Facing the same team that knocked them out of the FA Cup seven days ago, Manager John Donoghue was forced into one or two changes, with an orderly queue beginning to form outside the Physio Room.
Although there was some good news in the fact that both Rachel Palmer (starting) and Hayley Bridge (sub) returned to the squad. Palmer effectively coming back in for the benched Izzy Glass-Oliver, while Becki Bath’s injury and Katie Cooper’s unavailability saw places open up for Emily Linscer and Sophie Humphrey.
However, armed with their usual grit and determination, the Reds took the game to their table-topping opponents in the opening exchanges. Humphrey’s persistence paying off and producing a chance for Linscer that the recalled striker forced a corner from, owing to Dons’ goalkeeper Faye Baker tipping it over the top.
The subsequent set-piece caused further concern for the home team, when they could only clear the ball as far as taker Palmer. Her second attempt found Linscer for another take two but ‘Em’ couldn’t quite stretch enough to turn home.
In response, leading league scorer Ashlee Hincks dispossessed Dani Rowe in the middle of the park and duly embarked on a burst down the left. Emma Blakely headed the cross away from any immediate danger, then blocked Emily Donovan’s effort before calmness could be restored.
Away debutant Tierney Scott led the reply courtesy of a delivery that narrowly eluded Humphrey arriving at the far post.
Then, a brilliant counter-attack, emanating from our own number one Lauren Dolbear showing typical alertness to not simply put a stop to an AFC stampede but immediately go long, to send Skipper Gemma Worsfold on a mission that Baker put an end to by smothering at the forward’s feet in the nick of time.
Worsfold came close again moments later, after Steph Mann had seen yellow for a foul on Humphrey and Rowe’s following free-kick had been pushed over the bar by Baker, once more. Glancing ‘Dan’s’ flag-kick agonisingly across the face of goal, to leave the scoreline still unbreached.
Both sides continued to trade blows; Ellie Dorey blazing over from distance and Hincks had Dolbear scrambling towards her left-hand upright, approaching the interval, with home Captain Hannah Billingham causing a commotion, aided and abetted by Ashleigh Goddard.
A sight of goal opened up for Hincks, thanks to an inviting through ball from Dorey, that the nine flashed wide on the angle and, in the last minute of the first forty-five, Katie Young denied Goddard at close quarters, prior to the crossbar rescuing the red half of Plough Lane and preventing Billingham from breaking the deadlock.
Sunshine, after the rain, greeted the players when they made their way back out for the second period but it was the high-flying Blues who stunned their guests in the early stages.
Two minutes showing on the stadium scoreboard indicated a brisk beginning to round two; Dorey finding the top corner at least twenty-five yards out.
Soon looking to double the deficit, Hincks delivered a free-kick that the Rebels’ rearguard partially cleared and Blakely bravely ensured Dorey didn’t capitalise on.
Undeterred, Baker had to be alert to divert Young’s long-range screamer aside at the expense of a corner, drawing a period of sustained pressure to a (brief) close.
Though Hincks pounced on Blakely’s uncharacteristic on-pitch solecism to fire in a low one that Dorey couldn’t quite convert, on this occasion, in response.
The same duo linked up again shortly afterwards, only for Dorey to fire above the target.
If at first you don’t succeed, never rang truer a smidging past the hour mark, via Dorey enjoying an unchecked run to get on the end of Hincks’ right wing free-kick and power home a header to make it two for both her and her team.
Tails up, the mere brilliance of Dolbear stood between Goddard and a third strike before Dorey claimed the matchball, due to a telepathic understanding with Hincks resulting in AH slipping in the inform attacker to beat Dolbear at the second attempt. ‘Loz’ denied a hat-trick of great saves in the process.
Unrelenting, Wimbledon drew audible “aahhs” from the four-figure crowd when Hincks – who else ? – observed Emily Donovan narrowly not stooping to conquer her latest ball into the box.
Dolbear’s work for the afternoon was far from over though, despite just five minutes remaining, as she superbly kept out the recently-introduced Hannah Mackenzie’s long distance-related piledriver.
Not that even Superwoman could do anything about a ruthless onslaught concluding with the South Londoners going nap.
Ten minutes since entering the action, Portuguese protagonist Sandra Soares Martins put the icing and cherry on the cake by bagging a late brace.
Locating the bottom corner of the net to claim her first thanks to Molly Childerhouse’s assist, then reacting sharply at the back stick to redirect MC’s cross-shot that had previously been on it’s way out for a goal-kick. Thus, in effect, becoming MC (Sar) & the Real McCoy.