Match report by Tom Chapman.
After an away game that bore more resemblance to a demolition derby than a football match, the football purists will have journeyed to Kingsmeadow with a sense of trepidation. The match was certainly not without incident.
Petty made only his second league start, partnering Sheerin up front, while Bassey returned to the team after a long suspension, slotting in at left back, with Daly moving to centre back. The game started off brightly, with Petty just failing to get on the end of a long throw after the Southall defence were caught napping. Turner, the Southall keeper, seemed to have been taking kicking lessons from Neil Sullivan, as he struggled to clear even his backline with his goal kicks. The first real chance of the match fell to the Dons, when a Sheerin pass put Petty through on goal, but Turner smothered the danger and Southall were able to clear. Meanwhile at the other end, Robinson was looking lively, although his shooting was wild to say the least.
Any doubts about Southall's desire for a scrap evaporated when Bassey and Donal O'Sullivan tangled in an off the ball incident. O'Sullivan was yellow carded, as was Oakins, who got involved in the subsequent pushing and shoving. Shortly after this, Eagle appeared to stamp on Sullivan, leaving him writhing on the ground, yet the referee chose only to caution the Southall player. From the resultant free-kick, Oakins drove a fierce shot low towards the Southall goal, forcing a fine save from Turner. The referee further endeared himself to the vocal Dons support when he awarded Southall two dubious free kicks, leading to a corner from which Donal O'Sullivan headed just wide. Five minutes before the break, Sheerin found himself with space just inside the Southall penalty area, but blasted a difficult chance over the bar. In the last action of the half, Southall burst forward on the counter-attack, but a sloppy pass from Robinson ended the move.
Half time saw temperatures plummet; and at times in the second half it felt more like the Antarctic. One could certainly be forgiven for thinking that the curious creatures in black and white were penguins, not match officials. After Mr Eames' usual words of half time wisdom, the Dons started the second half strongly, and almost scored after just two minutes, as the ball ricocheted around in the Southall six yard box. A clear handball by a Southall player went unnoticed, and Southall were eventually able to clear. A few minutes later, the persistence of Bolger created a shooting opportunity for Petty, but he skied the ball over the bar. AFC Wimbledon were to rue their misses.
After 60 minutes Bangura found himself one on one with Shimell, and he made no mistake as he tucked it away. Worse was to follow 15 minutes later as Moses waltzed though the Dons midfield, and laid it off to Donal O'Sullivan who calmly lobbed it over the helpless Shimell. Things looked bleak. Cooper was brought on to replace Sullivan and played wide left, while Russell, an earlier substitute for Sheerin, played up front with Petty. The change almost paid immediate dividends, as Cooper and Russell combined to set up Petty, who shot straight at the keeper. A few minutes later, Cooper was rugby tackled in the area as the ball was played in. The ever alert referee realised that this isn't strictly legal and a penalty was duly awarded. Cooper stepped up and drove the ball low past the keeper. 2-1 and ten minutes left on the clock. The West Bank roared, the Dons poured forward, and the Southall defence buckled. A cross from the left was headed down by Russell and Passmore was on hand to steer the ball past the hapless keeper. Southall were on the ropes. With just two minutes of normal time to play, Petty charged down another woeful clearance from the Southall keeper, and it fell to Cooper, who had only to pass the ball into an empty net. Barratt had other ideas, and he cynically scythed down Cooper from behind. Barratt was given a straight red, but the Southall lead had been preserved. Few felt that justice had been done. The Dons continued to press, with Russell in particular going close, but the winner proved to be just out of reach.
Neither team will be particularly pleased with the draw. In truth this is the type of match that AFC Wimbledon should be winning if promotion is to be achieved. A fantastic last ten minutes can't hide the defensive inadequacies that have dogged the team over the course of the season. Still, never a dull day at Kingsmeadow.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Kevin Cooper - for his stunning cameo role.