They say that good things always come to an end. Whoever “they” are were annoyingly accurate as the Dons left Church Road empty handed. Hayes & Yeading proved to be the quickest, strongest and fittest side that the AFC Wimbledon have faced this season and nothing less than an excellent performance was going to reap any rewards on a sunny afternoon in West London.
Terry Brown made one change from the win over Maidenhead, with Danny Kedwell starting a game for the first time, replacing the injured Sam Hatton. A reshuffle in formation meant that the Dons played 4-4-2 for the first time this season with Elliott Godfrey and Tony Finn playing wider than in the previous nine, unbeaten league games. Both sides had every reason for going into the game confidently as the home side had won their last eight (including a Setanta Shield game) and the Dons, of course, unbeaten in their last nine (not including the Setanta Shield defeat at Chelmsford) - and it was no surprise that for the first 20 minutes the game was evenly balanced in terms of possession.
Former Dons striker Scott Fitzgerald was proving to be a handful for Jason Goodliffe and Alan Inns while at the other end Kedwell and Jon Main were always going to pose a threat to Aaron Howe’s goal. Main’s header and a Finn shot were all the Dons could muster, failing turn their possession into chances but the home side were looking increasingly dangerous, making better use of their wide players. On 24 minutes the Dons conceded from a set piece for the fifth time this season, Josh Scott heading in Steve Gregory’s inswinging corner, ghosting in unmarked at the far post as the Dons defence appealed in vain for a foul on Andy Little.
The lead didn’t last long though. Chris Hussey’s equally dangerous corner just three minutes later saw Howe only punch the ball out to Godfrey whose first time effort screamed back past the keeper for a spectacular equaliser.
Fifteen minutes of cat and mouse football ensued with both sides having a fair share of the ball but not turning the possession into anything more tangible until with five minutes to go the industrious Gregory was involved again. Kennedy Adjei and Tom Davis both went to close him down some 30 yards from goal but a drop of the shoulder took them both out of the game allowing him the space to get wide on the left and try a cross shot. His effort was scuffed across the penalty area but an unmarked Fitzgerald reacted first and steered the loose ball past a helpless Little.
The second half saw the Dons turn up the heat on an appropriately hot day. Hot enough for a streaker to run onto the pitch at a free kick, nick the ball off Chris Hussey and run off up the pitch before being tackled by Luke Garrard. The Dons’ pressure saw the home side retreat further but for all Davis and Godfrey’s probing there was never a way through. Adjei was caught in possession too often and the Dons’ crossing wasn’t up to its usual standard and Ruby and James at the heart of the Reds’ defence stood firm.
Main’s only clearcut chance of the game was squandered when he allowed a Kedwell high ball to drop over his shoulder but couldn’t direct his shot towards goal with any power. After an industrious first half Kedwell was being kept quiet by the impressive Ruby. A draw would not have been a bad result, considering Hayes & Yeading’s lofty position, but with time running out the visiting supporters were growing increasingly agitated for the first time this season with a lack of quality in the final ball. The home side squandered a few chances to put the result beyond doubt with a number of breaks but the Dons too had chances with Godfrey and main going close. With five minutes left it seemed that the Dons had salvaged a point when Leberl’s header from Hussey’s corner was headed off the line and onto the bar by Martin who appeared to have at least one foot behind the line, but the referee waved play on to very little protest, in truth, from the Dons players.
A narrow defeat to the new leaders after a battling performance was little consolation, but there are, presumably, a fair number of weaker sides in this division than Gary Haylock’s Hayes & Yeading.