AFC Wimbledon’s relegation to League Two was all but confirmed as for the third game in a row they threw away the lead, and with it the two points that would have ensured there was still a chance to stay up on the last day of the season.
Now they are relying on an eight-goal swing as well as a number of fixtures having to go their way. Here are Dave Hunt-Jackson’s takeaways from the match.
ARCHITECTS OF THEIR OWN DOWNFALL YET AGAIN
Fleetwood never looked like scoring in a scrappy game on a dreadful pitch but when Nik Tzanev took two touches from a free-kick and referee Anthony Backhouse penalised him – yards closer to goal than it should have been – the rest was inevitable.
It was a poor decision to go with many as the referee had a shocking game from start to finish, reacting to the crowd instead of the action in front of him. But that can’t disguise the fact that once again the South Londoners had shot themselves in the foot. Game after game they have gifted the opposition goals through lack of composure, poor concentration or poor decision making and in the end that, as much as anything, has cost them their place in the third tier.
THIRTY-NINE POINTS DROPPED FROM WINNING POSITIONS
Wimbledon have 37 points from their 45 games this season – just six wins to go with 19 draws – and yet they have led in so many of the drawn and lost matches. They have managed to drop not far short of a point a game from positions where they led.
Had they held on to those leads they would be eighth in the table, just four points of the play-off places.
More realistically had they picked up just half of those dropped points they would be comfortably in mid table rather than contemplating life back in League Two. They have just one chance left to ensure they don’t start next season with a winless run that would then stretch back nine months.
A LACK OF FIREPOWER
Aside from their defensive frailties, the Dons have been dogged by a failure to score enough goals and in particular from the their front men. Ollie Palmer, who left in January, outscored all of the many other forwards who have led the line this season with five league strikes.
True, both Aaron Cosgrave and Zach Robinson showed real promise before each got injured but they were pulled from development loans after the untimely sale of Palmer. They do offer hope for next season.
Incredibly no fewer than three of the Dons’ midfielders have outscored the strikers, although which of the three will be at Plough Lane next year is anyone’s guess with Jack Rudoni and Ayoub Assal sure to be on many a shopping list in the summer. It is another what might have been – those goals from midfield should have supplemented a far more healthy return from the players meant to be bagging the goals.
FAILING IN THE LOAN SYSTEM
AFC Wimbledon have a decent record with loan signings, most notably Aaron Ramsdale and the likes of Steve Seddon – but this season when they relied heavily on borrowed talent the recruitment failed them badly.
None of the strikers brought in made enough of an impact with just a handful of goals between them and only Henry Lawrence looks obviously destined to succeed at a higher level although of course all, bar Sam Cosgrove, are early in their careers.
Wimbledon face a challenge to keep the better players in the squad and a huge rebuilding exercise to equip themselves for what the fans will hope will be a season in the right half of the table for the first time since they last played in League Two.
If they are to rely on the loan market there is clearly much to be done to identify players capable of making a proper contribution and at the right stage of their development.
On and off the pitch the Dons have more work that ever to effect significant change ahead of the 2022-23 season.
PICTURES: LUCY DIXON