Merstham 0 - 5 AFC Wimbledon
14:00 on a Sunday is not most people's ideal time for a football match, as the lowly crowd of just over 1,300 proved, although the usual cup match dip in attendance (season ticket holders not wanting / able to pay to get in) and the fact it was officially an away fixture (not such a guilty conscience for missing it) and the rumour that AFC would be putting out a reserve team, should also be taken into account.
Merstham, we were lead to believe, were struggling to put out a team, but late recalls and re-signings enabled them to put out a reasonable XI, and given their 2-0 lead in the first home match this season Dons had to be careful their recent goal-scoring form didn't lead to complacency. Lee Gibson and Joe Sheerin were rested to the bench, with Jamie Angell dropping in at right back and new signing Paul Scott starting up front alongside Kevin Cooper, otherwise Dons were as expected.
AFC had a sniff at goal as early as the third minute when Simon Bassey swung in a perfect cross from the left only for Kevin Cooper to head straight at the keeper. Four minutes later Danny Oakins header back across goal was denied by the post. Ryan Gray was forced off with a back spasm after a clumsy challenge, but Darren Dobinson proved like for like in his pre-right-back position on the wing. Merstham's only real effort of the first half came after twelve minutes, Jack St John snatching a half-chance weakly at Matt Martin. This woke the Dons up and they scored immediately after, Kevin Cooper stealing in at the back post to head home a cross from the left that both Dobinson and Matt Everard had flicked on. This signalled a purple patch for AFC - in the twelve minutes that followed Paul Scott broke clear only to drag his shot across the keeper and wide, Seb Favata had two long range shots; one well held by the keeper and the other, after good harrying by Gavin Bolger, just wide, more battling work and a great cross to the back post from Bolger was headed just wide under pressure by Scott, Cooper ran onto a huge throw from Danny Oakins and shot low and hard forcing the keeper into a top rate save and Dobinson tricked his way to a one on one with the keeper only to pull his shot wide. Resolute defending from Merstham and overly-fussy approach play from Dons kept the margin to a single goal, although Everard was unlucky not to score from Andy Sullivan's corner two minutes before the break.
Merstham's best chance of the game came a minute into the second half. Mark Rowlings, one of Merstham's new signings, ran through after a defensive mistake, but Matt Martin spread himself well and saved with his legs. Once bitten, AFC took hold of the game and it was only a matter of how long they kept pounding at the Merstham defence. Scott showed some desire, but his mazy run after 53 minutes was illegally ended with a trip inside the area and Cooper stepped up to score from the spot. A fine run from substitute Frodo Frankum, on at half time for Seb Favata, led to Andy Sullivan curling wide three minutes later, then the game settled into a twenty minute spell with the Dons rhythmically ebbing towards the Merstham goal only to be rebuffed or, in Scott's case, shoot wildly wide (but no harm in trying!). Frankum provided the killer goal with ten minutes left on the clock, taking hold of the ball just inside his own half and running unchallenged for twenty yards before unleashing a low drive that hustled just inside the keeper's right hand post. The celebration, running like a dervish to the corner flag, then to the half-way line, before falling flat on his back indicates how often the pocket midfield dynamo hits the net! This lead to a game of beat thy neighbour, Oakins running a full seventy yards, beating a couple of demoralised midfielders on the way, before unleashing a 30 yard shot that went inches over and, with two minutes remaining, Simon Bassey cutting in from the left and cracking a 25 yard shot that Colin Harris did well to tip over. From the corner on the right Steve Gibson, creeping in at the back post, opened his scoring account for the Dons. With Merstham waiting for the final whistle to end their misery, AFC broke again and another corner, this time from the other side, allowed Paul Scott to open his own account with a firm downwards header.
Apart from two defensive slips, AFC never looked like letting the only side to have really troubled them so far this season into the game, and controlled from start to finish without getting out of second gear.