Barry Fuller’s goal-line clearance was the pivotal moment of AFC Wimbledon’s latest big win at Dagenham & Redbridge last night.
So said boss Neal Ardley following the 2-0 win at Victoria Road which leaves his Wombles now four points clear of all chasers in the battle for the final League Two playoff spot with games running out.
Lyle Taylor once again stole the headlines as his double made it 20 for the season, but Fuller’s first-half heroics at the other end when the game was goalless meant Ardley’s side were able to revel in their role as frontrunners rather than chase the game.
“People have already said about Lyle getting 20 goals, but Barry’s clearance probably won us the game tonight and he deserves a lot of credit for that," he said
“It is really hard to chase games because you have to push people on and then you can be caught on the break and we had that spell after we won seven out of eight where we didn’t pick up as many points and found ourselves going one behind. Then it becomes harder because the opposition defend that little bit better.
“The last few weeks we have got back to a little bit more front foot and moments like Barry's tonight have changed games - he kept us in it and gave us the platform to go on and win the game."
Talismanic striker Taylor might have scored inside 30 seconds when Clevid Dikamona’s poor touch allowed him to race clear, but he fired across Daggers’ keeper Mark Cousins and wide.
The visitors’ plans were disrupted 10 minutes later when Jon Meades, playing with his shoulder strapped following an injury sustained in Saturday’s win over Crawley, turned an ankle on the far touchline and had to leave the action on a stretcher.
For a while Dons were becalmed and Paul Robinson’s block kept out a stinging shot from Jamie Cureton.
Veteran striker Cureton was the scourge of Ardley’s men in their 4-0 thrashing at Victoria Road last season and almost turned tormentor just before the half hour.
Robinson slipped, crashing into Daggers’ Ashley Hemmings and though no penalty was given the ball broke to Cureton who slammed his effort goal-wards only for Fuller to get his foot to it and stop a certain goal.
Five minutes later Dons were in front when a sweeping move down the right ended with the recalled Sean Rigg crossing for Taylor whose shot found the net via a deflection.
Darius Charles threw himself in front of a Matt Cash shot to preserve the lead which Taylor might have doubled before the break, pulling down George Francomb’s searching pass with a gorgeous first touch, but again firing off target.
Christian Doidge wasted Daggers’ best chance for a leveller a minute after the break when he missed his kick in a goalmouth scramble.
Inevitably it was Taylor who made them pay on 62 minutes when released by Dannie Bulman’s pass he turned his defender one way then the other before beating Cousins with a shot from just inside the box.
There could have been more, Adebayo Azeez forcing two superb saves from Cousins in an impressive cameo from the bench, but for Ardley it was still a job well done on a night when the pressure was on.
“It’s a massive three points,” he added.
“The boys felt the expectation and with Dagenham already relegated they were wounded and always going to play with a bit more freedom.
“I thought once we grew in the game, particularly once we took the lead there was only one team going to win it.”