Djilali Winner Sticks Knife In To Daggers

Wimbledon 2 v Dagenham & Redbridge 1

Wimbledon chalked up a much-needed 2-1 victory against bottom club Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday (10 March) as manager Terry Brown finally heeded calls to change formation.

The Dons boss had been under fire for continuing with a diamond midfield that most commentators agreed was placing his defence excessive pressure, and that criticism had only increased following back-to-back defeats against Hereford and Plymouth that reignited relegation fears.

But with a flat midfield restored for this game the Dons turned in a much more solid display that, although featuring several individual errors, never saw the Dons midfield and defence overwhelmed.

The game started in scrappy fashion with both sides looking anxious and failing to significantly threaten their opposition’s goalkeeper. The Dons’ new signing Pim Balkestein, on loan from Brentford, contributed to this with a series of emphatic clearances from his own half.

The first clear-cut opening came just after the half hour when Dagenham’s Ben Reeves received the ball following a corner but his volley was straight into the grateful hands of Seb Brown.

Sammy Moore had a long-range effort that flew over the bar but it wasn’t until just before the break that the Dons seriously tested Jonathan Bond with Billy Knott’s excellent through ball fed Byron Harrison but his fierce shot, from a narrow angle, was straight at the Daggers’ custodian.

Harrison had another chance soon after the restart but inexplicably seemed reluctant to dive onto Sam Hatton’s right-wing cross and instead saw the ball whizz past him, the epitome of a striker short on confidence.

The breakthrough nearly came in the 51st minute but the Dons hit the woodwork twice in quick succession. First Balkestein’s flick-on set up Jack Midson but his header his the outside of the post, but the rebound fell to Rashid Yussuff whose curling shot seemed destined for the corner of the net before Bond clawed it onto the post.

The Dons were almost made to pay for those misses when Billy Bingham was left unmarked in the box but he made a hash of his header, and then Seb Brown made the first of a string of top-drawer saves when he denied Jon Nurse.

And the visitors again spurned an excellent opportunity when Nurse’s cross fell to Rob Edmans but poor finishing again let down the Daggers.

The breakthrough finally came with just over 15 minutes remaining. Midson won the ball against a defender on the edge of the area and spun round to fire in a shot. A slight deflection seemed to flummox Bond by taking some of the pace off the ball  and he was beaten as the Dons finally made it 1-0.

Dagenham redoubled their efforts, with Midson clearing off the line and Brown tipping over acrobatically from a Brian Woodall effort. But they could do nothing from the subsequent corner as, with Johnson appealing for a foul, Michael Spillane rose to head home and make it 1-1.

But the Dons continued to push forward with substitute Kieran Djilali bringing much-needed pace and inventiveness up front. And it was the former Palace man who got the winner with the clock running down, as he reacted quickest to volley home after Yussuff’s shot had been only half cleared.

Seb Brown still had to be alert to deny Edmans but it was Wimbledon’s day and a rare home victory to ease some of the pressure on manager Terry Brown.

The Dons now have an opportunity to make their league position slightly more secure as they play two teams near them in the table, hosting Bradford City on Tuesday (13 March) before travelling to Bristol Rovers the following Saturday.

Attendance: 4,243

Wimbledon: Brown, Hatton, Gwillim, S. Moore, Mitchel-King (B. Johnson 46), Balkestein, Yussuff, Knott, Midson, Harrison (Djilali 64), Jolley. Subs not used: Turner, L. Moore, Kiernan.

Goalscorers: Midson 73, Djilali 86.

Booked: Djilali 90.

Dagenham: Bond, McCrory, Doe, Arber, Nurse, Elito (Edmans 71), Ogogo, Woodall, Bingham, Reeves (Green 55), Spillane. Subs not used: Rose, Lewington, Abdulla.

Goalscorer: Spillane 83.

Booked: Nurse 66, Spillane 76.

By Rob Crane

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March 11, 2012