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  • Writer's pictureBy Dan Evans

Wimbledon's miserable run reaches a new low against relegation-threatened Crawley

AFC Wimbledon (0) 0

Crawley Town (1) 1 5 Nadesan

It seems hard to recall now but there was a point earlier this year when AFC Wimbledon’s season was full of hope.

It is easy to lose sight of any flashes of positivity given a traumatic 2022 saw the club endure one of the longest runs without a win in the history of English league football and inevitably return to League Two, yet by the start of 2023 the tide seemed to have turned.

A strong spell between November and January generated a belief that Johnnie Jackson could be the manager to lead a return to League One, perhaps not this season but certainly the one after. Even the protracted departure of star man Ayoub Assal did little to halt the momentum of a young side capable of remaining defensively sound as it switched between formations.

A run of one win in 14 matches since has suggested otherwise. Injuries have no doubt taken their toll, and it is tantalising to think what mid-season signing Ali Al Hamadi would be capable of if Assal was still around to supply him, but the last two months have been almost exclusively miserable. This defeat to relegation-threatened Crawley was probably the least enjoyable day yet.

Crawley arrived in south London without an away win all season long, sitting 23rd in the League Two table having been swatted aside down the road at Sutton just ten days ago.

They were a goal up at Plough Lane within five minutes as James Tilley was given all the time in the world to run clear down the left flank before Ashley Nadesan was allowed an equal amount of space to tap his cross home.

It was the sort of goal that teams concede when they have little left to play for in a season. The sort they concede when they have not won in nine games and just once across the last 14. It was exactly the sort of goal that Wimbledon have been conceding on a weekly basis since the start of February.

The Dons rallied briefly. Homegrown Will Nightingale returned to the centre of defence and put in more than one determined challenge to prevent Nadesan striding clear, yet Crawley were comfortable in a way that their league position suggested they never should have been.

A chorus of half-time boo’s was to be expected given the closest the home crowd had seen to some attacking thrust was an ungainly yet determined charge from the centre of defence by Aaron Pierre that ended with him somehow flooring Travis Johnson and giving away a foul despite still being in possession.

The required reaction did not arrive after the interval either. Jackson introduced academy graduates Hus Biler and Alfie Bendle for old head Chris Gunter and captain Alex Woodyard around the hour mark, although this symbolic passing of the baton of responsibility did little to inspire a comeback and nothing to change the outcome.

Even Al Hamadi, often the only aspect of Wimbledon’s performance worth watching both today and in the last few weeks, could not rescue them as he headed off target from a Saikou Janneh cross.

Jackson usually remains calm on the touchline to try and help his young side through the challenges that have left them in their current predicament, but even he was showing visible frustration by the closing minutes.

The final result moved the visitors out of the relegation zone and offers them real hope of survival. The now 11-point gap between themselves and Wimbledon, as well as the Dons recent form, suggests Jackson’s men may have left the purgatory of mid-table mediocrity for something even worse.

Wimbledon: (4-2-3-1) Tzanev – Gunter (Biler 64), Nightingale, Pierre, Currie – Little, Woodyard (Bendle 64) – Pearson, McAteer (Janneh 45), Chislett – Al Hamadi. Subs not used: Broome, Marsh, Ogundere, Jenkins

Crawley: (4-4-2) Addal – Johnson, Francilette (Lynch 62), Conroy, Mazeed – Tilley (Roles 65), Powell, Mutch (Khaleel 74), Oteh – Telford (Gladwin 65), Nadesan. Subs not used: Schofield, Fellows, Mason


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