The Dons eventually strolled to a comfortable victory against bottom-of-the-league Redbridge, being impeded in their progress during the first half by some dogged deep defending and in the second half by the elements. The season of mists delayed the inevitable, but three points were never really in doubt and five-nil was an adequate approximation of the gulf between the two teams.
Dave Anderson made two changes as the Dons looked to return to winning ways after Saturday?s loss in Essex. Wes Daly and Chris Gell both returned to the side after injury and illness, replacing the stricken Simon Sweeney and the dropped Wayne Finnie. The latter made way for a reshuffle that saw captain Steve Butler back in a more familiar role in the centre of defence after Saturday?s midfield dismissal.
The manager called for a good performance from the off, rather than waiting for the second half to step up a level. He will therefore have been heartened to see Shane Smeltz and Richard Butler shining brightly early on in the evening mist. Butler set up his Kiwi strikepartner for the first chance of the match, but Smeltz?s shot flew to the left of the near post. Richard Butler then won a corner with a sliding shot from Daly?s low cross, but Wray claimed it comfortably enough after Steve Butler?s header.
The Dons won their third corner of the match after just 12 minutes, but Antony Howard looped a header well wide as Barry Moore finally found his set piece range. Howard should have opened the scoring from the Dons? next attack. Having gone up front for a free-kick, the centre back was handily placed to collect a Smeltz flick and fizz a low shot goalwards, though the ball arrowing just wide of the post rather made one wish he?d left the ball to Richard Butler, who was running into the box barely a yard behind him.
Some ?after you, Claude? style attacking then let the visitors inexplicably off the hook. Richard Butler, Plummer and Smeltz all took it in turns to elect to pass when a shot seemed the better option, and were rewarded for their combined unselfishness with, er, absolutely nothing. Don?t shoot, don?t get!
Fortunately such profligacy didn?t last. Almost immediately Plummer split the defence with a straight chipped through ball and Chris Gell ghosted into the area. Evidently he bought a new pair of shooting boots during his time away from the Dons, because rather than blazing the ball over the Kingston Road End halfway to next Thursday as memory suggested he would, the prodigal son drew back his foot and calmly thumped the opening goal into the back of the net, with Wray nowhere.
Barry Moore then joined the mob of marauding midfielders letting fly from distance with a deflected effort just wide of Wray?s left-hand post. Gell attempted to repeat his own trick, but another defensive deflection came to Redbridge?s rescue. The double act continued to monopolise the chances, as Moore had Wray beaten all ends up with a curling freekick that rebounded off the angle of post and crossbar.
Smeltz was full of the milk of human kindness and Christian charity again as Wimbledon continued to dominate, first electing to stay on his feet in the area when seemingly tripped, and then sliding the ball to Richard Butler rather than taking a shot himself. Sadly Butler lost his footing somewhere between the idea?s genesis and its execution, with the result that a grateful centreback incredulously walloped the ball clear.
With thoughts turning to warming restorative cups of tea, Harvey doubled his side?s advantage and made the scoreline reflect the game rather more fairly. Rather surprisingly, the ball entered the net off his head, a downward nod enough to convert Wes Daly?s cross.
The mist thickened dramatically during the break. Neither goal could be seen from the pressbox and it looked for all the world as though the game would have to be abandoned before the restart. Phillo delved into his box of tricks for the tolling bell sound effect as the teams came out wandering into the gloom. But while the referee was deliberating, conditions improved as quickly as they had worsened, with both goals once more clearly in view, if a little shrouded in clouds.
Play duly got underway once more, much to the relief of the scarcely-scoring Chris Gell, who had been standing in the tunnel unimpressed at suggestions his effort would be chalked off by the elements. The even scarcer-scoring Antony Howard had equal cause to be grateful two minutes into the second period, smashing a shot into the empty Redbridge net after good work by an undistinguishable Dons striker somewhere in the murky near post region.
Moore sent another low shot just wide, but the fourth goal was not long in coming. Wes Daly sent in a great cross from deep on the right and Shane Smeltz flew headlong in a passable Superman impression to send a diving header into the bottom corner. Wray must have wished the mist had never cleared as he picked the ball out of the back of the net again with the second half just eight minutes old.
The Dons forced yet another corner and about seven players stabbed shots goalwards in a chaotic goalmouth scramble, but they were all blocked. I?d write more details if I?d been able to discern any, but I couldn?t, so I won?t. The mist grew thicker once more and the next two Dons attacks didn?t result in goals, but I have no idea what actually happened.
I?m no metereologist, but with 20 minutes remaining mist progressed to what appeared (ha ha) to be fully fledged fog. The referee elected for a ten minute break in case it cleared again. The Who?s ?I Can See For Miles? rang out around Kingsmeadow as Phillo scoured his extensive iTunes collection for further appropriate tuneage. And the sonic encouragement appeared to be having an effect on the elements, as first the Kingston Road and then the Tempest End goal became visible again from the pressbox. Well, I say visible, perhaps discernible would be the mot juste.
Discernible was enough for the intrepid official and he decided conditions were clear enough to restart. Apparently the all important watch, ie his, determined that there were 23 minutes of play still to be completed.
Four minutes of those 23 ticked away before the Dons made it five. A blocked shot fell to Michael Harvey and he steered the ball low into the net past Wray, who may or may not have been unsighted. Hawaii Five-Oh was Phillo?s next tune of choice to mark a famous five, but more worryingly the goal was heralded by another slow drifting wave of fog, which once more hid the Tempest End from pressbox view.
By the time the goal the Dons were attacking became visible again, the visitors were down to ten men, Bradley Brotherton being given his marching orders for a second bookable offence. Wimbledon remained comfortably on top as the match petered to a satisfactory if slightly odd conclusion. Fowler sent a shot from distance straight at Wray, who was more impressive in denying Smeltz with a smart low stop just before the end.
It was hard to say with any certainty whether the players had delivered the performance their manager had demanded, but three points and five goals are enough to be going on with while we wait for a clearer picture to emerge.