A second-half double from striker Tommy Wood maintained AFC Wimbledon's unbeaten run in the Central League Cup.
Wood netted a headed double, with a dramatic glancing effort in time added on, to secure a 2-2 draw for our Under-23 development squad against Southend United.
In a game played at Aveley FC, Alan Reeves’s squad maintained top spot in the group and there was a boost for Wally Downes with on-loan left-back Tyler Garratt stepping up his match fitness after injury by completing 90 minutes.
After an energetic start on the 4G surface, Ossama Ashley supplied a through ball for Kane Crichlow to chase down, forcing goalkeeper Nathan Bishop to concede an early corner. At the other end, Isaac Hutchinson fired a low shot just wide of Nik Tzanev's post. In response, Wimbledon put together a fine move that ended with a shot by Garratt and appeals for a handball in the area, but the referee was unimpressed. Crichlow’s corner delivery was also only just dealt with by the Southend defence.
Midway through the first-half, Eren Kinali forced a fine save from Tzanev. At the other end, Crichlow turned provider for Tommy Wood, who again forced Bishop into action at close range. Kevin Maher's side broke the deadlock though 11 minutes before the break when Norman Wabo battled his way into the box and the ball fell for Hutchinson to slot home.
With six minutes to go of the first-half, Garratt’s cross picked out Wood's head, but he headed over Bishop's crossbar. With half-time looming, Kinali forced a low save out of Tzanev. However, there was no reprieve for Wimbledon on the stroke of half-time after Kinali was tripped in the area. Though Tzanev did very well to keep out the subsequent spot-kick from Harry Phillips, Hutchinson made no mistake with the rebound.
The Dons made a change up front on the hour mark with Bobby Mills, who has scored 14 goals for the Academy so far this season, replacing the tricky Crichlow. Shortly afterwards, Wood fed the ball tantalisingly into the area, but captain Paul Kalambayi was just unable to capitalise on it.
It was game on with 68 minutes on the clock, as AFC Wimbledon halved the deficit. Ossama Ashley's cross from the left of the box picked out Wood, who headed home emphatically. Wimbledon continued to fight for an equaliser and Kalambayi's header forced Bishop to tip the ball away for a corner. Wimbledon continued to push for the second with an extra striker introduced, as Donte Lodge Francis replaced Kosta Sparta with 10 minutes remaining.
James O'Halloran was forced off due to injury with five minutes remaining, Under-18s defender Archie Procter taking his place. It needed a superb save from Tzanev to keep the game alive and that proved decisive when Wimbledon secured a last-gasp equaliser. Defeat would have been harsh on the Dons and a point was deservedly gained when the hard-working Kyron Stabana delivered a fine cross from the right and Wood’s glancing header found the back of the net.
AFC Wimbledon: Nik Tzanev, Kyron Stabana, Tyler Garratt, Ossama Ashley, Paul Kalambayi, Osaze Urhoghide, Kosta Sparta (Donte Lodge Francis), Alfie Egan, Tommy Wood, Kane Crichlow (Bobby Mills) James O'Halloran (Archie Procter).