Wimbledon sealed League 2 survival this afternoon at the Broadfield Stadium in a match overshadowed by a sickening injury to striker Jason Prior.
Prior was stretchered off with a suspected double leg break after a rash sixth minute challenge from Hope Apkan that was punished with a straight red card by referee Darren Drysdale. Sammy Moore’s 77th minute strike was not enough to secure victory as the Dons were pegged back a goal by Gary Alexander, but Macclesfield’s failure to beat Crewe means that Wimbledon are mathematically certain of survival.
Terry Brown made three changes from the Dons side that started at Southend with Gareth Gwillim replacing Chris Bush, Luke Moore in for Billy Knott and top scorer Jack Midson returning for Byron Harrison.
Wimbledon needed Seb Brown to rescue them with barely 60 seconds on the clock when Billy Clarke showed Sam Hatton a clean pair of heels down the wing and sent in a cross that was well met by Gary Alexander, but the Dons number one reacted superbly to save. However, the injury to Prior marred the early action. The striker was on the wrong end of a terrible challenge from Apkan and the game was held up for three minutes while Prior received treatment, before he was stretchered off.
The first 20 minutes offered very little after that incident, though the 10 men of Crawley still had the better of it as Wimbledon struggled to get going. The visitors gradually came into it though and in the 26th minute Midson set-up Luke Moore and his 20-yard shot was deflected just wide of a post by Charlie Wassmer. Then from the subsequent corner, Wimbledon had another great chance when Gwillim’s corner fell nicely for Midson, but he blazed over the crossbar.
The Dons produced a moment of promise in the 35th minute when Luke Moore and Byron Harrison worked a good one-two, but Harrison just failed to reach the through ball before Crawley goalkeeper Michel Kuipers. Crawley continued to threaten though and Scott Davies had a goal-bound shot blocked as the Dons dropped deeper under a spell of sustained pressure from the hosts. Midson did have another good shooting chance at the other end, but his effort from the edge of the area was too close to Kuipers and he saved comfortably. Harrison then had a fierce shot wide of the target in first-half injury time.
Wimbledon started the second-half with a greater determination to offer more as an attacking force and George Moncur had a fine effort from outside of the area just deflected wide. Wimbledon came even closer in the 54th minute when Harrison’s impressive run and cross gave Midson a great chance from just a few yards, but his shot lacked power and Kuipers was able to gather.
Crawley responded by charging up to the other end and Clarke had a 20-yarder that Seb Brown had to tip around the post. With Crawley facing the prospect of their promotion hopes being dented, they threw everything at the Dons and Brown had to save again to deny Scott Neilson. Wimbledon’s defending was becoming increasingly desperate and it needed Mat Mitchel-King to get in a superb last-ditch interception to stop Clarke from tapping into an empty net. Harrison came so close to notching his second Wimbledon goal when he struck the crossbar with a soaring header from a Gareth Gwillim corner in the 67th minute.
Terry Brown made a double substitution with 20 minutes to go as Rashid Yussuff and Kieran Djilali replaced Luke Moore and Christian Jolley. Wimbledon were rewarded for an improved second-half display when good work from George Moncur down the left set-up Sammy Moore and he produced an emphatic finish that left Kuipers with no chance. However, that produced a spirited response from the hosts and they equalised nine minutes from time when Danny Bulman’s cross picked out Alexander and he made no mistake from eight yards.
Crawley then went in desperate search of a winner and only another fine interception from the impressive Mitchel-King stopped Neilsen from turning it around completely for the hosts. But there were no more scares for the Dons and the 892 visiting fans were able to travel back happy that we are now definitely safe from relegation.