Fleetwood crash out of the play-offs

AFC Wimbledon v Fleetwood Town'Gareth Seddon scores for Fleetwood at Kingsmeadow
AFC Wimbledon v Fleetwood Town'Gareth Seddon scores for Fleetwood at Kingsmeadow

Fleetwood Town never recovered from conceding a goal as early as the first minute as AFC Wimbledon stamped their authority on a tie which they had already set-up with their 2-0 win at Highbury last Friday.

Town capitulated as the Dons marched on to a 6-1 victory which sealed their place in the play-off final against Luton Town at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Along with the magnificent travelling support, they were left to dust themselves down after a season which, when reflection takes place, will be seen as one of remarkable success.

It was an emotional night at Kingsmeadow with former Wimbledon favourites such as John Hartson and Dave Bassett introduced to the large Wimbledon contingent in the crowd of 4,538. Wimbledon had sold out their allocation of tickets and dominated most parts of the ground with 153 loyal souls making the long journey from Fleetwood.

Micky Mellon’s side showed three changes from last Friday’s game with starts for Peter Cavanagh, replacing Shaun Beeley who has a thigh strain, Alex-Ray Harvey and George Donnelly. The side set up in a 4-3-3 formation. Wimbledon boss, Terry Brown, named an unchanged team.

As at Highbury, Wimbledon went immediately on the attack and Kaid Mohamed put Sean Gregan under immediate pressure. The former Bath City striker won out and placed the ball past Danny Hurst for his second goal of the tie, in a manner similar to Luke Moore at Highbury.

Junior Brown began to move forward down the left as Town fought to get back into the tie and Donnelly had Town’s first chance, firing over from his right foot after eleven minutes. An even better opportunity came five minutes later as Gareth Seddon broke free but Seb Brown, as in the first leg, was equal to the task and smothered the threat. Donnelly had a half chance in the nineteenth minute as Town forced successive corners.

Wimbledon, always confident on the ball, came back strongly after 24 minutes. Mohamed found space to set up Danny Kedwell and the striker set up the advancing Sammy Hatton who fell to the ground in despair as his shot sailed over.

Town had a chance to get back on terms when Magno Vieira’s close-range shot was cleared off the line but Wimbledon struck again just two minutes later. Hatton sent a raking crossfield ball from deep, near half way, and it went with unerring accuracy to Kedwell on the edge of the penalty area. The Dons skipper had enough space to turn and touch the ball past the advancing Hurst and in via the far post for his 24th goal of the season.

It took Wimbledon just seven minutes to add a third, Moore, hero of the first leg, setting up Mohamed who was able to stroke the ball into an empty goal. Town had the final opportunity of the first half, Seddon having a shot pushed wide by Brown.

Micky Mellon made a double substitution after the break with Paul Linwood replacing Gregan, and Sean Clancy on for Vieira. Wimbledon replaced Gareth Gwillim with Ismail Yakubu. Town quietened the partisan crowd for the only time in the evening as they struck back after two minutes of the second half.

Clancy moved forward and his right foot shot was palmed by Brown. Seddon followed up to tap in at the back post for his 11th league goal of the season, although there had been a suspicion of a defender’s touch. Five minutes later, Anthony Barry fired a free-kick through the wall but straight at Brown.

Christian Jolley replaced Moore in the 55th minute and a minute later Donnelly shot over the bar from a Brown pass. Substitute, Linwood, received his fifth yellow card of the season just after the hour as Town were pressed back in their own half.

Wimbledon’s fourth, and Mohamed’s hat-trick, came in the 63rd minute as the striker tapped in at the back post after Hurst had blocked Rashid Yussuff’s shot.

Any momentum that Town had created after their goal dissolved. The agony continued four minutes later as Jolley scored his 13th of the season, gratefully accepting a second chance after Hurst had saved.

Kedwell left the field to tumultuous applause in the 71st minute, to be replaced by James Mulley. Three minutes later, Linwood headed off the line after Cavanagh had put him under pressure. It took Mulley less than 10 minutes to make his mark, jinking past Hurst’s dive to touch the ball in from a tight angle in the 80th minute.

Well before this point the announcer had told the crowd that the Dons would be returning after the match for a lap of honour.

By this stage, Town were back in the dressing room, having saluted the wonderful travelling support, and left to rue a disappointing night.

When the cold light of day comes, they will reflect with pride on a historic season which included 22 league wins, the opening of a magnificent new stand, a club record crowd and live TV coverage.

DAVID MITCHELL