The Dons propelled themselves back into the Ryman League Premier top ten for the first time since 1 September with a gritty 2-0 win against Maidstone. Richard Butler scored his first goal of the season, a close range header on 61 minutes. Tony Finn would seal the points six minutes from time with a sublime chip, 25 yards out that left Stones’ keeper Pat Mullin grasping air.
Midfielder Mark Beard made his home debut for the Dons, while only Robin Shroot kept his place from the team beaten in midweek by Whyteleafe; the young player starting up front alongside Daniel Webb in an orthodox 4-4-2 that was not wholly successful in getting beyond Maidstone’s imposing centre halves.
Nonetheless the Dons did engineer a good chance with just six minutes on the clock. Tony Finn’s cross from the left was headed against the bar by Shroot and Webb’s attempt from the rebound was cleared off the line. Webb had another chance a minute later, making a yard for himself on the edge of the box with a fine first touch but then blasting well wide.
On 18 minutes Jason Goodliffe’s glancing header whisked past the left-hand post from a Tony Finn corner.
The visitors took full 26 minutes to register their first attempt on goal, but Andy Martin curled his free-kick attempt into the Tempest End.
At the other end, Tony Finn tried a similar effort. Keeper Mullin saw it all the way and gathered comfortably at his near post.
Wimbledon suffered a double injury blow before the first half was complete. Luke Garrard and Daniel Webb both picked up shoulder injuries and were replaced by Antony Howard and Richard Butler respectively. Jake Leberl would go to right back and Howard slotted in at centre-half.
Dons’ manager Terry Brown reshaped his side for the restart going with a 4-5-1 that allowed Shroot to play a deeper, freer role in front of the midfield, gaining him some extra space to create, away from those pesky central defenders who had, in truth, out-muscled him during the first period.
Shroot was played in behind the Maidstone defence by Robert Quinn a minute into the second half. He made for the byline, realized there was no support, and attempted a lob that drifted past the right hand post.
Antony Howard headed over from a Michael Haswell corner on 48 minutes and, moments later, Haswell himself tried a snapshot from the edge of the box after a fine run.
Just after the hour the hosts took the lead. Tony Finn’s corner was headed clear, Shroot volleyed the ball back into the box and Richard Butler arrived unmarked to nod past a flat-footed keeper who was convinced the Dons’ striker was offside.
Maidstone made some substitutions and nearly profited from a free-kick when Errison Ahwan’s bullet header from the edge of the area flashed a yard wide.
But, with their defence holding firm, the Dons finally put the match out of reach with a slick counter attack on 84 minutes. Robin Shroot played Tony Finn into space and the winger spotted Mullin off his line, chipping deftly into the net from 25 yards.
Terry Brown’s search for his best attacking strategy continues, but fans will be please to see Richard Butler looking closer to his bustling best. The defence seems to be clicking, Quinn and Beard make a more robust midfield and the Dons’ league form at The Cherry Red Records Fans’ Stadium is perhaps gathering some momentum as they enter a tricky sequence of consecutive home games.
Next up, a tough fixture with 8th placed Folkestone Invicta on Tuesday night.