AFC Wimbledon and Doncaster Rovers will have to do it all again in the Emirates FA Cup after a draw today at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
Joe Pigott had given Wimbledon the lead before the break with a headed goal, but Doncaster battled back in the second-half with a goal from Tom Anderson earning a 1-1 draw.
It means a replay at Doncaster for the right to secure a place in the second round of the famous competition.
Glyn Hodges made three changes to his starting line-up from the side that earned that last-gasp draw against Lincoln City. Kwesi Appiah was handed a start after his late equaliser in that game with Marcus Forss ineligible and Shane McLoughlin started in midfield with Anthony Wordsworth ruled out through injury. Luke O’Neill started in defence with Ryan Delaney having injured his ankle last week. It was a youthful substitutes’ bench for Wimbledon with teenagers Jack Madelin, Zach Robinson, and Finlay Macnab all called up.
In difficult conditions due to heavy rain, chances were limited in the first 20 minutes. Doncaster had plenty of possession, but Wimbledon stayed resolute at the back, maintaining a good shape, and that made it difficult for the visitors. Indeed, Paul Osew created the best opening for himself early on when he cut inside from the left and shot just wide with his right foot. Terell Thomas, full of confidence after his recent winner against Portsmouth, tried his luck from 25 yards and it was a decent effort, but the ball flashed wide.
Just before the half hour, Doncaster had the best chance so far and Wimbledon needed Nathan Trott to be at his best. A cross into the box picked out Kwame Thomas in space and he headed powerfully towards goal, but Trott produced a fine reaction save to tip the ball wide. Doncaster had threatened minutes earlier when Jon Taylor got in around the back on Wimbledon’s left side, but his shot from an acute angle was into the side netting.
The Dons had a good spell of pressure before half-time and that eventually led to the opening goal. A nice move involving Shane McLoughlin and Anthony Hartigan ended with the latter hacked down in the box, but the referee only gave a corner. Man-in-the-middle Darren Drysdale did rightfully blow for a foul on Scott Wagstaff shortly afterwards and that gave Mitch Pinnock a decent free-kick chance, but his effort was deflected just wide. However, that was only a temporary reprieve for Doncaster as Wimbledon opened the scoring in the 43rd minute. Luke O’Neill, who had set-up Kwesi Appiah’s winner, was at it again as he sent over another lovely cross that picked out Joe Pigott and he headed home from close-range. In a first-half of few chances, Wimbledon held the lead at the break and it was a real opportunity now to reach the second round of the cup.
Wimbledon started the second-half well by continuing to go forward with McLoughlin showing up well in midfield and helping to establish good possession. Pigott almost had an opportunity to strike his second, but he was just crowded out, and Doncaster maintained a threat on the break. James Coppinger found space on the right and got his shot away, but it was wide of the target. Paul Kalambayi was required to make a vital touch to stop a cross from being tapped in at the back post. However, Wimbledon missed a great chance to double the advantage 10 minutes into the second-half. Anthony Hartigan did very well to get down the left and send over a cross that picked out Terell Thomas, but he headed wide from close-range.
Despite having struggled to create anything of note in the second-half, Doncaster equalised through the most basic of goals from a corner. The flag kick was whipped into the near post and Tom Anderson got there before Nathan Trott to head home in the 63rd minute. It was now a time for Wimbledon to dig in and show a real resolve to stay in the famous competition, as Doncaster sensed they could go on and win it. A good response followed from The Dons as the visitors were prevented from taking a grip on the game.
With 15 minutes remaining, Nathan Trott had to stay alert to keep out a fierce drive by Coppinger, who had been Doncaster’s most dangerous player throughout the game. The Dons had a good opportunity to win it though with 11 minutes left after Mitch Pinnock swung over a lovely ball from the right that found Appiah, but his header was superbly saved by Doncaster keeper Seny Dieng. Glyn Hodges made his second change with 11 minutes left as Nesta Guinness-Walker replaced Paul Osew. Callum Reilly had earlier made his return after injury as a second-half substitute for McLoughlin, who had produced a good midfield display in his first start for months.
Both sides threatened to win it in the latter stages, but Hartigan came closest with a shot that flashed just wide. It was not to be though and the two sides will do battle again for a place in the second round.
AFC Wimbledon: Nathan Trott, Luke O’Neill, Terell Thomas, Scott Wagstaff, Anthony Hartigan, Kwesi Appiah, Mitch Pinnock, Shane McLoughlin (Callum Reilly), Paul Kalambayi, Paul Osew (Nesta Guinness-Walker), Joe Pigott.
Pic credit: Matt Redman.