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Crabtree’s Classics: Crewe hit back to deny the Dons in six-goal thriller

Play-off ambitions dented in April 2001

12 July 2020

Stephen Crabtree has this month been looking back at memorable matches from the last three decades and today he selects a home game that effectively ended Wimbledon’s hopes of an instant return to the Premier League.

Take a look below at a summary of this eventful match by Stephen, who is the Editor of the Historical Don. The picture above shows Neal Ardley striking home Wimbledon’s third goal.

Tuesday 24th April 2001: Nationwide Division One

Wimbledon (0) 3 Willmott 2, Cooper 4, Ardley 52

Crewe Alexandra (2) 3 Rivers 34, Hulse 57, Ashton 69

Paying the price for their indifferent form before Christmas, a home draw against Crewe Alexandra effectively ended the Dons’ long pursuit of a play-off place. Forced to sell several star players early in the the season in a desperate attempt to reduce costs, manager Terry Burton’s spring revival had left Wimbledon six points behind sixth placed Birmingham City with just one game in hand. With only three games to go, the dream of an immediate return to the Premier League had surely died.   

Two goals up inside four minutes, the Dons threw away two precious points as an Alex side with only pride to play for fought back to claim a hard-earned draw. The visitors came back from 2-0 and 3-1 down to level, but even then Michael Hughes wasted a wonderful chance to win the game in the dying minutes when he shot wide.

“We’ve had a decent run with only one defeat in 19 games, but this was a disappointing result,” manager Terry Burton admitted. “It was frustrating being 2-0 and then 3-1 up before we conceded those goals. We did not defend as well as we have been doing recently. It is still mathematically possible and we will keep going until someone says it isn’t.” After years of top-flight football, players and fans were reluctantly having to accept the reality of the Dons’ diminished status.

Wimbledon: Davis, Holloway (Gray 85), Williams, Willmott, Kimble, Ainsworth (Hughes 75), Ardley, Roberts, Cooper, Nielsen, Euell.

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