November has fast become the month of the wing-back wizards as Conor McLaughlin emulated his fellow defender Amari’i Bell by netting in back-to-back games and rescuing a deserved point for Town at AFC Wimbledon in extra-time.
And my was it a much needed goal from McLaughlin in a game that Town should have boxed off in the first 45 minutes but ended up having to burrow deep at the spiritual home of the Wombles to even walk away from the capital with a point.
Cian Bolger netted his first league goal for Town in the 12th minute as he diverted in George Glendon’s corner from the right.
But despite creating numerous great opportunities Uwe Rosler’s men once again failed to get the second goal in a half they dominated and they paid the price just three minutes into the second half.
Neal Ardley threw on burly forward Tom Elliott at the start of the second half and he had an immediate impact as his header from Dean Parrett’s corner took a deflection and bounced home.
The hosts took the lead in controversial fashion with Joe Davis harshly punished for fouling Elliott in the box when it looked like six of one and half a dozen of the other.
The ground had been a cauldron of hate towards the referee from the home faithful but the aqua-shirted referee left the 89 travelling Fleetwood fans and staff red in the face with anger as he pointed to the spot.
Parrett rifled home the spot-kick in the 75th minute.
But unlike many of their away defeats that have ended 2-1 Town fought back as McLaughlin added to his midweek goal against Shrewsbury as he nodded in Jack Sowerby’s corner from the right at the near post and ensure that Fleetwood remain on an even keel with Wimbledon as both moved level on points with sixth-placed Peterborough.
Rosler made two changes to the side that beat Shrewsbury 3-0 on Tuesday night with Davis coming in for Ash Eastham who unveiled on his own Instagram account that he broke his jaw against Shrewsbury and is recovering from surgery.
With Ash Hunter replacing Devante Cole up top as Rosler stuck with the 3-5-2 wing-back formation that saw them beat relegation battling Chesterfield and Shrewsbury in quick succession.
Town started well as McLaughlin blasted a Grant centre from the left over and Hunter made some menacing runs before Town took the lead.
Bolger rose high above the pack to nod home another fine Glendon corner in the 12th minute.
With Jimmy Ryan still not able to shake off a foot knock Glendon continued his role in the middle of the park and it is his fine delivery from set-pieces which is making a difference with Town finally morphing into a viable threat from set-pieces.
Ball went close as his angled effort was just tipped away by Shea.
And Town nearly doubled their lead in spectacular fashion as Bobby Grant’s left-footed long-range beauty sailed past Shea but with the midfielder about to wheel away in celebration the ball just swung too much at the last minute and crashed into the inside of the post.
It was an end-to-end enthralling opening 20 minutes with Wimbledon causing panic in Town’s box on numerous occasions but without finding a real bite or creating a clear cut effort.
The home fans voiced their frustration at the aqua-shirted referee after he gave a number of decisions in what they believed was the visitors favour and waved away a penalty claim after Conor McLaughlin and Parrett tumbled in Town’s box.
It looked a more clear cut claim than the one Lee Swabey was to give in the second half.
Dom Poleon had the Dons’ best chance of the half as he beat the offside trap to zoom in on the left but he fired straight at Cairns and Tyrone Barnett also nodded the ball straight at the keeper.
Town created a number of chances as the half drew to an end with Grant forcing Shea into a fine fingertip save.
Glendon’s fierce delivery on set-pieces continued to cause problems in the Dons box but Hunter could just not divert home some flick-ons from close range and McLaughlin wasted a free header nodding straight at Shea.
Wimbledon made a double substitution at the start of the second half and it made an impact as Fleetwood paid the price for those missed chances once again as substitute Elliott’s header took a deflection before bouncing over the line.
Town were on the ropes as Dom Poleon terrorised Joe Davis before feeding the powerful Elliott but Cairns made a fine instinctive save to tip it away.
But Town were not down and out as they still had their slick counter-attacks in their locker.
And they created two golden chances from counters that should have seen them regain the lead.
Firstly Grant teed-up Dempsey to run through on goal, the on-loan Huddersifeld man rounded the keeper but his angled shot was just cleared off the line by a recovering blue shirt.
Dempsey turned provider minutes later as he fed Hunter unmarked in space in the box but he blasted the ball the wrong side of the right post.
Hunter fired wide and Grant blasted the ball straight down Shea’s throat before Davis rescued Town.
Poleon got inbetween Davis and Bolger to hone in on goal but Davis recovered to just nick the ball off the forward’s toes.
But that was all the good fortune Davis was to have as, in his first league appearance since scoring a calamitous own goal in Town’s 2-0 defeat to Barnsley last term, he gave away the chance that allowed Wimbledon to take the lead.
Elliott’s height had caused Town numerous problems in the box and once again another long ball up to the big forward lead to an opportunity.
He found himself alongside Davis at the top of the box but Davis had positioned himself badly with Elliott just appearing to get slightly ahead of him before both tumbled and the referee harshly pointed to the spot.
Davis was booked and Parrett stepped up to fire home the spot-kick.
Rosler brought Davis off and put Nirennold on as he switched to a flat back four with wing-backs McLaughlin and Bell slotting into full-back roles.
It looked to be going a bit Port Vale with Town staring defeat in the face once again after dominating and deserving more than just a point but all three.
Wimbledon looked like they would clinch the win after another defensive slip-up saw Dominic Poleon run clear.
Bolger had misjudged a long ball from the back allowing Poleon to nip in and run one-on-one but he blazed the ball way wide with only Cairns to beat.
And Town punished that miss as they went up the other end in stoppage time and McLaughlin made sure that Fleetwood got some reward from a good but wasteful performance.
AFC Wimbledon: Shea, Francomb, Owens (Kelly, 46), Robinson, Robertson, Whelpdale, Reeves, Bulman, Poleon, Barnett (Elliott, 46), Parrett (Beere, 87). Subs not used: McDonnell, Nightingale, Kaja, Kelly, Egan.
Fleetwood: Cairns, McLaughlin, Pond, Bolger, Davis (Nirennold, 76), Bell, Dempsey, Glendon (Sowerby, 83), Grant, Hunter (Cole, 71), Ball. Subs not used: Neal, Jonsson, Long, Godswill.
Referee: L Swabey
Attendance: 4023 (Away 89)