Three and a half hours’ football, spanning two matches, couldn’t separate the Dons and the Hornets. As the rain came down on what was a physical and engaging contest, Horsham’s Lee Carney struck the winning spot kick to send his West Sussex side into the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup.
A mouth-watering tie awaits John Maggs’ men in the form of an away trip to Southern League Chippenham Town. For the Dons, the dream of making the first round proper goes back on ice for another year and attentions will turn to the FA Trophy campaign which starts at The Cherry Red Record Fans’ Stadium this coming weekend.
Despite a forceful display in Saturday’s encounter, Terry Brown decided to switch a few things around for the replay. Mark Beard returned to the centre of midfield following suspension, which shifted Jake Leberl to right back, Luke Garrard to right midfield and Steve Ferguson to centre forward. Robin Shroot kept his place as the link between the front man and the ball-winners, while Richard Butler was dropped to the bench.
But the visitors, looking to pick up where they left off at the weekend, were rocked back on their heels inside three minutes. Good interplay between Hornets’ strikers Carl Rook and Simon Austin worked an opening for Lewis Taylor down the right, and the former Don galloped into the box and thumped his shot in off the post.
Wimbledon responded well, pressing the Horsham back-line into mistakes and bossing the central areas. Robin Shroot nearly equalized on eleven minutes arriving to convert Ferguson’s cross, but he was leaning back and scooped his effort over the bar.
Parity was restored a few minutes later. Jake Leberl delivered a free-kick from the halfway line that was just asking to be nodded home. Dons’ captain Jason Goodliffe duly obliged, his looping header beating Alan Mansfield to send the away support into raptures.
Almost immediately the hosts nearly regained the lead. Simon Austin slipped away from his marker and half-volleyed a yard or so over the cross bar.
Much huff and puff followed with little in the way of attacking quality from either side. Tony Finn had the last meaningful strike of the first half, riding several challenges before shooting straight at Mansfield from 20 yards.
Terry Brown rang the changes at half time, introducing Richard Butler and Sam Hatton for Robin Shroot and the injured Luke Garrard respectively. Steve Ferguson moved to the right wing to accommodate Butler taking up a lone-striker role.
It was Horsham substitute Eddie French, however, who nearly edged the hosts back in front, the centre-half arriving at the far post to head marginally wide from Lee Carney’s tidy dead ball delivery.
Finn and Michael Haswell combined on the left to create a half chance for Beard, but his overhead kick dropped into the crowd. Then Leberl sent Ferguson on his way down the right to engineer a golden opportunity for Beard, who side footed over from ten yards out.
With the heavens beginning to open, both sides had chances to win it. Austin forced a good parry from Andy Little at point blank range after a fine cross from substitute Stuart Myall.
The Dons’ Sam Hatton then brought the very best out of Mansfield, rifling a 35-yarder towards the top left-hand corner that the Horsham stopper acrobatically palmed around the post.
Three minutes from the end, Jacob Mingle put Gary Charman through on goal with just the keeper to beat, but the Hornets’ winger pulled his shot inches wide of the left hand post.
Almost inevitably, bearing in mind recent results between the sides, the match moved into an additional 30 minutes. By now the rain was making heavy work of any intention to play attractive football. Terry Brown swapped Chris Hussey for Tony Finn to see if the young midfielder could drum up some crosses from the left.
Richard Butler released Ferguson through the right-hand channel and the rapid former-Woking striker conjured up a goal-bound stinger that Mansfield elected to repel rather than catch.
The visitors were scrambling on 100 minutes as Rook’s cross caused mayhem in the penalty area. Substitute forward Yinka Salaam pinged a left footed effort goal-bound but it took a defection on the way and spun out for a corner.
Moving into the second period of extra time, Hussey delivered a fine ball to the near post but Ferguson couldn’t make sufficient contact to steer it on target. Moments later, Haswell sent the youngster away again down the left flank, but no one was arriving to attack the cross when it arrived and another chance slipped away.
Lewis Taylor, scorer of the first goal 116 minutes earlier had the last effort of the night, cutting in from the right and driving left-footed into the grateful arms of Andy Little.
So, penalties it was.
Two lines of players, arms linked, watched in anguish through the downpour as first Sam Hatton, and then Lewis Taylor saw their efforts saved. With the scores at 4-4, the penalty shoot-out reached sudden death. Dons’ midfielder Mark Beard smashed his spot kick over the bar and his Horsham counterpart, Lee Carney, stepped up to calmly drill past Little, sending the affable Lardy Boys into the next round.