After three consecutive draws against sides in the bottom half of the table, the Dons returned to winning ways with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Roy O’Brien’s defence-minded strugglers.
Pundits often talk about turning points and make or break situations and these clichés are more often than not rightly dismissed for being exactly that, but over the course of 93 minutes in Kingston and Welling, the destination of the Blue Square South title became ever so slightly clearer.
Jay Conroy made his third home debut for the Dons, for whom Kennedy Adjei returned to the starting line up for the first time since his recent spate of niggling injuries, while an unfamiliar-looking bench of new signings Kezie Ibe and Rob Saunders, homegrown teenagers Jacks Turner and Stafford and the vastly experienced Jake Leberl kept Terry Brown, Stuart Cash and Simon Bassey company. The new signings in particular must have wondered if they’d come to the right ground though, as for the first half an hour the Dons struggled to make any sort of headway against Dorchester’s massed defensive ranks and the home crowd were growing audibly restless. The Dons, despite being six points clear at the top, had at least bucked the recent trend of looking likely to concede the first goal (although they’ve not done that since 2 December), but anyone with any interest in betting would surely have been on the phone to their bookmakers waging at least a tenner on the Dons’ third goalless draw in four games.
Dorchester, uncomfortably near the relegation places, had every right to be cautious and it was up to the Dons’ midfield to try and break them down, but the first 20 minutes was an endless precession of lost possession and final balls being headed away by Town’s experienced centre back pairing of Vickers and Hill.
Dorchester didn’t look overly interested in trying to win the game though and other than a Crittenden shot that Pullen parried well, the visitors seemed content to let the Dons come at them. Most of the good AFC Wimbledon work had Danny Kedwell at its core but Jon Main was eerily quiet and Tom Davis was having one of those days where he probably got home and found he’d locked himself out. The Dons, in fact, hadn’t tested keeper Stewart at all until the pink-jerseyed stopper had to fish the ball out of the back of the net on the stroke of half-time. Full back Reeve failed to clear and the ball fell invitingly for Sam Hatton to play Main in with an inch-perfect pass; the striker made it 33 for the season with an assured finish.
Not for the first time this season the Dons emerged from the half-time break a different side. Within three minutes of the restart Pullen passed calmly to Hussey, the left back picked out Godfrey just inside the Dorchester half, he lofted the ball over Vickers and Kedwell ran onto it and lobbed it over the advancing Stewart for a brilliantly simple second.
Kedwell’s fifteenth goal of the season was either going to be the catalyst for the proverbial floodgates to open or for Dorchester to realise that they were now going to have to do a bit more than defend. To be fair, neither really happened but Dons defenders at both ends of the pitch were the main reasons why. Dorchester clearly decided to attack with a bit more regularity and passion but the Dons centre-back pairing of Alan Inns and Ben Judge was once again at its imperious best (would it be over-egging the pudding to suggest that those two, plus Jason Goodliffe, are the best three defenders in the division?) and whatever Town threw at them (including substitute Nicholson’s flying extremities) was repelled with consummate ease and, a Jermyn volley aside, Dorchester never looked like breaching the home side’s battlements.
The Dons even had the luxury of taking Main off for a well-earned rest and bringing on former Chelmsford striker Kezie Ibe for his debut, just 24 hours after joining on loan from Ebbsfleet. Ibe’s one turn and shot that was well-saved by Stewart looked impressive, which is more than could be said for Hussey’s attempt at an eightieth minute penalty. Conroy was brought down by Hill and with Main on the bench the young defender raced 50 yards to grab the ball from Kedwell, who earlier saw his far post header cannon back off the post, and place it on the spot. His stuttering run up was followed by an impossibly weak effort that Stewart, initially diving the wrong way, had time to turn back and parry away.
No matter though, as Hampton’s surprise 4-0 hammering at the Dons’ next opponents Welling meant that the lead was now nine points and the goal difference 17 better. Presumably next Saturday’s game won’t be quite so comfortable, then.