A stirring second-half fightback from Wimbledon earned another crack at Bury in the FA Cup after Neal Ardley’s men had appeared to be heading out of the competition.
A 2-0 half-time deficit was cancelled out with superb goals from Lyle Taylor and substitute Tom Elliott earning a replay at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
It rewarded the 249 Wimbledon supporters who made the trip as they watched their team show plenty of fight to stay in the competition.
With a busy start to November in terms of fixtures, Neal Ardley had spoken in the build-up about rotating his squad and he decided to tweak his line-up with three changes made. Chris Robertson, Tyrone Barnett and Tom Beere were all recalled with Will Nightingale, Tom Elliott and Dannie Bulman having to settle for places on the bench.
Bury came out of the blocks quickly, certainly not looking like a side devoid of confidence after seven defeats on the trot. James Shea had to stay alert as he reacted well to palm away a powerful drive from Hallam Hope. The Dons did look threatening on the break and almost immediately had a great chance to open the scoring. Good work on the right from Lyle Taylor resulted in a shooting chance close in for Barnett, but his goal-bound effort was blocked.
The hosts had made a very bright start with Hope leading the charge and he drove just wide of the target, before Jacob Mellis forced Shea into yet another save. Wimbledon had been second best in the first 20 minutes, but there was a chance to open the scoring when a defensive mix-up allowed in Beere, but his well struck shot just missed the far post. However, Bury’s early pressure paid off in the 26th minute when slack defending through the middle allowed in Hope and this time he finished clinically with a delicate lob over Shea.
Far from producing an instant response, Wimbledon fell 2-0 behind less than two minutes later. James Vaughan picked out Hope in behind and he notched his second in style with a clinical angled drive. It had been a crazy two-minute spell for Wimbledon with Neal Ardley’s men paying the ultimate price and it was worrying that the Dons had struggled to gain a decent spell of possession in the first-half. Sloppy in defence and showing a lack of fluency in attack, it was a first-half that was well below the standards Wimbledon had set in the last 10 games.
Wimbledon started the second-half with much more conviction as Bury were pushed back towards their own goal for a sustained spell. However, with Wimbledon having failed to test Bury goalkeeper Ben Williams, Neal Ardley decided to introduce Tom Elliott in the 54th minute with Barnett the man to make way. More urgency was required if Wimbledon were to stay in the FA Cup and Lyle Taylor answered the call in emphatic fashion. Picking up the ball close to the left touchline, Taylor powered forward, before cutting inside and unleashing a brilliant strike that arrowed into the top corner, leaving Williams with no chance.
The goal back for Wimbledon in the 61st minute changed everything as anxiety crept in among the ranks of a home side haunted by seven successive defeats. Neal Ardley attempted to capitalise by making a double change with Dean Parrett and Chris Whelpdale introduced for Tom Beere and George Francomb. Both made notable contributions after entering the fray, firstly Whelpdale having a shot superbly saved by Williams. However, it was only a temporary reprieve for Bury as that man Elliott punished his old club. An excellent delivery from the right by Parrett found Elliott and he gave it the finish it deserved with a thumping header into the top corner.
It had been a classic tale of two halves with Wimbledon having dominated the second-half and now it was Neal Ardley’s men threatening to earn a place in the second round. Barcham just failed to get on the end of a through ball as Wimbledon pressed on for a winner. However, the equalising goal galvanised Bury with Wimbledon forced into desperate defending. Hope powered forward and threatened to net his hat-trick, but Shea saved brilliantly and Wimbledon just managed to scramble the ball to safety with good defending from Chris Robertson.
Both sides went for the winner with Elliott having a header saved after good work by Whelpdale, but the Dons had to soak up pressure to stay in it and the two teams will now have to do it all over again for a place in the second round.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Jon Meades, Paul Robinson, George Francomb (Chris Whelpdale), Jake Reeves, Tom Beere (Dean Parrett), Andy Barcham, Tyrone Barnett (Tom Elliott), Lyle Taylor, Chris Robertson.