Report by Rob Crane
At last! AFC Wimbledon's first ever goal! And yet again the carnival atmosphere from the first two friendlies carried on as the Dons fans packed into Bromley's Hayes Lane ground to enjoy the football and Bromley's lax alcohol policy.
Terry Eames started with a line-up which many guessed closely resembles the one he intends to take into the Combined Counties League campaign. Joe Sheerin and Dean Martin returned up front, as did Dave Fry in midfield with Mehmet Mehmet, Glen Mulcaire and Andy Sullivan. Akim Gallimore, Tony Readings and Simon Johnstone with, I think, Dave Towse made up the back four, whilst Aiden Martin came in in goal for his first appearance.
The atmosphere at the game was unbelievable. Gander Green Lane and Champion Hill are both fairly open grounds with little to contain or amplify any chanting. But tonight had a wonderful feeling. It just felt right from the moment we passed through the turnstiles and saw programmes being sold from a garden shed and supporters walking around sipping from plastic beer glasses.
Hayes Lane isn't the biggest of grounds and with 1,401 people inside (including Bromley resident Dickie Guy) a great atmosphere was generated, particularly in the second half as darkness fell and the floodlights were switched on.
This was Bromley's first pre-season game but you'd never have guessed it as they came out and immediately looked an organised and physically fit outfit, with Colin Luckett looking especially impressive at this level. But the Dons were by no means out of it, with Dave Fry again impressing with his skills and workrate down the right, and created a number of chances only to find Bromley's impressive goalkeeper Glen Shimmel on top form.
The home side took the lead just after half an hour with a dubious penalty. Our defender appeared to take the ball from Eddie Akuamoah but the referee adjudged it had been a foul inside the area. Luckett stepped up to blast the ball past Aiden Martin, who had looked extremely comfortable in open play.
The moment that the Dons fans had been waiting for happened just after half time, although many Dons fans were still in the clubhouse at the bar when it happened. I had been distracted by something on the terraces but looked up just in time to see Glen 'Trigger' Mulcairne connect with a volley from 30 yards out which flew over Shimmel and into the top right hand corner of the net. Cue scenes of mass celebration, both on the pitch and on the terraces.
After all the political aspects of last season it was wonderful to be able to celebrate a goal especially such a momentus one - with unbridled joy. And very reassuring to see the players celebrating with equal delight!
The goal clearly gave the Dons a and they had Bromley on the backfoot after that, with Fry trying to replicate Mulcairne's goal after cutting in from the left but this time Shimmel managed to palm it over. Another attempted cross from the right which was drifting into the top corner was also tipped away by the Bromley keeper.
Bromley regained the lead in the 66th minute when Richard Thomson's overhead kick was spilled over the line by the Dons' substitute keeper and, after that, the home side twice hit the woodwork as well, despite losing John Wilfort with a dislocated shoulder. But the Dons still looked capable of causing problems themselves and gave an encouraging display throughout the game.
So, once again defeat, but once again so many positives to take from the game: AFC Wimbledon's first ever goal, another improved performance promising even more to come, and an atmosphere which came the closest I can remember to recreating the Plough Lane feel than any time since 1991. As the Dons fans walked back to their cars and Bromley South station, the sense of excitement could be felt in the air: we're truly back!