Hartley Wintney 0 - AFC Wimbledon 2
THE Dons exorcised the ghost of last year's defeat by grinding out a 2-0 victory against a resolute Hartley Wintney side. With Joe Sheerin less than 100% through injury, Paul Scott and Kevin Cooper got the nod upfront, while Ross Standen was on the bench.
On a sloping and boggy pitch, it was the home side that started stronger. Ian Dowkin spurned a glorious early chance to fire home from close range in the very first minute. Hartley Wintney then thought they had scored as the ball bounced around from a corner, but the goal was disaollowed for a foul on Matt Martin.
Going against the slope, the Dons struggled to keep hold of the ball as the game remained disjointed and scrappy. A Steve Gibson cross-cum-shot saw Broomfield scrambling backwards, but it fell outside the back post. Broomfield then raced off his line well to deny Scott when clean through. The goal came just before the half-hour mark as Cooper pounced to volley home a corner. Seb Favata then created something out of nothing by chasing a lost cause, but Cooper's effort from a tight angle found the side-netting.
Nicky English replaced Favata with Bassey at half-time as he looked to get more of a grip on the midfield battle and Standen came on for Martin in goal to combat Hartley Wintney's set-piece aerial threat.
The game continued in a similarly scrappy fashion, broken only by occasional bookings and Matt Everard heading over from corners, until it was sparked into life by Paul Anderson's dismissal for violent conduct on 65 minutes, after felling Danny Oakins. The ten men continued to harry and press the Dons in defence, but offered little themselves in attack, giving Standen a gentle welcome to the Wimbledon team. On 72 minutes Wimbledon were given a glorious opportunity to make the game safe.
Danny Roberts, erstwhile left-back of this parish, bundled Cooper over in the area and the referee pointed to the spot. Following a short disagreement in which Danny Oakins and Cooper proclaimed their respective right to attempt to convert the chance, Cooper stroked the ball past Bloomfield for his, and his side's, second. That broke his own AFC Wimbledon record from last season ? his tally for this year now stands at 42 and rising.
Only further brilliance from Broomfield kept the score down. He denied Gavin Bolger in a one-on-one situation and produced a fine low save to palm Scott's follow-up wide. He then saved well from Sullivan and blocked another goalbound Scott effort.
The day was soured somewhat for the Dons by the late dismissal of Scott. He reacted to abuse from Taylor and the pair stood toe to toe, before the referee brandished a red card to a bemused Scott. The offence has been listed as violent conduct, which could well see the striker banned for 35 days, a particular blow given the form he has found of late.
But this was the last SHL ground on which the Dons lost an away game in similar conditions, so credit must be given to Nicky and the team for avoiding a potential banana skin and notching up another clean sheet.