Kieran Djilali scored his first ever goal for AFC Wimbledon
League Two: AFC Wimbledon 2, Dagenham & Redbridge 1
A clearly-relieved Terry Brown admitted that AFC Wimbledon got' plenty of luck" en route to their late victory over a dogged Dagenham side.
The visitors, who prop up the Football League, bounced back from falling behind to Jack Midson’s deflected shot to equalise eight minutes from time—only to see Wimbledon substitute Kieran Djalili steal in for a late winner to ruin John Still’s chances of an away point.
Typically for a relegation scrap, there were plenty of nerves in the air, which led to a scrappy first half with chances at a premium. The up-and-down-under routine, which graced the old Wimbledon in the past, was on display from both teams as neither side managed to settle.
Sammy Moore drove well over after a fine Wimbledon passing routine, while a Dagenham break orchestrated by the excellent Jon Nurse led to a pull-back that Brian Woodall skewed well wide.
Yet in contrast, with both teams desperate to find the breakthrough, the second half started explosively. A knock-on header by Pim Balkestein, making his Dons debut in the heart of defence, was flicked onto the post by leading scorer Midson, and Rashid Yusseff produced a point-blank save from Dagenham keeper Jonathan Bond on the follow-up.
The Dons finally broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute. A through ball down the middle of the park by Sam Hatton was poked goalwards by Midson, whose shot took a slight deflection on its way into the roof of Bond’s net.
Yet a mistake by Yusseff near the halfway line allowed Dagenham sub Rob Edmans the opportunity to run at the Wimbledon defence, and his eventual shot was deflected behind by Hatton.
Do you think Terry Brown should still be in charge of AFC Wimbledon at the start of the 2012-13 season?
In the spate of Dagenham corners that followed, Michael Spillane rose highest to head home from a Damien McCrory corner, leaving Seb Brown no chance in the Wimbledon goal.
Four minutes from time, however, the Dons grabbed the winner in what manager Brown had described as a "must, must win game."
Dagenham completely failed to pick up Djalili, who was making his first Dons appearance since early November and calmly side-footed the ball through Bond’s legs on the volley.
“I could still pick hundreds of negatives out there,” said Brown after the game, mindful of another critical relegation battle coming up against Bradford City on Tuesday. “But we’ve got a little bit of breathing space now.
“There was a hell of a lot of pressure on me this week. If you lose to Hereford, Plymouth, Dagenham and Bradford, do you expect to keep your job? I think we have a squad capable of getting out of the relegation scrap, but I’ve got to prove it.
“You have to say Jack Midson has kept me in a job for a year. He’s getting a goal a game from all over the park.”
Mat Mitchell-King was taken off at halftime and taken to Moorfields Eye Hospital following an early bang with fellow Dons player Sammy Moore. He is now a doubt for Tuesday’s game.
AFC Wimbledon: Brown, Hatton, Mitchel-King (Johnson), Balkestein, Gwillim, Jolley, S. Moore, Knott, Yussuff, Harrison (Djilali), Midson
Attendance: 4,243 (381 from Dagenham)
My Man of the Match: Gareth Gwillim
Adam Harwood is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise stated all quotes are obtained first-hand.