A Tony Finn treble enabled AFC Wimbledon to make up some ground on their Ryman Premier rivals with a tidy team performance that culminated in a 3-1 victory over Harlow Town. The winger scored two before the break and, although Mark Taylor’s spot kick in first half injury time was a setback, Finn went on to complete his hat-trick and seal the points.
Dons’ chief Terry Brown made just one change from the side that beat Hendon in the FA Trophy, bringing Steve Ferguson back on the right in place of Sam Hatton.
The Wombles made a promising start. On three minutes Antony Howard headed wide from a Mark De Bolla corner. But it was the Hawks who should have taken the lead on five minutes, after a good cross from the left by Leon Lalite fell to the unmarked Danny Green two yards out. No one in the ground was more astonished than Andy Little to see the forward fluff his attempt and the ball drop straight into the keeper’s outstretched arms.
The Dons attempted to make the best of their good fortune, counter-attacking at pace. De Bolla was unlucky to see his fine drive from distance curl wide of the right hand post.
Moments later, the visiting fans were treated to some old-fashioned ‘route one’ football as Little’s long kick was headed on by Webb into the path of Finn, who beat his defender but fired wide.
One thing was clear: a goal was coming, and it arrived on 17 minutes. The excellent Mark De Bolla won possession in midfield and released Tony Finn who raced towards the box and slammed the ball into the top left hand corner from 20 yards.
Three minutes later the Dons nearly doubled their lead. Michael Haswell’s long throw from the left was knocked down by Webb and Howard swept his shot just past the post.
After several more half-chances, the Dons extended their advantage on 31 minutes. Haswell played Ferguson down the left and the Scot crossed early to the edge of the six-yard box where Finn arrived to power his header into the net.
Before the break Lalite, looking the brightest star in the Harlow ranks, went close from 20 yards; but it was Green who won a penalty for the home side deep into stoppage time, drawing a clumsy challenge out of Jake Leberl. Little got both hands on Taylor’s spot kick but the ball careered up and in off the cross bar.
If Harlow’s band of supporters thought their side would come out with their tails up, Wimbledon gave them no opportunity to get going. Tony Finn secured the match ball, again from a fine De Bolla assist, dashing into space on the left and smashing another thunderbolt past Michael Dumoulin.
The tricky winger nearly made it four on 62 minutes latching onto Jake Leberl’s clever pass down the right. The former Tooting winger raced past his marker, cut inside, but drove into the side netting when perhaps he had colleagues better placed.
Daniel Webb then went close to getting on the score sheet, heading another Leberl cross just over the bar.
Harlow player/manager Ryan Kirby made some substitutions to forge a way back into the match, swapping both strikers for what appeared to be smaller, quicker versions. But it took some time for them to make an impact.
In the meantime, Ferguson and Robert Quinn engineered a cross out of nothing that Webb met with a diving header straight at Dumoulin.
The visitors took their foot off the gas in the last ten minutes and Lalite would continue to send out all the warning signals to the Dons backline. The impressive midfielder evaded a series of challenges and fired marginally wide, before beating Goodliffe for pace down the right and finding Dean Williams, who spun shot wide of Andy Little’s goal.
Kevin Warren nearly grabbed the Hawks a second goal arriving at the back post unmarked, but he guided his header off target.
By the end no one would begrudge the Dons their victory, least of all man of the match Finn. Results around the grounds went well too and Terry Brown’s men move up to seventh in the table.