AFC Wimbledon were denied a fifth straight league win, going down to a 3–1 home defeat at the hands of Crewe Alexandra.
The Dons began the match with the first of a flurry of chances in the 3rd minute. Jack Midson, put through by Luke Moore’s delicate sideways pass, ran out of space and his shot was smothered by Crewe goalkeeper Steve Phillips. Christian Jolley chipped the resulting free ball across the six-yard box, only for Midson to mis-time his leap, not getting enough on the ball to trouble Phillips. Chris Bush kept up the pressure with a right-footed shot after cutting in from the left, forcing a save from the busy Phillips and earning his team a corner.
On a perfect pitch and in glorious sunshine, the home team continued to dominate the early exchanges. Midson and Jolley were linking up well and working tirelessly to create opportunities for each other. Jolley tested the Crewe keeper and fired wide twice in quick succession, but the deadlock remained unbroken.
The best move of the first half came in the 17th minute. It was started on the halfway line by Sam Hatton, who fired in a cross-field ball that was collected by Jolley on the chest; Jolley beat a Crewe defender to cross low and hard for Lee Minshull to get a foot on the ball and bring yet another save from Phillips in the Crewe goal.
The visitors’ first attempt on goal did not come until the 20th minute, and two minutes later they could have had the lead. Ajay Leitch-Smith found Miller in unguarded space in the centre of the box, but the No.9 had Seb Brown bearing down on him to reduce the damage to a corner.
Wimbledon responded quickly and in positive fashion. Hatton hit a piledriver of a free-kick from all of 35 yards out, and only the fingertips of Phillips denied the right-back a stunning goal.
The opening 25 minutes had been a joy to watch for the home fans, but the Dons would pay the price for failing to convert their chances.
The worst miss of the first half, the match and maybe the season came in the 35th minute courtesy of Jolley. Having pressured Phillips into losing control of the ball, the in-form striker rounded the keeper, wrong-footed the final defender and, with the goal at his mercy, rolled the ball a foot wide of the right post from 12 yards out. It was another let-off for the Crewe.
Brown made sure the teams went in at half-time level with a great instinctive save. A header from a floated free-kick was flicked on towards the near post, but he made sure it stayed out of the net with a diving save to his bottom right.
Crewe took the lead within 25 seconds of the restart. Nick Powell, just 17 years old, fired a thunderbolt of a shot past Brown. It was a stunning strike that delighted the 440 away fans and left the Dons keeper with little chance of keeping it out.
The goal shook Wimbledon, who now looked a shadow of their first-half selves. Crewe began to dictate the tempo of the game and kept the home side from creating any real chances for the next 15 minutes.
But in the 61st minute the Dons equalised with a goal from a familiar source. The chance materialised after a short free-kick had given Bush the opportunity to shoot from 18 yards out. The defender’s shot was deflected and found its way into the area, allowing Minshull to provide a simple assist with a fine square pass across the six-yard box, which Jolley lashed home to send the Tempest End into raptures.
Terry Brown introduced Ricky Wellard in the 69th minute and the midfielder looked lively as the Dons began to look for a second. But Dario Gradi’s side reminded the crowd of their intent when Powell clipped the crossbar with another dangerous effort from outside the area.
Luke Moore received a yellow after a second foul within minutes of a lecture from the referee. He was soon substituted, along with Chris Bush, who seemed to be struggling for energy, for Brett Johnson and Charles Ademeno. Within seconds of their introduction, Crewe retook the lead from the free-kick awarded. Adam Dugdale rose highest to head in an Ashley Westwood cross as the Dons looked to have let their concentration drop.
However, they reacted well to going behind for a second time, Jolley in particular remaining a threat to Crewe’s backline.
Johnson rifled wide after neat hold-up play by Midson, but the Alex responded with a counter-attack which sealed the points for them. One ball over the top of the Dons defence saw Leitch-Smith run clear from 25 yards out and coolly finish to make it 3–1 in the 89th minute.
Wimbledon were thus made to pay for a host of missed chances and suffered their first defeat since mid-September, dropping from third to sixth place. It did not bode well for the visit of local rivals Crawley the following Saturday.