AFC Wimbledon 1 Fleetwood Town 0. TOWN more than matched the league leaders, only for their first-ever trip to Kingsmeadow to end in disappointment, as a late Christian Jolley tap-in was followed by the sending-off of Junior Brown for a second bookable offence.
The 84th-minute winner, following a rare mistake by keeper Scott Davies, was cruel on Town, whose 13 chances up to that point had included all the game’s best opportunities.
Town continue to cling to their play-off spot, despite this third successive away defeat, though they are now well adrift of the other clubs in the top five, and have Kidderminster breathing down their necks.
The fit-again Shaun Beeley and Sean Gregan returned to a Town defence in which there was no place for club captain Steve McNulty, while John Miles was preferred to Jamie Milligan in midfield and top scorer Magno Vieira returned to partner Gareth Seddon up front, having been dropped for the midweek defeat at Histon.
The match was scrappy at times, with a bobbly pitch making fluent passing football difficult.
Wimbledon’s attacking intent was immediately apparent as Danny Kedwell forced a first-minute corner, which Davies did well to claim under pressure from the big AFC defenders, who advanced menacingly.
But Town hit straight back as Seddon, Sean Clancy and Vieira all had early opportunities, the best falling to Seddon whose free-header was just too high.
Anthony Barry curled a free-kick just over the angle of bar and post midway, then the final action of the first half saw Brown race sharply to the edge of his area to deny Vieira.
Town continued to make the running in the second half, which started with Vieira again unlucky not to break the deadlock.
Just 40 seconds after the restart, the striker collected Barry’s pass with his back to goal 25 yards out.
Vieira then produced a piece of trademark Brazilian tricker to flick the ball up and chip keeper Brown, only to see the ball hold up in the strong wind.
Wimbledon’s failure to clear a dangerous Jamie Mullan cross almost resulted in a second goal of the season for Junior Brown, only for the left-back’s right-foot shot to fly agonisingly wide of the left post after he had skipped past three defenders.
Brown’s namesake in the Wimbledon goal was then spotted off his line by Jamie McGuire, who attempted a chip even more ambitious than Vieira’s earlier effort, but the 40-yard strike sailed wide.
The midfielder was soon denied again as the Wimbledon defence had its luckiest escape of all.
A threatening long-throw from Beeley fell to Vieira, whose shot was blocked on the line by the outstretched boot of Jamie Stuart.
But not for the first time Town would be made to pay for missed opportunities.
Six minutes remained when Kedwell’s header caught the wind and deceived keeper Davies on his goal-line.
The ball eluded his grasp and Jolley pounced from two years to steal the victory and extend Wimbledon’s lead to four points.
To compound manager Micky Mellon’s anguish, Brown was sent off for two yellow-card fouls on the scorer – a shoulder charge followed by a lunge.
The full-back will miss Saturday’s visit to Luton Town following Town’s first Tuesday night off for five weeks.
Natalia Bradford and Michael Woods
Wimbledon: S Brown, Hatton, Stuart, Johnson, Gwillim, S Moore, Gregory (Yussuff 74), Mulley, Jackson, Kedwell, Jolley.
Not used: Franks, Turner, Nwokeji, Kiernan.
Fleetwood: Davies (GK), Beeley, Haining, Gregan (C), Brown, Miles (Mullan 57), Barry, McGuire, Clancy, Seddon, Vieira. Not used: Hurst, Milligan, Pond, Rowe
Ref: T Robinson