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Sunday, January 11, 2004

Happy New Year

Another lapse, sorry...

Unbeaten Run

The Dons continued to win every game that came along....until yesterday.

Highlights have included 7-0 wins over Raynes Park Vale and Chessington United, although in both cases we came away feeling that the performance was somehow disappointing!

More entertaining were games against teams offering more of a challenge.

Two more FA Vase games have taken place, both at Kingsmeadow. On 22nd November the Dons eased past Wootton Blue Cross from the United Counties League. A solid performance against a team wearing the worst kit seen so far - they appeared to be wearing Romanian flags. It later transpired that Wootton had had to borrow some Kingstonian shorts to avoid clashing with the AFC Wimbledon kit. The Dons won 3-0.

After being postponed twice, the 3rd round clash with BAT Sports of the Wessex League was switched to Kingmeadow and took place on 3rd January. A competitive match saw the Dons run out winners with just a single goal from Gavin Bolger. The opposition were well organised, but victory never really felt to be in doubt. The competition goes nationwide for the 4th round, and we have been drawn at home to North West Counties Division 2 side Colne FC.

Easily the most thrilling game came on 19th November in the Combined Counties League Premier Challenge Cup against Waltin Casuals. Despite being at home, the relatively minor cup tie held midweek attracted a crowd of only 1200, but they got their money's worth. Walton raced into a 3-0 lead in the first 30 minutes against a Dons starting line-up missing a few regular faces. An unusual 3-5-2 formation didn't help matters, and the 4-4-2 was restured before half-time. Ryan Gray scored with a penalty after Luffman was fouled to reduce the deficit. The second half started better with a defensive mix-up giving the Dons a second goal after a Casuals player put the ball into his own net. However, Walton made it 4-2 on 72 minutes after the Dons defence went awol. A few minutes later, Luffman scored to ensure an exciting climax. As the 90 minute mark was reached, Everard brought the Dons level with a trademark header from a corner. And then, after something like 7 minutes of injury time, Everard scored the winner.

I went to the match on my own, and treated myself to a seat in the main stand. I spent quite a lot of the match on my feet jumping up and down, epecially in the last quarter of an hour. I was sat next to the tunnel, and as the players trooped off Matt Everard looked up, met my eyes and raised his fist in salute. It made my day!!

There were plenty of wins in the league. We made trips to Ash United (wet and miserable, won 5-3) and Horley Town (perishingly cold, won 4-2).

Then yesterday we headed to Sandhurst Town, site of the first AFC Wimbledon competitive fixture. Although we beat them 4-1 at home, Sandhurst (the Fizzers) were one of the strongest teams we had played and were sitting in 4th place after winning their last 6 games. Kevin Cooper was left out of the squad after picking up a couple of knocks in the previous game, and the big question was where the goals would come from. Joe Sheerin never lasts the full 90 minutes, and Paul Scott has put in some lacklustre performances lately. In the event, the Dons went in at half-time with a 2-0 lead thanks to an own goal and an Andy Sullivan penalty (helped by the Sandhurst 'keeper diving to his right when Sully had barely started his run-up). The story was different after the break, however. Sandhurst gained the ability to pass which they had lacked in the first half, whilst few Dons attacks seemed likely to threaten a goal. The home side pulled one back 20 minutes into the half as the Dons defence pushed forward and left the goal exposed. as the game wore on, a 3rd Wimbledon goal seemed unlikely, and it was just a matter of holding on. Following substitutions, we now had 5 at the back but this didn't stop Sandhurst getting the equaliser in the last few minutes from a corner.

The home side celebrated as if they'd won, and I had to keep reminding myself we were still unbeaten. In truth, it was too much to hope we would go through the whole season without dropping any points, and a draw away to the 4th placed team whilst missing our top scorer isn't really a disgrace. I hope we can get back to top form next Saturday for the Vase gane against Colne.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Look....I've been really busy!

OK, it's been over 2 months since I last posted anything. Did you miss me? It's a pretty poor show, I admit, but it's not as if I've been sitting around doing nothing. Here follows a summary of my recent activities....

Football

Since my last post, AFC Wimbledon have continued their winning streak. 15 wins out of 15 in the Seagrave Haulage League, and still in the FA Vase.

Only a couple of away trips to mention. On Saturday 27th September, Will & I headed over to Bedfont. The ground is a short walk from Hatton Cross tube station, not far from the perimeter of Heathrow Airport. In fact, planes taking off fly directly over the pitch approximately every 90 seconds. It's hard not to look up every time. 'Oooh, Singapore Airlines'. Jumbo jets seem so low over the pitch that it's easy to imagine a goal kick ending up in the undercarriage. The game itself wasn't terribly taxing, with the Dons running out 6-1 winners on a not-terribly-flat pitch. The sausage in a bun was very nice though!

Beating Pagham while I was on holiday gave the team a place in the 1st Round proper of the FA Vase, drawn away to Herne Bay of the Go Travel Kent League on Saturday 18th October. Rob, Will and I took the train along the North Kent coast along with over 1500 other Dons fans. Herne Bay have a neat little ground with a sloping pitch, and raised the bar as far as Hot Dogs are concerned. I had to have two, they were so nice. Words cannot describe how chilly the wind was (except possibly this one: Brrrrrrrrrr). The game was competitive, with the Dons twice surrendering the lead. With 90 minutes gone and the score at 2-2, a replay looked inevitable until Ryan Gray's cross was met by the head of Matt Everard in real Cup Magic style.

more to follow...

Sunday, September 07, 2003

It's Just Like watching Brazil

Saturday 6th September was a historic day, as AFC Wimbledon made their debut in a national competition.

For the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Vase, we were drawn away to Westfield, another Seagrave Haulage League side. As with last season's league fixture, the game was played at the nearby Kingsfield Stadium, home of Conference club Woking FC. Three sides of the ground are fairly typical of non-league, but there is a very impressive all-seater stand at one end, and that's where we headed.

Naturally, we stopped off for a hot dog (and chips!) on the way round. The sausage was very tasty, and lasted me until half-time because I had to keep stopping to get up and cheer.

The stand is very steep, we sat at the back and had a very impressive view of the action. It wasn't only the view which was impressive, this was surely the best performance yet by an AFC Wimbledon team. Within 11 minutes, we had taken a 3-0 lead and went on to win 7-2.

Each of the seven goals followed a brilliant move. Maybe the vantage point helped, but the passing and movement were incredible.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

5 In A Row

On Saturday, we made it 5 wins out of 5, beating North Greenford Utd 3-0 at Kingsmeadow.

It was a lovely hot afternoon. The tea bar has reopened, but unfortunately that meant goodbye to the amazing Cumberland sausages from the mobile caterers (it might have been Lincolnshire, I'm no expert). Still, the Sausage in Baguette was better than last season's offering.

Terry was back from his adventure as a holiday rep in Kalymnos, and Will returned for another helping.

The first half was fairly dull and uneventful, we had plenty of posession but Jallow in the Greenford goal was up to any challenge presented. After an initial flurry at the start, the game went of the boil for about half an hour. North Greenford were very competitive, and successfully closed us down. It seemed like it would be our toughest test yet.

We had to wait 53 minutes before Cooper finally opened the scoring. There was another 5 minutes later after another Cooper shot was pushed away into the path of Ryan Gray. Cooper got our 3rd in injury time, just to make sure.

Friday, August 29, 2003

A Seaside Town...

What more traditional way of spending a Bank Holiday could there be, than a trip to the seaside?

On the 09:53 from Clapham Junction were me and Rob, AFCW virgin Will, plus a whole regiment of the Yellow & Blue Army. This is the longest away trip for us in the Combined Counties League, but the journey still doesn't take much more than an hour. There are some advantages to lower league football. No Tuesday night games in Lancashire for us!

The crowd numbered just over 1,000, with very little sign of any home supporters. Despite (or perhaps because of) the midday kick-off, a trip to the coast was obviously very appealing. And what a joy it was later on to see Worthing town centre full of AFC Wimbledon shirts, easily outnumbering those of Chelsea, Man U etc...

I didn't know what to expect from the match. Withdean 2000 (can't find a nickname) are the reigning CCL champions, and beat us 2-0 both home and away last season. However, their groundshare agreement wasn't sufficient to gain promotion, and the manager and many of their players switched to Worthing FC over the summer. They had also made a bad start to this season, losing all 3 of their fixtures so far, compared with only 2 defeats in the whole of last year.

Before the game, Rob and I found ourselves on either side of Gavin Bolger in the queue for the tea bar. For some reason, it had never occurred to me that he might have an Irish accent. As he was out injured, he was having a highly nutritious cheeseburger. He also had to get one for Matt Everard, who was too busy having a fag to queue up himself.

The Dons started brightly, and were 2-0 up within 15 minutes of the start. The first goal was pure class. A string of neat passes led up to a perfect cross from Steve Gibson for Kevin Cooper to power into the corner of the net with his head. Yes, his head!! 41 goals last season, without ever troubling the centre parting. Coops celebrated this landmark achievement by mooning the main stand.

After the second goal came from a Sheerin header, after which things calmed down a bit (a bit too much if you ask me). We took the opportunity to move away from the crazy woman who was stood next to us, taking refuge in the cowshed-style construction opposite the grandstand. This had the added bonus of allowing us to 'Eaves'drop on the goings-on in the dugouts. Shortly afterwards, there was a short downpour which prompted everyone nearby to take shelter in the shed. A quick sing-song was just what we needed to liven things up, as things were flagging on the pitch.

The change of tempo allowed Withdean to get back into the game, and there were a number of hairy moments before they eventually managed to pull one back.

The second half carried on where the first had left off, and it took a couple of substitutions to bring the game back to life. Within a couple of minutes of making his debut, Michael Rootes had increased our lead, not that we were immediately sure of his identity.

Soon afterwards, Wade Falana made it 4-1. From our position it looked as though he had kicked the ball out of the hands of the Withdean 'keeper. The luckless Oakley's reaction suggested he really had dropped the ball, as he lay on the ground with his hands over his face, rather than making a protest. Shortly before the end, Withdean pulled another one back with a fine strike from 25 yards out, but the points were safe by then.

Apparently there had been a scuffle in the crowd at one point, but I didn't notice it happen.

After the game, we headed off for more Bank Holiday fun. Some parts of the town have seen better days, but there was plenty going on at the seafront. The Rotary Club were holding a fair on the green, and a band on the back of a lorry played Bryan Adams hits to little reaction. To add to the excitement, there was a parade of floats and more dancing cheerleader troupes than you could shake a pom-pom at.

We had a walk on the beach, a stroll along the pier before heading for a couple of pints. By 6 o'clock, 3 very tired Wombles were ready to catch the train back to London.

Monday, August 25, 2003

We Are Top Of The League

Saturday's game saw the visit of last season's bogey side. Southall (The Fowlers - apparently) were one of the two sides we failed to beat in the CCL, drawing twice as well as knocking us out of the League Cup.

This time it was quite different. The Dons dominated from the start, scoring three in a ten minute period midway through the first half. Sheerin got the first two, followed by a Cooper penalty. In the absence of our lanky nemesis Donal O'Sullivan, it fell to his brother Shane to create the chance that got the visitors onto the scoresheet. His cross was slotted away by Andre Robinson.



Possibly as a result of the hot sun, the second half progressed at a more sedate pace, with very few clear cut scoring chances. Then, just as the game seemed to be fizzling out, Ryan Gray struck a shot from over by the corner flag which swerved straight into the net. In my head, I can see him taking the ball on the volley, but it all happened so quickly that I couldn't believe my eyes as it went in. I'm not sure it wasn't meant to be a cross, either.

Just before the end, Robinson scored again for Southall, picking the ball from a horrendous back pass by Frankum, but it was too late for them.

3 wins out of 3 saw us top the CCL table for the first time ever.

Results Round-up

Seagrave Haulage League Premier Division
AFC Wallingford 3-2 Frimley Green
AFC Wimbledon 4-2 Southall
Ash United 4-2 Withdean 2000
Cove 0-0 Horley Town
Farnham Town 1-1 Chessington & Hook
Feltham 0-3 Chipstead
Godalming & G 0-0 Merstham
Hartley Wintney 3-1 Chessington United
Raynes Park Vale 2-4 North Greenford Utd

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Gratuitous Pic

Some players from Walton Casuals FC, in case you were bored with my inane drivel.



Paul Roberts, Dan Wheeler, Dave D'Rozario, Emerson Barrs-James and Graeme Cooksley doing the Half Monty

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