Burton Albion's hopes of securing automatic promotion from League 2 were dealt a late blow at the Pirelli Stadium as Darren Jones' 98th minute equaliser snatched two points from the Brewers in their quest to get to League 1. The minimum five minutes that referee Dean Whitestone chose to add were more than up as the clock ticked into the eighth minute when a last ditch corner was punched clear under pressure by keeper Rob Lainton as far as Jones on the edge of the penalty area and his low shot crept through a packed penalty area to sneak in and deny the Brewers the win. In truth it was hard to deny that Wimbledon were worthy of a point based on their second half fightback after Billy Kee's 22nd minute penalty had given Gary Rowett's men the lead, however at this stage of the season it is results that matter over performances and the fact is that Albion were only seconds away from another crucial home win. As it is the Brewers drop to fifth three points off the top three and anxiously awaiting news of an injury to winger Zeli Ismail that forced the Wolves winger off with more than half an hour to play
The only changes to the matchday squad for Albion were on the bench as Brewers boss Gary Rowett stuck with an unchanged starting line-up following the goalless draw at Portsmouth on Tuesday evening.
Burton had most of the forward play in the early stages but were unable to seriously test visiting keeper Ross Worner. In fact the first serious threat from either side came on 14 minutes when George Francomb swung in a dangerous cross and the only man to react to it in the six yard box was Marcus Holness who was able to guide the ball clear of danger at the second attempt.
Albion heeded the warning and got themselves ahead on 22 minutes.. A long ball forward by Holness was well brought down by Dominic Knowles and when he burst into the area at pace, visiting skipper Alan Bennett stuck out a leg to bring him down. Up stepped Billy KEE for the penalty and having gone left and scored against Accrington, gone right and missed at Oxford, this time he went straight down the middle to beat Ross Worner and edge the Brewers in front.
A robust challenge on Zeli Ismail went unpunished shortly afterwards but when Darren Jones halted Jimmy Phillips progress down the opposite flank moments later referee Dean Whitestone produced the first yellow card of the game to the experienced centre back, operating at right back.
Kee was close to a second as he launched an overhead kick from the edge of the box that dropped just over Worner's goal and Wimbledon's afternoon got worse just after the half hour mark when stand-in left back Barry Fuller limped off to be replaced by Tom Richards.
Kee turned provider for Phillips as he ran onto a superb pass and after jinking past one defender he fired on goal only for Worner to get a leg to the ball to deflect it away from goal and keep Albion's lead to just the one.
The end of the first half was somewhat uneventful but Albion were happy to go in ahead.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 AFC Wimbledon
Half time substitute Charlie Wyke was quickly involved, heading over from inside the six yard box with less than a minute gone in the second period. Wyke came on for lanky midfielder Harry Pell as the Wombles reverted to a 4-4-2 and was quickly on the end of a cross from fellow substitute Richards but Shane Cansdell-Sherriff did just enough to prevent him gettinga perfect header in. Two wickedly flighted free kicks also had the Burton defence frantically trying to clear. Danny Hylton also steered an unmarked header into the waiting arms of Rob Lainton although an assistant's offside flag would have ruled the effort out had to managed to score.
Matty Palmer was called on to bolster midfield ten minutes into the half as Knowles was sacrificed from the attack and three minutes later the Brewers were dealt a blow when Ismail, racing through the middle in full flow, pulled up sharply with what looked like a hamstring injury and he also came off to be replaced by Alex MacDonald.
The change made no immediate impact as Wimbledon continued to press forwards and Wyke was making his presence firmly felt in the penalty area when he met George Francomb's corner with a downward header that bounced up and over the crossbar.
Sammy Moore went into the referee's book on 63 minutes for a clumsy challenge on Damien McCrory that left the popular left back requiring lengthy treatment from both the physio and doctor before Albion spurned two chances to extend their lead. Kee got his head to an excellent cross from MacDonald but could not quite steer it inside the far post and when Lee Bell's low piledriver deflected into the path of Matty Palmer the young midfielder had a chance to score but was denied by a sprawling save from Worner.
Experienced striker Jack Midson was thrown into the fray with twenty minutes to go for the visitors with Danny Hylton the mad withdrawn, his last action being to trip Robbie Weir cynically off the ball as Wimbledon threatened to counter down the right wing.
Kee shot on the turn on 74 minutes as he found space on the edge of the box but Worner had it covered.
Robbie Weir was unceremoniously brought down just outside the box on 82 minutes earning Andy Frampton the third yellow card of the game for the visitors and it also gave Albion a good position from which to threaten a second. Only the fingertips of Worner denied them their second goal as well as Phillips and Kee worked the short free kick for McCrory to curl the ball towards the top corner.
MacDonald also tested Worner with a low shot with a little under five minutes to go but Albion just couldnt get the second goal to give them breathing space. They continued to press right into five minutes of added time and Kee stretched to poke the ball wide after another excellent run from Phillips created the chance.
Wimbledon were determined to have the final say as they won a flurry of corners at the death. Midson's header cannoned back out off the inside of the post as it looked like the visitor's luck was out but a final corner came in and JONES low struck effort from the edge of the box did enough to sneak in as the clock ticked into added on time well beyond that shown by the fourth official.