Charlie Strutton was Wimbledon's FA Cup hero today as his late equaliser handed the Dons a lifeline in the competition.
Substitute Strutton, signed from non league Chalfont St Peter in February claimed his first Wimbledon goal when he struck from 20 yards with a deflected free-kick to earn a 1-1 draw and a replay at the Cherry Red Records Stadium on Tuesday week.
That sent the 285 travelling Dons fans into ecstacy and rewarded an improved second-half display from Neal Ardley's men that earned a place in tomorrow's FA Cup draw.
Dons boss Neal Ardley selected a surprise starting 11 for this FA Cup tie with five changes made from the side which started against Gillingham.
Top scorer Byron Harrison had to settle for a place on the bench with Luke Moore replacing Stacy Long to add support for lone front man Jack Midson. There was also a recall for Warren Cummings at left-back with Curtis Haynes-Brown having returned to Yeovil Town and Jim Fenlon was restored at right-back in place of Curtis Osano. Louis Harris came in for a rare start in a reshuffled midfield with on-loan youngster George Francomb ineligible.
The Dons come under immediate pressure at Bootham Crescent and they needed Yado Mambo to produce last-ditch defending that has been his trademark since he joined on loan from Charlton Athletic. However, the Dons began to play a bit after 10 minutes with Steven Gregory and Rashid Yussuff dictating play in midfield and Christian Jolley offering attacking threat down the right.
But the home faithful thought they were celebrating the opener in the 17th minute when Chris Smith’s chip looked set to beat Seb Brown, but the Dons goalkeeper just got back to pull off a fingertip save. Brown was beaten by a cross from Danny Kearns shortly afterwards though, but the ball bounced off the crossbar. At this stage, the visitors were under siege with all the threat coming down the flanks, in particular from York right-winger Ashley Chambers. It needed another last-gasp intervention from Mambo to stop the hosts when he launched himself at a cross from Kearns to just clear over his own crossbar.
For all York’s pressure, the Dons had the best chance of the half in the 44th minute when Midson latched onto a loose ball and struck a powerful drive from just inside the area that previously untested York goalkeeper Michael Ingham got down well to save.
Neal Ardley made a key tactical change for the second-half with Byron Harrison on as substitute to join Midson in attack with Louis Harris the man to make way for him.
With Wimbledon now committing more men forward, the Dons finally exerted a spell of pressure at the start of the second-half. Midson came close to breaking the deadlock once again when he cut inside smartly and unleashed a shot into the side-netting. Harrison wasted no time in making an impact and he produced a fine run and cross that Midson almost got on the end of. Second-half attacks from the hosts were rare with the Dons now controlling possession, but Jason Walker showed they could be still dangerous when he cut inside and unleashed a curler that was just too high.
But York made no mistake in the 62nd minute as they opened the scoring with a goal that was a catastrophe for the Dons. Seb Brown made a hash of a clearance and after the ball was played to Walker, he got the better of Mambo, before squaring the ball for substitute Jamie Reed to tap into an empty net. The Dons struggled to produce a response to that setback after dominating the play before the goal. However, they did force Ingham into a decent save 20 minutes from time when good work from Yussuff presented Luke Moore with a shooting chance, but his shot was palmed away by the York goalkeeper.
Neal Ardley made a double substitution 17 minutes from time with Curtis Osano replacing Jim Fenlon and Charlie Strutton on for Luke Moore.
And that produced exactly the response the Dons were looking for when Strutton claimed his first Wimbledon goal just seven minutes after entering the fray. His well-struck free-kick from 20 yards may have took a wicked deflection and trickled over the line via a post, but the manner of the goal was of little importance as Wimbledon celebrated an FA cup lifeline. That produced a stirring response from the hosts though and it needed Seb Brown to produce a flying point-blank save to deny Walker.
AFC Wimbledon: Seb Brown, Warren Cummings, Louis Harris (Byron Harrison), Jack Midson, Luke Moore (Charlie Strutton), Christian Jolley, Jim Fenlon (Curtis Osano), Rashid Yussuff, Steven Gregory, Will Antwi, Yado Mambo.