The Dons ensured that they would enter 2011 top of the Blue Square Bet Premier with a comfortable win over an Eastbourne side who offered very little in the way of resistance.
The win was made all the more sweet through being achieved despite a lengthy absentee list that included Ismail Yakubu, Brett Johnson, Ed Harris, Andre Blackman, both Moores and Christian Jolley through a combination of illness and injury. Terry Brown was able to name only three substitutes, and Lee Minshull returned at centre-half alongside Fraser Franks.
Borough sat in lower mid-table coming into this game, but Wimbledonís narrow 3-2 win at Priory Lane in the August Bank Holiday sunshine, in contrast to the post-Christmas mist and chilly drizzle, was a pertinent reminder that this was not a team to be taken lightly.
Both sides came close to taking the lead within the first 10 minutes. Minshullís bullet header from a Sam Hatton corner crashed back off the bar, and former Don Jamie Taylorís 25-yard curler sailed narrowly over Seb Brownís goal. But for the next quarter-hour the game meandered through a period of mundaneness. Wimbledon looked the more dangerous, though without creating too many clear-cut chances, and Eastbourne seemed happy to let the Dons come at them.
When Borough defender Matt Langston tangled with Danny Kedwell he seemed to twist his knee as he fell, and had to be replaced by ex-Brighton Gary Elphick. Langstonís absence was felt almost immediately, as Ryan Jackson set up Hatton with a cute pass inside, but the Donsí right-back spurned the chance to shoot and his square ball across the box was easily cleared.
Kedwell had been well shackled by former Histon skipper Langston, but the Donsí captain was having a far more productive time of it now that the less combative Elphick was marking him, making himself available for Steven Gregory or Ricky Wellard to find with his back to goal before attempting to set up either Jackson or Mark Nwokeji with passes out wide. Nothing came of the Donsí possession largely because the final balls failed to find their target, but a goal seemed almost inevitable.
On 28 minutes came the incident that turned the game even further in Wimbledonís favour, but it wasnít a goal that did it. Boroughís Richard Pacquette, chasing a through ball, went crashing, foot first, into the face of the onrushing Seb Brown, catching him with enough force to require several stitches and earning a red card for the offence.
Fortunately Brown recovered, but the whole incident left a sour taste in Wimbledon mouths. The Dons seemed taken aback at first by the incident, but then stepped up their attacking power; both Kedwell and Nwokeji came close to opening the scoring, but Banks made two fine saves to deny them.
With three minutes of the first half remaining, Nwokeji broke the deadlock. After a Hatton and Gregory short corner routine the Donsí No.7 curled a tantalising cross to the far post, looking for Franks, but the ball struck Eastbourne defender Neil Jenkins, rebounded across the face of goal and fell perfectly for Nwokeji to hammer it into the back of the net from a couple of yards out.
It was no more than the Dons deserved, and they immediately won the ball back from the kick-off. The impressive Chris Bush exchanged passes with Rashid Yussuff and with a deft flick set up Yussuff for an attempt on goal that flew just over the bar.
The Dons had just Jon Main and Reece Jones on the bench alongside Jack Turner, and presumably Terry Brown had been hoping to delay introducing his subs until the game was done and dusted. But Jonesís appearance at half-time in place of the injured Gregory severely limited his options. However, there was no limitation on his teamís ability to create chances.
The second half was very one-sided; Wimbledon dominated from start to finish, and only some last-ditch defending, excellent goalkeeping and glaring misses stopped them from registering more goals.
Sam Hatton was first up with a stinging drive from 30 yards that was blocked by Elphick and spun across the box like a firework on the loose. From then on, it was open season on the visitorsí goal. Nwokeji failed to connect with a fizzing Jackson cross before Kedwell missed the chance of the game when he controlled a deep cross before miscuing into the side netting from four yards.
Next up was Bush, whose 20-yarder cannoned off Kedwell and Boroughís Austin, forcing Banks to paw the ball to Jones, who had three goes at claiming his first Dons goal but just couldnít force the ball home. Bush then saw an angled drive palmed out for a corner by Banks, before Yussuff miscued wildly, and Hatton saw another pot shot miss the target. Wellard was now coming more and more into the game, and from his neat pass Jackson sent over a peach of a first-time cross that narrowly evaded all 13 players in the box as Eastbourne reeled under the constant wave of Wimbledon attacks.
Jackson was withdrawn with 20 minutes to go, and Jon Main came on to take the left-sided attacking role, with Nwokeji moving to the right. The slight reshuffle didnít affect the Donsí flow in the slightest, and two Hatton crosses and another powerful surge by Bush were repelled by the overworked Eastbourne defence. Austin could have equalised when he headed over from a rare Borough corner, but it was only delaying the inevitable, and with 10 minutes to go the Dons capped a fine second-half display with the killer goal.
Main did well to hold off two challenges on the edge of the box, and although Yussuff miscontrolled the pass, the ball diverted off an Eastbourne foot and set up Wellard with a chance he took with aplomb from 12 yards. The visitors increased their efforts for the last few minutes, but the superb Franks and Minshull at the heart of the Dons defence dealt with everything thrown at them, the bandaged and stitched Brown punching well when twice under pressure.
With a minute to go the Dons put paid to any thoughts Eastbourne may have had of a comeback with a sweetly taken third. Main was again involved, working himself into shooting space on the edge of the box again; this time Elphick blocked his effort on goal but could only look on as Yussuff hammered the loose ball into the top left corner from 20 yards.
The Donsí first league game for five weeks ended in victory that kept them in their hard-earned position at the summit of non-League football. January and February sees the Dons in league action an astonishing 14 times Ė and if they are still at the top in two monthsí time, we could be in for a fascinating spring.