A Halloween horror show saw AFC Wimbledon come down to earth with a bump after their midweek FA Cup triumph. Apparently jinxed Chester, deducted 25 points before the season began and reportedly on the blink of oblivion, enjoyed some moments of magic to record a rare win. The visitors never recovered from a nightmare start that saw them concede two early goals, and despite a spirited fightback there were no tricks and few treats for the 700 or so travelling fans to enjoy.
Perhaps the Dons had one eye on the forthcoming trip to Millwall, or maybe they thought that given City’s current ill-fortune there would be easy pickings at the Deva Stadium, but their lethargic opening ultimately cost them dear. For the home fans, who staged a somewhat half-hearted protest against the club’s owner as the match kicked off, all their longer-term fears were temporarily forgotten as they enjoyed the rare luxury of cheering their rock-bottom heroes to victory.
Wimbledon’s defensive curse began when Sam Hatton was taken ill during the journey north on Friday afternoon. It meant that Ben Judge, who had not played first-team football since being injured at Altrincham in August, had to be drafted in at right-back. With Derek Duncan suspended following his dismissal against Crawley, Nathan Ashton made his debut on the left side of the back line, and the defence’s lack of mutual understanding and match fitness showed in the crucial first quarter.
The Chester wingers had conjured up several chances before their side took the lead in the tenth minute. Michael Coulson found himself in acres of space on the right, and when he pulled the ball back from the byline, centre-forward Nick Chadwick was totally unmarked as he side-footed home from eight yards out. Within three minutes it was 2-0 when Mark Beesley fired a cross into the box only for the ball to bounce into the net off the luckless Paul Lorraine.
Having so far been under Chester’s spell, Terry Brown’s men now began to establish a bite in the game. Ricky Wellard and Danny Kedwell had half-chances before the breakthrough they desperately needed came in time added on at the end of the first half. Wellard’s free kick was half-cleared, and when Paul Lorraine turned the ball back in, Main was on hand to fire home his fifth goal in as many games.
That strike seemed to give the team fresh hope, and they emerged for the second period to bewitch and beguile the opposition with some flowing movements in the early exchanges. Within minutes Main had forced John Danby to save at full stretch as his fierce shot headed towards the top corner of the goal, and from the resulting corner the referee blew for a foul just as Lorraine’s knockdown was being swept into the net.
Ashton seemed to have the Indian sign over his marker, and he was causing havoc with his surging runs down the left flank. With 55 minutes on the clock his long cross found Kedwell free on the right, but no-one could get on the end of the low drive he fizzed across the six-yard box. A minute later another long ball from the left back was nodded back by Taylor, only for Luke Moore to fire over from close range.
With their goal seemingly having a charmed life, the Seals began to believe it was their day and they created several chances of their own in the final quarter. On 76 minutes Clark Keltie unleashed a ferocious drive that beat James Pullen completely, the ball hitting the angle of post and bar before bouncing down onto the line and away to safety. Within moments Mark Beesley was set up for a one on one with Pullen, after Alan Inns underhit his back-pass, but he shot horribly wide.
The stake to the heart arrived with 13 minutes to go. The Dons defence failed to clear the ball, and substitute Gregg Blundell was allowed time to side-foot the ball home from close range. At the end Brown admitted: “The better team won. In the first half-hour we couldn’t get near them, but for 25 minutes in the second half we dominated -- unfortunately without putting the ball into the net.” The Dons will hope that their stars are in better alignment at the New Den on Monday night.