Wimbledon produced another spirited display on the road this afternoon as they defied promotion contenders Fleetwood with a resilient performance at Highbury Stadium.
The Dons earned a 0-0 draw that could even have been better as they shaded the second-half and Charlie Sheringham fired over the crossbar late on as the visitors pressed for a winner. However, the draw capped a fine recovery from Wimbledon after defeat against Bury last Saturday as they made it four points from their last two away games after the midweek win against Newport.
Wimbledon made three changes from the side that started at Newport with one of those enforced as captain Alan Bennett missed out due to injury and his place was taken by Aaron Morris. Barry Fuller was therefore handed the captain’s armband. Charlie Sheringham was rewarded for his goal at Newport with a first start since 28 January against Hartlepool with Jack Midson the man to make way and Fulham full-back Tom Richards came straight in for his debut in place of Jim Fenlon.
Playing in the bright sunshine at the Highbury Stadium, Wimbledon’s start was full of promise. Though Ross Worner had a routine save to make from Mikhael Mandron, the Dons enjoyed plenty of early possession. With Darren Jones, Will Antwi and Morris forming the backbone of a 3-5-2 formation, Wimbledon had plenty of the ball and Danny Hylton so nearly created a great chance, but his strike partner Sheringham was just unable to reach his cross. Then Hylton got on the end of a Sammy Moore free-kick, but he directed a header straight at Fleetwood goalkeeper Chris Maxwell. At the other end, Fleetwood fired a warning shot when they broke quickly and Worner was required to hold a drive from Antoni Sarcevic.
As the midway point of the first-half approached, Fleetwood were very much playing like a side low on confidence after their 4-0 defeat against Plymouth and appeared to be in the mood to capitalise on that. Fine approach play from Michael Collins presented a shooting chance for Luke Moore, but his shot was too close to Maxwell.
There was a setback for Wimbledon in the 32nd minute when Morris was forced off due to injury and that meant the Dons had to reorganise to a 4-4-2 with Harry Pell entering the fray. Pell was involved instantly when he headed on Sammy Moore’s corner for Hylton, but he headed straight into the hands of Maxwell. Pell started with a real determination to show what he could so after being left out of the side recently and he attempted to drive at the Fleetwood defence at every opportunity. The hosts suffered a setback of their own before half-time when their new loan signing Bobby Grant had to be carried off and he was replaced by Josh Morris.
The Dons could be satisfied with their first-half efforts as they restricted one of the promotion-contenders to very little, but one sensed a victory was there for the taking for Wimbledon if they could attack with more conviction in the second-half.
However, there was nothing to enthuse about from either side in an attacking sense during the first 15 minutes of the second-half. Charlie Wyke had an opportunity to change that on the hour when he was thrown on up front in place of Hylton, who came off holding his elbow after a clash in the box. Wimbledon had barely been troubled by Fleetwood up until this point with the Dons coping admirably at the back and young full-back Richards having a very composed debut on the left flank. Wimbledon threatened to make the breakthrough down the left when Collins, who started to dictate matters in the second-half, found Luke Moore in space and he curled a fine effort just wide.
The Dons looked more likely to win it in the final stages and Sheringham had a good chance to win it 15 minutes from time. After starting the move himself and linking-up superbly with Luke Moore, Sheringham had a clear shooting chance, albeit from an acute angle, but he fired over the crossbar.
Neal Ardley sent on Kevin Sainte-Luce with the aim of repeating his memorable impact at Newport and it wasn’t long before he was in the thick of the action. The flying winger beat several men before laying-off to Pell and his teasing cross was well met by Collins, but he headed straight into the arms of Maxwell.
Despite being unable to grab a winner, it was a fine point on their travels for Wimbledon and that’s now eight matches without defeat against Fleetwood. Will Antwi, in particular, summed up Wimbledon's resilience with a commanding performance at the back, but it was a fine all-round performance on the day from the visitors.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Barry Fuller, Sammy Moore, Danny Hylton (Charlie Wyke), Luke Moore, Will Antwi, Charlie Sheringham (Kevin Sainte-Luce), Aaron Morris (Harry Pell), Darren Jones, Michael Collins, Tom Richards.