Match report by Edward Green.
An overcast sky saw AFC Wimbledon narrowly defeat local rivals Chessington United in a tense encounter by 4 goals to 3.
The game got off to a frenetic start and with only 2 minutes gone Chessington United took the lead through their number 9, Dave Pearson. The near-post header, conceded due to a badly defended corner led to general amazement within the ground and left the 15 – 20 Chessington United fans behind the goal in rapture. The frustration from this early goal was shown when Neil Robson had himself booked on 8 minutes. The Dons were not communicating especially well and were failing to find their normal passing rhythm. Couple this with Chessington’s aerial dominance and it looked as though we were in for a long afternoon.
On 11 minutes Chessington’s Pearson found himself one on one against Shimell and in acres of space just 18 yards out. However, his shot was well saved by the athletic Dons keeper. Half chances came and went during the next 10 minutes with neither side threatening very much. Cooper and Sheerin didn’t seem to be clicking as well as we have seen this season and many Wimbledon attacks petered out due to misunderstandings and badly placed passes. Chessington doubled their lead on 24 minutes and again demonstrated their aerial dominance as their 2nd corner of the game was poorly defended by the static Dons back line and Adam McCullagh stole in at the far post and nodded in from point blank range. The goal did not seem to spur the Dons on but they did managed to fashion a chance on 33 minutes when a cross from the left, which was missed by both Cooper and Sheerin, left Lee Sidwell all alone at the back post and with a gaping goal in front of him. He duly finished, to leave the dons trailing by just one and with a distinct glimmer of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Just 2 minutes later a buoyant AFC Wimbledon drew level. Gary Lyon’s overzealous challenge on Lee Passmore in midfield gave away a free kick and also got Lyon booked. The resulting kick was expertly floated over to the back post by Neil Robson and although it looked as if the ball was heading out, Danny Oakins amazingly hooked it back to leave Cooper 6 yards out and with a clear sight of goal. It would be stating the obvious to say that Coops’ finish was as clinical as they come.
The right-sided combination of Sidwell and Oakins continued to look dangerous against the shaky Chessington defence and with Sean Daly and Andy Sullivan also linking up well on the left, it was only a matter of time before the Wombles got their snouts in front. The yellow and blue clad aces were controlling matters but it was sad to see Joe Sheerin replaced by the livewire Andrew Petty on 39 minutes. The Wombles dominance was duly rewarded on 44 minutes when Mark Nicholas rose like a salmon above the floundering Chessington defence to meet Neil Robson’s deep corner and put the Dons 3 – 2 up. His joy was evident as his celebrations almost ended him up in the crowd. The mood inside Kingsmeadow was upbeat as Dons fans tucked into their half time burgers and hot drinks.
The 2nd half began with half chances coming and going, the best of which fell to Lee Sidwell on 68 minutes. Kevin Cooper’s shot from 18 yards was spilt by the goalkeeper, giving Sidwell a glorious chance, but his rebound effort was well saved. Chessington United’s 2nd half forays into the Dons territory were few and far between however they managed to find themselves an equaliser on 80 minutes when Joe Leonard somehow discovered himself with the ball and in the centre of the box with yards of space, he kept a cool head and finished well in the corner leaving the crowd extremely frustrated as yet again the Dons had failed to turn the screw against an inferior team. Something that has happened all too often this season.
Fortunately, Chessington’s ecstasy was short lived as just 2 minutes later Andy Sullivan jinked his way past two defenders and sent a teasing ball across the face of goal. Both strikers missed it as Lee Sidwell slid in at the far post and unselfishly cut it back for Cooper who made no mistake from 6 yards. An obviously dejected Chessington decided that in the closing minutes, they would turn the game sour with a series of stupid tackles on the womble aces. Both Lees were recipients of bad challenges and it was clear that the occasion had got to a few of the Chessington players.
The blowing of the final whistle, sparked both joy and relief from Dons faithful. The excellent game was enjoyed by all but we must learn to kill off teams like this better in future.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Lee Sidwell.