Match report by Niall Couper.
Fireworks night, a two-hour drive and one thousand people standing in a field watching division seven football. Sometimes, it is just plain healthy to take a step back and realise how great AFC Wimbledon is.
Why we were all there probably defeats the sanity of most people, but what the hell we’re Dons fans and we love it.
We have achieved so much and after this comfortable win over Cove, the Dons have now won 12 in a row. As for the game itself, whiplash denied the Dons of Lee Passmore and a makeshift midfield saw Keith Ward step in to partner Neil Robson in the centre. But, to be honest, for most of the first half it wouldn’t have mattered if a trained donkey and Vaughan Ryan had played there such was the Dons‚ dominance. Ali Russell struck first, tapping in from close range after 18 minutes. A deft piece of skill from Kevin Cooper made it two.
Latching on to a knock down from Russell, Cooper tormented the Cove defence, gliding past two defenders before knocking the ball nonchalantly past the Cove goalkeeper Carl Prince. The Dons seemed well on course for a cricket score, especially when moments later Andy Sullivan appeared to have made it three. Charging down a clearance from Prince, the diminutive winger rounded the flapping goalkeeper to slot the ball neatly home only to be denied by the referee for handball. It seemed at the very best a harsh decision.
But the chances kept on coming. A deep cross from Sullivan evaded Prince to the surprise of Lee Sidwell, whose header went wide with the goal gapping. Moments later, it was Russell’s turn to head wide and then as if to add insult to injury Cove then scored from their very first attack. Charles Wallbrook latched onto a loose ball and rifled the ball beyond the reach of Glyn Shimell. The Dons then suffered a double blow with injuries to both Danny Oakins (hamstring) and Tony Readings (ankle). Readings was replaced by Mehmet Mehmet, making his debut, at half time a move that saw Keith Ward move to centre back. Oakins was to last until the 75th minute, but is now extremely doubtful for Saturday.
However, any thoughts that Cove may have had of completely a comeback disappeared within 12 minutes of the re-start. By the time Ward had powered home a Robson free-kick from the left after 52 minutes, Mehmet had already had a shot well saved and Sullivan had been denied by the paintwork on the inside of the right-hand post after an excellent run.
Five minutes later and the Dons were 4-1 up. Russell, picking the ball up on the right, cut inside and just as he was cueing up a shot his trailing leg was crudely up-ended. Cooper made no mistake from the spot.
From then on the game turned into the Mehmet Mehmet show. The young debutant was mesmerizing the Cove midfield with his elegance and deft control. His neat passing sent Russell clean through on more than one occasion and the big striker will be as puzzled as any of the crowd as to how he failed to finish the day without the match ball neatly tucked away in the boot of his car.
And then there was Mehmet’s dribbling skills. Twice he glided through the home defence like a hot knife through butter. The second time, having beaten three players, he seemed certain to add the Dons‚ fifth before being up-ended with only the goalkeeper to beat. The defender, Danny Rumbles, escaped with only a booking, with the crowd baying for his dismissal. Russell had another chance late on, but by the end the game had long since finished as a contest.
Yes, the Dons should have won by more, but with Gavin Bolger, Lee Passmore and Joe Sheerin all absent and Oakins and Readings carrying injuries the display showed the depth of the talent Terry Eames has assembled. And with displays like this from Mehmet, the future looks bright. Bring on Wallingford.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Mehmet Mehmet.