The Dons were back to league action and back to winning ways after the defeats to Hayes & Yeading and Worcester City.
There were no changes to the starting line up from both matches against Dover in the FA Cup, with Terry Brown feeling confident continuing Jake Leberl’s solid partnership with Ben Judge despite Jason Goodliffe returning to the squad. And it was not long before Leberl was involved in the action when the ball hit his arm from a Danny Harris cross and referee Simon Knapp pointed to the spot. Piers Wixon stepped up and stroked the ball past Little to give Bishop’s Stortford a superb start. The Dons went on the attack straight away with Finn, who made space for himself outside the area, shooting straight at Nicky Eyre in the opposition’s goal.
Wimbledon continued to press, moving the ball around smoothly and playing some neat one touch football but over hitting the final ball once they got into the final third. Jon Main nearly had a chance with a one-on-one with the keeper when Kedwell flicked the ball onto him, but the ball bounced and hit the last defender on the arm only for the referee to wave play on. Main then found himself on the right and sent a deep cross for Finn at the far post who unfortunately got the ball stuck between his feet and the defence cleared. Wimbledon got the equaliser on 25 minutes when Sam Hatton leapt unmarked to nod in his third goal of the season from Chris Hussey’s sweetly executed corner.
The visitors, who had former Wycombe Wanderers’ giant killing striker Roy Essandoh in their line up, had a couple of chances to retake the lead. First a cross from Liam Hopkins was mistimed by Little as he tried to punch it under pressure from Essandoh, and the ball fell to Craig Edwards who looped the ball over the bar instead of into an empty net. Moments later Peter Dean found himself with space in the area only for Hussey to get back and block his shot.
Past the half hour mark it was all Wimbledon; Tom Davis tried to take the lead with a long range effort which was comfortably gathered by Eyre. Kedwell then had an even better opportunity soon after when Hussey took the ball down the left and sent a great cross for Kedwell who rose well but glanced his header just wide. Hussey then nearly took the lead himself through a free kick which evaded everyone in the box but Eyre got down well to his right to palm the ball away. From the resulting corner another dangerous Hussey cross rebounded off two Bishop’s Stortford heads and behind the goal only for the referee to bizarrely give a goal kick.
A Dons substitution at half time saw Goodliffe come on for Judge who was unable to continue with a back spasm. Wimbledon carried on from where they left off in the first half and nearly went ahead when Luke Garrard crossed for Davis in acres of space, but the energetic midfielder was not able to generate much power and headed into Eyre’s arms. Soon after, Hussey received the ball back after a short corner routine with Finn and Davis, and his cross rebounded off Leberl and looked to be creeping in at the far post but Eyre managed to gather at the last moment. The Dons then broke again with Goodliffe whose nice throughball was poked agonisingly wide by Main. There was then a brief stop when Bishop’s Stortford had to reshuffle due to Matt Jones getting hit full in the face by the ball, and had to be stretchered off.
On 54 minutes came the moment Wimbledon supporters had been waiting a few weeks for. Yet another accurate corner by Hussey found Hatton again with a free header but this time Eyre managed to parry it. Unfortunately for him it came to Main who pounced and headed the ball into the net for his first goal from open play in eleven matches.
Having taken the lead it was important not to concede straight away but going a man down did not help matters. Little cleared a dangerous ball down the middle but the referee brought back play after Dean looked to have gone down easily following a tangle with Leberl. After discussing with the linesman the referee felt the foul warranted a red card as Leberl was the last man. The resulting free kick was hit straight at the wall and cleared. With Goodliffe the only recognised centre back, Brown sacrificed Finn and brought on Michael Haswell to fill in alongside Goodliffe. The intention clearly was to put men behind the ball and use Hussey to break with pace down the left.
With Main and Kedwell putting in a lot of effort to make up for the man deficit and the visitors pushing forward in search of the equaliser, it wasn’t long before Main got his second of the game. A superb cross field ball by Hatton found Kedwell powering down the right. His low cross came to Main, who with his back to goal swivelled round his marker and poked the ball into the bottom corner past the hapless Eyre.
Yet again the Dons’ fitness showed as they continued to dominate play for the last 20 minutes. A good penalty shout for handball was waved away by Knapp after Kedwell’s low shot hit one of the Stortford defenders as he threw his body in the way. Main then had the chance to grab a hat-trick but his turn and shot came off the outside of the post and out of play. The dominance in play allowed Adjei to come forward more and he saw his well struck shot come off the defence for a corner.
He was then involved in the fourth goal when he made a run down the right, left his marker for dead and squared for Kedwell to score with a cheeky back heel flick ala Thierry Henry. It was a much deserved goal for Kedwell whose work rate in the second half was immense and you could see this was exactly the type of game that Brown bought him for. With time ticking away, the Dons still managed to carve out several more half chances including half volleys from both Main and Kedwell, and Hatton nearly got his second of the game when he headed wide even though he was being sandwiched between two Bishop’s Stortford players.
With 5 minutes to go, Elliott Godfrey made his first appearance since scoring against Hayes & Yeading. And it looked like he was heading back to injury when Hopkins’ lunge at him was only deemed worthy of a yellow card. However Knapp did reach for his cards again when substitute David Chick took out Chris Hussey, who was going nowhere, and harshly branded a straight red.
The final action of the game came to man of the match Adjei who deceived his marker with a neat feint and sent a rasping shot just inches over the angle. With this win, the Dons go up one place to third in the league and next face underachieving Havant & Waterlooville before their 4th round qualifying tie away at Maidstone United. Although both opponents should not be underestimated, Wimbledon fans could be wearing very big smiles on their face this time next week.