A dramatic injury-time winner from Jack Midson sealed a stunning fightback from Wimbledon this afternoon that edged the Dons closer to League 2 safety.
Midson steered home from close range in the sixth minute of added on time to earn a 4-3 win that was exactly what Wimbledon deserved for battling back so well from 2-0 down. A double from substitute Danny Hylton and a debut strike from Jake Nicholson – all scored in three second-half minutes – turned the match on its head and Wimbledon finished the job after the Robins had drew level.
It was a game that had everything and the Dons could take a lot of heart from the manner of this remarkable victory because they appeared to be in desperate trouble early in the second-half. But substitute Hylton provided the spark with a superb double after he had gone nine games without scoring and Midson struck that dramatic winner.
Neal Ardley decided to make four changes to his starting line-up with the strike pairing that ended the match at Burton offered opportunities to make a difference. Midson and Charlie Wyke were restored to the starting line-up with Danny Hylton on the bench and Kevin Sainte-Luce missing out due to a hamstring injury. Tom Richards and Peter Sweeney were also restored to the side in place of Alan Bennett and Harry Pell. With Wimbledon needing to come up with a solution to their lack of goals quickly to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle, it was decided to switch to a 4-4-2 formation.
However, the Dons had to solve a problem they have become so familiar with this season when the fell behind yet again at home. Wimbledon failed to deal with a routine long ball from a Matt Richards free-kick and Troy Brown was left completely unmarked to head low past Ross Worner. Wimbledon struggled to respond to that early setback and they were fortunate not to be two down in the 18th minute. Jermaine McGlashan got behind Tom Richards from a long ball forward, but he dragged his shot wide when clean through.
Wimbledon finally gave their fans something to shout about in the 29th minute with a superb move that almost led to the equaliser. Barry Fuller powered down the right and sent over a cross that Wyke flicked into the path of Sammy Moore, but his shot was just wide of the near post. That at least lifted the home fans after such a difficult start to this match. The Dons had their best chance so far six minutes before the break and it should really have been 1-1. Fuller, who impressed with his runs down the right, swung over another fine cross that picked out Sweeney on the far post, but he lacked conviction and headed wide from close range.
The Dons made a half-time change and it was a significant one too as Nicholson was handed his debut in place of Sweeney. Wimbledon started the second-half with a determination to get back into it and Midson almost conjured up something out of nothing when he turned smartly and fired just wide. However, Wimbledon had a mountain to climb in the 49th minute when Cheltenham earned the cushion of a second – and it was a familiar face that caused all the damage. Former Dons striker Byron Harrison powered down the Wimbledon right with a trademark turn of pace before getting the better of Andy Frampton and delivering a fine pass that McGlashan finished emphatically.
It would have been easy for heads to go down in this situation, but Wimbledon rolled their sleeves up and threatened to get back into it. Fuller’s drive and determination down the right was particularly praiseworthy as he battled against the odds to get his side back into it. Chris Arthur was introduced 10 minutes into the second-half and he made an almost instant impression by delivering a teasing cross that Frampton was just unable to direct towards goal. Another surging run from Arthur nearly found a route back into the match when his deep cross was flicked back by Francomb, but Midson’s effort was straight into the arms of Cheltenham goalkeeper Scott Brown. Wimbledon came closer still when Midson’s glancing header was just wide from Arthur’s cross.
Wimbledon had certainly shown plenty of fight to get back into it and they were rewarded in the 68th minute. Hylton, who had only just entered the fray as a substitute, made a difference straight away when he reacted superbly to steer Midson’s cross into the back of the net. All of a sudden, it was a completely different match as Wimbledon worked up a head of steam against a Cheltenham side now panicking under the onslaught. Less than a minute later it was 2-2 and it was a dream moment for Nicholson. The midfielder’s shot took a deflection to find the bottom corner and the noise around the Cherry Red Records Stadium was simply deafening as the Eco House End celebrated his debut goal. Remarkably, there was even better to come as Wyke’s flick put Hylton clean through and he kept his cool to strike a low finish past Brown. That made it three goals in as many minutes for a Wimbledon side transformed in the second-half.
It had been an unbelievable turnaround from the Dons, but just when they appeared set for all three points, the visitors put a spanner in the works. There appeared to be little danger when Jason Taylor decided to let fly from 20 yards, but the ball took a wicked deflection and bounced over Worner to make it 3-3.
Both sides refused to settle for a draw and Wimbledon came close to snatching it when Midson’s goal-bound shot was blocked after great work by Wyke. However, the last act was still to be staged in a hugely entertaining match and it was that man Midson, so often Wimbledon’s hero during his three seasons at the club, who provided the edge. Fuller’s deep cross picked out Wyke and his flick fell perfectly for Midson to stab home the winner.
The 3,670 spectators that watched this match certainly got value for money, but more importantly the Dons are now getting closer to confirming League 2 football for another season.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Barry Fuller, Tom Richards (Chris Arthur), Sammy Moore, Darren Jones, Andy Frampton, George Francomb, Peter Sweeney (Jake Nicholson), Charlie Wyke, Jack Midson, Michael Collins (Danny Hylton).