Match report by John Mackie
A great opening night for AFCs first competitive game at home against Chipstead in the CCL. A pity that nobody told Chipstead that this was a glorious night for celebrations for football in general and the fight against franchising and for AFC in particular having started so well away to Sandhurst in their first game. But give Chipstead credit for sticking to their task in the second half when they were being dominated and effectively mugging the Dons by snatching a winner in the 84th minute.
The night started well with huge crowds and queues stretching from the ground and then snaking their way all along the Kingston Road. The attendance of 4,215 meant that several hundred fans were locked out. The mayor of Merton and her husband attended along with former Dons favourites Jason Euell, Neal Ardley and Marcus Gayle. I was queuing for a beer in the clubhouse when a huge cheer from outside heralded the arrival of Terry Burton in his open top sports car.
AFC opened well and in the 3rd minute worked a good move down the right ending with Simon Bassey clipping a perfect cross onto the head of Joe Sheerin whose header just cleared the bar. Two minutes later and Chipsteads speedy winger McDonnell raced round the outside of fullback Keith Ward down the left and delivered a cross for centre forward Jenns to turn just wide of the post.
In the 11th minute a sickening clash of heads left Chipsteads Mike Berry floored and requiring attention from the physio. Having recovered, he then scored only two minutes later in the 13th minute. He used his pace to run onto a slotted through ball to easily beat keeper Andy Bell. To a man the Dons players surrounded the referee appealing for offside but to no avail. My colleague who was high up in the stand and not too far off-line reckoned it was "10 yards offside". Well, allowing for poetic licence it seems the Dons had a good case. Only two minutes later and Berry required further attention from the physio.
Then in the 17th minute a great ball slotted inside the fullback down the left allowed Andy Sullivan to run onto it and get a great cross onto the head of Sheerin but the Dons spearhead could not get any direction on his header and he glanced well wide. AFC were working very hard to get back into the game and in the 26th minute a great ball down the left released Sheerin but Chipsteads defence were quick to react and crowd him out.
About the 30th minute mark Sheerin again went powering down the inside right channel, laid the ball off to Bassey on the right and went tearing across to the far post where the cross only just cleared his head. Chipsteads defence headed it back across the area to where Kevin Cooper, lurking on the right corner of the area, controlled the ball, created a bit of space for himself and then hammered it into the far left corner giving Chipsteads keeper Roberts no chance. Super Cooper deserved this well taken goal as he and the rest of the boys had work tirelessly to get back into the game.
In the 32nd minute an unsightly scuffle developed with the referee awarding no yellow cards and only a free kick to Chipstead. A 41st minute penalty appeal by AFC was turned down by the referee for a good tackle on Sheerin, which left him, sprawled on the floor. In the 48th minute just before the half-time whistle Chipsteads worked an opening through the inside-right position for OMalley to power his shot well wide.
The second half opened with two quick corners for AFC but Chipstead managed to weather the storm and clear. In the 51st minute the first booking went to the hardworking Bassey for a late tackle. Five minutes later Keith Ward neatly clipped the ball inside Gareth Mitchell who then caught Ward late with a sickening thud which could be heard all over the ground. Mitchell was promptly booked. Four minutes later and an AFC free kick from the right was cleared beyond the far post where Sullivans drive went just wide.
AFC were now dominating and in the 64th minute a dangerous raid down the left from Chipstead which petered out was there only run into enemy territory. The pressure was telling and eleven minutes later Chipsteads Russell Dean was booked for chopping down Sullivan just as he was about to go clear down the left. In the 78th minute Glenn "Trigger" Mulcaire came on for Joe Sheerin and then two minutes later Dave Fry replaced Lee Passmore and Neil Robson replaced Lee Sidwell.
In the 84th minute against the run of play Chipstead took the lead. A right wing in swinging corner was delivered deep to the far post where Mike Berry came in unmarked and headed a simple goal, the AFC defenders having been dragged to the near post by the Chipstead forwards.
AFC piled on the pressure with several corners but only managed two tame efforts by Cooper and Robson to chip the keeper in injury time. In between Chipstead nearly scored again from the same right wing corner move, but this time with OMalley becoming the free man at the far post, but luckily he squandered the chance. Dons manager Terry Eames needs urgent work on the training ground on defending corners.
Man of the match for Chipstead has to be Mike Berry and for AFC I would share it between Kevin Cooper and Simon Bassey who both worked their socks off throughout.
Chipstead have a young side that are all slightly built but remind you of greyhounds as they all have plenty of speed, especially Nathan McDonnell. They stood up to the physical challenge well but all in all on the balance of play AFC deserved at least a point from this game after they dominated for long periods and only went down to a well worked corner kick.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Kevin Cooper