It was another late, late show at the Cherry Red Records Fans’ Stadium as AFC Wimbledon defeated a stout but ultimately unadventurous challenger, this time in the shape of Bognor Regis Town, by three goals to one. Tony Finn’s breathtaking volley on 24 minutes was cancelled out on the stroke of half time by midfielder Simon Jackson and the Dons laboured to make openings in the second half. But, when Finn danced away from two defenders and played Jon Main into the penalty box with the clock running down, there was only going to be one outcome. Main converted and the visitors panicked allowing the Dons to pick them off again in stoppage time; Dean Mason scoring his first senior goal for the club.
Wimbledon boss Terry Brown reverted to the eleven that started at Newport County, replacing Jake Leberl with the now-fit Sam Hatton. Bognor were unchanged from the side that played out a midweek 0-0 with Hampton & Richmond Borough.
It took fully ten minutes for a near credible attempt on either goal. The Dons won a free-kick 25 yards out but Hatton fired it wide of the right hand post.
The Rocks brought a similar level of ambition as Thurrock did earlier in the week, setting out their stall to press the Dons all over the park, force errors and grab what they could on the counter. Former Don, Duncan Jupp, fired a free kick effort straight at Andy Little and Danny Smith spooned a rather hopeful half-volley over the bar.
Dons’ striker Main was contentiously booked on 20 minutes for diving. Finn spun away from David Waterman and sent the marksman racing towards goal. After beating one defender he seemed to have shown too much to keeper Darren Behcet but nicked the ball away and went to ground. The home fans screamed “penalty”, the referee reached for his pocket signifying he was not at all moved – a seemingly harsh decision that prompted an equal measure of disdain from the terraces.
On 24 minutes the hosts took the lead. Elliott Godfrey’s cross from the left was half cleared, but only as far as Finn lurking on the edge of the box who thundered his volley into the top left corner.
Tom Davis then started and finished his own move which began with a delicious chip out of defence to Godfrey and ended with him galloping onto Main’s right wing cross to draw a fine stop out of Behcet.
A minute later Alan Inns put Finn in on goal. The attacker dithered for a moment and, when he realised there was no way round the keeper, he teed up Hatton who blazed high and wide.
Just as the first half was drifting into added time Bognor equalised. Nobody tracked Paul Watson’s forward run and the left back had all the time in the world to cross to the back post for Jackson to finish off with a powerful header.
The Dons started the second period in determined fashion but it was Rocks’ striker Joe Gatting who had the first sight of goal forcing Andy Little to gather low to his right.
Normal service was soon resumed, though. Main broke down the right and pulled the ball back from the touchline; the visitors snuffed out the danger and conceded a corner. Godfrey swung his delivery on to Ben Judge’s head but the former Bromley defender got his timing all wrong. Hatton hooked another effort over the bar following a fine interchange between Haswell, Godfrey and Finn down the left. Then Garrard and Finn worked an opening down the right, the full back centred but Davis couldn’t apply a final touch.
Finn’s superb cross field pass located Davis ghosting in behind right back Hinshelwood. The midfielder’s attempt was parried by Behcet before some penalty area pinball ensued. Finally the visitors were able to scramble the ball away.
Terry Brown made a now familiar double substitution halfway through the second period, introducing Dean Mason and Chris Hussey to see if lightning could strike twice in five days and they could conjure up a winning strike for the Dons. Hussey’s first contribution was to whip in a dangerous free kick from the left that Main headed over the bar.
The hosts were piling on the pressure. Hussey sent Finn racing forward to supply Main with his first clear sight of goal all afternoon but he couldn’t quite squeeze his shot inside the post and Mason was unable to pick up the scraps.
However, the same combination would engineer the Dons late winner. Finn jinked away from two defenders on the edge of the box and shaped to shoot, but instead dinked the ball into Main who made no mistake from 8 yards.
The visitors, with little time left to salvage their afternoon, suddenly surged forward but the Dons held firm and struck again. Mason found Godfrey on the right who played it back into the young striker’s path and he slammed the ball into the net to put the result beyond doubt.