Wimbledon produced an admirable second-half fightback at high-flyers Morecambe this afternoon with a Michael Smith header earning a point.
Smith nodded the equaliser to earn a 1-1 draw that was the least Wimbledon deserved for a much-improved display after an October that had previously yielded only one point before this match.
It was a performance that Wimbledon can certainly take heart from ahead of Tuesday’s away match at Hartlepool United.
Neal Ardley decided to shuffle his pack for the first of two away trips with the most significant change offering Peter Sweeney a return. Sweeney replaced Jack Midson as part of a 4-5-1 formation with Jim Fenlon also restored to the side in place of Callum Kennedy.
Wimbledon made a bright start at the Globe Arena and fine wing play created a half chance for Harry Pell, but he dragged his shot wide at the second attempt. However, Morecambe showed exactly why they are the form team in the division by scoring with their very first attack in the eighth minute. Kevin Ellison, who scored a hat-trick against the Dons in last season’s corresponding fixture, turned out to be the scourge of Wimbledon again. The experienced striker found space behind Wimbledon’s defence and turned inside Fenlon, before unleashing a superb strike that left Dons goalkeeper Ross Worner with no chance.
It was a good response from Wimbledon to that setback though and they came so close to drawing level in the 24th minute with their best move of the match. Lone front-man Michael Smith found George Porter down the right side and his cross was so nearly scrambled home by Luke Moore, but the ball hit a post and Morecambe scrambled it away.
Both sides had to make a change in the 37th minute after a clash of heads in the box between Barry Fuller and Morecambe’s Jack Sampson. Fuller was replaced by Kennedy with Fenlon switching to right-back and Alex Kenyon entering the fray for Morecambe. The game became very scrappy after that long stoppage with few attacking threats from either side during the rest of the first-half. During a total of seven minutes of injury-time, the match exploded into life for all the wrong reasons. Harry Pell made an admittedly late challenge and was cautioned for it, but Stewart Drummond was perhaps fortunate to receive just a yellow from referee Scott Duncan for shoving the Wimbledon midfielder to the ground.
Wimbledon started the second-half in a more positive manner and they were rewarded in the 51st minute with the equaliser. Pell picked out Porter and though the winger’s initial cross was blocked, his second ball to the back post was prefect for Smith to head home emphatically at the back post. Smith’s goal was the sign of a very good striker because he had struggled to make an impact up until that point, but this was his sixth of the season after joining on loan from Charlton Athletic. It was deserved reward too for an excellent Wimbledon support with hundreds making the trip and putting the Morecambe fans in the shade with their vocal backing. It could have got even better shortly afterwards when Porter again fed Smith, but this time he headed wide.
At this stage, it had been an accomplished performance on the road from Wimbledon and with Morecambe looking out of sorts, the outcome perhaps depended on whether the visitors were prepared to go for it or not. Neal Ardley’s decision to introduce Kevin Sainte-Luce for Luke Moore in the 73rd minute indicated that Wimbledon were far from settling for a point. Porter, who produced his best display in a Wimbledon shirt for some time, was perhaps unfortunate not to earn a penalty when he appeared to be fouled in the box, but referee Duncan was not convinced.
With heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning in the closing exchanges, there was little attacking thrust from either side, but it was a Wimbledon performance that offered light at the end of the tunnel after their recent setbacks.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Barry Fuller (Callum Kennedy), Peter Sweeney, Alan Bennett, Sammy Moore, Michael Smith, Luke Moore (Kevin Sainte-Luce), Harry Pell, Jim Fenlon, George Porter, Rhys Weston.