In windy rainy conditions the Dons lost a home league game for the first time in almost two years. Whyteleafe defended stoutly and took advantage of some less than impressive defending from the home side to secure a 2-1 win against the run of play as 2005 started on a downbeat note for AFC Wimbledon.
Martin Randall failed a late fitness test, so Leon McDowall partnered Richard Butler up front. Gareth Graham was fit enough for a place on the bench, with Rob Ursell starting for the first time since suffering a foot injury on his November trip to Chester.
With the wind making things difficult for both sides, it was the visitors who started the stronger. The familiar figures of Lee Sidwell and Andy Sullivan pulled the strings for Whyteleafe. Naisbitt had to claw away a curling cross as Sidwell loomed at the back post.
The Dons? first attack of note came on ten minutes, as Ursell?s shot from the edge of the box was deflected wide, although no corner was given. Danny Niasbitt proved how strong the wind was when a clearance sailed the length of the pitch. His opposite number Wastell was struggling to get his goalkicks over the halfway line into the wind.
Finally the referee did aware the Dons a corner on 12 minutes. Ursell whipped it in and it was headed behind for another corner. Gray?s effort was caught by the swirling wind and eventually cleared after a goalmouth scramble.
Naisbitt was forced into action at the other end to deal with two crosses as the game continued to ebb and flow. Two highly questionable offside decisions curtailed Dons attacks, the latter when Leon MacDowall had clearly run onto Ursell?s pass from behind the defender.
Naisbitt saved well from a Sidwell shot from outside the box and the resulting corner was cleared. Richard Butler was then pushed over on the edge of the Whyteleafe area and Wastell saved Ursell?s free-kick diving low to his left.
McDowall was then chopped in two by careering lunge from a Whyteleafe defender, but the referee remained unmoved by penalty appeals. He further endeared himself to the home crowd by leaving the striker on the sideline for more than a minute waiting for permission to return to the fray.
Questionable decisions aside, the Dons were growing in confidence having weathered the storm of the early Whyteleafe attacks. And they took the lead when the industrious McDowall swung a cross over the defence for an unmarked Ryan Gray to head past Wastell at the back post.
Bates and Williams were booked for a spot of handbags on the halfway line before Whyteleafe got back on terms in a fortuitous manner in first-half injury time. Naisbitt clawed a corner away under a strong challenge and Paul Scott swivelled to fire the ball back at goal. It bounced and careered into the net past two defensive lunges on the line to make the score 1-1 at the interval.
The first chance of the second half fell to the Dons, but Wastell produced a fine save to tip over an Ursell drive. The rain fell faster as the conditions worsened, with the Dons having to adapt to having the wind in their faces and Whyteleafe seeing their through balls run away from them with the breeze.
Richard Butler drew another good save from Wastell with a low shot, and the impressive keeper then blocked well from McDowell after another Dons corner. At the other end a mishit Scott shot fell to Lock, but he blazed over the bar. A Sills channel ball was collected by Richard Butler, but his near-post effort was easily saved by Wastell.
Dave Anderson made a double substitution, with Andy Frost replacing McDowall upfront and Graham coming on in midfield. Shortly afterwards, a limping Naisbitt was replaced by Paul Smith, with Graham assuming the armband against the team he played for on loan earlier this season.
Graham?s probing passing re-energised the Dons attacks, but once more Wastell proved equal to everything that was thrown at him. Having kept Wimbledon at bay, the visitors conjured a second goal out of thin air on a rare foray forward. Mark Tompkins took advantage of a defensive mix-up to roll the ball into an empty net to send Whyteleafe 2-1 up with just minutes remaining.
The Dons huffed and puffed but could find no way through, slumping to their first home league defeat since February 2003.