A ninth goal of the season from Michael Smith was not enough to earn maximum points for Wimbledon tonight as they had to settle for a point against a resilient Dagenham side.
The Dons perhaps shaded an entertaining clash between two much-improved sides this season and they appeared set for all three points when Smith struck, but Dagenham hit back to earn a 1-1 draw.
Wimbledon extended their unbeaten league run to four in the process, but it was perhaps a case of what might have been as Dons goalkeeper Ross Worner had barely been tested before Rhys Murphy’s second-half equaliser.
Neal Ardley made just one change to his starting line-up with Harry Pell handed an immediate return after serving a one-match suspension and Luke Moore stepping down to the bench.
It was a far from fluent start for Wimbledon as the visitors seized the initiative early on, albeit without really testing Dons goalkeeper Ross Worner. The Wimbledon number one may have struggled to reach a powerful drive from Dagenham’s Billy Bingham though if it hadn’t been blocked by Peter Sweeney.
Wimbledon steadily grew into it as the first-half wore on and they were rewarded with the opening goal in the 27th minute. It was a goal to savour too with a great move finished off in style by Michael Smith. Callum Kennedy found Peter Sweeney in space and the Dons midfielder created space for himself with a smart turn before delivering an inch-perfect cross that Smith headed superbly into the top corner.
Dagenham & Redbridge did respond after that though and Wimbledon knew that they could not rest on their laurels against a pacy Daggers attack. Medy Elito was a real livewire in the first-half and he showed his talents with one dashing run through Wimbledon’s defence and his goal-bound shot needed to be blocked by Dons captain Alan Bennett. Wimbledon had shown solidity in defence during the first-half that had served them well at Bury on Saturday and it was a sign of their recent improvement that they never seemed too troubled in the first-half.
The second-half started in a similar manner with Wimbledon appearing to be in control of the situation and pressing forward. It could have got even better for Wimbledon when Sammy Moore’s free-kick bounced around in the area and the ball fell for Alan Bennett, but he fired over the crossbar. The Dons were stunned by an equaliser that came completely out of nothing just before the hour. There did not appear to be too much danger when Rhys Murphy collected a Luke Howell pass 20 yards out, but he turned smartly and produced an impressive low shot that left Ross Worner with no chance.
Neal Ardley responded to that setback by making a double change in the 63rd minute with Jack Midson replacing Kaid Mohamed and Luke Moore coming on for Peter Sweeney. Wimbledon came close to snatching the lead back again and it was no surprise that it was that man Smith causing problems for Dagenham. Smith, who can be unplayable when he’s in this sort of form, latched onto a through ball and produced a fine drive from an acute angle that Dagenham goalkeeper Chris Lewington saved well at his near post.
At this stage, the outcome was certainly in the balance with Wimbledon pushing forward and their opponents looking dangerous on the break. Former West Ham winger Zavon Hines had an intriguing battle with Wimbledon vice-captain Barry Fuller, who was certainly up for the challenge on the night. Fuller produced a hard, but fair, tackle that left Hines poleaxed, but just a minute later the Dagenham man powered through Wimbledon’s defence and curled just wide.
It was end-to-end stuff in the latter stages with Wimbledon pushing for a winner and Dagenham continuing to cause problems on the break. The closest Wimbledon came to a winner was when Pell drove just wide from 20 yards, but they had to settle for a draw that was perhaps a fair result on reflection.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy, Sammy Moore, Andy Frampton, Alan Bennett, Kaid Mohamed (Jack Midson), Harry Pell, Michael Smith, Peter Sweeney (Luke Moore), George Porter.