Wimbledon were pushed hard by a strong Dulwich side in a tense and physical encounter, but emerged narrowly victorious thanks to a late Richard Butler strike and a penalty save from Jake Cole.
Dave Anderson stuck with the 4-4-2 formation that had served the side well in recent weeks. With Gavin Bolger and Gareth Graham both sidelined by injury, Chris Gell was restored to the side after missing several games owing to an ankle injury sustained at Dover. He lined up on the right of midfield initially, with Jon-Barrie Bates and Micky Woolner in the middle. New signing Mark Cooper, who joined on Friday from Chertsey having previously played two matches for Wimbledon reserves during his rehab from an Achilles injury, was handed a place on the bench. Steve Butler kept the captain?s armband.
The first chance of the match fell to Dulwich after some good play from Marlon Patterson on the left wing, but Antony Howard beat Andrew Martin to the header. Richard Butler won the visitors their first corner, but his namesake Steve couldn?t connect with the cross. More good play from Patterson saw him race away from Conroy, but he shot wastefully well wide when Martin was well-placed.
During a tight opening half-an-hour, Dulwich enjoyed some early pressure without carving out any clear chances, and Micky Woolner headed over from another Wimbledon corner. Richard Butler span his man well on the halfway line and his pass sent Randall almost clear, but his strike partner was bundled off the ball by the covering defender.
The game turned fractious as Micky Woolner climbed up to win a defensive header above Kwame, who went down clutching his head. The Dulwich bench were up in arms complaining about an alleged elbow and Martin ran over to make his point in person to an unmoved Woolner. Once calm was restored, a dropball was the result.
Richard Butler played an excellent diagonal pass to send Ursell scampering goalwards. He jinked past his man, but his eventual shot was weak and easy for Seuke to claim. Martin then further endeared himself to the away crowd by throwing himself to the ground in front of the Wimbledon dugout claiming a head injury. The referee stopped play eventually for the Dulwich man to be ?treated?, but no-one seemed particularly convinced.
Beaney then drove into the side netting from a corner as the game continued to ebb and flow. Bates was booked for a foul on McGowan on the edge of the box, but the free-kick was driven well wide and blocked. Side then sent a snapshot high and wide.
On 42 minutes the Dons put together their best move of the game. Richard Butler nodded the ball to Woolner, whose header found the run of Randall perfectly. Randall returned the favour in a one-two and Woolner raced into the area, but sent the shot over the bar.
Butler and Gell then combined for a one-two down the right wing. Butler was half-tackled, but got to the ball first and sent a quick shot fizzing across the face of goal.
In injury-time, Seuke came out well to claim an Ursell corner as the Dons looked for a goal before half-time. There was still time for two more Dulwich players to have a crack at fouling Micky Woolner before the whistle blew.
Nil-nil seemed a fair reflection of the first half, with neither keeper having to make a save of note. Whilst Dave Anderson would have been pleased with his side?s defensive performance, he must have wondered how a team that played with such confidence against Bromley and Kingstonian seemed so panicked in possession.
The second half started in as cagey a way as the first had left off. Jones and Ursell combined well on the left wing, but Seuke claimed the cross easily. Richard Butler then had his shirt pulled by Twin as he looked to break clear. Twin was booked for the foul, but Jones? free-kick was easily blocked.
Good work by Martin for Dulwich then teed up Patterson out wide at the other end. Cole came out well to get a punch on his initial cross, then reacted quickest to hack the ball clear as it bounced. Martin then curled a free-kick straight at Cole from Dulwich?s next chance.
Richard Butler then put McLeod under pressure and the Dulwich left-back inexplicably swung a cross into his own penalty area. Randall won the header and teed up Ursell, but he sent the best chance of the game so far wide with his right foot.
Dulwich then had an even better chance to take the lead from the penalty spot. Charley Side ran into the box and went down under a challenge from Howard. The referee initially waved play on, but the linesman flagged to give the spot-kick. After consultation, a penalty was awarded. Danny Twin stepped up, but his penalty was saved one-handed by Jake Cole to his right. The goalkeeper then made it to the ball first and prevented it even going out for a corner.
Buoyed by the let-off, the Dons stormed forward and Richard Butler headed narrowly over from another good Jones cross. Dulwich looked to counter, and only an excellent last ditch covering header by Conroy prevented Patterson getting free in space.
Woolner then limped off the pitch on 66 minutes and was replaced by Ryan Gray. Gray went to left-midfield, with Ursell coming across to the right and Gell joining Bates in the centre.
Great work from Richard Butler won the Dons another corner. Howard sent the ball back across the face of goal, but Randall was bundled off the next header by a defender. From the next attack, Randall was then fouled by Dayes, who seemed reluctant to give the Wimbledon striker the ball. A small amount of pushing and shoving followed before the ball was restored to the Dons and the referee elected to book both players.
As a Gray cross was half-cleared, Ursell teed up Bates, but the ball bobbled unkindly and he could only dribble a shot towards Seuke. Gray then had a vicious inswinging corner headed away from just under the bar, before Howard headed over from the next from Ursell. The stadium announcer then opened the mic to tell the bemused masses, ?A reminder that no football is to be played inside the ground,? which seemed a little harsh on two sets of players whose effort had been total, but was perhaps a plausible, if critical, summary of the preceding 83 minutes.
Leon McDowall replaced Martin Randall as the Dons stepped matters up a gear for the last seven minutes. McDowall threw himself wholeheartedly into the cause and the next chance fell to Gell, who couldn?t direct his header goalwards.
With five minutes remaining, the breakthrough finally came. Ursell played the ball through and the indefatigable Richard Butler held off his marker and fired past the advancing Seuke from the edge of the area for 1-0.
As the game slipped into injury time, Cole raced off his line to claim well when danger threatened, despite getting upended for his pains. Patterson then shot wide and the Dons weathered the late scare of a goalmouth scramble.
The Dons have faced few sterner tests away from home than a rapidly improving Dulwich side and showed tremendous character to emerge victorious on a afternoon that was emotionally, if not aesthetically, pleasing.