Danny Kedwell popped up 15 minutes from time to secure a point for Wimbledon, but manager Terry Brown will be left scratching his head and frustrated that his side did not take all three points from this mid-table encounter, for the Dons were the better side with their possession and attacking play.
Luke Garrard came into the Wimbledon defence, replacing Jay Conroy – on a one-match ban for his sending-off on Saturday – and Kennedy Adjei returned in midfield with Jon Main dropping to the bench. Callum Willock was back at Kingsmeadow with his third team already this season, lining up in the Crawley attack, having already done so in a trial for Wycombe and then with the Dons. As Brown would be quick to point out, it’s not just the likes of Oxford and Luton who can pose a threat, but also the less fancied sides such as Crawley. But when the visitors went ahead, it was because Wimbledon just didn’t have the luck on their side in the first period of play.
Crawley took the lead in the 38th minute from a debatable free-kick taken by Jefferson Louis. Hit low and hard towards the goal, the shot took a massive deflection off the Wimbledon wall, which should have done better, wrong-footing Pullen and landing in the opposite corner from which it was directed at. This was, in truth, their only real effort on goal in the whole of the half. For the first 20 minutes the visitors struggled to deal with the Dons’ attacking style of play, and by the end of the half only Simon Rusk could effectively emerge with any credit, helping his Crawley colleagues out on several occasions.
Kedwell had the first real Dons effort after five minutes when he picked up on a loose ball in midfield and forced Simon Rayner, in goal, to push the ball round for a corner. Steven Gregory was next to fire in an effort, which went just wide of Rayner three minutes later. At the other end, Paul Lorraine and Brett Johnson had Louis and Willock under control. Halfway through the half Rayner made a hash of a Luke Moore effort which could have proved costly, and it was Moore who tested Rayner again after 34 minutes.
The Dons picked up in the second half where they’d left off, having the majority of possession and attacking a Crawley side who offered surprisingly little attacking threat in return. Moore had a curling long-range shot tipped over by Rayner after 55 minutes, three minutes later Sam Hatton curled a low shot wide, and in the 68th minute Kedwell fed a low ball to Hatton, who was clear in the area, but his shot clipped the top of the bar and went over for a goal kick.
With 20 minutes left Wimbledon made a tactical switch in a push to get something from the game. On came Ross Montague for Lewis Taylor and Derek Duncan for Garrard, Hatton dropping into the right-back role. Five minutes later the changes paid off: Kedwell met a Chris Hussey cross from the right, powering a downward header on the edge of the six-yard box which bounced over Rayner and brushed the back post before settling in the net for the equaliser.
It could have been more, as with time running down further chances came from the workmanlike Adjei, and Crawley captain Adam Quinn came close to contributing an own-goal. Crawley’s best chance to take all the points came five minutes from time, when first James Pullen had to make a save from substitute Barry Cogan, and shortly after fellow sub Danny Forrest put the ball over from close range.
In the end, a draw was probably not a fair reflection of the game, and Terry Brown will regard this as two points lost.