Wimbledon suffered late heartbreak today with Reuben Reid’s 88th minute equaliser denying the Dons a first victory since 16 November.
It looked like Wimbledon had ended five matches without a win thanks to a flying header from Michael Smith, but they were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw after failing to withstand a late rally from the in-form visitors.
That was cruel on Wimbledon as they played well for long spells in front of a crowd of 4,763, the biggest gate at the Cherry Red Records Stadium this season.
Neal Ardley decided to make just one change from the side that started against Southend United with captain Alan Bennett thrust straight back in after injury and George Francomb stepping down to the bench.
That meant a change to a 5-3-2 system with Jim Fenlon and Callum Kennedy asked to push on as wing-backs when Wimbledon were attacking. It may have been a change of system, but the Dons took little time to adjust and they came close to making a second minute breakthrough after a flowing move down the left. Kennedy swung over a dangerous cross that Bennett headed across goal and Charlie Sheringham was just too high with his header.
However, it didn’t take long for Plymouth to show just how they earned a 3-2 win at Oxford on Saturday with Caolan Lavery, in particular, proving to be a handful. Lavery headed just over the crossbar from a corner and then he almost broke through Wimbledon’s defence with a fine run. Wimbledon goalkeeper Ross Worner then had to watch a swerving long-range drive from Lewis Alessandra all the way.
In an end-to-end first quarter to this match, Wimbledon fashioned the best chance so far when Sheringham’s defence-splitting pass put Michael Smith clean through, but he delayed his shot too long and Plymouth goalkeeper Luke McCormick got down well to save. With Kennedy’s impressive crossing ability on show for much of this first-half, McCormick certainly had to be alert and he got down well to save Sheringham’s header after another fine ball from the left-back. Backed by 817 travelling Plymouth supporters, the visitors were always a threat on the break and it needed Barry Fuller to make a trademark last-ditch tackle to stop Lavery getting through. Worner also had to get down well to deny Alessandra again.
It had been an encouraging first-half from Wimbledon, but still their search for a goal – the Dons had not scored since Smith’s header against Dagenham on 26 November – went on.
However, it took less than two minutes into the second-half for Wimbledon to end that drought – and it was that man Smith yet again. Unsurprisingly, it was the excellent Kennedy who set it up with a superb cross from the left and Smith headed home emphatically. There was relief just a minute later for Wimbledon though when Plymouth squandered their best chance so far. Reuben Reid’s cross picked an unmarked Alessandra in the box, but he blazed over from just six yards out.
With Plymouth now committing more bodies forward in search of an equaliser, Wimbledon were put under a spell of sustained pressure and Reid’s header from a corner was only just deflected wide. Wimbledon were forced into a change midway through the second-half when Fuller came off injured and that meant a return for Will Antwi, who had not featured for the first-team since Barnet on 1 April. Neal Ardley decided to also make a change up front with Jack Midson replacing Sheringham. Midson almost had an instant opportunity to make an impression, but he just failed to reach Luke Moore’s low free-kick before McCormick could gather the ball.
That was a rare chance for Wimbledon since the goal though and it was backs to the wall during the latter stages. The hosts were relieved when Plymouth captain Conor Hourihane swung in a teasing free-kick from the left that missed everyone in the box when any touch would almost certainly have conjured up the equaliser. Then Worner had to be at his best to palm away a stinging drive from Reid.
However, there was a sting in the tail for Wimbledon when Reid got on the end of Ben Purrington’s searching cross and powered home emphatically to earn a share of the spoils for Plymouth.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Jim Fenlon, Callum Kennedy, Alan Bennett, Andy Frampton, Barry Fuller (Will Antwi), Sammy Moore, Charlie Sheringham (Jack Midson), Michael Smith, Peter Sweeney, Luke Moore (George Francomb).