Match report by Graham Kendall.
A golden opportunity to put pressure on AFC Wallingham was missed as a crowd of 2,578 saw the Dons lose at home for the second time this season.
The Dons had strung together an amazing league run of 10 wins in a row and this game along with the one coming up on Saturday against the Wallies were seen as the litmus test for how well we will do this season. Although both sides had lost their previous games in the Combined Counties Challenge Cup on Saturday, Feltham were seen as tough opposition who have climbed the table in recent weeks. Feltham currently in fifth place and had won their last three league games, including Southall who had dumped us out of the cup on Saturday.
The weather didn't look too good and I had visions of another wet evening, but thankfully the rain stopped prior to kick-off and held off for the rest of the evening. Whilst sitting in the main stand, I looked around at my fellow supporters and thought that most were keyed up but expectant for this important match. It was reassuring to see Joe Sheerin warming up before the game and that he has timed his recovery perfectly for this and Saturday's match. It was also the first chance for the Dons fans to view new signing Luke Milner making his debut on the left wing.
Feltham kicked off and quickly AFC Wimbledon put the opposition under pressure. With only a minute or so on the watch, Keith Ward hit the bar and in the ensuing melee the keeper did well to gather under pressure from Ali Russell. A few minutes later Russell released Kevin Cooper on the right, who evaded his marker and his shot in the area was parried by the keeper for a corner. Although AFC Wimbledon easily had the better of the early exchanges, Feltham started to come into it more as the half progressed, they had a good chance through their striker Danny Lovatt and it was only Keith Ward's saving tackle on the edge of the Dons area that prevented potential disaster.
The game started to get a little scrappy and after the Referee had failed to deal with a foul on Neil Robson by the Feltham no 8, Tom Hickey; Mr Robson took retribution and got a yellow card for his troubles. Both sides went close in the last ten minutes, Feltham's Lovatt failed to get his head to dangerous cross and a few minutes later at the other end a loose ball was spilled by the Feltham keeper and Russell's effort went wide. The half finished with another booking, this time for Feltham's McConigly whose late challenge on Danny Oakins fully merited a caution.
In my rush to make sure I got a seat near the halfway line, I hadn't picked up a programme on the way in, but I rectified this at half-time when our famous female programme seller walked by. I would like to give a special mention to all the programme sellers and to everyone else who do a great job on match days.
The Dons made a change at half time, with Sully coming on for debutante Luke Milner who had had a difficult first half. AFC Wimbledon kicked off attacking the West Stand and went close immediately with an Oakins's cross that was headed wide by Ali Russell. Oakins again was at the heart of things as he got his own back on Feltham's McConigly, who was substituted, following Danny's firm challenge. Although we were putting pressure on Feltham, we were always leaving ourselves open to the quick break and on no less than four occasions in the first fifteen minutes of the second half; they nearly pulled it off. Feltham's quick strikers were putting our full backs under a lot of pressure.
Virtually on the hour, Joe Sheerin came on to replace Ali Russell, making his first appearance since limping off against Godalming & Guildford and almost made an impact straight away. He picked up the ball inside his own half, ran 40 yards beating two defenders for pace and it was only saving tackle in the penalty area that prevented him going all the way.
On 73 minutes, Feltham got the only goal of the game. It started from a corner, the ball wasn't cleared by the Dons and it was stabbed home by Feltham's number six, Marcello Fernandes. Personally I think the goal shouldn't have happened, as there was a lot of Feltham players pushing and jostling in the area when the corner ball came into the area. The Referee who did make one or two strange decisions during the evening didn't see what I saw.
Terry Eames after the goal made an immediate change and brought on Gavin Bolger for Lee Passmore. AFC Wimbledon went on the offensive looking for the equaliser and Bolger had an effort that went just wide. With a few minutes remaining, the Don's poured forward and it was only desperate defending and blocking by Feltham that they managed to retain their lead, in fact they nearly snatched a second goal at the death as a Feltham header was deflected over the Glynn Shimmel's bar.
When the final whistle blew, it signalled the end of a great run of wins in the league. Feltham were one of the best and well organised teams that we have played this season and looked like they could be the fifth contender for the title alongside ourselves, Ash, Withdean and the Wallies. We lost because we didn't fully master the midfield and didn't create many clear cut chances.
The fans leaving the ground knew that a great chance to put AFC Wallingford under pressure had gone and that the Dons must pick themselves up and win on Saturday.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Neil Robson, never stopped running and working.