With a poor sense of timing, AFC Wimbledon produced their most disappointing display of the season against the division’s form side, both losing at home and failing to score for the first time this season.
Terry Brown was able to restore both Jon Main and Danny Kedwell to the starting line up, with Belal Aiteouakrim and Elliott Godfrey dropping to the bench and the Dons boss gave a debut to former Barnet midfielder Dwane Lee, signed from Kettering earlier in the day, in the place of the rested Kennedy Adjei. Eastleigh were looking for their fifth consecutive win but three points for either side would see them go second in the table with games in hand on Chelmsford so there was more than enough incentive for both sides.
Eastleigh started brightly with strikers Groves, Taggart and Brown looking sharp and lively. The Dons, on the other hand, looked laboured in possession, with the exceptions of Chris Hussey and new boy Lee who injected pace into the home side’s oddly pedestrian attacking manoeuvres. An early series of Eastleigh corners were comfortably dealt with by Jason Goodliffe and Alan Inns but the Dons failed to capitalise on the loose balls which resulted in Eastleigh delivering more dangerous crosses.
When Tony Finn, seemingly playing the free role, did gain possession, the Dons lacked Luke Garrard’s supporting runs up the right flank and in turn the Dons forward thrusts rarely had enough momentum to get into the penalty area. On the odd occasion that they did, an Eastleigh foot or head cleared the danger. And when Main was put through on goal twice in the space of 10 minutes he was not able to get his shot away quickly enough and the attacks came to nothing.
Eastleigh were not looking all that dangerous themselves, despite the flurry of corners but on 27 minutes they were giving a helping hand when the referee penalised Lee for a foul 25 yards from goal although it looked as though he had cleanly won the ball. Right back Harris stepped up and hammered the ball past an unsighted Andy Little. Despite there being 18 minutes left in the half, neither side produced a particularly clear chance of note and the half-time whistle was greeted with near silence by the crowd, which was almost 1000 down on Saturday’s attendance.
What the home side needed to get the Dons’ fans to raise the noise levels was a much more positive start to the half – but sadly, despite the best efforts of Sam Hatton passes were going astray at an alarming rate and possession was being lost far too easily for Terry Brown’s liking. You certainly couldn’t fault the Dons for effort but almost nothing was going for them and the officials seemed to be intimidated by Eastleigh boss Ian Baird and his assistant who spent large chunks of the game appealing for every decision or manhandling the referee’s assistant.
A Kedwell shot that was comfortably collected by Matthews was a poor return for the home side’s efforts and with Main and Finn not even having a sniff of a chance, Eastleigh were closing in on a valuable win. With 75 minutes gone the Dons had a good penalty shout turned down when Main appeared to be bundled over in the box but 10 minutes of huffing and puffing later the visitors were awarded a spot kick themselves when Taggart was tripped by Inns and the striker converted the resulting penalty. Taggart almost rubbed salt into the wounds in the final minute but Little somehow kept his close range effort out after a superb cross from Brown.
The Dons missed the chance of going second and even a draw would have put them fourth. However a meagre return of one point from two home games was pretty much all they deserved.