Wimbledon at least went down fighting in their final match of 2013/14 as they threatened to pull off an amazing second-half recovery.
It appeared to be another tame surrender from Wimbledon at the Crown Ground when they fell 3-0 behind at the start of the second-half, but goals from Jack Midson and Kwesi Appiah made Accrington hang on nervously for a 3-2 win in the end.
The fightback at least salvaged pride for the Dons and gave the 392 travelling Dons fans something to shout about.
Neal Ardley decided to shuffle his pack for Wimbledon’s final League 2 match of the season with six changes from the side that started against Morecambe.
It was almost a completely difference defence as captain Alan Bennett and Will Antwi were paired at centre-back instead of Andy Frampton and Darren Jones with Ross Worner restored in goal for Seb Brown. Peter Sweeney, Aaron Morris and Tom Richards were also handed recalls in place of Danny Hylton, Jake Nicholson and Chris Arthur.
The Wimbledon manager had stated weeks ago that his were determined to avoid going to Accrington on the last day needing a result for survival and it was easy to see why after a difficult opening spell. On a threadbare pitch at the Crown Ground, Wimbledon were caught out playing too much football at the back. Bennett’s pass was too short for Antwi and Kayode Odejayi needed no second invitation to power through and beat Worner with a low shot that found the bottom corner.
A repeat of last season’s 4-0 defeat at the same venue became more likely in the 20thminute when Accrington doubled their advantage. Josh Windass swung over a routine cross from a corner and James Gray rose highest to score with a glancing header.
It was a setback that at least stirred a response from Wimbledon and Kwesi Appiah threatened to make a game of it with a header that just flashed wide after good work by George Francomb. Then Sweeney tried his luck from outside the area with a shot that needed Accrington goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli to make his first save. At the other end, Wimbledon were caught out again though when Gray turned smartly and then unleashed a shot that bounced off a post with Worner beaten.
The Dons made a change at half-time with Darren Jones replacing Bennett at the heart of their defence. But it got worse for Wimbledon less than two minutes later when they conceded a poor third goal. Gray was left completely unmarked to head home from another Windass corner and Wimbledon had a mountain to climb now.
Neal Ardley responded with a double change as Danny Hylton and Chris Arthur were introduced for Peter Sweeney and Tom Richards. That meant a switch to 4-3-3 and Wimbledon’s management team were furiously barking out instructions in an effort to inspire a turnaround. A first chance of the second-half followed for Wimbledon with Appiah setting up Hylton, but Bettinelli just managed to get a hand to his effort. Then Hylton appeared to have a decent case for a penalty after a clash with Dean Winnard, but referee Mark Brown was unimpressed.
Wimbledon finally gave their excellent Dons support something to shout about in the 74thminute. It owed everything to the industry of Hylton, who had made a big difference since being introduced, as he burst through and was hauled down by Luke Joyce. Jack Midson stepped up and again showed his prowess from the spot by sending Bettinelli the wrong way to reduce the deficit. Midson was also denied by a fine save from Bettinelli as Accrington were finally put under sustained pressure.
Wimbledon pressed forward in an effort to make it a grandstand finale and they had another goal back in the 89thminute. Appiah managed to get to Hylton’s cross first and the linesman adjudged that the ball had crossed the line. However, the Dons were unable to quite finish the job and on this occasion they had left themselves with too much to do after a season characterised by Wimbledon fightbacks.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Barry Fuller, Peter Sweeney (Danny Hylton), Alan Bennett (Darren Jones), George Francomb, Sammy Moore, Jack Midson, Will Antwi, Aaron Morris, Tom Richards (Chris Arthur), Kwesi Appiah.