Sometimes you can meet a person for the first time and know within 20 seconds whether you are going to like them. In the same way, you just knew that Danny Kedwell’s first-time curler that drifted narrowly wide with only 20 seconds on the clock was the perfect portent to the most entertaining game of the season so far. Fed by Lewis Taylor on the edge of the box, Kedwell’s shot just missed former Dons keeper Danny Naisbitt’s left post, and when Jon Main was inches away from connecting with a Steven Gregory through-ball with barely a minute gone, it seemed odds on that Wimbledon would break their four-game drawing habit in positive fashion.
With only two defeats from their opening 11 games, any form of criticism of the Dons seems a bit harsh, but too often they have started slowly and handed the early initiative to their opponents. This, however, was certainly not the case on a beautiful Kinsgmeadow afternoon. Chris Hussey and Luke Moore appeared to have the freedom of the left side of the pitch, and with Sam Hatton, chosen at right-back ahead of the rested Luke Garrard and returning Jay Conroy, and Lewis Taylor being generously given a similar amount of time and space on the right, Wimbledon looked highly dangerous in attack.
Terry Brown had switched to a conventional 4-4-2 with Gregory and Kennedy Adjei in the centre, and the home side looked strong from front to back. Main almost got on the end of an Adjei pass, the Ghanaian midfielder finding the form that made him such a crowd favourite at the beginning of last season. Taylor came agonisingly close to giving Wimbledon the lead on 10 minutes when his shot was deflected by Kennedy, but Matt Langston managed to hook the ball off the line with inches to spare.
On 13 minutes the Dons’ early pressure took its toll. Main’s shot from a narrow angle was only parried by Naisbitt, and Moore acrobatically hooked the ball home from six yards.
The goal seemed to wake Histon up, and both Danny Wright and Nathaniel Knight-Percival tested James Pullen from range, but it was potentially the tackle of the season by Brett Johnson that prevented the Stutes from equalising on 20 minutes. Wright played Michael Frew in from wide on the left, and as the striker shaped to shoot, Johnson slid in and with Rio Ferdinand-like timing and removed the ball from Frew’s toe. As it has for most of the season so far, the partnership of Johnson and Paul Lorraine was looking all but impregnable, though Histon’s inability to find a team-mate with a simple cross on three occasions certainly helped.
The only real question to be answered was how many more the Dons would score before half-time, such was their dominance and surety in possession. Main was denied what appeared to be a clear penalty, and only poor final balls from almost all of the front six, and a lack of communication between Main and Hatton that saw the former get in the latter’s way as he prepared to shoot from the edge of the penalty area, prevented Wimbledon from taking an unassailable lead into the break.
But 12 minutes into the second half, it was 2-0. Histon had applied some pressure in the first few minutes, but Johnson and Lorraine repelled everything with ease. When Kedwell headed a cross from Chris Hussey towards the penalty spot on 57 minutes, Taylor volleyed in past Naisbitt to effectively end the contest.
Histon, to their credit, rallied again, but their only decent chance fell to John Kennedy, whose far-post header only found the side-netting. The Dons were how creating chances at will, with Hussey in particular the fulcrum of the majority of the attacking manoeuvres. Even the departure of the injured Johnson on the hour didn’t have an adverse effect, Alan Inns taking his place and immediately making his mark on the game with a couple of towering headers and a clattering tackle.
Terry Brown had complained beforehand that the midfield had not contributed a goal this season, but with 15 minutes to go the centrocampistas took their tally for the day to two. Sub Derek Duncan’s pass into space found Hatton 20 yards from goal, and although his shot was blocked by Adam Tann, his cushioned header from the rebound set up Gregory to score his first Wimbledon goal with a lazy-looking waft of his left foot from the edge of the box. Two minutes later, Hatton’s attacking prowess from right-back set up the Dons’ fourth when he was bundled over on the edge of the box by Gareth Gwillim. Kedwell fired the spot-kick high and wide of Naisbitt and into the roof of the net for the goal that his superb all-round performance deserved.
Inns almost made it five, but his bullet header from a Hussey corner crashed off the angle with nine minutes remaining. That would have been merely the icing on an extremely satisfying and welcome cake – the Dons had blown away last year’s Blue Square Premier runners-up in some style.