By Rob Cornell
AFC Wimbledon produced their best performance of the the season so far, as a stunning first-half strike from Kwesi Appiah saw off Blackburn at Ewood Park.
It was a performance where the Dons showed a tremendous team ethic, produced attacking opportunities and George Long pulled off a superb second half save to help secure the three points with a 1-0 victory.
Neal Ardley named an unchanged side from the draw against Gillingham on Tuesday night, with Academy graduates Will Nightingale and Anthony Hartigan retaining their places in the starting line-up after strong performances.
Paul Robinson was able to take up a place on the bench, after the double blow to the head he sustained against Portsmouth.
Rovers took the game to the Dons in the first five minutes with Long staying alert as he had to deal with an effort from Dominic Samuel, but the visitors broke out through the midfield creativity of Dean Parrett.
The Dons quickly found their feet though, having dealt with the early pressure. Appiah carved out an opportunity just inside the box and his persistence was rewarded as he fired confidently into the top left hand corner, past David Raya in the Rovers goal, to give Wimbledon the lead after 16 minutes. He could have doubled his and Wimbledon's tally shortly after.
Six minutes later, approaching the midway point of the half, Parrett tried a shot from distance which went just wide of Raya's upright. Having absorbed early pressure and with the lead, the Dons looked more cohesive and continued to push Blackburn back.
Samuel remained a threat though and his floated free header over Long's crossbar, four minutes later, served as a warning. Craig Conway, who had returned from injury to the Blackburn starting line-up, was replaced by Bradley Dack.
With half-time approaching, the Rovers fans were restless and the characteristics of a battling and hard-working Wimbledon performance became more evident as they continued to press forward.
Tony Mowbray's side were on a run of four successive league wins, but the Dons were providing them with a stern test. Deji Oshilaja held firm alongside Nightingale in central defence, as the Dons withstood a late Blackburn flourish to deservedly go in as leaders at the break.
As expected, Blackburn responded in the opening minutes of the second half as Wimbledon continued to defend as a team. Andy Barcham and Parrett remained determined to keep up the pressure at the other end and create further opportunities.
Richie Smallwood made way for striker Danny Graham as the Lancashire side went in search of the equaliser. They increased the pressure, but Wimbledon's team spirit remained resolute - even when the referee caught up with Nightingale for a foul on Samuel.
Further decent attempts on goal from Appiah and the impressive Hartigan followed around the hour mark in a very competitive third quarter of the game from both sides. Elliott Bennett saw yellow for taking down Oshilaja.
Harry Forrester and Cody McDonald replaced Barcham and goal scorer Appiah going into the closing stages.
Long made a superb save to keep the lead intact, as he clawed back Dack's header from the goal line. Paul Robinson returned to bolster the Dons back line, in place of Lyle Taylor, as determined Wimbledon defended their lead.
Fuller received a yellow, but Wimbledon defended to a man and attacked as team to send the 369 travelling supporters home in joyous celebration.
AFC Wimbledon: Long, Fuller (c), Oshilaja, Nightingale, Francomb, Appiah (McDonald), Trotter, Barcham (Forrester), Parrett, Hartigan and Taylor (Robinson).
Pic credit: Simon Davies (Pro Sports Images).