Fleetwood 1-1 Wimbledon
By David Mitchell
Fleetwood Town and AFC Wimbledon shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw at Highbury.
Town took the lead through Steven Gillespie after nine minutes with Wimbledon getting back on terms through Byron Harrison’s seventh goal of the season after an hour.
With a number of players unavailable through injury, Town’s team showed five changes from last week’s disappointing home defeat to Wycombe. Dean Howell recovered from an ankle knock and there were returns for Conor McLaughlin, Lee Fowler, Gillespie and Tom Barkhuizen as manager, Micky Mellon, selected a 4-4-2 formation.
Wimbledon exerted early pressure with a Steven Gregory cross from the left in the fourth minute narrowly eluding two team-mates in front of goal. Three minutes later, the Dons pounced on an error from Fowler and George Francomb’s shot was well-saved by Scott Davies on the goalkeeper’s 100th
appearance for Town.
Fowler made amends soon after and was instrumental in Town taking a ninth minute lead, the point at which they had conceded seven days ago. The midfielder won a ball in his own half, setting up David Ball to move forward. The striker fed Gillespie on his left and his partner up front placed the ball under Wimbledon keeper, Seb Brown, for his third goal of the season.
An early substitution by new Wimbledon manager, Neal Ardley, saw Rashid Yussuff replacing skipper Sammy Moore who had been injured in a challenge with Fowler. There was frustration from the Cod Army as Town struggled to capitalise on their early lead and much of the action was in their defensive half. There was more intent shown just after the half hour, Brown fumbling a corner from Fowler which resulted in an altercation with Ball. Wimbledon responded, forcing successive corners of their own, but neither side were able to create clear chances. As half time approached, Will Antwi headed over from a Francomb corner on the right and Jack Midson sent a ball from the left across Town’s goal but the one goal lead was retained at the break after a half spent largely in the middle third of the pitch.
There was a double change in Town’s midfield after the break, Barry Nicholson and Jamie McGuire replacing Damien Johnson and Tom Barkhuizen.
Wimbledon’s Gregory was the game’s first booking in the 53rd
minute, the midfielder indicating a dive taken by Nicholson but to no avail. The visitors showed intent and were getting into attacking positions only to be guilty of wasteful finishing. To add to their frustration, leading scorer Harrison saw a late offside flag after setting up Midson in front of an open goal.
The Dons’ efforts were finally rewarded on the hour. A Yussuff free kick from just outside the area was nodded past Davies by Harrison, his fourth goal in four games. Town were on the back foot and Stacey Long had an opportunity to give his side the lead after 64 minutes with a free kick which went over Davies’s crossbar before crashing into the Percy Ronson Stand.
Referee Simpson took a while to attract Jim Fenlon’s attention before booking the full-back in the 72nd
minute, Fenlon then immediately being replaced by Curtis Haynes-Brown after suggesting to manager Eardley that he had a leg injury.
Town were making little impact in the final third but Gillespie made ground in the 77th
minute, to force a corner on the right. Nicholson found Junior Brown who headed narrowly wide. With ten minutes left one of Town’s more fluid moves took them out of defence, a string of passes eventually getting the ball to Ball whose shot from the left was caught by Brown. Fowler then placed a pass in Nicholson’s path but the midfielder was denied by good defending.
Jamie Milligan came on for Brown with seven minutes left and watched as Ball cut in from the left, only to see his effort saved by Brown at the near post. Controversy surfaced with a minute left as Davies picked up a ball from Youl Mawéné only to look on in dismay as Mr. Simpson give Wimbledon a free kick in front of goal. Town cleared the ball and the game ended all-square. Town now face back-to-back away games at Chesterfield and Rochdale in the next seven days.
Team: Davies, McLaughlin, Mawéne, Edwards, Howell, Barkhuizen (McGuire 46),Johnson – capt (Nicholson 46), Fowler, Brown (Milligan 84), Ball, Gillespie