In difficult conditions at Kingsmeadow, AFC Wimbledon turned on the style, scoring four and derailing a gradually improving Hastings United side. With play hampered by a piercing early year sun and a rasping wind, goals by Hatton, Shroot, a bizarre own goal and Ferguson secured the points for Wimbledon on St Davidís day in front of 2,711 fans. Terry Brown made three changes to his side, bringing in Beard, Shroot and newly signed Alfie Potter for his eagerly anticipated Wombles debut.
Early on, conditions prevented many chances being produced, as both teams acclimatised to the conditions. However, Alfie Potter was soon showcasing the skills that were on display at Anfield a few weeks ago and the winger settled quickly and began with some neat touches. It must be said that the side to settle first was Hastings. Tony Dolby has inspired more confidence in the relegation battlers and they forced James Pullen in the Wimbledon goal into action, tipping over shots from Sam Adams and Nathan Simpson, although perhaps the Hastings agenda was apparent from their decision to leave four back at the resulting corners.
It seemed Kingsmeadow was in for an afternoon of pernickety refereeing, as Mr Venamore saw some early collisions very differently from the majority of onlookers. Yet at least the man in the middle remained consistent. After presenting Hastings with a dangerous free kick for the slightest of challenges, moments later he rewarded AFC Wimbledon with an equally generous free kick, in a threatening position. Sam Hatton stepped up and unleashed a thunderbolt of a shot into the top corner to give Wimbledon the lead with just under 20 minutes played.
Having acquired the lead, confidence oozed into the Wombles game as the likes of Finn and Rose began troubling defenders more frequently. Rose was working hard up front and was unlucky to take the ball too wide having rounded Lee Worgan in the Hastings goal. Gayle nodded over from Potterís consequent corner delivery.
Just after the half hour mark, another set piece resulted in a goal for Wimbledon. Hatton again took the kick, though this time the midfielder turned provider as Robin Shroot reacted quickest, racing in at the near post and deftly putting the ball into the back of the net. Wimbledon continued to press for more spoils as the half neared its conclusion, only briefly paused for Tim Olorunda and Mark Beard to exchange yellow cards.
The second half began and Wimbledon maintained their grip on the game, dominating proceedings. Seven minutes in, Potter began taunting his marker and sent in two impressive crosses from the left in as many minutes, which should have resulted in more. On 55 minutes Hussey again linked up well with Potter, the fullback cutting in and narrowly driving a shot over.
Hastings had to gamble, as manager Dolby saw his side were being wholly penned back, and hence Matt Maclean was introduced to add to the attacking options. From any subsequent throw or set piece in Wimbledonís half, central defender Nathan Russell began appearing in the Wombles box with orders to win flick-ons. This tactic turned the match back into a contest as the hefty defender began causing problems.
Soon afterwards, the game reached its turning point. With men pushed forward, more chances were being manufactured for Hastings and - just after the hour mark - Antonio Gonnella raced clear on the right for the visitors and released a perfect cross for Danny Leach who somehow managed to hit the bar from a couple of yards out. Moments later, Leach suffered deja vu; racing past Goodliffe and Gayle, the striker lobbed Pullen, yet saw his effort once again come back off the bar. Had Leach been more clinical, perhaps the visitors would have troubled Wimbledon further
However, clearly wounded from Leachís misses, Hastings boldness shrunk and Wimbledon began to cut effortlessly through the Sussex outfit. The industrious Rose tested Worgan, as did Shroot. Halfway through the second half the Wimbledon faithful all united in applause as loyal servant Anthony Howard came on for his final appearance at Kingsmeadow. His every touch would be greatly applauded.
With just over 15 minutes left, Finn produced a trademark long distance effort, admirably saved by the busy Worgan in the Hastings goal. From the resulting Potter corner, the ball deviated in the wind causing panic in the Hastings area. As Goodliffe pressured the goalkeeper, the linesman flagged that the ball had crossed the line, a decision that incensed Hastings. The goal was eventually credited as a Worgan own goal. Possibly a slightly fortuitous decision, the goal finally killed any remaining resistance from the visitors and was a third set piece goal for the Dons.
As Hastings quarreled with the referee, they may not have noticed Terry Brown throw Steve Ferguson into the action, yet minutes later, after a glorious Hussey cross, Ferguson gave the delivery what it deserved, finishing with aplomb, a rare headed goal for the attacker. Four nil Wimbledon. There was just time for Leberl to make his return from injury for the Dons, and Hastings manager (and ex-Millwall regular) Tony Dolby to roll back the years as he entered the fray as a makeshift striker for his team.