Wimbledon emerged from their recent poor spell with a convincing performance in a 2-0 win against Harrow that was more dominating than the score suggested.
The Dons welcomed two new loan players – Luis Cumbers, from Gillingham made the starting line up, while Romone Rose, from QPR had to be satisfied with a place on the bench. Tony Finn started in a wide right role, with Karl Beckford wide left, as Terry Brown reverted to his favoured 4-4-2 formation.
From the off, the Dons took hold of the game and while Harrow huffed and puffed, they never posed a major threat. The Dons defence was back to its restrictive best, with the return of Luke Garrard making it look all the more secure.
After some early flurries, when Finn and Garrard led a series of attacks down the right, Wimbledon took the lead. A left wing corner was cleared, but only as far as Leberl who lobbed a hopeful ball into the penalty area. The Harrow defence was caught on the wrong foot as the ball fell to Frankie Howard, who had time to show the best and worst of his goalscoring skills, swinging and missing completely with his first attempt and then slamming the ball into the net with his second. He was so enamoured by his goalscoring feat that, later in the half, he was seen leading the charge towards the Harrow goal, screaming for Finn to thread a through ball for him.
Harrow fought back and within moments had the ball in the Wimbledon net, only to find the assistant referee’s flag raised for offside. And, with the exception of a header that just cleared the bar, that was that in terms of direct threats from Harrow.
At the other end, the Dons continued to threaten, with Cumbers making excellent runs and beginning to form an understanding with his teammates. He showed good pace and excellent awareness which ought to have earned him a goal. But the second, and last, goal of the game came just before the interval, when Beckford converted a penalty with almost arrogant ease. The penalty was won by Finn who cut in from the left and, as he went between two defenders they managed to sandwich him and the referee rightly gave a penalty.
In the second half, Harrow had more possession than before but still the chances fell to Wimbledon. Cumbers was thwarted by former Womble, Josh Lennie, when he ran onto a quickly taken free kick from Hatton, while Frankie Howard thumped the post when given a free header from a set piece. Rose came on and gave the Harrow defence problems with his pace and directness, drawing yet another excellent save from Lennie. Meanwhile, the only major threat to the Wimbledon goal came when Hatton misplaced a pass and set Constant away, but he was unable to make a telling pass and the moment was gone almost as soon as it arose.
In the last minute of normal time, Hatton received a second yellow card for resisting an opponent who was trying to pull his shirt off his back. Clearly this is a serious offence and it was surprising that the referee didn’t issue a straight red. Hatton was lucky to be on the pitch at the time as, having been booked early in the second half, he then clearly handled the ball and could have been booked for that. Had that happened, the crowd might have understood, but the decision that led to his dismissal was strange, to say the least. Fortunately for Wimbledon this happened in the last couple of minutes of normal time and there was little time for Harrow to take advantage of their extra man.
With Hendon not playing this win takes Wimbledon into third place. The game at Horsham on Tuesday now looms even larger in its importance to the likely outcome of this season.