Match report by Corin Tibbetts-Harlow.
Not only was it the Winter Solstice, and very cold indeed, but the rather humble Walton Casuals home ground was situated right next to a river. Thus, the heavy fog and rain. If it hadn’t been for the marvellous display that AFC Wimbledon put on, which helped to take the fans minds off the unnatural colour that their fingers were turning, one would probably have preferred to spend the afternoon being repeatedly hit around the head with a heavy, blunt object. But this is slightly unfair. Walton Casuals did make an effort, by providing beer tents and a burger bar, although with the latter, they seem to have thought that we had brought Desperate Dan with us, as three large, and I mean LARGE, frying pans were sitting there, one that held at least 100 sausages!
However, it was Walton who were looking livelier for the first 10 minutes, passing well and pushing forward, but not getting anything on target. But soon, Wimbledon got on top, with Petty, Cooper and Daly causing trouble for Walton. However, when AFC Wimbledon took the lead after 25 minutes, it was none of these who finished with an excellently directed header into the bottom left hand corner but Walton’s very own no. 8, who met Cooper’s ball into the area with pure class. "Number 8, he’s a Womble!"
Shortly after, the Walton keeper went down with a leg injury, and his kicks slowly deteriorated. Wimbledon stayed on top, with Sidwell linking up well with Cooper and Robson, and making brilliant runs down the right wing. On 35 minutes, we were lucky enough to see something amazing. Cooper, in an attempt to control the ball, resorted to heading it! Twice! It seemed that Cooper had recovered, because 3 minutes later he received a good ball from Sidwell on the edge of the penalty area, turned well, and slotted it into the bottom left corner to make it 2-0.
Sidwell and Robson were causing all sorts of problems in the danger area, and on 46 minutes, Robson appeared to be pushed over inside the penalty area, and appealed in vain for a penalty. But just 3 minutes later, Daly was pulled down in the area after a great run, by Walton’s no. 5, and this time a penalty was awarded, and the offending player given his marching orders. Cooper placed it in the top right corner with no problem with the last kick of the half.
AFC Wimbledon started the second half very much on top, with Sidwell threading good balls through to Petty and Cooper. After 51 minutes, Cooper daintily skipped past the keeper, and shot, with the Walton defender making a majestic dive towards the ball with hands outstretched, managing to get a hand to it, but not prevent Cooper’s first AFC Wimbledon hat trick.
5 minutes later, Petty and Nicholas were replaced by Sheerin and Ward. Wimbledon kept piling on the pressure, with Sheerin and Oakins having good chances. After 70 minutes, Oakins started limping after a tackle, and was replaced by Passmore. Wimbledon were repeatedly denied by the Walton keeper, and soon after, no. 8 was given a second yellow for a high kick, and was sent off, to top a great personal game.
There was constant pressure from Wimbledon right to the death, with Sidwell really showing his class with more excellent runs down the wing, and was himself denied by the Walton keeper, who was making brilliant saves and preventing Wimbledon from turning the scoreline from one-sided to plain humiliating.
It took AFC Wimbledon until 90 minutes to make it 5-0, with Sean Daly scoring with a blistering drive which the Walton goalkeeper was unable to hold on to, low to his left.
The AFC Wimbledon fans left the ground cold, wet, and frostbitten, but happy with another good victory for the Dons.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Lee Sidwell