Victory, at last. After 12 winless league games, the last six of which ended in defeat, AFC Wimbledon could again celebrate collecting three precious points.
Luke Moore was the hero at Port Vale, rifling home a stunning winner 13 minutes from time. It sealed a hard-fought win for his side, who improved as the game wore on, and by the finish looked much more like the side that had moved up to third place in the table earlier in the season.
The team were helped on their way by a few new faces, with boss Terry Brown throwing all four new arrivals into his starting XI as he searched for a first League 2 win since 8 October. The midfield duo of Billy Knott and George Moncur particularly impressed, adding quality and tenacity, while the intelligent running of record signing Byron Harrison highlighted a promising debut.
The Dons were unfortunate that their other new recruit, returning hero Jason Euell, had to be withdrawn before the break as he was feeling the effects of a few hard challenges from the home side. In truth, it was the only way they could stop the Charlton loanee, who continually found space in front of Vale’s back four and caused problems with his direct running and assured passing.
His substitution came seconds after the Dons had equalised. They had fallen behind just past the half-hour mark when Vale winger Sean Rigg skipped past right-back Fraser Franks with ease and fed Marc Richards, who was allowed a free header eight yards from goal.
The Dons had been firmly on the back foot but they now found their way back five minutes before the break thanks to the persistence of Harrison. He kept the ball alive near the corner flag and offloaded to Sammy Moore, whose cross was bundled in by Jack Midson for the striker’s 13th goal of the season.
The goal set up a cracking second half in which both sides went in search of the win. That it came Wimbledon’s way was thanks, in part, to something that they had been missing over the past few months – luck.
Vale boss Micky Adams would have argued that the Dons used up their quota of luck for the season during their 3–2 win over his side at The Cherry Red Records Stadium back in September. But they were granted some more at Vale Park when, after 73 minutes, Vale sub Louis Dodds, having found space in the penalty area, saw his shot rebound off the post with Seb Brown stranded.
Four minutes later, Luke Moore – who put in his best performance for many months – found himself in a near-identical position, but his shot thundered into the top corner.
The Dons, given fantastic backing by nearly 500 travelling fans, were delighted to end their horrendous run and head up the table once more. But they were by no means out of the woods yet: they would still have to travel to five of the top seven sides, starting with Gillingham the following Saturday.