AFC Wimbledon’s five-match unbeaten league run came to an end in frustrating fashion tonight as Neal Ardley’s men were beaten by struggling Dagenham & Redbridge.
It was far from a deserved defeat as Wimbledon completely dominated, but Daggers struck against the run of play near the end with goalkeeper Ben Wilson letting a Jamie Cureton effort slip through his fingers and just over the line.
The 1-0 defeat was harsh on Wimbledon, but they paid the price for failing to make the most of their superiority. Boris Becker was among the 3,557 crowd, but the Dons failed to put on a show for the former King of Wimbledon tennis.
Neal Ardley made two changes to the side that started against Wycombe Wanderers with Jake Reeves thrust straight back in after suspension for Christian Toonga and Callum Kennedy preferred to Sean Rigg.
Taking on a side bottom of League 2, the Dons had a great early chance to seize the initiative in the sixth minute. A free-kick was taken quickly and Barry Fuller sent Lyle Taylor racing clean through, but Dagenham goalkeeper Mark Cousins spread himself well to turn away his low shot. By that stage, Dagenham had already been forced into a change and it was a significant one too as Matt McClure trudged off and was replaced by Jamie Cureton, who had been the scourge of Wimbledon in recent seasons.
In a one-sided first-half, Cureton never got a look-in as Wimbledon dominated possession and chances. Pressure was coming from all angles as Wimbledon mixed it up effectively and Callum Kennedy sent over a lovely cross from the left that Bayo Akinfenwa met superbly, but his fierce header was just over. Akinfenwa, who was certainly lively early on, also volleyed wide from an acute angle. Indeed, Akinfenwa was linking up well with Taylor and the latter also fired off target after being set-up by his strike partner.
The visitors offered very little as an attacking force, their only moment of danger in the first-half coming when Clevid Dikamona made a bold run, but his effort was charged down. That did little to stem the flow though as Wimbledon continued to pile forward and the only thing missing was a finishing touch. Lovely play by Meades down the left created space and he put a fine ball through for Taylor, but he was denied by Cousins. Jake Reeves also blazed just wide with a fine effort from outside the area.
Having dominated so much in the first-half, it was perhaps a little worrying that the Dons had failed to make their superiority count and perhaps letting Daggers off the hook would come back to haunt them. The second-half started with a lovely ball from Meades so nearly putting Taylor through once again, but Dagenham again defended doggedly.
With an hour gone, Wimbledon were struggling to break down a resilient Dagenham defence and frustration was increasing all around the Cherry Red Records Stadium. With 68 minutes on the clock and the Dons struggling to make an impression, Neal Ardley made his first change with Sean Rigg entering the fray for Callum Kennedy. The Dons fashioned their best chance so far in the second-half when Reeves got on the end of a cross and controlled well, but Cousins got down well to deny him.
Tom Elliott came on with 15 minutes left for Akinfenwa, the Dons hoping that the towering striker could make a nuisance of himself in the same way that he did so effectively against Wycombe. As Wimbledon continued to pile bodies forward in search of a winner, they were caught by a sucker-punch. Cureton broke free down the right and sent over a lob that squirmed out of Ben Wilson’s hands and just over the line with Fuller failing in a last-ditch effort to clear it.
In the latter stages, only a Dannie Bulman effort just wide after a cross from Taylor threatened to change matters and the Dons will be aiming to get back on track at Leyton Orient on Saturday.
AFC Wimbledon: Ben Wilson, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Karleigh Osborne, Jon Meades, Dannie Bulman, Jake Reeves, Callum Kennedy (Sean Rigg), George Francomb (Ade Azeez), Lyle Taylor, Bayo Akinfenwa (Tom Elliott).