After alternating between the cups and the league, Wimbledon had the opportunity to stay within the leading pack at the top of the table with a run of three league games. The Dons had lost in their previous four matches against Hampton & Richmond, which also included three sending offs.
The Dons were without several key players most noticeably Luke Garrard who was diagnosed with a ruptured cruciate knee ligament that will sideline him for the rest of the season. Neither Jon Main nor Danny Kedwell had recovered fully from flu and so both were on the bench. Tom Davis was serving a one match ban for picking up five bookings, so Jake Leberl started in front of the back four with Kennedy Adjei pushed forward alongside Sam Hatton.
The first half was a fairly drab and scrappy affair with both defences cancelling out the oppositions’ forwards. Hampton & Richmond tried to stamp their authority on the game earlier when Marcello Fernandes brought down Chris Hussey’s rampaging run down the left and was duly booked by referee Busby. The game then stopped for several minutes after Leberl and Craig Tanner contested for the ball with Tanner catching Leberl. Unfortunately for him the Hampton & Richmond left back came off the worse and had to be stretchered off with a suspected broken ankle.
The first golden opportunity to break the deadlock fell to the visitors. Dean Wells’ teasing long throw was cleared from danger only for the ball to come back to him, and his cross-cum-shot had to be tipped over by Andy Little. From the resulting corner, Little was left flapping but thankfully saw Ben Wright’s powerful header go wide. The first chance for the Dons came after the half hour mark. Goodliffe’s ball into the box found former Hampton & Richmond player Alan Inns but his tame header was comfortable for Matt Lovett in the visitors’ goal.
With five minutes of the half remaining, Wright had two very chances to open the scoring. First he found himself free in the box but managed to miskick his shot and Goodliffe was able to clear. Moments later he picked up the ball down the left but his well struck shot flashed just wide.
Before the half time whistle, the home side also had a couple of half chances to take the lead. Hatton found a bit of space in the area, but his low shot from a tight angle was saved well by Lovett. Then after good work down the right, Hatton’s cross into the box was flicked goalwards by Belal Aiteouakrim only for the lone striker to see his header go wide of the far post.
The Dons started the second half with more vigour and urgency and Elliott Godfrey almost scored immediately against his former club but his turn and shot was well blocked by the Hampton & Richmond defence. The Dons continued to press and eventually did take the lead on 53 minutes when Hatton’s sensational strike from 30 yards rose into the far top corner giving Lovett no chance. Credit to the referee who had played advantage after Leberl was clattered after he has passed to Hatton. A few minutes later Aiteouakrim almost doubled the lead but his half volley on the edge of the box was always going wide.
With the Dons looking the more likely to score, it was disappointing to see the lead taken away from another set piece. A ball down the channel was chased after by Lawrence Yaku, and with Little bearing down on him the Dons’ keeper missed the ball and collided into Yaku outside the area. The biggest league crowd of the season were expecting Little to be given his marching orders yet again against Hampton & Richmond and yet again for a foul on Yaku, but the referee correctly gave a yellow card deeming Yaku was not in a goal scoring position and was going away from goal. Howeve,r from the resulting free kick, Wright’s deep cross found Wells at the far post to nod in the equaliser.
With just under twenty minutes remaining, Terry Brown made a double substitution bringing on Main and Kedwell for Aiteouakrim and Finn. But it was the visitors who seemed to be enjpying all the possession, and despite the Dons aggression up front, the visitors’ defence remained resilient and prevented the Dons from carving out any clear chances.
Hampton & Richmond nearly stole a winner with five minutes of the game to go but Little was equal to Wright’s low shot when one-on-one. There were more injury worries for the Dons late on when Michael Haswell had to replace Hussey after he had been caught badly on the ankle.