Rashid Yussuff’s seventh goal of the season with 15 minutes left earned the Dons a potentially precious point from a game they dominated for large periods. Whether this proves to be a point earned or two points dropped will become clearer in the coming weeks but at least Terry Brown’s side managed 17 shots on goal, 11 of them on target – precisely 11 more than they could muster at Northampton on Tuesday.
Brown once again chose to reshuffle his pack with Sam Hatton returning to the starting line-up at the expense of Gavin Hoyte and Chris Bush replacing the injured Gareth Gwillim. In midfield Rashid Yussuff’s recent upturn in form saw him recalled to the side with the not fully fit Billy Knott dropping to the bench.
Two of those players, namely Bush and Yussuff, were, along with Jamie Stuart, the star performers in a Dons showing that should have earned them more than a solitary point.
The home side started far the stronger, with Bush particularly prominent in most of their early attacking forages, seeming to have as much of the left side of the pitch as he wanted and on several occasions coming close to making Morecambe pay for visibly backing off from the rampaging full back. One such move, started by Byron Harrison’s neat control and pass to Yussuff, saw Bush outstrip Nick Fenton and play a neat reverse ball to Jack Midson whose 20 yard rasping drive was superbly tipped away by Morecambe’s ‘keeper Barry Roche. Bush was proving to be a more than useful attacking outlet as the visitors were offering precious little going forward, with only veteran Kevin Ellison sporadically sparking into life. Another Bush cross after a marauding run down the left flank missed getting a touch from all six players in the penalty area and whistled narrowly wide and yet another Bush foray ended with a shooting chance for George Moncur that the West Ham loanee deposited into the tree behind the players’ car park at the Kingston Road End.
Considering how bereft of attacking ideas the Dons had seemed just four days earlier, this was shaping up to a far better display with Harrison and Midson never giving Will Haining and Chris McCready a moment’s peace and Jason Euell starting to find his feet in what was only his third-ever League Two game. The Dons certainly deserved to make the breakthrough, especially with Morecambe barely mustering an attack worthy of the name, but some desperate defending, highly competent ‘keeping and unfortunate final ball choices seemed destined to keep the scoreline blank. However, in the final two minutes of a most watchable half, both sides should have scored. Yet another probing Bush run saw his low cross diverted into the path of Euell who sidestepped Haining neatly but blazed his shot high, wide and into the same car park that had claimed Moncur’s effort earlier. Then, with the referee poised to blow for half time, Morecambe finally carved out a threatening attempt – Ellison’s low cross was met by Jordan Burrow’s shot on the turn but Seb Brown, largely unemployed up to that point, smothered it cleanly.
Given the Dons had conceded more goals at home than any club in the Premiership or Football League this season, getting to half time with a clean sheet was something of a moral victory but sadly it only lasted for the first seven minutes of the second half and, once again, it was a goal so soft as to give Terry Brown yet another headache. Bush did well to block Danny Carlton’s cross but as the Morecambe striker collected the rebound he casually chipped it back into the box – with Jamie Stuart and Mat Mitchel-King in close attendance there seemed to be no danger but both Dons defenders watched the ball sail over their heads, take the merest deflection from Gary McDonald’s hair and drift past the static Seb Brown and into the net off the far post. Brown was damned if he came for the ball and damned if he didn’t and the second that the ball evaded Mitchel-King the Dons keeper was stranded but Terry Brown was no doubt wondering how the ball had ended up in his team’s Kingsmeadow net for the thirty-third time this season.
Morecambe didn’t really deserve to be in front and the Dons certainly didn’t deserve to be behind but you rarely get what you deserve in football and a ninth home defeat was staring AFC Wimbledon in the face. Terry Brown reacted by withdrawing the hardworking Harrison and the not yet match fit Euell for Billy Knott and Christian Jolley. Jolley forced a corner after some smart trickery that was only partially cleared by the Shrimps but Sammy Moore’s follow-up shot was blocked by McCready. The substitute’s pace then worried Fenton into conceding a free kick for handball some 30 yards out but Sam Hatton’s daisy cutter of a free kick was well-saved down to his left by Roche as the Dons searched for an equaliser. A 25-yarder from Midson was ambitious and didn’t trouble Roche but at least the Dons were shooting at every opportunity and Knott’s free kick from a similar range dipped just too late and clipped the top of the net.
With the crowd behind them and not on their backs for a second, Wimbledon started to exert some pressure with Bush making his presence felt after a quiet start to the second half. However, he failed to make the most of two chances to find Midson in space in the box and then Yussuff failed to work Roche when his low cross darted dangerously across the box. Then, with 15 minutes to go the former Gillingham man equalised. Knott’s cute ball into Yussuff’s feet was timed so that he was able to shake off Fenton’s attempt to bring him down on the edge of the box and, once free of the defender’s attention, Yussuff drew Roche and slid the ball under him.
Could the Dons now go on to win the game, or would Morecambe come back into it and snatch a late win of their own? The fact that neither happened was due to two things – the Dons rather ran out of steam and other than a couple of corners rarely looked like scoring again, and then with seconds left Morecambe sub Lewis Alessandra’s deft flick of Stuart’s head on the edge of the Wimbledon box deserved a far better finish from Gary Hunter – the Shrimps striker somehow found himself unmarked just 10 yards from goal but the substitute completely mishit his shot and instead of celebrating nicking a late win Morecambe boss Jim Bentley was holding his head in his hands unable to believe what he’d just seen. Fortunately for the Dons their last-gasp defensive lapse didn’t prove costly and despite slipping another place down the league they could at least be happy with their day’s work.