“THAT was awful”, said the guy at the station,”but at least we got the three points”. Which was true, but a tad unfair, as the playing surface had a big influence on this game, writes The Wizard of Oz.
Kingsmeadow looked immaculate, the green surface like a manicured lawn, but it was extremely slippery under foot and no stage on which to play good football.
Despite the heavy schedule Neal Ardley rested no one for the FA Cup tie on Tuesday. Only Sammy Moore was not included, Frankie Sutherland starting, in what may be the strongest eleven.
Wimbledon came out of the blocks early and looked very good in the opening stages. Sean Rigg and then Matt Tubbs went close. Alan Bennett fired a ferocious shot from distance which took a wicked deflection, going past the flat-footed goalkeeper, but also agonisingly spinning past the post. From the corner Adebayo Akinfenwa had a header cleared off the line.
Akinfenwa is built like a lead balloon but has a wonderful ability to hang in the air; in the first half hour he seemed to win every header, sending flicked passes to running team-mates.
Barry Fuller and George Francomb were causing real problems down the right and Dagenham were clearly not going to last long and they didn’t as Wimbledon opened the scoring in the 19th minute.
Francomb did exceptionally well to fashion a cross from a tight situation and won a corner. Adam Barrett met Francomb’s delivery at the far post and knocked the ball down, Tubbs had a swing at it and the ball fell for Fuller to bang it into the net. It was just reward for Wimbledon’s dominant start.
Eventually though, Dagenham worked their way back into it, or perhaps Wimbledon sat back too deep.
Despite Tubbs having a chance, easily saved, after a mistake by the Daggers, it was former AFC Wimbledon good guy/ bad guy George Porter who caused really consternation with a searching ball into the penalty area which left defenders confused and Shea transfixed but somehow the chance went begging.
It wasn’t a good sign as Wimbledon were conceding the initiative. They went into the sheds at half-time needing to lift in the second half although it could have been a different story if Fuller’s header in time added on had not been cleared off the line.
With darkness falling and the ground and ball becoming more slippery the game became a war of attrition. Wimbledon’s back four, marshalled by Bennett, were agriculturally brutal in defence and their defiance ultimately won the game. James Shea barely had a save to make. It wasn’t pretty, it was downright ugly at times, but it was what was required under the conditions.
Any 1-0 lead is vulnerable; midway through the half, Dagenham had two great chances in a minute but wasted them both.
The defence was caught square but the wet conditions, the effort of Bennett and the quick reactions of Shea denied Jamie Cureton and then Ashley Chambers shot wide after the best move of the match.
Tubbs then shot wide from a difficult angle and late on Dannie Bulman pulled a fierce shot across the face of the goal. Wimbledon took off Akinfenwa and Tubbs and brought on Ade Azeez up front and Sammy Moore to shore up the midfield.
It worked, and Dagenham really didn’t look as if they would trouble Shea. Wimbledon took the three points which their hard work just about deserved.
Alan Bennett was the official man of the match but for me the combination of Barry Fuller and George Francomb down the right was the best part of our play; I would give the nod to Fuller by the narrowest margin over Francomb simply because he got the vital goal.