For the third season on the spin, Ramsgate and Wimbledon played out a 1-1 stalemate at Southwood Stadium. Despite Steffan Ball missing a first half penalty, the hosts stuck to their game plan and forged ahead after the break when Warren Schulz slammed in at close range. Jon Main equalised for the Dons 11 minutes from time, but neither side could wrestle all three points, with both keepers making fine saves in the dying moments.
This game was always likely to be a tight, physical affair with the ball spending much of its afternoon sailing through the air. Indeed it was so, and the match frequently degenerated into a scrappy contest with a packed midfield ensuring that both sets of players were wasteful in possession.
Facing his first genuine selection headache of the campaign, Dons’ manager Terry Brown resorted to a 4-4-2 with Jon Main coming back in alongside Marcus Gayle up front. Steve Ferguson was preferred to Tony Finn and, consequently, Mark De Bolla started wide on the left.
Main would have the first effort after seven minutes, latching onto Luke Garrard’s ball into the right hand channel but slicing wide off the outside of his boot.
Ramsgate’s mammoth lone forward Steffan Ball would be a handful all afternoon. He bullied a path into the Dons area a minute later, lobbed Danny Knowles, but saw his effort drift wide.
Main and De Bolla were denied by good blocks in the box and the former Ebbsfleet man then blazed over from 15 yards following Antony Howard’s neat lay off. With chances few and far between, the travelling fans knew this missed opportunity could be costly.
On 40 minutes Ball galloped away from his markers again and rounded Knowles for what seemed a certain strike. Michael Haswell was the covering defender and his last ditch challenge put the ball out of play. However, the referee adjudged that he’d done it unfairly and awarded a spot kick. Ball stepped up to do the honours but fired wide.
Wimbledon, spurred on by their good fortune, pressed forward with some of the tidiest football of the game before half time. Steve Ferguson engineered a crossing opportunity for Garrard, but Jon Main’s glancing header was excellently parried by Paul Wilkerson low to his right.
Ferguson then chanced his arm with a volley from 25 yards that soared over the terracing and De Bolla let fly from a similar distance early in the second period, but couldn’t test Wilkerson.
The Rams took the lead on 54 minutes, counter-attacking from a Dons corner. Ball burst through the middle again, Garrard was there to make a covering tackle, but the ball broke to Phillips on the right, who delivered early to the far post and Warren Schulz made no mistake from five yards.
Andy Hadden nearly extended the advantage a few moments later, volleying speculatively from 30 yards and forcing Knowles to tip over for a corner.
Chasing the game, the Dons were struggling to find any cohesion going forward so Terry Brown introduced Tony Finn and Sam Hatton for De Bolla and Mark Beard, in the hope that sacrificing a ball winning midfielder for more creativity would unlock the home defence.
Jake Leberl went close with a long range attempt that deflected off a defender and looped over the bar. Finn put the resulting corner onto to Marcus Gayle’s head at the front post but he nodded wide.
The hosts seemed happy to settle for 1-0, dropping off and putting plenty of men behind the ball. But this allowed the Dons to build up some pressure. From a goalmouth skirmish Finn found he was unmarked in front of goal but couldn’t hit the target.
A few moments later, though, the visitors were back on level terms. Hatton played Finn into space on the left; the tricky winger beat his marker, made for the by-line and crossed for Main to convert his first goal in a Dons shirt.
Straight from the kick off the Dons nearly imploded. A long ball over the top seemed innocuous enough, but Garrard and Knowles both decided to field it and Garrard’s cushioned header sailed past the Dons’ keeper towards an unguarded net. Mercifully, the full back had the presence of mind – and the pace – to clear his lines before Ball could apply the finish.
The Dons went down the other end and won a corner. Finn delivered from the left and Leberl arrived, on cue, unmarked at the far post, but failed to work the keeper.
As the clock ticked down another Knowles error nearly cost his side, failing to claim a straightforward free kick from deep. Leberl was on hand to clear off the line. The Dons’ stopper then turned from villain to hero, sensationally turning Dan Dolton’s fierce half volley around the post low to his left.
Jon Main would create the last meaningful chance of the match, twisting and turning through several challenges before firing goal ward. Wilkerson sprang to his left to parry and then recovered superbly to deny Jason Goodliffe from the rebound.