A determined display by the Dons saw them emerge as deserved winners over a solid Thurrock side, and deliver maximum points from their first two games. Despite trailing at the interval to a scrambled Phil Anderson effort, the end result was just reward for a Dons side bouyant from their comprehensive weekend victory.
The opening 10 minutes were a cagey affair, with both sides showing endeavour but little end product. Tony Finn looked lively in adding width to the Wimbledon attacks, but a physical Thurrock limited the home side to a few long range efforts. The Dons controlled the game well in midfield, but despite the pace and presence of Jon Main, could not make their possession count. Their failure to find the final ball from wide positions made the home side increasingly vulnerable to the pace of Thurrock's counter attack. In spite of the industry of Main and Elliott Godfrey’s energy on the right, it was Thurrock who capitalised on poor set piece defending from a corner to take the lead on 14 minutes, Anderson poking home from short range.
The Dons responded in an effort to increase their physical presence, but Thurrock were well organised and continued to defend in numbers. First Jake Leberl, then Michael Haswell tested Andrew Young, but it was clear that the Dons were having to work hard to prise open the away defence. The added threat Thurrock posed from set pieces meant that doubling their lead was not unlikely. Alan Inns showed great commitment in defending the Dons' line, and despite some close calls for both sides, the score remained 1-0 at half time.
The game soon opened up in the second half, as the Dons began to find more space, with Finn adopting a more central position, and Main using his pace to attack from the right. Again, despite some promising build up play in midfield, chances were restricted to long range efforts, and despite a couple of openings for Haswell and Tom
Davis, it increasingly looked as though Thurrock could hold out.
Wimbledon however kept plugging away and showed great spirit and discipline. Haswell and Luke Garrard in particular were given licence to roam forward, and used this extra width to some benefit, although the final ball was somehow always lacking. The Dons didn’t seem to be able to get the ball down and find space in the box. The pressure was beginning to tell however, as Thurrock increasingly struggled to find the same rhythm and counter-attacking tactics as the game wore on. Andy Little was barely tested in this half, and it was clear that the away side were happy to come away with a 1-0.
Clearly, Wimbledon had to make some changes in an effort to break the spell. Finn continued to run his heart out, and was ably supported by Haswell and Kennedy Adjei, but it was with the introduction of Chris Hussey with ten minutes to go that the game turned in favour of the home side. Within two minutes of coming on, his curling left foot cross caused confusion in the Thurrock defence and Godfrey took his chance to pounce on a ricochet and hammer the ball past Young. The crowd began to sense a result was on the cards.
And indeed it was to be the case just minutes later. Finn came close with a deflected shot that Young did well to pick out, but it was Hussey who again caused problems in the Thurrock defence. His low cross from a deep left position was applied with a striker's finish into the bottom left hand corner of the Thurrock goal. Surprisingly, the body wheeling away in celebration was that of Garrard, deservedly opening his account for the season in excellent style to cap a determined display. Overjoyed and relieved, the mood quickly changed. Thurrock had nothing left as the minutes ticked by, and with little time left to find another goal, they were resigned to defeat.
After the game, Terry Brown was impressed with the discipline of his side under difficult circumstances, and delighted with a maximum return from the first two games of the season: 'We worked hard to find space and width despite lacking height up front, but we spoke at half time about keeping the ball down and being patient, and I was pleased it paid off in the end'.
Time will tell if this Dons side is capable of maintaining this form throughout a long season, but this game has undoubtedly set a benchmark. Three out of three would do nicely.