David Connolly rolled back the years with a dramatic winner to help the Dons to a thrilling victory against promotion chasers Luton Town.
It had appeared Wimbledon would have to settle for a point after being pegged back to 2-2, before substitute Connolly’s intervention in the third minute of injury-time earned a 3-2 win.
On a day of firsts, Alfie Potter and Dannie Bulman both got off the mark for Wimbledon and 37-year-old Connolly used all of his goalscoring nous to net his first since returning to Dons duty.
A superb first-half display had rocked Luton as Neal Ardley’s men dominated with arguably their best 45 minutes of the season. The Dons had been full value for a 2-0 lead, but Luton battled back to provide a demonstration of just why they’re challenging near the top of League 2.
Neal Ardley made three changes to his starting line-up after defeat at Shrewsbury with one of those involving a return for Bayo Akinfenwa up front. Wimbledon’s top scorer was preferred to Ade Azeez and the other changes were also in attack with Alfie Potter replacing George Francomb and Sean Rigg in for David Connolly.
The Dons made a whirlwind start that took Luton by surprise with Potter showing flashes of exactly why Neal Ardley brought him to the club. The winger was first involved after just 25 seconds when he forced Elliot Justham into an early save. Then Potter delivered a fine cross from the right that Craig Tanner headed wide. It had been all Wimbledon in the opening exchanges, but Luton served warning of their threat when Nathan Oduwa had an effort just deflected wide.
Wimbledon should have earned reward for their bright start as they created plenty of chances early on. Dannie Bulman had a close range effort just saved after more great work down the right from Potter. However, the best chance for Wimbledon in the first 20 minutes came when Akinfenwa fired against a post and then he missed the rebound from close range. Potter also struck the upright after getting on the end of a corner from Jake Reeves.
With Wimbledon in complete control and creating chances too, it came as no surprise when they took the lead. Tanner and Akinfenwa played a superb one-two, before the latter’s shot was turned away by Justham and Potter followed up to notch his first Dons goal.
There was no let-up from Wimbledon after taking the lead and Reeves shot just wide after another good move. Better was still to come from the Dons and they doubled their advantage in style three minutes before half-time. A corner was only half cleared by Luton and Dannie Bulman met the loose ball with a fierce drive that arrowed into the roof of the net.
With Wimbledon having produced arguably their best half of football so far this season, a 2-0 lead was fully deserved. However, Luton struck back in the final minute of the first half to put a different slant on manager John Still’s team talk. A quick throw-in created space down the right and though Luke Guttridge diverted a subsequent cross onto a post, Jayden Stockley was there to stab home.
That offered Luton encouragement and they started the second-half on top. The Dons were a touch fortunate when Stockley got on the end of a fine ball from Andy Drury, but his effort was deflected and James Shea was able to gather comfortably.
With a vocal away following now getting behind them, Luton finally started to show the form that has put them in promotion contention. Guttridge had a great chance to equalise after a shot from Scott Griffiths was deflected into his path, but he dragged his shot wide. The visitors then felt aggrieved when Stockley went to ground after a challenge from Dave Winfield, but referee Fred Graham adjudged that the Luton man had dived and he punished that with a yellow card. Wimbledon had struggled to regain their attacking momentum of the first half, but Deji Oshilaja headed over after good work by Jake Reeves.
Luton drew level in the 67th minute and it was a goal that came after real misfortune for the Dons. An attempted clearance from Bulman struck Oshilaja and Guttridge put a ball through for Luton substitute Elliot Lee, who produced a cool finish past Shea.
With Wimbledon now desperately needing to change matters, Neal Ardley introduced Tom Beere for Sean Rigg and Ade Azeez also entered the fray late on for Tanner. In a frantic finale, Luton pressed forward for a winner of their own, but Azeez almost punished them with a brilliant solo effort that was beaten out by Justham.
There was still a late twist in the tale though and it was that man Connolly who had the final say. A long ball was flicked on by Akinfenwa and Connolly kept his cool by rounding Justham, before slotting home the winner to signal ecstatic scenes at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy, Jake Reeves, Deji Oshilaja, Dave Winfield, Sean Rigg (Tom Beere), Dannie Bulman, Craig Tanner (Ade Azeez), Bayo Akinfenwa, Alfie Potter (David Connolly).