Aldershot arrived to present the sternest test of the Dons? pre-season workouts fielding a strong team from their full-time squad. Dave Anderson will be well pleased with his side?s structure and solidity as they played out a comfortable draw.
The manager stuck with a 3-5-2 formation, with Jeff Campbell joining Barry Moore and Matt York in the centre of midfield. And as Dave continued his search for striking cover for Shane Smeltz and Richard Butler, trialist Ali Chabaan took a seat on a crowded bench.
It was the Conference side who took an early lead. Barry Moore lost the ball and Ahmed Dean broke clear on the left wing. His low cross was turned past Little seemingly by Wayne Finnie, though Bertie Brayley appeared to be claiming a touch.
Richard Butler was denied by a last-ditch header and a Kiwi combination saw the Dons go close again as Smeltz fired a first-time effort wide from a delightful crossfield Campbell pass.
But Aldershot were given a gift-wrapped opportunity to double their advantage by referee Crouch after a quarter-of-an-hour. A corner was halted for the official to warn both Mark Cooper and Tim Sills. When the eventual cross came in, he whistled and pointed to the spot, seemingly for an offence by the Dons balding stopper, though no offence was discernible to the naked eye from the distance of the press box.
Justice was done as Little threw himself to his left to save a weak Dave Lee penalty, leaping up in time to grab the rebound. Little then saved a header well from a whipped-in freekick, but play was halted for a push by the Aldershot man.
Bertie Brayley, the striker with a name he appears to have stolen from an Edwardian entertainer, evidently considers comedy to be an integral part of his act and deservedly had his name taken for a petulant late push on a bemused Steve Butler. Barry Moore was then felled twice in the centre circle as a second successive home pre-season friendly was anything but.
A fine Steve Butler interception set up the Dons? finest chance of an equalizer. Richard Butler swapped passes with Smeltz and raced clear, but Nikki Bull came out to deny the Dons striker, seemingly caught in two minds with what to do with his shot. Like all good music hall routines, Bertie Brayley?s act clocked in at under half-an-hour, as he was withdrawn before he could come to any further harm and replaced by Tobi Jinadu.
Steve Butler fired a drive over the bar for Wimbledon and Crittenden shot wide for the Shots as the game finally settled into a more sedate pre-season tempo. Aldershot took a one-nil lead with them as they jogged off for a restorative half-time cuppa.
Ammo Kouman and trialist Chaaban replaced the Antipodean duo at half-time for the home side, but the second half started in as laid-back a fashion as the first had finished. With about ten minutes gone, Chaaban set off on a dangerous run, but decided to end it by firing wide from distance rather than send the ball wide to the overlapping Howard.
Buoyed by the half-time changes, Wimbledon enjoyed a spell of superiority, but had little to show for it. Barry Moore had Bull scrambling across his goal with a low shot, but otherwise chances were few and far between. At the other end Ahmed Dean continued to cause the Dons? defence problems with his pace and some fine control saw him beat Cooper before firing across Little?s goal.
A second penalty of the afternoon drew Wimbledon level. Chabaan?s skills smoked Salmon (atrocious pun copyright Radio WDON?s Mikey T) and the Aldershot substitute kicked the diminutive striker up the air. A penalty could be the only result from what would have been the defender?s first touch if only he had got anywhere near the ball.
Richard Butler fired the penalty into the net, just about, as Bull got more than a hand to it but was unable to keep it out.
The second period was rather quieter than the first, with little of note to report. Richard Butler pulled a trademark barnstorming run out of the locker which culminated in a fine shot beaten away by Bull. He was then replaced by Stefan Woj, with Kouman joining Chaaban up front.
It was the part-time players in the blue and yellow who finished marginally the stronger, but despite some nice touches in the middle of the park, the Dons couldn?t create another chance of note.
A creditable draw then, after a tough workout which yielded more positives than negatives for Dave Anderson and his yellow and blue army.