Match report by Paul Jeater.
With a testing league game with Feltham just days away and the top of the table clash with AFC Wallingford next Saturday, manager Terry Eames took the opportunity to rest several key players for this League Cup tie with Southall.
Many supporters have perhaps grown accustomed to their Clubs regarding League Cup ties as little more than training exercises, however Dons fans come from a different tradition one that expects to grasp the role of victor on such occasions. On Saturday the tables were turned and we became the victims. The expression on close to two thousand faces leaving Kingsmeadow was proof that enough this experience was a bitter pill to swallow.
Back in early September the two teams had met in the League, while Dons fans enjoyed the curry on the terraces, on the pitch it had been anything but "the beautiful game". On Saturday therefore the players and supporters of AFC Wimbledon knew what to expect. The pitch not surprisingly was heavily sanded in patches making passing football difficult down the centre. The conditions should to some extent have determined the tactics and the visitors physically stronger and with a height advantage adjusted better.
The game needed firm control and consistency and the match officials were collectively not able to deliver. In the twelfth minute Simon Bassey showed good skills and control as he sent the ball up the line; at that moment he was the victim of a late challenge by Southall's Donal O'Sullivan. The referee chose to ignore the challenge, inevitably Bassey did not. A minute later the combative Dons player, about to start a 35 day ban, produced a "Ben Thatchersque" challenge which saw O'Sullivan become acquainted with the advertising hoardings. The referee not surprisingly reached for his note pad.
On 19 minutes Southall took a shock lead which at that stage was against the run of play. A hopeful ball was lofted into the box from the left, stand in goalie Andy Bell appeared to have matters under control however Donal O'Sullivan got there fractionally earlier and the ball came off his head into an empty goal.
O'Sullivan who wore the # 16 shirt, momentarily sent the Golden Goal competition into disarray, however his impact on the Dons defence was far worse. After 32 minutes the visitors won a corner on the left, the ball was driven across the six yard box, it was not dealt with by the Dons defence and O'Sullivan had the easiest of chances to head home.
Not surprisingly confidence ebbed away from the Dons defence and on more than one occasion, a lack of communication led to two players going to the same ball; meanwhile up front the strike partnership of Ali Russell and Andy Sullivan were getting little from a no nonsense Southall defence.
Half Time could not come quick enough and to no surprise when the players came back onto the pitch Chris Theodore and Lee Sidwell replaced Mehmet Mehmet and Andy Sullivan. Unfortunately before either player could make an impact Southall had gone three up. Shane O'Sullivan cut inside Akin Gallimore, who had switched to right back, and fired a fierce shot past Bell from over 20 yards.
The Dons response was immediate, a quick attack appeared to have floundered but Turner in the Southall goal dropped the ball and Chris Theodore was the first to react. His goal bound shot was helped into the net by the hand of a Southall defender. The referee chose to award the goal yet ignore what seemed a deliberate handball. As a consequence the Dons had pulled a goal back yet still faced eleven opponents.
After 73 minutes the final card was played with Danny Oakins replacing Bassey. Chasing the game it was surprising that Oakins slotted into the left back slot rather than using his goal scoring instincts up front, however minutes later it seemed that the Dons had been offered a lifeline. Chris Theodore got ahead of his marker in pursuit of a Lee Sidwell ball into the box, he was brought down and the referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty. Lee Passmore stepped up, surely this would be the moment when the real fight back would be launched, sadly not as Passmore's effort to the keeper's right come back off the post and went to safety.
At that moment hope disappeared, it was felt on the terraces, in the stand and significantly also on the pitch. A dreadful mix up between Gallimore and Roberts allowed Donal O'Sullivan to complete his hat-trick. The striker had worked hard but surely could not believe his luck. In fact his afternoon was not yet complete, as on 90 minutes he dispossessed Gallimore before side footing the ball past Bell to make it five.
By now the crowd was swarming out of the ground, the Dons had been out fought by a physical side who were prepared to take full advantage of the defensive errors that were presented to them.
Looking back perhaps this wasn't the game to test young players. The decision to rest Shimell at least must be questioned. However with hindsight football management would be an easy job and hopefully lessons from the game will be learned.
The run came to an end after thirteen games, this was AFC Wimbledon's first cup exit and it hurt. Yet if the next week produces six league points yesterday's performance will be soon forgotten, except by Henrik the Swedish Don. It's a long way to travel to watch your team get stuffed 5-1 at home.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Donal O'Sullivan.
It would be ridiculous not to give it to Donal O'Sullivan. Arguably all four of his goals were down to defensive errors, but he was there to finish.
For the Dons only Chris Theodore comes out with his reputation enhanced. He troubled the Southall defence, and although unlikely to threaten the Sheerin/Cooper partnership, is worthy of a place in the squad.