Wimbledon ended a run of six matches without a win through an unlikely source as Barry Fuller’s first Dons goal provided the edge against Dagenham.
Fuller struck his first Wimbledon goal since joining in the summer of 2013 and that proved enough for a 1-0 win that perhaps should have been more. However, the Dons had to defend resolutely near the end to deny a Dagenham side that belatedly exerted some pressure.
Wimbledon made three changes to the side that started at Bristol City on Tuesday night with Bayo Akinfenwa, George Francomb and Frankie Sutherland recalled. Sammy Moore, Jake Nicholson and Ade Azeez all therefore had to settle for places on the bench.
Neal Ardley stressed the importance of playing at a high tempo during the build-up to this match and Wimbledon certainly did that from the first whistle. The Dons put plenty of pressure on Daggers from the outset and only desperate last-ditch defending prevented an opener within five minutes. Sean Rigg and Dannie Bulman both had shots deflected just wide, before Akinfenwa’s header from a corner was cleared off the line.
Akinfenwa and Matt Tubbs were reunited to lead the Wimbledon line again and it did not take long for them to make an impression. In typical fashion, Akinfenwa flicked on a long ball for Tubbs, but his volley flashed over the crossbar.
The Dons continued to offer plenty of threat and their endeavour was rewarded in the 19thminute with an opening goal. It came from an unlikely source, but there was no lack of quality in the finish as Fuller smashed home emphatically with his left foot after Adam Barrett had nodded on George Francomb’s corner.
Daggers had offered little attacking threat before Wimbledon’s opener, but a spirited response followed from the visitors and they twice came close to equalising within the space of a minute before half-time. Former Dons loanee George Porter sent over a teasing cross from the left that Abu Ogogo steered wide from close range and then an Ashley Chambers drive was deflected just off target.
However, Wimbledon were almost celebrating a second goal on the stroke of half-time when Sean Rigg’s effort was cleared off the line. Apart from a couple of scares, Wimbledon controlled the first half and it had been a more than satisfactory performance so far.
Wimbledon started the second-half brightly and the cushion of a second almost followed when Akinfenwa headed on for Tubbs and his smart volley was well saved by Dagenham goalkeeper Mark Cousins. There was no let-up from Wimbledon and they came close again through that man Fuller. Having scored a rare goal, Fuller almost helped himself to a second when he headed wide after another fine free-kick delivery from Francomb. Fuller was absolutely everywhere with a typical all-action display and he showed great determination to get in a cross from the right, but Tubbs fired just over.
Though the Dons continued to hold the upper hand, it was a slender advantage and the introductions of Rhys Murphy and Jamie Cureton meant that Wimbledon had to stay resolute in defence. It did not take long for Murphy to make a difference and he swung over a dangerous cross from the right that just eluded everyone in the box.
There was a key incident 16 minutes from time when Cureton broke through Wimbledon’s defence. The veteran striker – a nemesis of Wimbledon over the years – was one-on-one with James Shea, but he failed to apply the finishing touch as he went to ground and referee Brendan Malone ruled that there was no foul. Then Ashley Chambers had an even better chance, but he dragged his shot wide from close range.
With Dagenham having their best spell so far, Neal Ardley made a double change with Sammy Moore and Ade Azeez introduced for Matt Tubbs and Bayo Akinfenwa. Though Wimbledon struggled to regain any of their earlier attacking fluency, they held firm without any more scares and the Dons were full value for the win.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Alan Bennett, Jack Smith, Frankie Sutherland, Adam Barrett, Sean Rigg, Dannie Bulman, Bayo Akinfenwa (Ade Azeez), Matt Tubbs (Sammy Moore), George Francomb.