With second-place Crawley Town creeping up on Terry Brown's AFC Wimbledon, the Dons looked to get on the payback trail as they traveled to take on the Quakers of Darlington.
Along the way, they received the services of former Rushden & Diamonds centre back Jamie Stuart.
"It was vital that we signed an experienced leader after the news that Brett Johnson needed to undergo an exploratory operation on his troublesome knee," Brown said. "The two young centre backs have done an admirable job covering for my two senior centre backs, but with the number of important games coming thick and fast as we get to the business part of the season, I felt I needed more cover and Jamie fits the bill perfectly."
Other players could join the Dons in the coming weeks, as they are undergoing discussions with the Wimbledon manager.
In the end, all Wimbledon could muster up was a scoreless draw.
"Thursday’s late signing, Jamie Stuart, proved to be a fantastic acquisition in what was a very well earned point against Darlington," Brown said. "The Darlington pitch was not conducive to any type of passing football and the most I could ask of our players was to get to the ball first and get it in the opposition's half.
"Credit to both sides, who tried to entertain on what was a hard and, in some places, dangerous pitch. The conditions in no way suited our team and we were left to show passion and pride in what was a battling performance against a big and resourceful Darlington side."
The Wimbledon manager gave high remarks for the team's defensive play.
"On the day, either side could have won the game but some exceptional saves from Seb Brown and Sam Russell kept the score goalless," Brown said. "A sterling performance by Fraser Franks and Danny Kedwell ensured we defended resolutely, kept a clean sheet and caused Darlington several problems up front. We have now negotiated several northern trips and I feel it was a point gained rather than two dropped.
"I am hopeful of the return of Kurt Hudson, who has been recovering at home from the virus that has struck a number of players over the past month. Luton’s result at Bath means both sides on Wednesday will be looking for maximum points to ward off the challenge of Crawley, who have played three games less than us."
Up next for AFC Wimbledon was another shot at payback as they looked to return to the win column against Luton Town on Jan. 12 at Kingsmeadow.
With the Hatters just three points behind the Wombles, Wimbledon needed a result to remain in the hunt for promotion.
"The boys trained well yesterday and are all looking forward to the game," Brown said on Tuesday. "From a manager's point of view I've got some difficult decisions to make, as our recent recruits mean we have a bigger squad than in the past and one or two of the boys will be disappointed to find themselves in the stand tonight.
"We all know that Luton are a very strong and talented team. The last time they lost was back in November and in the six league games since then, they have only conceded a single goal, so we know what the challenge will be tonight. But we are confident that we can score against any team and we will be going all out for a win. We also know that [Luton manager] Richard Money takes a very positive approach to games, so it should be a very exciting game with both teams going for the win."
However, the Dons would come in shorthanded.
"I am sorry to say that we have more injury news regarding Lee Minshull, which is that he has suffered a hairline fracture of his foot. The previous X-rays hadn't shown anything, but he was in pain, so we sent him for a scan, which revealed the problem. It isn't the same injury as before but it will still be four to six weeks before he is able to play again. This is very difficult for Lee and the club, but we hope to have him back fighting fit by the back end of the season.
"Brett Johnson is having a glucose injection in his knee today. We are indebted to Darlington's medical team, who told us about a similar injury to one of their players which was resolved by this treatment, so we are cautiously hopeful of a good outcome."
And it wasn't the result they wanted. Another scoreless draw awaited Luton and Wimbledon.
With the result, the Wombles remain in first with 50 points, but with Crawley Town having four games in hand, the Red Devils have plenty of time to more than catch up with the league leaders of the Conference.
Wimbledon will need to regain their scoring ways when they step aside for FA Trophy action against Woking. Kickoff at Kingsmeadow is scheduled for Jan. 15, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. ET.
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