92nd minute equaliser salvages point in South London
An added time goal from Conor McLaughlin salvaged a point for Fleetwood in a pulsating 2-2 draw against AFC Wimbledon in South London.
Cian Bolger opened the scoring for the Cod Army in the first half, but goals from Tom Eliott and a Dean Parrett penalty put The Dons ahead. Town will perhaps feel unlucky that they didn’t take all three points, despite McLaughlin’s late leveler.
Town made two changes from Tuesday’s win against Shrewsbury with Joe Davis and Ashley Hunter replacing Ashley Eastham and Devante Cole in the starting line up. It was Davis’ first league game since March 2016.
With both sides in fine form, it was to take over nine minutes for the first chance of the game. Bobby Grant’s cross fell to an unmarked McLaughlin, but the Northern Irishman could only volley wildly over the bar on his weaker left foot.
That soon set the tone as just minutes the Cod Army took the lead. An in-swinging corner from George Glendon was met by Bolger, who headed past Wimbledon goalkeeper James Shea. The goal brought back memories of the same combination unlocking the Southport defense in the Emirates FA Cup replay a week last Tuesday.
This sparked a frantic sixty seconds as down the other end, the Dons were denied a penalty as Jake Reeves was brought down in the box. As play continued, this allowed Town to break, allowing David Ball to almost double the lead. His effort was well saved by Shea. A lick of paint was then to deny Bobby Grant what would have been a stunning goal, as his thirty yard volley cannoned of the inside of the post and to safety.
Wimbledon were struggling to find a way into the game, with chances limited for the home side. Dom Poleon tried a long-range effort but it was well wide.
A resurgent Cod Army continued to cause the home side problems as the Dons faithful became increasingly restless, with Ball the next to test Shea. Then it was Grant to have another go, as Shea got his fingertips to a deflected effort from the midfielder. From the resulting corner Ball’s effort at the near post was deflected again, before Hunter miss hit his shot from four yards out.
An impressive first half performance was only marred by the fact that Town could and should have been more than one goal to the good.
Wimbledon raced out the traps in the second half. Just ninety seconds after the restart, Tom Elliott, a half time substitute, headed towards goal from Parratt’s corner and Poleon bundled the ball home past Alex Cairns.
Fleetwood went looking for a response immediately, as Kyle Dempsey raced through the Dons midfield before laying off Hunter, who could only hit the side netting.
Wimbledon almost doubled the lead as Poleon shimmied into the Town box, then setting up Elliott who forced a fine save from Cairns. With the corner cleared, this meant Town could break, with Dempsey being played through by Grant. Dempsey rounded Shea and looked certain to score but heroic defending from Wimbledon’s Paul Robertson somehow prevented a second goal.
Fleetwood began to dominate proceedings again as Dempsey terrorized the Dons defense. He found Hunter in space but the striker could only shoot wide from 12 yards. Grant then tried in vain to restore Fleetwood’s lead, but Shea caught confidently.
In an effort to change the game, Uwe Rosler introduced Devante Cole to the action, and the striker was to try his luck instantly, firing over the bar from 25 yards.
15 minutes from time, the game was to change in the home side’s favour as Wimbledon were awarded a penalty. Joe Davis was adjudged to have brought down striker Elliott and Parrett duly converted the spot kick to give the Dons the lead. Replays suggest the incident was outside the box.
This galvanized the Dons and Parrett soon found his way through a host of red bodies and crossed to an unmarked Poleon in the box, but the striker could only fire over. The hosts then had a chance to make it 3-1 and seal the came as Poleon dispossessed Bolger and had only Cairns to fire past, but the striker’s chip sailed wide.
As time ebbed away and the Dons seemingly taking all three points, Town were given one last chance to find a way back into the game in stoppage time. A Jack Sowerby corner was floated into the area, and McLaughlin powered a header past a helpless Shea to salvage a point for the Cod Army.
AFC Wimbledon: Shea (GK), Francomb, Owens (Kelly), Robinson ©, Robertson, Whelpdale, Reeves, Bulman, Poleon, Barnett (Elliott), Parrett (Beere).
Subs not used: McDonnell (GK), Nightingale, Kaja, Egan
Fleetwood Town: Cairns (GK), McLaughlin, Bell, Pond ©, Ball, Grant, Bolger, Davis (Nirrenold), Glendon (Sowerby), Hunter (Cole), Dempsey.
Subs not used: Neal (GK), Jonsson, Long, Godswill.
Attendance: 4023 (89 away)
Referee: Lee Swabey