Westfield 2 - 7 AFC Wimbledon
I've lost count of the number of times over the last 25 years that I've come home from a football match and opined that "we could have scored 10." Rarely, perhaps never, have I really meant it. Rather, I've bemoaned the fact that although we scored three, we also contrived to miss a couple of good chances, failed to take four half-chances and hit the bar from 30 yards. Yes, we could have scored 10, but it was not really any different to any other game. At Woking's Kingfield Stadium on Saturday, AFC Wimbledon could have scored 15. Or perhaps 20. Seven was enough, though. No need to be greedy.
Fearing a bit of a backlash after Westfield got thumped 7-0 at home by Chessington & Hook on Tuesday night (six of the goals coming in the last 37 minutes), any semblance of anything that remotely resembled fear had
been blown away rather spectacularly after only nine minutes. By that time the Dons were 3-0 up and it could have been, I don't know, let's settle on four. With just four minutes gone Seb Favata converted a half-chance when he side-footed past keeper Robbie Pink from 18 yards to open his Dons account, and then only 110 seconds later Kevin Cooper was left completely unmarked at the far post and lashed a Ryan Gray cross into the net. Joe Sheerin headed over the bar shortly after and then in the ninth minute Cooper scored again to put the game beyond doubt with 81 minutes still to play. Played onside by the most ragged defence this side of Basra, Cooper advanced from the right of the penalty area, looked up, saw Sheerin standing alone on the edge of six yard box and completely ignored him, threading the ball inside Pink's near post with the outside of his right foot.
Normally it can take the concession of a goal to wake a side up, but in Westfield's case it took three. Ellis' half-volley was superbly saved by Matt Martin and then Chilton, only eight yards out and with an open goal in front of him, headed against the bar, the ball rebounding neatly into Martin's arms. The Dons were attacking at will, with the left-sided combination of Gray and Darren Dobinson having the time of their lives, taking it in turns to play the other in, whip over a cross and see what transpired. With Favata and Gavin Bolger controlling the midfield and Andy Sullivan, given a starting place on the right instead of the so-far off colour Lee Sidwell, was having almost as much joy on his side of the pitch. A tame Chilton shot that drifted 10 yards wide with half an hour gone, however, amazingly lead to Westfield pulling a goal back. Martin failed to spot Jones blocking the path between him and a short goal kick to Dobinson and passed the ball to him with the unerring accuracy of a Noel Frankum back pass. Jones couldn't believe his luck and he finished easily past the embarrassed Martin. Was this the start of the home side s comeback? Was it b*******.
Less than a minute later Kevin Cooper side-footed the ball past Pink to complete his fifth hat-trick in nine months and restore the Dons three goal advantage, and only two minutes had passed when Westfield's Pitt set up Sheerin for the Dons fifth when he failed to control a Dobinson cross that had been palmed up in to the air by Pink. Westfield had now conceded 11 goals in the last 70 minutes of play. And it could have been worse, with Sheerin's deft lob hitting the top of the bar, Pink making smart saves from Bolger and Sullivan and the linesman contriving to disallow a perfectly good Ryan Grey lob. An incredible first half was then made even more extraordinary with one of the worst decisions ever made in the history of football. Really. Sullivan's cross was controlled by Cooper, just inside the penalty area, facing slightly away from the goal. His progress was halted when Cable shoved him over for the most blatant penalty you could ever wish for. The referee obliged by pointing to the spot in dramatic style. As Sheerin, Cooper and Danny Oakins discussed who should take it, some of the Westfield players were surrounding the referee, pointing to the assistant referee, who was flagging. After a long-distance consultation, the referee, Mr Dowling, changed his mind and awarded a free-kick to Westfield for offside against Cooper. Remember that Cooper had been facing away from the goal and had been pushed over from behind!
A 5-1 lead at half-time in our first FA Vase game. Could life actually get any better. For me, the appearance next to me of TV gardener Rachel De Thame might have been the only way of improving the day. Seven minutes into the second half, referee Dowling found a way of darkening what was the most celebratory mood you could wish for at a football match. Chilton, chasing a pass into the area, was halted by a combination of Oakins and Jamie Angell, just as he shaped to shoot. At least a foot outside the area, Oakins appeared to make contact with the ball, but that didn't interest Dowling who awarded the home side a penalty that Finn converted, much to his own delight, and brandished the red card in Oakins direction. He got a touch on the ball, it was outside the area, and he wasn't the last man. And we were playing Westfield - an open goal from eight yards hadn't constituted a clear goal-scoring opportunity for them in the first half, so how did being 19 yards from goal with two defenders tackling you become one in the second? As Oakins left the pitch to sympathetic applause, the under-fire defender turned to return the applause, probably relieved that the 1300 Dons fans were all convinced he d been wronged.
Terry Eames reacted to the dismissal by withdrawing Cooper and sending on the versatile Leon White at the back and hoping to see the game out with a 4-4-1 formation to protect a 5-2 lead. He needn't have worried, as Westfield s impotent attack, powder-puff midfield and na´ve back line contributed greatly to what was also one of the best all round Dons performances to date. Rarely will we have to face such poor opposition, but with a man short, anything could have been possible had Westfield sensed that the Dons were slacking. They weren't. If anything they turned up the volume (or heat, whichever you prefer) and set about scoring more goals. The sixth duly arrived when Sheerin finished off a great move by sliding the ball past Pink and into the far corner to equal the Dons record score, the 6-2 win at North Greenford in March. Simon Bassey, on for the hugely impressive and impossibly fit Favata fancied his chances of scoring and when he went down in the box under Cable's challenge and the referee blew his whistle he probably had thoughts of taking the penalty and scoring his first Dons goal. The only thing stopping him from doing just that was that the ref had awarded a free kick against him for diving, and was now also showing Bassey that he possessed a lovely bright yellow card to go with the equally vibrant red one he had incorrectly brandished earlier.
What happened next reads like a list of players who had attempts on goal. That s exactly what it was. A man short? The Dons were playing as if they had 12, with Gray in particular seemingly invisible to the Westfield right back (Alex Ferguson once said that grey is hard to pick out). The former Whyteleafe winger wasted a couple of good chances to make it 7, and when Sheerin hit the post after yet another fabulous move it did begin to look like we might not get any more. Three times Gavin Bolger waltzed past the defence, got to the byline and pulled the ball back only for Westfield defenders to block the resulting shots, and then Dobinson fired over from 12 yards when put in by yet another Sheerin touch. Andy Sullivan, with his last kick of the game, took matters into his own hands when a Bolger pass gave him the room to move wide and fire a superb shot across Pink from 15 yards for his first goal of the season. Noel Frankum replaced him and was immediately in on the action, with a 20 yard shot that drifted just wide, and then Steve Gibson set up Bolger for yet another effort on goal that was saved by the virtually blameless Pink, who then made an excellent save with his legs to deny Bolger who had run 50 yards almost unchallenged.
And that was that. A 7-2 away win against a team from the same division. 23 goals in six games. Cooper and Sheerin have 15 in six games, and Cooper missed one of those. Sheerin is only one goal away from equalling his total from last season. Is it actually possible for things to go too well? No. It s not. A possible Sunday trip to the Sussex coast is the reward for this demolition of the worst side we've seen in the CCL to date (you d have to have fancied Viking Greenford's chances against them). They were there to be beaten and we did just that.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Unfair to pick anyone out really, but Seb Favata showed again that he really is several classes above this standard of football with a brilliant display of control, passing and hard work., and he was richly rewarded by being taken off with half an hour to go. Cooper and Sheerin scored five between them, Gray put in easily his best performance, in tandem with the equally impressive Dobinson. Sod it, all of them! But particularly Seb.