This was a rather expensive day for Terry Brown’s side. Three points lost in the push for an automatic promotion place, coupled with the long-term loss of Sammy Moore to a serious knee injury, made for a disappointing afternoon in the welcome sunshine.
The Dons boss must have been reduced to tearing his hair out at the way his squad are succumbing to injuries at such an alarming rate. With Sam Hatton and Fraser Franks ruled out, midfielder Moore was brought in at right-back (ahead of Ryan Jackson and James Mulley, who had previously played in that position), and Luke Moore made his comeback in place of the concussed Christian Jolley. For both Moores, it turned out to be a far from memorable afternoon.
It wasn’t as if the match didn’t start brightly for Wimbledon. Kidderminster were completing a trio of consecutive games against the top three after draws against Crawley and Luton in the previous week, and although it wasn’t difficult to see how Steve Burr’s in-form side had held both Towns, there was ample evidence that the Dons had enough creativity and guile in their arsenal to trouble the Worcestershire men. The languid Hudson looked as lively as he had done since he arrived on loan from Aldershot in January, and he offered the greatest threat going forward in the early stages of the game, a period that produced very few clear-cut chances.
It was Harriers who came closest to taking the lead, though, when eight minutes into the game a long ball out wide picked out Sean Canham, whose chested control of the ball deceived Sammy Moore. Canham’s wickedly dipping volley seemed set to beat Seb Brown, but the Dons keeper did superbly to tip the fine effort over the bar for a corner that came to nothing.
The opening quarter of an hour was memorable for two things: the assistant referee flagging Luke Moore offside from a long Gareth Gwillim throw and, to compound that error, referee Hopkins then forgetting that you can’t be offside from a throw and awarding Harriers a free-kick. Shortly afterwards, Mr Hopkins took exception to Canham’s black cycling shorts and forced him into the dugout to change, much to the embarrassment of the on-loan Hereford striker.
When Canham returned to the action, he made an almost immediate impact, setting up the lanky Nick Wright for a shot that Brown did well to tip away, and then Harriers’ Callum Gittings tested the Wimbledon keeper with another long-range effort. After a bright opening, the Dons were finding life difficult against the space-denying visitors, a Harriers head clearing comfortably from a series of Hudson and Gwillim crosses. Both Danny Kedwell and Luke Moore came close with efforts from the left side of the penalty area that drifted wide.
Hudson brought the best out of keeper Daniel Lewis on 20 minutes when his searing half-volley from the edge of the box was expertly palmed away and out of the reach of both James Mulley and Dons skipper Kedwell. Wimbledon continued to toil, Rashid Yussuff and Steven Gregory trying to find openings in the Kidderminster defence, but on the one occasion that a space did open up, the Dons failed to make the most of it. Luke Moore was set free down the left with what seemed to be a clear run on goal if he sped past-right back Lee Vaughan, but Moore checked, waited for the Harriers defence and midfield to funnel back, and then ran straight into two opponents, giving the ball away and setting up a Harriers attack that thankfully came to nothing.
The Wimbledon management were beginning to show their frustration at the disappearance of their earlier evident cutting edge, but what had been a fairly even half was then made uneven by an uncharacteristic mistake from Jamie Stuart. Attempting to clear a bouncing ball, he completely missed his kick some 30 yards from goal, and in a flash Canham took one touch and buried a shot past Brown from the edge of the box to send the deflated Dons in at the break a goal down.
The question now was whether the depleted and below-par Wimbledon could press for an equaliser against a team who hadn’t lost in 11 games and were the division’s form side. If the first 15 minutes of the second half was anything to go by, the answer was 'no', but when Ryan Jackson replaced Luke Moore the Dons now had the pace to trouble the huge Harriers defenders. Twice in his first five minutes on a bobbly pitch, Jackson got in behind left-back Mike Williams, but the jet-heeled winger’s crosses lacked accuracy. But at least the Dons fans, backed by over 50 disenfranchised Beveren fans from Belgium, had something to get excited about.
Kedwell saw another effort drift just wide as the Harriers defence came under some long-overdue pressure. The next piece of action brought Sammy Moore’s first season at Kingsmeadow to a premature end. Making a routine challenge near the far touchline, Moore’s right knee sickeningly buckled under him, and he collapsed in agony with the Dons fans near the press box area frantically imploring the referee to stop the game, such was the seriousness of his injury.
When play was stopped, for a foul by Brett Johnson that brought down Wright, the referee seemed more interested in ordering Harriers’ sub Jamille Matt to leave the pitch to remove his offending cycling shorts than in allowing Mike Rayner onto the pitch to treat the stricken Moore. Both sets of players were trying to attract Mr Hopkins’ attention as Moore lay screaming in agony, and eventually, after a six-minute delay, the former Dover midfielder was stretchered off with what turned out to be a dislocated knee.
Within three minutes of the restart, the now properly attired Matt was presented with a gift of a chance to double his side’s lead when Brett Johnson fell over the ball only 20 yards from his own goal. Matt wasn’t going to spurn such an opportunity and applied a simple finish, rolling the ball beyond the reach of Brown for a 2-0 lead. Two defensive errors, two goals.
With eight minutes to go, Lee Minshull, who had replaced Sammy Moore, headed home a deep Gwillim free-kick despite the best efforts of Harriers’ defender Michael Briscoe, and suddenly Wimbledon stopped feeling sorry for themselves. Two minutes later, great work by Jackson and Mulley set up Kedwell for a half-volleyed effort that he dragged just wide, then Jackson got in behind Williams to force two corners in quick succession.
Just as the fourth official showed that there would be seven minutes of additional time, the Dons comeback inexplicably withered away. The visitors were probably expecting to spend the entire extra period on the back foot as their opponents launched a series of aerial attacks in the direction of Kedwell, Minshull and sub Drewe Broughton, all of whom are more than capable of wreaking havoc in opposition boxes. But no such threat materialised, with far too many sideways passes diluting the Dons’ momentum. With all three of those players on the edge of the box waiting for a cross as the referee prepared to blow the final whistle, Mulley and Yussuff exchanged four short passes and were in the process of making a fifth as the whistle sounded.
Kidderminster had completed the double over the Dons, whose points haul from their last five games was now a meagre four. From looking play-off certainties just three weeks earlier, this poor run left Terry Brown looking anxiously over his shoulder as Luton, Wrexham, Kidderminster, York and Fleetwood sought to make the most of Wimbledon’s ill-timed dip in form.