Joe Pigott gave The Dons the lead, but hopes of a glamour FA Cup third round tie in the New Year at Plough Lane were extinguished as visitors Crawley turned the match around.
Top scorer Pigott headed Wimbledon in front in the first half, only for Ashley Nadesan to level shortly after and Max Watters to strike what would be a decisive blow early in the second half, as the League Two club went on to win 2-1.
Glyn Hodges made six changes to the line-up that started at Barrow in the previous round on Thursday night. Connal Trueman returned in goal, Ben Heneghan slotted back into central defence, while Shane McLoughlin and Steve Seddon were restored as wing backs. Callum Reilly returned to his central midfield role, with Joe Pigott wearing the captain’s arm band up front alongside former Crawley front man Ollie Palmer.
Dannie Bulman, part of our successful promotion play-off winning side at Wembley in 2016, started for the visitors, but George Francomb could only look on from the stand as he was sidelined due to injury.
Palmer was keen to open the scoring after just seven minutes, but in getting to the ball he was adjudged to have climbed over the back of Jordan Tunnicliffe in a low-key start to the game. Crawley’s first real attempt on goal came just after the quarter of the hour mark, but Wimbledon managed to clear a low shot from Jack Powell.
Anthony Hartigan, playing his fourth game in just over a week, tested Glenn Morris in the Crawley goal as he was forced to punch clear a free kick from outside the area in the 19th minute. Three minutes later, Wimbledon’s early pressure gained the advantage when an accurate cross by Ethan Chislett was met by a bullet header from Pigott for his seventh goal of the season.
However, it wasn’t a lead Wimbledon were able to hold on to for long though. Ashley Nadesan got the better of a static Dons defence and beat Connal Trueman to level the scores on the half hour for Crawley. A closely fought cup tie remained level at the break.
Crawley made the better start to the second half and Max Watters blasted the visitors into the lead in the 49th minute, driving the ball past Trueman as The Dons defence failed to clear. Skipper Joe Pigott led the Wimbledon response with a fine effort from 20 yards out that forced Morris to make the save. Thomas headed over the resulting corner in the 53rd minute.
Steve Seddon managed to force another corner five minutes later, which Crawley eventually managed to clear as The Dons went in search of an equaliser. Just after the hour mark, Ryan Longman replaced Palmer up front for the hosts. The young Brighton loanee aimed to make an immediate impact by getting on the ball down the wing.
With just under twenty minutes to go, Glyn introduced the in-form Jack Rudoni for Chislett. However, despite further pressure from Wimbledon they still couldn’t come up with a second goal. Cheye Alexander replaced Shane McLoughlin with just nine minutes remaining and our cup hopes dwindling.
Wimbledon had further possession in the closing stages, but were unable to take the tie to extra-time and our involvement in this season’s FA Cup disappointingly came to an end after four minutes of added time.
AFC Wimbledon: Trueman, Csoka, Thomas, Hartigan, Palmer (Longman), Chislett (Rudoni), McLoughlin (Alexander), Heneghan, Reilly, Pigott (c) and Seddon.
Pic credit: Matt Redman (Pro Sports Images).