Barry Fuller Mat Haylock
Barry Fuller …. a rare goal, first in 93 months. Photo courtesy: Mat Haylock

BIGFOOT, the Loch Ness Monster, the Abominable Snowman … now throw in an extremely rare goal by Barry Fuller as Wimbledon performed another rare sighting, a win at home against a lower-placed team !

A Fuller goal —  his first for the Dons — doesn’t come around all that often. The last time he found the net was back on February 17, 2007 in Stevenage’s 2-0 win at Grays in the Conference.

It takes on a collector’s item significance; it’s been 93 months, that’s perseverance for you, and it was enough to give the Dons all the points in a no-frills 1-0 win over Dagenham & Redbridge.

And just as well our combative right-back put away his long-awaited chance, because hot-shot Matt Tubbs’s goalscoring funk continues. It’s a seventh straight game he’s failed to score and you couldn’t help but notice after full-time Ardley walking off with his arm around Tubbs deep in discussion.

It wasn’t pretty, in fact, it was downright ugly. But importantly Wimbledon grinded out the win, protecting Fuller’s 19th-minute strike, for the team’s first win in five league games to move into 14th spot, five points outside the play-off positions and 11 points above the bottom two.

It also broke a pattern of under-achieving against teams below the Dons on the table, especially at Kingsmeadow — Hartlepool, Stevenage and Tranmere Rovers come to mind.

Facing the Daggers, who have drawn twice in their previous three visits, and coming four days after pushing former unbeaten League One leaders Bristol City all the way in the JP Trophy, this was always going to be a potential banana-skin given Wimbledon’s gyrating consistency levels.

The team is struggling for confidence at the moment. League Two’s top strike force, Tubbs and Adebayo Akinfenwa, are struggling for goals and as a consequence Wimbledon is struggling to put away teams. Heck, even Barry Fuller is (finally) scoring !

Neal Ardley wanted his team to play at a high tempo and they started well enough with a few chances before Fuller struck in the 19th minute.  Fuller was on the spot after Adam Barrett had nodded on George Francomb’s corner.

But the Dons couldn’t build on that and progressively Daggers came more into the match. Ardley took off Bayo and Tubbs together in the 78th minute, added Sammy Moore to the midfield and played just Ade Azeez up front in a 4-5-1 formation to safeguard the points.

“These are tough games,” Ardley said. “You worry and I’m on the bench thinking we could do with a second just to put the game to bed.

“We didn’t and then they bring on two forwards. We started to get a little bit light in the midfield area so we brought on Sammy and Ade.

“Yes we can play better, it was a bit scrappy but we’ve played okay and we’ve won 1-0. Too often we’ve played well, like at Bristol in midweek, and not got anything. That’s not such a good habit to get into.

“In the second half we came out and it was the case of being 1-0 up and managing the game. We knew our chances would come. We had 14 attempts at goal and had some really good chances that we did not take. You are always open to the opposition getting one at 1-0 even though they did not have an attempt on target all game.”

WDSA contributor Windlesham Don, while welcoming the win, was little enthused over the Dons’ performance.

“The important outcome was the result, and we got the three points, but it was another largely unimpressive display,” he said.

“The match followed the home performance blueprint of several this season – a promising beginning but failing to convert chances, followed by a goal to go one up, failing to kill the game when on top, nervously realising that we could win the game, dropping further back and defending too deep, failing to react when the opposition make attacking substitutions and go for it and allowing them to create several good chances.

“Fortunately for us, Dagenham displayed a lack of confidence in front of goal.”

George Porter on the ball
George Porter .. ex-Don had a bit of needle with Barry Fuller.

So given how the afternoon panned out, it was no wonder that Barry Fuller garnered all the headlines. It was particularly noticeable that the feisty right-back relished his ‘reunion’ with former wayward Don George Porter, who left midway through an intended season-long loan in the last campaign. There looked to be a bit of needle between the pair (something hanging over from last season, perhaps?)

“I thought Barry Fuller was outstanding. He kept George Porter quiet and we know he is a talent,” Ardley said. “Barry ran off him and he did not stop bombing up and down that line.

“Obviously, he got his goal and I am chuffed for Barry. I’m taking the credit for his goal though. Barry got to the edge of the box and asked me if he could go in and I said ‘yes’. It was a great performance from Barry overall.”

Ardley has to manage his squad through a tricky period of league and Cup matches and on Tuesday the Dons face their fifth game in 18 days in the FA Cup replay at home to York City.

The prize is a trip to Wycombe Wanderers in the second round. The Dons won’t have the luxury of sitting back against the Minstermen in the all-or-nothing of Cup football.

Finally as a side note, Bristol City lost their unbeaten league record to Swindon Town on Saturday. Another of the Dons past loanees Michael Smith scored the winning goal 12 minutes from time.

Read more views on the WDSA forum match thread