Fleetwood Town 1 AFC Wimbledon 1
THIS draw helped knock Wimbledon off the top of the Blue Square Bet Premier Division – and although the display underlined yet again Fleetwood’s promotion credentials, it could be seen as two points gone begging.
On balance, Micky Mellon’s side had sound claims to take possession of all three.
Though they were low on attacking creativity in the first half, in the second 45 minutes Fleetwood held sway, though their old failing – the one of turning chances into goals – was apparent.
The match started with Wimbledon seven points superior to fourth-placed Fleetwood and it was the same at the end, but the sides were well-matched and anyone who takes Town lightly will do so at their peril.
They were caught on the end of a quick counter as Wimbledon nosed ahead but a goal on the stroke of half-time by the prolific Magno Vieira levelled it up. And while Fleetwood did not exactly subject the Dons to a bombardment after the break, they ensured that the Wimbledon defence had to be on their mettle at all times.
For all their possession, Wimbledon’s Seb Brown was not tested often enough and when he was the goalkeeper was equal to the task.
George Donnelly, Town’s record £50,000 signing from Plymouth, looked an ideal leader of the line and his value will be more apparent when he works up a better understanding with Vieira.
Sean Clancy caught the eye with his second-half probing as well as setting up the Fleetwood goal, while full-back Shaun Beeley was solid until a howler nearly proved costly, though luckily for Fleetwood Ryan Jackson failed miserably to cash in.
Fleetwood, who drafted in Junior Brown at left-back to replace Alan Wright, had their first effort when Donnelly went on a decoy run, allowing Gareth Seddon space and time to shoot, but the effort sailed well over.
Jackson was posing problems for Fleetwood down the right, producing a corner from which Danny Kedwell’s header ballooned over. On 15 minutes, Jamie Stuart surrendered possession to Town’s Jamie McGuire, who was gifted a clear run on goal, but keeper Brown rushed out and smothered the shot.
It proved to be a costly miss, for Wimbledon hit back immediately and scored. It was clear that Jackson was the dangerman, but Fleetwood could not halt him as he fired in a low cross that skipper Kedwell hammered past Scott Davies, with Fleetwood caught out by the speed of the counter-attack.
The home crowd were uncharacteristically subdued, and it was that man Jackson who tested the Fleetwood rearguard yet again, bombing down the right before unleashing a shot which Davies was glad to grab at the second attempt.
Donnelly was impressive on his home bow, and after being released by Vieira he attempted a snap shot which Brown saved low on the near post.
Steve McNulty reinforced the Fleetwood attack on 34 minutes, but the end product was an unceremonious hoof well wide.
Kedwell looked to be in an offside position as he found himself in the clear to cause more alarms for Fleetwood, but the linesman’s flag stayed down and it was up to Davies to make a sprawling save with his legs.
Right on half-time, Fleetwood finally broke down what had been a resolute Wimbledon defence.
Donnelly held up the ball superbly and sprayed it across field, then Clancy cut inside before crossing low from the left for Vieira to prod home from close range, the Brazilian’s 17th of the season.
Vieira was at the forefront of the action within minutes of the restart. He dribbled towards goal and went to ground under challenge from Gareth Gwillim, but referee Mark Heywood waved away vociferous claims for a penalty. Brown was forced into desperate measures as he pawed away a teasing centre by Clancy, with McGuire lurking to capitalise on any loose ball.
Clancy then struck the post but he had strayed offside.
As Fleetwood continued to make the running, Wimbledon were grateful to the strength in the air of Gwillim as he rose strongly to intercept Brown’s excellent cross, muscling Donnelly out of the way. Clancy and Donnelly both shot wide in rapid succession before the former forced Brown to pull off a diving save to his left.
Fleetwood’s own Brown, Junior, was enjoying more freedom to attack down the left and showed deft skill to dummy his opponent, but his shot was blocked before it could reach his namesake in the Dons’ goal.
Beeley mistimed his back header to give Wimbledon their first real chance of the second period after 75 minutes. The ball fell well short of Davies and to the feet of Jackson, who skied it when he should have done far better. He was substituted seconds later.
There was a midfield skirmish between McGuire and Sammy Moore, but the referee sensibly defused the situation by lecturing the duo, who shook hands and made their peace.
Vieira nearly doubled his tally on 83 minutes as he easily evaded his marker to force Brown into his best save of the night, but the decisive breakthrough failed to arrive.
Fleetwood: Davies, Beeley, Barry, McNulty, Clancy (Mullen, 75) Vieira, Brown, McGuire, Seddon, Donnelly, Gregan.
Wimbledon: Seb Brown, Hatton, Yakubu, Stuart, Gwillim, Mulley, Gregory, S Moore (Yussuff 88), Jackson (L Moore 78), Kedwell (Nwokeji 82), Hudson.
Referee: M Heywood; Attendance: 1,808