Wimbledon crashed to a disappointing second consecutive home defeat at the hands of play off rivals Horsham, in front of 2,689 clearly disgruntled fans. Wimbledon conceded four goals for the first time this season in the league, eventually going down 4-2 to the impressive looking Lardy Boys, who played ex-Wombles Gavin Bolger and Lewis Taylor in their midfield.
The match began at a lively pace. Horsham showed they were prepared to attack and this contributed to the game stretching itself from end to end. From the outset it was clear Horshamís left sided Dwain Clarke would be a threat and the Donsí defence was guilty of gifting him generous time and space. However it was Wimbledon that struck first on 8 minutes. Steven Ferguson surged forward, crossed to Romone Rose who headed at goal, Alan Mansfield in the Horsham goal parried but straight to Daniel Webb who converted his chance well. 1-0 AFC Wimbledon.
Despite official British summertime being just around the corner, as with previous weeks at Kingsmeadow, wet, blustery conditions were hampering play, especially for the goalkeeper at the away end. After conceding, Horsham pressed forward playing some neat football. If slightly ample in physique, Stuart Myall made up for this with a tremendous set piece delivery, aided by conditions that tormented the Donsí defence all afternoon. It was his delivery on 21 minutes that created panic in Wimbledonís defence; unable to clear, Lee Farrell found the ball and smashed it home, drawing the sides level.
Despite the set back, at this stage the Dons were still stringing some excellent moves together, right up until the end product, when frequently the final delivery was squandered, causing the crowd anguish. Wimbledon were close to regaining the lead when Rose narrowly drilled a shot over, whilst Farrell almost doubled his tally for the afternoon for Horsham. Daniel Webb also performed well for Wimbledon in the first half. As both sides attacked, it left the game more open, something that suited Wimbledon, who looked less threatening when having to break a side down from a standstill.
However, to the home fansí disappointment, it was Horsham that scored next. Possibly noticing the vast amounts of freedom Dwain Clarke was enjoying on the left hand side, Lewis Taylor came over to join in the fun. With Wimbledonís right side going missing, Taylor contested a header with the covering Hatton, before impressively striking the knock down, which ballooned into Wimbledonís goal over the stranded and helpless Pullen. Not endearing himself to his old fans, Taylor earned himself a yellow card with his celebrations.
Moments before the break Horsham almost extended their lead and Farrell produced an Ashley Cole/Javier Mascherano moment of dissent and had to be held back by team mates. Perhaps the striker was lucky only to receive a yellow card bearing in mind the current climate in the game towards officials not receiving enough respect. The half petered out with Wimbledon looking a shade more lethargic and passes beginning to go astray.
Terry Brown shuffled his pack at half time, taking off both full backs, and Robin Shroot and Marcus Gayle entered the fray. Gayle lined up with Goodliffe at centre back, flanked by the youth of Hussey and Christon, who had looked accomplished on debut. Confusingly Shroot seemed unaware of his role, beginning in left midfield, before being berated at by the management team telling him to drop in behind the strikers, which seemed to limit Wimbledonís width.
Horsham were shrewd, realising that Wimbledonís best chances relied on the gameís tempo being high. Consequently, at every possible moment they lowered it. Countless times players dropped to the floor claiming injury, before sprinting back onto the field of play. This deliberately slowed tempo and restricted the Donsí chances and Hatton and Shroot both blazed over rare opportunities as clear openings were proving hard to muster, yet it was still Wimbledon on top.
One must make note of the considerable support the fans gave Wimbledon. True, come the final whistle, boos rang out, but right until the end they could be heard singing their hearts out. On 73 minutes their support paid dividends as another blatant Horsham handball presented AFC Wimbledon with a penalty and a route back into the game. Chris Hussey stepped up and sent the crowd into raptures. AFC Wimbledon 2, Horsham 2, game on.
Instantly the gameís tempo increased, as Horshamís attackers re-entered proceedings. But a mere 2 minutes after the leveller, Dwain Clarke produced a sublime finish, matching Taylorís earlier effort to claw Horsham back in front. This was a finish that his energetic display justified.
In a thrilling game for the neutral, moments later, Rose had an effort tipped onto the post and then Ferguson completely bamboozled his man, facing the goalkeeper one on one. Unfortunately Alan Mansfield was equal to his effort. Both glorious chances fell inside 90 seconds of Dwain Clarkís stunning strike and their failed conversion proved vital. After rousing the crowd, the remainder of the match only disappointed Wimbledon. More injuries to Horsham stopped the gameís flow, a lengthy injury to Lewis Taylor further infuriated the Wimbledon faithful, and - to make matters worse - when proceedings finally restarted, a Hussey high ball got caught in the wind, Bolger headed on and Farrell went in one on one with Lee Pullen to rub salt into AFC Wimbledonís considerable wounds and make the final score 4-2.
Possibly 4-2 flattered Horsham, but Wimbledonís rivals for the playoffs are a well knit unit. Lee Farrell looks a potent weapon up front, flanked by the impressive Lewis Taylor and Dwain Clarke, and with delightful set piece contributions from Stuart Myall, the Lardy Boys are undoubtedly a handful. Wimbledonís home and away records are similar (home: W11, D3, L5 and away W9, D5, L5), so maybe home advantage isnít so crucial, but certainly better performances are essential to appease the Donsí support in the crucial remaining weeks of the season if promotion is finally to be achieved..