’s flick-on, but his close-range effort was just wide.
Exeter continued to be dangerous on the break and Wimbledon needed Sullivan to make a superb fingertip save to deny a Jamie Cureton header. The Dons had a big chance to snatch all three points at the other end when Balkestein got on the end of a corner and the ball fell for Bennett, but he headed over from close-range.
Wimbledon produced a rousing finale and they twice had great chances to win it in the last five minutes, but Bennett and substitute Darko both headed off target from close-range.
AFC Wimbledon: John Sullivan, Mat Mitchel-King (Charlie Strutton), Chris Hussey, Sammy Moore, Alan Bennett, Pim Balkestein, Jonathan Meades, Harry Pell, Jack Midson, Luke Moore, Kevin Sainte-Luce (Jesse Darko).