Plymouth Argyle earn precious point at AFC Wimbledon
CENTRE-BACK Anthony Charles put in a towering performance for Argyle as they battled it out for a point against relegation rivals AFC Wimbledon last night.
Charles won countless tackles and headers and made a couple of crucial clearances in the six-yard area.
Bottom-of-the-table Argyle put in a very determined display and had to show tremendous resolve as Wimbledon put them under a lot of pressure in the second half.
Both goals in an action-packed game came within a 60-second period in the first half.
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First, winger Jason Banton fired Argyle into the lead in the 26th minute with a fine low shot after a swift counter attack.
Wimbledon did not take long to equalise though as midfielder Harry Pell scored from close range.
Both teams had chances after that to secure three precious points but they had to settle for one apiece.
Argyle did not have the perfect preparation for the crucial League Two clash, arriving at Kingsmeadow an hour before kick-off.
The team coach was delayed by heavy traffic in south London.
There were recalls for the loan duo of Ronan Murray and Gozie Ugwu, with Cowan-Hall and Paul Wotton dropping out of the side.
Striker Nick Chadwick was among the substitutes after serving a six-match suspension.
Ugwu was paired in attack with another loanee, Reuben Reid, while Murray played on the right of midfield in an attacking 4-4-2 formation.
Cowan-Hall and Wotton were among the Pilgrims' seven substitutes.
Maxime Blanchard continued to play at right-back in the absence of Durrell Berry,ho was ruled out for a second successive match by a knee injury.
Wimbledon's side included 43-year-old former Scotland international goalkeeper Neil Sullivan.
The hosts, who had picked up seven points from their previous three matches, were boosted by the presence of Gary Alexander in their attack.
Alexander had been a doubt for the fixture because of an injury he suffered in the 1-0 win away to Dagenham and Redbridge on Saturday.
Argyle had the first chance of the contest as early as the fourth minute after good play by Banton.
The on-loan Crystal Palace winger cut inside Wimbledon right-back Mat Mitchel-King and he had a fierce angled shot tipped away by Sullivan.
It was a promising sign that Banton, back in south London, could be a threat for the Pilgrims.
Argyle needed some alert defending from Guy Branston when he conceded a corner in the 12th minute with a diving header over the bar as he cut out a threatening cross.
Wimbledon started to apply some pressure with a series of corners and long throw-ins.
Yet it was Argyle who took the lead in the 26th minute when Banton scored the third goal of his loan spell. It came from a swift breakaway with Banton latching onto an excellent pass from Reid.
Banton went past Mitchel-King and sent a low left-foot shot past Sullivan and into the bottom corner of the net.
Wimbledon equalised almost immediately, though, with a scrambled effort from Pell.
The first attempt from Mitchel-King, after a left wing cross from Brennan Dickenson, was blocked on the line but Pell tucked away the rebound.
Argyle wasted a good chance to restore their lead in the 31st minute from another rapid counter attack.
Reid was again the creator, sending in a good right-wing cross which picked out Murray, but he sent the ball wide of the target from close range.
There was a blow for Argyle when Banton had to limp out of the action a couple of minutes later.
Banton, who had been struggling for some time with a leg injury, was replaced by 18-year-old Jamie Richards, who made his league debut.
Richards slotted into the side at left-back, with Onismor Bhasera moving forward in front of him.
Banton had clearly had the beating of Mitchel-King so his early exit was a setback for Argyle – and a boost for the Dons.
Richards, who has been with the Pilgrims since the age of nine, was making only his second appearance for the club.
He had previously played in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie against Aldershot Town at Home Park in October.
An entertaining first half, which saw both sides attack with plenty of pace on the flanks, ended 1-1.
Wimbledon had a decent chance before the break when striker Jack Midson headed over the bar from a corner.
After the interval, Reid had a shot saved by Sullivan following a good break from Ugwu.
Striker Jesse Darko, on as a half-time substitute for Dickenson, crashed a first-time shot over the bar for the south London hosts soon afterwards.
The play was more scrappy than it had been in the first half, although not lacking in endeavour.
There was a scare for Argyle in the 60th minute when Pell's header from a corner was cleared away from close to his own goal-line by Charles.
It was a crucial intervention by Charles otherwise Pell's header would have ended up in the net.
Blanchard and Wimbledon midfielder Sammy Moore both needed treatment after a crunching 50-50 challenge.
Argyle's second substitution came in the 65th minute when Chadwick was sent on for Ugwu.
Chadwick's first touch was a header which found Reid running across the penalty area but he could not get his shot on target.
Blanchard needed more medical attention after a clash of heads with Branston as they defended a 69th minute cross into the penalty area.
Argyle 'keeper Jake Cole was then called into action as he pushed a dipping shot from Wimbledon midfielder Sammy Moore over the bar. Chadwick had a good chance in the 81st minute after a good run and cut-back from Bhasera but the substitute's shot on the turn was straight at Sullivan.
That was greeted with a chant of 'Come on Argyle, Come on Argyle' from the 829 away fans in an attendance of 4,480.
There was another scare for Argyle in the 85the minute when left-back Chris Hussey fired a free-kick towards goal. Cole could not hold onto the shot and the ball bounced into the net but referee Tim Robinson ruled the 'keeper had been fouled.
That was the signal for some sustained pressure from Wimbledon as they chased a winning goal.
They survived that onslaught and even had a late flourish themselves, but it remained 1-1 until the final whistle.
Despite their battling point, Argyle remain bottom and are now three points adrift as Accrington and Barnet both claimed wins.