The Dons completed their Christmas and New Year programme with a comprehensive and largely comfortable victory against rock bottom Bognor Regis, chalking up their fifth consecutive league win in the process.
Before the Boxing Day fixture Terry Brown had promised that he would give the majority of his first team squad a run-out and he was true to his word, completely remodelling his back five. Andy Little returned in goal, Jake Leberl and Ben Judge were paired in the centre of defence with Sam Hatton and Chris Hussey occupying the full back positions. Dwane Lee and Elliott Godfrey were restored to the starting line up and the 1000 plus Dons fans who made the trip to the South Coast were relieved to see that Danny Kedwell’s calf strain was, after all, just cramp and the in-form striker was fit enough to keep announcer’s nightmare, Belal Aiteouakrim, on the bench.
Bognor started brightly with the game plan of getting the ball wide to Louis Castles with the intention of getting beyond Hussey and delivering inviting crosses for Caisie and Frazer. However, Castles’s crossing didn’t match his turn of pace and his attempts were either blocked by Hussey or easily tidied up by Judge.
The Dons began to create chances but Jon Main and Kedwell each missed headers that they would usually expect to put away. First, Kedwell hit the bar from two yards out when Godfrey’s cross from the right found him unmarked at the far post and then Main failed to add to his 18 league goals when he headed over when only a couple of yards further out.
Wimbledon began to get on top as Lee took control of the game. Eager to get a long-term deal with the Dons, Lee did his claims no harm whatsoever as his performance in the last 20 minutes of the first half belied the fact that he was playing in the Blue Square South. His passing, tackling, heading and interceptions were impeccable and he even found the time to see the funny side when the referee penalised him for hurdling a prone Bognor player. The Dons’ opening goal after 32 minutes owed much to Lee’s class with his chip into the box which saw Kennedy Adjei score his first league goal with a header that looped up and over Rob French.
The sigh of relief around the ground was audible but a second Dons goal, less than three minutes later, was greeted with laughter. Hussey’s inswinging corner was headed down by Rock’s defender Sam Pearce and bounced up over the player on the line and into the top corner with such aplomb that Main ran back to the centre circle pretending to claim it. 2-0 at half-time, as it turned out, flattered Bognor as it really should have been four or five but after snuffing out the home side’s one true threat early on, a two-goal lead was highly satisfactory.
A change of personnel and tactics at half time by Bognor, who pushed right back Goddard into midfield and brought on former Wimbledon player Duncan Jupp, worked well in the early stages of the second half. Goddard and Castles began to see a lot more of the ball and the latter fed the former on 55 minutes but Goddard’s shot flew just over.
This seemed to wake up the Dons who, once again, had been slow off the mark at the start of the second half and on the hour the game was sewn up in fine style. Hatton put Kedwell in on goal with a well-placed pass and the striker held off a challenge before clipping the ball over French and into the roof of the net. With Kedwell in the kind of form where he expects to score rather than hopes to, Main’s lack of cutting edge on the day didn’t matter quite so much.
With half an hour still to go the game could have either petered out and given the Dons their fourth straight 3-0 win or Bognor could have gone for all out attack and left themselves open for a much heavier defeat. In the end the latter prevailed when Bognor pulled a goal back with 15 minutes to go. Pettefer’s corner caused havoc in the Dons goalmouth and Pearce made some amends for his first half own goal by poking the ball over the line from exactly the same position despite the efforts of Tom Davis to clear the ball off the line.
Bognor sensed a comeback with Frazer looking dangerous and a second goal would have made the last few minutes rather interesting, but when Leberl headed home Hatton’s quickly taken free kick with six minutes left the points were well and truly in the bag. Kedwell added the icing to an already well-appointed cake in the final minute when in an exact replica of his first goal he bore down on French from the right side of the box and with everyone expecting a pull-back to Aiteouakrim, he hammered an unstoppable shot into the net from 8 yards to complete a perfect holiday period for Brown’s men.
With Chelmsford surprisingly losing at Newport County, the Dons are now just six point behind the Clarets with two games in hand and the prospect of a visit from the Essex boys in four weeks time. The four intervening league games are looking rather crucial…