AFC Wimbledon 0 - Chipstead 0
The Dons and Chipstead shared the points in the first goalless draw AFC Wimbledon had been involved in for almost 12 months, dating back to the 0-0 against Farnham at KM on March 15 last year.
As Joe Sheerin limped off after 15 minutes to be replaced by Paul Scott, the Dons had seen the spine of their side removed, with Matt Everard and Gavin Bolger already watching from the stands through suspension. Ross Standen made his full debut, with Lewis Taylor handed a first league start and Paul Quinn preferred to Darren Dobinson at left-back.
Chipstead, in their familiar 4-5-1 formation, set their stall out to defend in numbers and look to break quickly in support of lone front-man Corbett. As at High Road in the recent Cup match, the tactic proved remarkably successful. Steve Gibson finished an early run by blazing well over, before Corbett cut loose and outpaced Danny Oakins. He slid the ball wide of the goal as Standen rushed out to meet him.
Oakins was then the recipient of the first late challenge of the evening thanks to Dawson, but the referee elected not to show a card, setting the tone for a bizarrely lenient attitude to two-footed lunges. The forearm smash to Oakins' face that followed as he attempted a header shortly afterwards didn't even merit a free-kick.
Kevin Cooper then hit a first time shot over the bar following good work from Oakins and Andy Sullivan curled a cheeky chip against the far post after a trademark cut inside. Sullivan was then poleaxed on the edge of the Chipstead area, but once again the referee was unmoved.
Scott produced the run of the night, outpacing his man from the centre-circle and running past two men on the edge of the box, but his right-footed effort flew straight at Healey. He explained later, "With my right foot, you're just lucky I hit it at all. I was expecting to mishit it and either direction would have taken it in, but unfortunately I hit it bang in the middle and it went straight at the keeper."
Healey then came out well to smother the ball as Cooper threatened and the half-time whistle came as Scott was in his own area clearing successive Chipstead set-pieces.
In the second-half, Ryan Gray and Sullivan swapped sides as Nicky English looked to engineer a breakthrough and Lee Sidwell soon replaced Noel Frankum in the middle of the park. Sidwell got stuck in well and won the ball back with some solid challenges.
Dawson finally found his way into the referee's notebook for one late lunge too many even for this referee and was followed soon afterwards by Wareing. As the Dons pressed forward looking for an opening goal, Corbett raced clear on a breakaway but seemed to trip over his own feet and collapse more in embarrassment than injury.
Quinn looped a header onto the bar from a Gray free-kick and the same mode of delivery saw Oakins head into Healey's arms. Yet another two-footed challenge on Oakins went completely unpunished, much to the chagrin of the Dons bench, but the new reformed Danny simply dusted himself down, rebuilt his shin-pad and got on with the game.
With 20 minutes to go, Dobinson entered the arena in place of Sullivan as Wimbledon committed more men forward and Chipstead sat back ever deeper, still posing a very real threat on their rare breakaways.
A delightful diagonal ball from Sidwell bisected the defence and dropped over Cooper's shoulder, but his sidefooted effort flew wide. Favata then let fly from distance, but he too missed the target. But the miss of the game belonged to Paul Scott on 80 minutes as he somehow conspired to head over Dobinson's chipped cross from six yards out.
Almost immediately, Corbett should have made AFC Wimbledon pay as he raced clear in front of Taylor, but he fired over. On the next Chipstead break, he managed to round Standen, but the covering Oakins blocked his attempt to roll the ball goalwards. As the final whistle neared, Dobinson and Sidwell both fired over as the ball fell to them on the edge of the box.
In truth, a draw was a fair result, especially given the way Chipstead played. Credit must be given to the visitors for a well-organised defensive performance and, whilst Dons fans will point to several missed chances by their side, Corbett also spurned some glorious opportunities to secure all three points. So it was honours even and, in the wider league context, not a bad result for Wimbledon against one of the division's top sides. But the referee's inability, or unwillingness, to clamp down on some shocking tackles looks to have given Nicky English some injury headaches for the next few weeks.