Match report by Adam Russell.
AFC Wimbledon kept the winning momentum going ahead of next week's clash with promotion rivals Withdean, with a good win against Chessington & Hook United - on the worst pitch I've ever seen! The playing surface was covered heavily in sand, and extremely bumpy. It would have made even Chelsea proud of their beachy effort at Stamford Bridge a few weeks back.
The Dons welcomed the exciting signing of Matt Everard to the centre of the defence. Terry had been after the defender for months, so it was pleasing to see someone as highly rated as the Ash departee stepping into the troubled Dons defence. He was to form a promising partnership at the back with Danny Oakins for this match, and could well be the answer to our disorganisation at the back. Of course, only time will tell. It was difficult to gauge how we'll cope with Withdean given the one-sided display the crowds flocked to see at a cold Chalky Lane. The Dons also took the opportunity to show off their new third kit ahead of it's Friday 21 February launch- and very nice it is, too.
The overall organisation by Chessington & Hook off the field was commendable. A beer tent was brought in, as seems to be the norm for our games, but Chessington also tarmaced the terracing all the way round to stop a Wallingford style mud fest many were anticipating. The crowd were also mysteriously segregated, or so it seemed - though probably more to do with the fact the teams normally have to run through the crowd to get to the pitch, than any security concerns.
Match wise, the Dons started brightly, with the Chessington centre-half having to block an early Oakins drive and then Cooper's free kick missing its target. A further shot by the Dons saw their goalie tip the effort over the bar, but was unseen by the ref and Chessington were given a goal kick. Bah. So far only 6 minutes had gone - if I were to write about all of the Dons half chances in the match this report would be 3 pages long!
Chessington & Hook threatened the Wimbledon goal a few minutes later, when Everard made his first contribution, fouling a Hook player on the right wing, but the Dons' defence easily dealt with the cross. Everard was to play throughout the match and was very solid, though he picked up a booking midway through the second half for an infringement on a Hook forward. The Chessington chance was one of only a few in the entire game. Wimbledon were playing well - Daly and Ward noticeable for supporting the wings well with some good runs, and Bolger and Sidwell were both putting in lively displays in midfield. Several half chances came and went for the Dons, but we were unable to break the deadlock. One other moment of note in the first thirty minutes was when Oakins stood up chest to chest with the Chessington no.11, who subsequently fell over, much to his embarrassment and to the laughter of the crowd. Hilarious.
On 30 minutes, a golden opportunity arrived for Wimbledon to take the lead. Sheerin was bought down on the edge of the Chessington box, and Oakins lined up the free kick. A low effort came off the wall, but came loose to Bolger inside the box who then blazed over the crossbar when it was easier to put it on target. A dreadful clearance on the resulting goal kick gave Passmore the chance to feed Cooper, who hit a shot just wide of the left hand post, and Cooper missed again a few minutes later after a set up from Oakins. Four or five half chances for Coops, and many would expect one to go in. As a result, when the half time whistle blew, some of the crowd were slightly anxious that it were still a draw after so much Dons possession.
Second half, much of the same - but with 3 goals to boot!
Although it was still mostly Dons, there was only one notable chance in the first ten, with Uncle Wardy firing a shot wide from outside the box. However, it wasn't long to wait until we finally breached the Chessington goal. A Sullivan cross from the left was headed across the goal by Sidwell, Chessington managed to get a head to it first and clear, but the ball fell to Cooper at the edge of the box and he brilliantly finished with a low drive to the keeper's right, to put us on our way. It was a good finish from the birthday boy (who had his birthday the day before), and he went over and hugged one of the crowd in a joyous celebration.
It's been known for us to hit a shaky period after going a goal up, but apart from a seven minute spell in which Shims had to perform an acrobatic cat-like save from a Chessington shot, there was no other threat towards Shimell's goal. Shimell has had two very quiet games recently, action-wise at least, reminiscent of the earlier winning run in the season when Merry kept three clean sheets without having to do much. Personally, I'd be very happy if Shimell can get another clean sheet next week without having to do much again!
Up the other end of the pitch, Wimbledon had good chances falling to Bolger, with a one-on-one straight at the keeper, and Sheerin had two chances but from extremely tight angles meant he had limited options and failed to find a team mate to finish the play off. With ten minutes left, Sheerin made way for the Argentinian-like Neil Robson. Robson gave us a fresh pair of legs in the last ten, which we benefited from greatly.
With 5 minutes to the final whistle, Cooper put the result beyond doubt. A Sullivan dribble past two or three of the Chessington defence saw him tackled in the box, but the loose ball came to Coops on the right hand side and he drilled another shot low and left to put us 2-0 up. Some of the crowd, no doubt half frozen by now, decided it would be a good time to leave. More fool them, as there was still a goal to go in this game.
Injury time, and Cooper was held back by a defender - a penalty was duly awarded. Cooper took it, only to see the advancing goalie, who was 4 yards off his line by the time the ball was kicked, save his effort. The rebound fell to Sidwell, who thrashed the ball into the back of the net, but the referee decided the kick should be retaken, and Cooper duly disposed with his second attempt to complete a hat-trick and send the fans away happy.
Overall - another good performance. The defence was hardly tested, so it is difficult to assess Everard's contribution, but there were impressive displays from many members of the side. Both full backs supported the wingers well, and the midfield were outstanding, playing the ball about well on a very difficult surface. Sheerin seems to be getting more on form as each week goes by, and it's only a matter of time until he starts hitting the net on a regular basis again. Not much needs to be said about Cooper, as three more goals propels him further up the goal scorers table.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Kevin Cooper. Could have got at least one in the first half, but he still done OK I guess!