Match report by Peter Proto.
You know it's going to be one of those days when 15 minutes before the game, Tall Mark asks if you could do the match report. Suddenly you see yourself as a budding Henry Winter (Daily Telegraph football reporter for those of you who don't know), who with remarkable clarity and a complete lack of bias is able to transform the deeds on the pitch into the sports pages. Unfortunately it's not going to happen here - instead I give you the ramblings of an anorak.
Before I give you my words of wisdom, let me first give a mention to Peter Leng, who is over for this and next week's games (his first AFC games), and is currently flying the AFC flag in Singapore.
On to the game. For the first 15 minutes the supporters in the stand behind the goal in the first half were in good voice, initially spurred on by a first minute corner. This slowly diminished as the realisation dawned that the team were still trying to acquaint themselves with each other after the Christmas festivities. Mark Nicholas and Tony Readings appearing to believe that mutual communication was a cautionable offence.
We were in the first half poor, offering very little threat even though we had lots of the ball. Chipstead to their credit had a game plan. Get 8 men behind the ball and hoof it upfield in the direction of Nolan and O'Malley beyond our defenders. This occurred on 3 or 4 occasions causing alarm bells to ring.
We never appear to learn until disaster strikes. Cue the 42th minute. Long punt out of defence ball bounces behind hesitant central defenders. Off goes Nolan, one-on-one with a hesitant Shimell. 0-1.
It doesn't take too much to guess what Terry said in his gentle half time whisper, as the 2nd half started with us showing far more urgency. The 52nd minute saw 3 great chances in 30 seconds, Bolger twice and Cooper having 2 efforts saved and the third a header narrowly passing the wrong side of the upright.
We were getting the upper hand, when in the 55th minute, a Chipstead midfielder threaded a diagonal ball from the left side of the centre circle forwards, the angle of the pass defeated Readings attempt at stopping it with a desperate back-heel, leaving Nolan again bearing down on goal and duly dispatching the ball into the net…aagh 0-2.
55 minutes gone, and the Chipstead glory seekers were giving it large.
Step forward Keith Ward. Within 3 minute he drove forward and dispatched a long- range rocket tipped over for a corner. This galvanized the Dons and in the 60th minute arrears were reduced when another Sullivan corner from the left was cleared out beyond the back post to Kevin Cooper who's jinked cross was met with a powerful header from 5 yards by Uncle Wardy who celebrated in customary style. 1-2.
We were now in the ascendancy, the equaliser began to look more and more likely as the Dons fans turned up the volume and duly arrived in the 76th minute. Another Sullivan corner on the left was missed by everybody except Mark Nicholas positioned beyond the far post who brought the ball done and from 12 yards blasted an unstoppable thunderbolt through a ruck of bodies into the net. Cue mayhem 2-2.
Now the Chipstead glory seekers were quiet, their team knew that the writing was on the wall, and within 4 minutes it was. Oakins drove forwards towards the heart of the Chipstead defence evading a couple of tackles the ball broke in the melee to Andrew Petty who was able to help it forwards into the box where Joe Sheerin reacting quickest of all was able to flick the ball over the onrushing diving keeper into the net 3-2 delirium.
The remainder of the game was played out with us in control making and missing chances, whilst the Chipstead forward threat was with one exception easily contained.
The final whistle was greeted with a huge outpouring of joy by the fans and the team. 3-2 what a team, what a 2003 it promises to be.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Danny Oakins