AFC Wimbledon romped to a 4-0 victory against an elegant Chelmsford team that played a lot of nice football but lacked penetration at the Cherry Red Records Fans’ Stadium in the second qualifying round of the FA Trophy.
To the surprise of many, Chelmsford started the game with Ricky Holmes on the bench again. With a squad strong enough to leave out a player who is the target of a large bid from a league club, Chelmsford’s strength in depth looks scary. But the Dons proved that a well-organised defence, with Goodliffe again leading by example, and a solid midfield can blunt even the best attack.
The Dons started with a strange goal as Webb’s back header, which was clearly intended as a flick on, beat the goalkeeper, possible due to a run across his vision by Ferguson. Rarely can a ball have crossed the line so lamely for such an important goal.
The goal seemed to shock everyone and the game took a while to get underway. Chelmsford played neat, one touch football but were regularly stifled by the attentions of Leberl and the excellent Quinn, back to his best form in a holding role. With Finn and Ferguson tracking back when needed, there was little space for Chelmsford to make inroads into the Dons defence and, whenever they looked like doing so, the back four were as reliable as ever, save for a wild surge forward from Garrard that set Keeling away early in the game – but to no effect. In particular, Howard totally dominated Lawson, Chelmsford’s most recent signing, in the air.
And then, after nearly half an hour, De Bolla received the ball nearly 30 yards out, took a moment to steady himself, and then unleashed a rocket of a shot past the stunned Gay. It was a wonderful goal that came, certainly as far as Gay was concerned, out of the blue.
Chelmsford are a good team and they set about getting back into the game, playing neat passing football and showing why many regard them as likely league winners this season. But AFC Wimbledon’s back four was resolute and Little had barely a shot to save. In fact, it was the 85th minute before he was called into serious action and then he was comfortably equal to the challenge. But all Chelmsford’s efforts were undone when, after a tussle near the halfway line, the referee sent Keeling off, apparently for kicking Garrard on the head as he lay on the ground. Strangely, Garrard was booked in this incident and a free kick was awarded to Chelmsford. But they had lost a man and, in doing so, the game.
In the second half, the Dons invited the ten men to attack them and then sought to break quickly to kill off the game. Twice Ferguson broke away but no-one could get on the end of his crosses and Finn, despite clever interchanges with De Bolla, could not get the killer cross in to his colleagues.
After just over an hour, De Bolla was substituted by Beckford and the crowd sensed that the management had decided to settle for two-nil by taking off their attacking pivot. But then, to everyone’s surprise, up popped Leberl to score with a carefully placed shot from 20 yards. Chelmsford’s heads went down but, even with Holmes and Ibe striving to bring more penetration into their attacks, they had never really looked like scoring.
Within minutes, Finn hit another great long distance strike and it was merely a matter of running down time. And so the Dons wait to hear who their opponents in the next round. On the basis of this display, there is no-one to fear.