Wimbledon gave Dave Anderson just the start to the Christmas period he wanted, with a fine 2-1 victory over Hendon ? a workmanlike second half backing up an imposing display in the first 45 minutes.
Dave Anderson made a couple of changes to the side that drew with Leyton, with Wayne Finnie recalled in defence and Wes Daly pushed into midfield. Barry Moore dropped to the bench, where he was joined by new signing Mark Peters, the former Brentford, Basingstoke and Eastleigh striker.
And the Dons started at an impressive rate, clearly keen to make amends for recent disappointments, taking the game by the scruff of the neck with quick passing and direct running.
Hendon keeper Dave King was soon called upon, looking a little flappy as he dealt with two early Wimbledon corners. Ricci Crace, the scorer of the winning goal in yellow and blue in this season?s Supporters Direct Cup, sent the visitors? first chance over the bar, before the Dons took an early lead on just seven minutes.
Richard Butler held off two defenders on the edge of the box and flicked the ball to Smeltz, whose deft first time touch sent the ball square to Chris Gell. Gell laid the ball out to the left for Michael Harvey to run on and steer a precise shot across King and into the bottom right corner from the edge of the area. The finish was as well-worked as the move that led up to it for a highly impressive opener.
Harvey then headed a Gell cross straight at King as the home side continue to press. Smeltz?s trickery on the left almost set up Dave Sargent, but the full-back?s marauding cut inside was eventually blocked.
But Hendon looked threatening enough on their breaks at the other end, forcing a corner of their own with O?Brien inches away from toe-poking a shot home from close range. Later, Andy Little showed some fancy footwork to leave the Greens striker on the ground as the Dons goalkeeper dribbled a backpass out of danger.
Daly and Harvey then combined well for the latter to fizz a shot narrowly over the crossbar as Wimbledon reasserted their dominance. The second goal was not long in coming, although the move that led to it seemed as though it was unfolding in inexorable slow motion.
Smeltz sauntered into the area with the casually insouciant air of an alcoholic attempting to bag an after hours? drink from a recalcitrant barman. One tackle almost floored him, but he jinked slowly round the challenge and jumped languidly over another before unselfishly teeing up Richard Butler on the edge of the six-yard-box.
Clearly deciding that anything Smeltz could do slowly, he could do slower, Buts elected to send his first shot at King, before chipping the rebound over the luckless keeper for 2-0, after what felt like hours had elapsed since his strike partner ambled into the area.
Hendon picked themselves up and sent a diving header just wide from another corner, while two home players had their names taken for fouls, although not for the first time this season there seemed to be dual standards in play for what constituted a bookable offence. No sooner had that moan been committed to cyberspace, than a visiting player finally saw yellow, as Iain Duncan finally exhausted the referee?s patience.
As half-time loomed, Butler and Smeltz almost engineered another chance, but Plummer was eventually shepherded wide while showboating. O?Brien blazed over with Hendon?s last chance of the half.
King had to be alert right at the start of the second period to clutch a Smeltz header to his chest with Butler in close attendance. Butler then cracked a shot against the crossbar from a tight angle.
But Hendon dragged themselves back into the game with a neat goal after nine minutes of the second half, O?Brien making amends for some earlier misses with a precise low drive across Little and into the bottom corner. The shot came from pretty much the same spot as Michael Harvey opened the scoring from similarly early in the first half.
Hendon enjoyed their best sustained spell of the game following the goal, and only a great covering tackle by Daly prevented another opportunity developing into a threatening shooting situation. We were midway through the half before Wimbledon threatened again, King blocking a Butler pull-back with his legs.
Butler?s frankly ludicrous workrate then allowed him to collect a channel ball lesser mortals would have given up for dead, but his pullback fell inches short of two Dons storming into the area behind him and was cleared.
With 16 minutes remaining, Peters replaced Plummer for his Wimbledon debut, and joined Smeltz and Butler in a clear 4-3-3 formation. In the manner of tedious eleven-plus style verbal reasoning tests, workrate is to Butler as deft touches are to Smeltz, and the Kiwi left two Hendon players in his wake on an excellent run, but could only hammer the final shot disappointingly over the bar.
The game showed no signs of petering to a tame conclusion. First of all Butler did excellently to win a clear corner, but the linesman inexplicably pointed for a goal kick. Butler was predictably, and correctly, booked for his protestations, but his frustration was at least somewhat understandable.
Not even 60 seconds later, Butler was in the thick of things again, storming up the left wing, only to be crudely sent into the air by an extremely poor, late lunge from ex-Don Mark Cooper. A yellow card was the result, but in truth the tackle was far worse than that for Steve Butler?s dismissal at Chelmsford. Not for the first time this season, inconsistency seems to be the only consistent quality among Ryman referees.
Hendon still harboured hopes of a share of the points, forcing three chances in the closing minutes. Little did well to keep out a low header at the near post, then tip a goalbound Crace shot behind. Good headed the resultant corner over the bar.