AFC Wimbledon made the best possible start to their Blue Square South campaign, drubbing Newport County 4-1 at Spytty Park. County officials had promised a welcome in the hillsides but Terry Brown’s men surely couldn’t have envisaged such generosity from the home defence. A Jon Main hat-trick either side of half time sent the travelling supporters into dreamland before Tony Finn added a fourth. Even continual, driving rain and a late Dave Collins consolation goal couldn’t dampen the spirits.
Much speculation had surrounded the Dons manager’s first pick of the season in view of the considerable injury list. He plumped for a central defensive partnership of Alan Inns and Ben Judge with Kennedy Adjie anchoring the midfield. Jake Leberl was only deemed fit enough for the bench. Up front Main would be supported by Finn and new signing Elliott Godfrey.
Exiles boss, Dean Holdsworth, named a host of new recruits including former Wimbledon FC midfielder Kevin Cooper, who was given an appropriately enthusiastic and respectful ovation from Dons fans.
The heavy rain made fluent, passing football tricky for both teams but Newport found their feet first and dominated the early exchanges, while the nervous-looking Dons attempted to grind their way into the contest.
It took fully fifteen minutes for a first meaningful shot and it came from the steadily improving visitors. Tom Davis half-volleyed just shy of the left hand post after good approach work from Finn, Main and Adjie.
Sixty seconds later Newport had the ball in the net. Unfortunately for striker Rob Duffy, his header wouldn’t count as the referee had already blown for an infringement on the edge of the area.
With the initial storm weathered, the Dons set about finding some attacking rhythm. Finn hustled and bustled down the left, eventually locating Adjie who hooked the ball goal bound for Sam Hatton to nip in and test the keeper at close range. Tom Davis then jinked past a defender and fired in a low drive that whistled past the left hand upright.
At the other end lively County striker Jamal Easter robbed Adjie in midfield and dropped his shoulder before shooting low to Andy Little’s right; the keeper scrambling to turn the ball away for a corner.
With half an hour on the clock Hatton showed good strength to make yardage through the middle before playing Main into the right hand channel. Keeper Glyn Thompson got his angles right and made a decent parry to foil the former Tonbridge man. Davis would supply a carbon copy pass for Main just one minute later drawing another fine stop out of the Newport stopper.
But the Dons finally forged ahead on 39 minutes when Michael Haswell engineered some neat give-and-go on the left from a throw in routine and crossed for an unmarked Main to head powerfully into the bottom right hand corner.
On the front foot the Dons pushed forward. Godfrey and Inns nearly worked a second goal before the break. Godfrey’s corner picked out the big centre half but Inns’ towering header was brilliantly palmed over the bar by Thompson. Inns nearly capitalised from the subsequent corner but couldn’t quite force this second opportunity into the net.
So, having had the best of the goal scoring chances, the Dons took just a slender lead into the break and that driving rain continued unabated.
Jake Leberl appeared for the second half replacing Hatton who had sustained a knock in the first period.
Newport made their clearest chance to equalise on 56 minutes from another free-kick but Kevin Stephens skewed his header horribly wide from six yards.
The visitors’ response was immediate and lethal. Godfrey found Adjie on the edge of the box and, although the youngster appeared to under hit his pass into the right hand channel, Main slipped his marker and smashed the ball imperiously into the roof of the net.
With the two goal cushion the Wombles began to play their best football of the afternoon, switching the play from one flank to the other, creating space with clever running off the ball and a desire to commit numbers forward at pace.
It culminated in Main completing his hat-trick on 71 minutes, after Godfrey’s half cleared corner was knocked back into the box by substitute Luke Pigden. Main arrived untracked, spinning and slotting coolly to the keeper’s left.
Five minutes later, the Dons made it four. Godfrey initiated a counter attack down the left flank and simply rolled the ball into Finn’s path for the winger to fire low into the bottom corner.
Jon Main was substituted moments after and received generous applause from the home crowd as he left the field.
Newport, to their credit, kept battling and blotted the Dons’ copybook with eleven minutes to go. Andy Little saved at full stretch to deny Paul Hall’s effort from the edge of the box but the substitute kept the ball alive on the right hand touch line and crossed for full back Collins to sweep into the net. It was perhaps disappointing to concede such a soft goal when the Dons defence had remained so strong throughout tougher spells during the afternoon, especially Inns and Judge who ran the show from the back.
The Exiles, driven on by pride, surged forward for a second. A free kick from deep was won by Phil Walsh in the box but he was unable to guide his header past Andy Little who gathered comfortably. The visitors killed the game and 4-1 it stayed, a result that Dons’ chief Terry Brown must be delighted with.
On Tuesday the Dons face Thurrock, who narrowly lost out to Eastleigh by a single goal on the opening day. The Essex side will be keen to get their first points on the board and will, no doubt, provide a stern test for Brown’s new look squad.