Eastbourne Borough 2 AFC Wimbledon 3

I do like to be beside the seaside, especially when it ends with the Dons topping the table…

This was the sort of away game that makes you wish every game could be like this… a million miles from slogging up the M1 in midweek to watch crap. As soon as I set foot off the train I knew this would be different. For a start, I’d heeded a two-day weather forecast and therefore found myself clad in a waterproof top that was earning its money, if only to hold all the sweat in. Fortunately, this was one of those very rare away trips that involved an overnight stay, so I had the chance to change clothes and grab a quick beer in my sea-front hotel before jumping in a taxi to the ground.

The reason for the luxurious travel arrangements was down to the first appearance at a Dons game by Mrs Anonymous Don since Maidenhead at home almost two seasons ago… a fixture notable for the opening of the Strank Stand extension (which we sat in), a 4-1 home victory…. oh, and the first appearance in a Dons shirt of our current captain. You have to wonder where we would be right now without Danny Kedwell. Would we still be scrapping in the BSS? It’s possible… Jon Main’s goals may have taken us most of the way there, but Kedwells input was huge, as was his contribution last season when we couldn’t rely on Main.

Speaking of JM, he found himself on the bench for this one after an ineffective start to the campaign. Whether this is just him getting used to the new system or not, I don’t know. I mentioned in the Rushden report how isolated he looked. For all his hard work tracking back, he is being asked to perform a role that Christian Jolley is just far more effective at. Young Jolley got his chance from the start this time around, things may be a bit different when Newport roll into town on Monday, if Main starts we need not read any more into this than he needed a rest…

In Ricky Wellards absence, we saw the first start from Lee Minshull after his rather unfortunate suspension, and judging by his performance I think he has been missed. His passing was as crisp as Gregory or Moore, yet he brings a physical presence we miss when he isn’t there. I don’t want to overstate his size, it’s not a key factor in his game… but it helps. Lee managed to get himself on the score sheet, yet also managed to give away the free kick that helped the hosts back into the game…

As far as Eastbourne were concerned, you couldn’t wish for a nicer place to go or nicer club to visit. As far as the game was concerned, we faced the divisions top scorers and they showed their early attacking potential – it’s great to come across a side with limited resources who don’t just ‘park the bus’… I’m sure they would have created a whole lot more had Jamie Taylor not found the deck more often than I seem to remember him doing when he played for us, and Richard Pacquette reminded everyone he is only in the game for the pay packet.

As the half progressed Wimbledon came into it more and more, once Kedwell opened the scoring with a near post effort that seemed to pass through Rikki Banks in the home goal. If the Dons used up a bit of fortune with that effort, the hosts rode theirs for the rest of the half, with some woeful finishing capping off wonderful passing moves as Wimbledon threatened to run riot. I’d love to write more about the half, but I spent most of it explaining to the missus what was going on; and why, no, the man standing behind us was by no means an expert despite shouting quite loudly!

The early second half followed a similar pattern to the first. This time the Dons managed to hit the woodwork twice before finally adding to the score, first a Minshull floated cross/shot effort bouncing clear from the top corner via the inside of the post, then Steven Gregory smacking one off the bar, all in the space of a few seconds. Finally, Luke Moore found Lee Minshull at the far post, who made no mistake with his header to double the Dons lead, and with Luton losing, send us top of the league.

Of course an Eastbourne win would have taken them top, and despite the odds looking like they were firmly against them, they set about clawing their way back into the game. They managed it, to their credit, thanks to a couple of well worked free kicks. I could highlight the soft underbelly that was the Dons defending for both of these goals, yet that can wait for another day. Defending like that will come back to haunt the Dons if it becomes habit, we can only hope for an improvement as the season progresses (with fingers very much crossed…)

The day had been building up to one moment. Eastbourne had helped out by pushing for the win themselves, which left space for Sam Hatton to pick up the ball deep in his own half. He cut through Eastbourne before picking out Danny Kedwells run and threading the ball through to him. The captain rounded Banks, before sidefooting home, sending AFC Wimbledon top of the non-League game for the first time. Watching from the side, what a wonderful view it was watching those Dons fans behind the goal jumping around – I haven’t seen celebrations like that for some time…

I missed what must have been an interesting train ride home, but it was worth it to spend an evening watching over the water from a pub, supping a pint, just enjoying the moment. In 24 hours time the Dons may relinquish top spot, and may not regain it for some time. But at that moment… well, it didn’t seem to matter much.

Apologies for the trunkated nature of report for what was an action packed game, very much more to follow in the second part of the Dons Bank Holiday double when they return to action tomorrow against Newport…

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