Blackpool 1-1 AFC Wimbledon: Seasiders denied vital win as they're pegged back at the death for the second game running
Blackpool squandered the chance to claim a vital three points for the second game running as AFC Wimbledon denied them right at the death.
Ellis Simms’ opportunistic strike looked to have sealed a valuable victory for Blackpool in a tight encounter against Mark Robinson’s League One strugglers.
But the Dons, who probably merited their point, kept going right until the end and got their rewards when substitute Ollie Palmer netted in stoppage time.
Despite the late setback, the Seasiders are still right in the mix, sitting seven points off sixth-placed Portsmouth, who suffered a surprise hammering at the hands of relegation-threatened Northampton Town, with three games in hand to play.
Despite not getting the win they were after, the result extends Blackpool’s unbeaten run on home turf to 11 games in all competitions, having not been beaten on home turf since October.
With the congested fixture list in mind, Neil Critchley opted to make four changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Crewe Alexandra in midweek.
Luke Garbutt, Jordan Gabriel, Grant Ward and Sullay Kaikai all dropped out of the starting line-up.
OIlie Turton returned at right-back to make his first start since January 16, while James Husband recovered from a slight calf problem to start on the left-hand side of defence.
Demetri Mitchell replaced Kaikai on the left flank, while CJ Hamilton started his first game since December 19 - in place of Ward - having made a successful return off the bench in midweek.
Marvin Ekpiteta, Daniel Gretarsson, Keshi Anderson and Gary Madine all remain sidelined.
Wimbledon, who started the day inside the bottom four, named former Pool loanee Sam Walker in goal, but Ben Heneghan dropped down to the bench.
Following their league struggles, the Dons made a managerial change at the end of January when they decided to relieve Glyn Hodges of his duties.
Following a stint as interim manager, the job was eventually given to Mark Robinson on a permanent basis.
Wimbledon have altered their style in recent months, preferring a more progrssive, attacking approach to the more rudimentary style we had previously witnessed.
This was evident early on in this encounter, as the Dons piled the pressure on and were unfortunate not to take the lead inside the opening 10 minutes.
Chris Maxwell was called into action in the sixth minute, saving well with his feet to deny Wimbledon’s top goalscorer Joe Pigott from close range.
Shortly afterwards, the visitors had a goal ruled out for offside after Jack Rudoni had forced the ball home from close range.
Blackpool were a little passive early on, opting to stand off their opponents rather than press high. This handed Wimbledon the initiative, which they were only too happy to take advantage of.
Jerry Yates received a needless booking when he shoved Alex Woodyard to the floor by the touchline.
It was an innocuous enough incident, but it was a warning sign for Blackpool that they couldn’t afford to get sucked into any histrionics, something they did in the original fixture where the Seasiders ended the match with nine men.
This seemed to give Pool a shot in the arm though, as they wrestled back the momentum and came close to making the breakthrough.
Demetri Mitchell saw a stooping header well saved by Walker, before the winger saw a looping effort cleared off the line by Will Nightingale.
The home side thought they were going to be given a penalty when James Husband appeared to be fouled inside the box, but the referee adjudged it to be just outside and awarded a free-kick instead.
Undeterred, the Dons hit back with two chances in quick succession, the increasingly influential Ryan Longman having a shot saved my Maxwell after cutting in from the flank before the Blackpool goalkeeper thwarted Pigott for a second time after the 15-goal striker had steered a first-time volley towards the bottom corner.
Ellis Simms was unable to capitalise after being gifted the ball deep in Wimbledon territory as the game continued at a relentless pace.
Simms was guilty of making another poor decision when he opted to shoot from the angle following an incisive Blackpool break when he had two teammates in space in the middle.
Pool sniffed a potential breakthrough at the start of the second-half when they broke well down the left, but Husband’s dangerous ball in was turned narrowly wide of the upright by Nightingale.
Whatever Critchley said at the interval, it seemed to be working as Pool gained the upper-hand in the opening 15 minutes of the second period.
Ollie Turton, who was a little too safety-first at times in the first-half, got forward well down the right before laying the ball into the path of Yates, whose touch let him down just inside the Wimbledon box.
Two minutes later, Yates was involved once again as Blackpool broke the deadlock.
The striker saw a shot well blocked before his second attempt on goal was diverted home by Ellis Simms, who got a vital touch to wrongfoot Walker.
The opportunity effort, the loanee’s third in tangerine, gave the Seasiders a priceless advantage to hold onto.
But the lead almost evaporated seven minutes later when Maxwell misjudged a deep Wimbledon cross, which was played back into the six-yard box where Rudoni miskicked his shot.
Goalscorer Simms and Mitchell were both withdrawn with 20 minutes remaining as Critchley made a double change in a bid to see the game mout, bringing Kenny Dougall and Elliot Embleton into the action.
Hamilton, who got another hour under his belt on his return from a lengthy injury lay-off, had previously been replaced by Sullay Kaikai.
The Dons offered little for much of the second-half, although they did come on strong towards the end as they went in search of a late equaliser.
Substitute Ollie Palmer had a towering header well saved by Maxwell before Pigott was denied by the same man after swivelling 10 yards from goal.
With 90 seconds remaining of normal time, Nightingale wasted a good chance to level for the away side when he headed well wide despite being left unmarked from a corner.
Palmer wasted a golden chance to level in the first of four minutes of stoppage time when he blazed over the bar when well placed.
But the substitute striker made amends two minutes later when he broke Blackpool’s hearts, diverting a hopeful goalbound effort beyond Maxwell and into the far corner.
It was deja vu for the Seasiders, who had also been denied three points late on by Crewe in midweek.
Blackpool: Maxwell, Turton, Ballard, Thorniley, Husband, Stewart, Virtue (Garbutt), Mitchell (Embleton), Hamilton (Kaikai), Simms (Dougall), Yates
Subs not used: Moore, Gabriel, Robson
Wimbledon: Walker, O’Neill (Guiness-Walker), Nightingale, Woodyard, Alexander, Rudoni (Reilly), McLoughlin (Palmer), Dobson (Oksanen), Johnson, Longman (Assal), Pigott
Subs not used: Tzanev, Heneghan
Referee: Thomas Bramall
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