Wimbledon produced yet another stirring fightback to earn a priceless point against Newport this afternoon.
George Francomb struck his third League 2 goal of the season to earn a 2-2 draw that the Dons were full value for in the end. It had appeared that Wimbledon were heading for defeat in the 47thminute when Newport captain Michael Flynn converted a penalty to make it 2-0 to the visitors, but Kwesi Appiah’s first Dons strike paved the way for a completely different second-half.
Wimbledon made two changes from the side that earned a valuable win at Southend United with Sammy Moore and Jim Fenlon both earning recalls. Fenlon, ironically, came in for his first League 2 start since the win at Newport County AFC on 25 February with Tom Richards missing out due to illness and Sammy Moore replaced Harry Pell.
Justin Edinburgh decided to hand four former Wimbledon players starting roles back at the Cherry Red Records Stadium with Max Porter, Lee Minshull, Ryan Jackson and Christian Jolley all included. It did not take long for Jolley to take centre stage as he found space to get on the end of Andy Sandell’s long cross to the back post, but his header was well saved by Ross Worner.
However, there was no reprieve for Wimbledon in the 15thminute when Newport opened the scoring in fine style. Though the Dons could have done better as they allowed Chris Zebroski to turn onto his left foot, there was no doubting the quality of his finish as he found the top corner with a stunning strike from 20 yards.
Newport had been full value for the lead as they were the better side in the first 20 minutes and Wimbledon struggled to find any attacking rhythm. Aaron Morris decided to take matters into his own hands in an effort to haul his side back into it when he drove forward past several challenges and set-up a shooting chance for Sammy Moore, but he curled over. Apart from that moment of promise, there had been little for the home support to enthuse about in the first-half. Newport had certainly provided stubborn opposition with their centre-back pairing of Darcy Blake and Kevin Feely, who had a loan spell cut short at Wimbledon through injury, both impressing.
But there was no lack of ambition from Newport and it needed a last-ditch block from Andy Frampton to stop Jolley’s goalbound effort. The Dons needed a lift and they so nearly profited from a mistake by Newport goalkeeper Ian McLoughlin when he failed to hold Jake Nicholson’s cross, but he just got back to gather at the second attempt.
Neal Ardley, unsurprisingly, made a tactical change at half-time in an effort to change matters as he switched to a 4-3-3 formation with Chris Arthur replacing Jim Fenlon at left-back and Danny Hylton entering the fray for Nicholson.
However, Wimbledon’s task was made harder barely a minute after the break when Arthur was adjudged by referee Andy Woolmer to have brought down Jolley in the box and Newport captain Michael Flynn made no mistake from the spot. That setback produced a swift response from the Dons though and they earned a goal back less than two minutes later. George Francomb swung in a dangerous free-kick from the right and though Wimbledon appealed for a penalty of their own after a shoving match in the box, Kwesi Appiah played to the whistle and stabbed home his first Dons goal.
It was a completely different game now as Wimbledon threatened a repeat of their memorable fightback against Cheltenham Town. In similar fashion to that second-half, Hylton was everywhere and his prompting worked an opening for Francomb, but his shot was just over the crossbar. Now, it was Newport having to do all the defending against a determined Dons attack and Wimbledon’s second-half pressure paid off in the 69thminute. There appeared to be little danger when Francomb picked up the ball barely inside the Newport half, but he drove forward and then unleashed a powerful drive that took a slight deflection and arrowed into the bottom corner for the equaliser.
Wimbledon came so close to taking the lead for the first time 14 minutes from time. Hylton’s tumble from Barry Fuller’s long throw-in appeared to be a decent shout for a penalty, but the referee was unimpressed and Jack Midson drove the loose ball against the upright.
Though the Dons could not quite finish the job, it was a draw that at least offered encouragement that Wimbledon can finish the season on a high and avoid being dragged back into a relegation battle.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Barry Fuller, Jim Fenlon (Chris Arthur), Sammy Moore, Andy Frampton, Darren Jones, Aaron Morris, Jake Nicholson (Danny Hylton), Kwesi Appiah, Jack Midson, George Francomb (Luke Moore).