After a superb pair of away victories the Dons were held to a hard-earned draw by Hereford United who, despite coming into the game pointless and goalless and being forced to replace half of their defence within the first half-hour, also fully deserved a point.
Terry Brown made one change from the side that won at Home Park the previous Tuesday. Ricky Wellard, who had been in commanding form in the second half in Devon, replaced Lee Minshull, but the Dons boss sprung something a surprise with where he slotted Wellard into the side. Sammy Moore, who excelled in the holding role at Plymouth, was moved to the left of midfield to accommodate Wellard, who took his place in front of the back four in what is, nominally at least, the defensive tip of the Wimbledon midfield diamond.
After a quiet opening to the game, Hereford took the lead with the first real effort on goal from either side. When French left-back Benoit Dalibard floated a harmless-looking cross into the box, Seb Brown called for it, and both Jamie Stuart and Brett Johnson duly ducked under it. But Brown hadn’t accounted for Delroy Facey nipping in between the defenders and sending a gentle header drifting into the net past the ill-placed keeper, who had moved some distance to his left to collect the cross.
It was a poor goal to concede in any league, but it gave Hereford’s travelling band of supporters the chance to celebrate after seeing their side fail to score in their first three league games of the season. Dalibard lasted only another four minutes before succumbing to a hamstring strain, an injury that also curtailed skipper Stefan Stam’s contribution to proceedings 20 minutes later.
Before the Dons could mount a serious attack of their own, a wayward Johnson pass to the 6 ft 4 in Harry Pell on the halfway line put the entire defence on the back foot. After exchanging passes some 25 yards out, former Forest Green striker Stuart Fleetwood’s rising drive flew inches over Brown’s bar as the Dons backed off. In all four league games this season Wimbledon’s errors have handed chances on a plate to their opponents. If it weren’t for some fine saves by Brown from Fleetwood and Facey, and some profligate finishing by Joe Colbeck and Nicky Featherstone, the Dons could have found themselves three or four down with less than half an hour gone.
Thankfully, though, in Wellard, Sammy Moore and Rashid Yussuff the Dons have a midfield capable of taking a game by the scruff of the neck and changing its course. After Charles Ademeno’s far-post header from Jack Midson’s cross was palmed onto the post by keeper David Cornell, the central trio started to boss the game. Only some desperate last-ditch defending by Daniel Williams and Ryan Green and two mistimed Sam Hatton passes prevented Ademeno, Midson and Luke Moore from going through on Connor’s goal.
With 25 minutes gone, the Dons got their just reward. From Hatton’s inswinging corner, Midson’s near-post header was perfectly placed to beat Connor and the despairing dive by Simon Clist, and the ball rocketed into the roof of the net for the striker’s fourth goal of the season.
Five minutes later it seemed as though the Dons had taken the lead. Yussuff’s charge into the box was halted by Connor, but the ball rolled handily for Midson, only 15 yards out. His attempted side-footed shot into the empty goal struck a Hereford leg, but the ball fell kindly for Luke Moore, who at the second attempt found the back of the net. However, the assistant referee had flagged Moore offside as Midson shot, and Wimbledon were denied.
As the rain subsided, Facey and Fleetwood were denied a clear sight of goal by a combination of Wellard and Johnson. The two sides’ attacking endeavours were evenly matched by their defensive prowess, and anyone who expected the Bulls to be easy pickings after their poor start to the season were being forced to think again.
A change in the weather during the half-time interval also brought about a change in the balance of the game. The Dons looked more purposeful in attack, and, as had been the case against Bristol Rovers, Dagenham & Redbridge and Plymouth Argyle, they began the second half in a far more positive fashion than they had started the first.
After a great Midson run down the right, Ademeno forced a good near-post save from Connor. From two teasing Hatton crosses Midson couldn’t get the better of Williams, and then Yussuff attempted to dance through the Bulls’ defence before being stopped in his tracks by Michael Townsend. Jamie Stuart headed over from six yards after Brett Johnson’s far-post header back across goal had been nodded down by the impressive Midson.
The former Histon man then presented Sammy Moore with a takable chance, but from the pinpoint cross Moore’s volley into the turf lacked pace, and Connor made a far more comfortable save than he would have been expecting.
The Dons were doing everything but score, but three more sloppy passes in quick succession had handed possession to the visitors, with Hatton, Gareth Gwillim and the industrious Wellard taking turns to thwart them. Terry Brown was alternately applauding his side’s attacking play and holding his head in his hands when possession was meekly surrendered. With all respect to Jamie Pitman’s men, a side in better form would surely have made more of the chances that were being laid in front of them.
The game was now flowing from end to end and providing good entertainment for the 4,239 packed into Kingsmeadow, but chance-a-minute stuff was not what either manager wanted to see. Despite taking an age over goal kicks, throw-ins and corners, Hereford didn’t seem overly keen on leaving with just a point, and with the Dons clearly aiming to keep their winning run going the game was getting stretched – within seconds of an attack breaking down at one end, another was being launched.
The Bulls were making chances of their own. From Facey’s header at the far post Brown made a brilliant save to deny the player once ranked the fastest in the Football League. 30-yarders from Pell and Clist tested Brown’s reflexes, although not unduly, and a goalmouth scramble from a Colbeck corner was tidied up by a combination of a Stuart block-tackle and a hammered clearance over the Paul Strank Stand roof by the under-pressure Hatton. Fleetwood then made a mess of a chance when left in the clear by the Dons pushing up en masse, the striker miscontrolling a lofted pass from Featherstone as Brown bore down on him.
The Dons thought they had taken the lead when Johnson’s header across the six-yard box from another Hatton cross allowed Ademeno a clear header on goal. Although Connor scooped it away, it did look as if the whole of the ball had crossed the line, but referee Linington waved away the Dons’ appeals. There was still time for another long-range drive from Clist to be gathered in by Brown before sub Christian Jolley attempted to step his way through the entire Bulls defence, but he overran the ball at the vital moment.
The statistics show that both sides had nine shots on target and five off. In terms of chances it was an even game, and that’s a description that wouldn’t have been argued about too fiercely in the pubs of Kingston and Hereford afterwards. Seven points from four games, with a +3 goal difference to boot, is a more than decent start to League life by the Dons.