Ilford 6 - 2 AFC Wimbledon
In Saturday's programme, Terry Eames noted that "it will be time for the boys who've had 20 minutes here or there to play all of it". When Dobo revealed the squad on Weird & Wonderful World on the morning of the game it was almost the same line-up as our last home reserve match. Anyone expecting otherwise would have been disappointed.
Ilford have London Senior Cup pedigree by the bucket-load, although it must be said that the vast bulk of their success came in the days when the Isthmian League was the crest of non-League football and Ilford and ourselves were both riding high within. These days the Ryman's League has been usurped by the Conference and Ilford, after several mergers and splits, are now languishing in the Eastway Essex Senior League, the same level on the pyramid as us.
The scene was set in the opening 90 seconds when a ball down the right wing set loose one of the pacy Ilford forwards, and only the illegal intervention of Simon Bassey stopped the break. Bassey was rewarded with a place in the referee's notebook. The next ten minutes saw chances at both ends. Wade Falana should have opened the scoring after five minutes, chesting down a through-ball but shooting straight at the keeper when clean through. A minute later and only resolute defending saved Matt Martin, caught out of position on the side of his box, and two minutes after that Ilford struck - the ball was worked down the right flank and a weak cross was allowed through to Damien Devor, lurking on the back post to sweep the ball home. Dons struck back almost immediately when a throw in on the left was flicked on by Ryan Luffman, Ali Russell controlled the ball between two Ilford defenders and crashed an unstoppable shot over the keeper from 15 yards. AFC struggled to contain the Ilford forwards and only several last ditch challenges, particularly from Lewis Taylor, kept the hounds from Martin's door, and matters weren't helped when Ben Chesters limped of midway through the half. Ilford eventually sprung the trap on the half-hour, Daniel Clarke running on to a ball over the top and, unchallenged, easily lobbing Martin. Five minutes later Matt Hodge found himself clear in the box after a clever flick-through, but the ball wouldn't settle on the appalling pitch and the chance was snuffed out. With eight minutes of the first half remaining, a quick one-two in front of the bench was too quick for Danny Oakins and he clattered into an Ilford player's thigh with his studs with no little force, leaving the ref no real option than to get out the early bath card.
2-1 down, 10 men, up against speedy opposition who wanted to win, so Dons started the second half with a surge, but the pressure came to nothing, and it was all over in the 51st minute. A ball into the box was collected on the back post by George Durrant and a little trickery later he lashed it into the back of the net. The cheer from the Ilford players was louder than anything the 300 or so hardy Dons fans could muster all evening. Within minutes Anthony Jones had crashed a header against the bar, then around the seventieth minute there were three goals in 120 seconds; Ilford went further ahead when the lively Bradley Jones' shot took a nasty deflection off Clarke and past Martin, Ali Russell went foraging down the wing and crossed low and hard for Wade Falana to flick in at the near post, then Bradley Jones' cheeky flick through his legs to make it 5-2. Jones should have another a couple of minutes afterwards, but his free header inside the six yard box flew just wide of the post. Falana's looped header was well covered by the keeper with ten minutes to go, and Jones had another chance to double his goal haul when Simon Bassey slipped in defence and he ran through and shot low, but Martin produced a fine save. There was still time for Ilford to rub salt into the wound, Daniel Clarke breaking through the defence and out-muscling Lewis Taylor before clipping the ball in for his hat-trick.