Match report by Nick P.
After the reletive comfort of Kingsmeadow, and the picturesque meadows (or muddy fields depending on time of year) of just about every other club, we came to Feltham Arena.
Although a 10,000 capacity ground with an artificial pitch sounded imposing, in reality it wasn't. In fact, had the old Wimbledon not been denied European football, this was the sort of place we might have visited in a pre qualifying round in Poland.
A large (ish) main stand had fallen in disrepair, and was used as a terrace by the large travelling support. The other 3 sides were grassy hills, and then there was the pitch – an astroturf playing surface, probably the only one in the country to have divots! Rusty and broken American Football posts rose behind each goal.
On to the game, the Feltham players were clearly up for this one, as early as the 3rd minute their no.10 Lovett was squaring up to Matt Everard. This was followed minutes later by midfielder Hickey appearing to stamp as he challenged for the ball.
Feltham had the better of the opening play as the Dons found their feet on the unfamiliar surface, but in the 13th minute Noel Frankum had the game's first shot on target. The next quarter of an hour was all Wimbledon pressure, with Sheerin forcing keeper Ryder into a good save, further attacks were repelled by a slightly shaky defence, with Ryder not always convincing in the air.
In the 28th minute, Feltham scored with only their second attempt on goal – a fine shot by Clarke from the corner of the box looped over the fully stretched Merry.
Feltham continued to battle, no.7 Hickey again getting away from some dubious tackles, with studs up. The referee didn't seem to mind though. Although he wasn't fussy like some of the CCL refs he rarely ventured from the centre circle, and therefore missed things.
In the 39th minute, a corner, forced by the impressive Bolger, was met with a powerful header from Everard for his first goal since joining Wimbledon. The scores were level as the half ended.
The second half started with a fierce Robson drive which flew way over the bar. It appeared God had taken offence to being hit with a football as the sky immediately darkened and there was a 5 minute downpour. The uncovered skeletal structure above the main stand posing as a roof did not prevent everyone getting soaked, in fact it made things worse as we all got dripped on long after the rain had stopped.
Back on the ‘pitch' Sheerin was called narrowly offside when clean through, before in the 59th minute, Bolger hit a superb shot from outside the area which sailed over the keeper and into the back of the net for 2-1.
This stung Feltham, who really should have equalised straight from the restart, but the header flashed wide. However, you could sense tiredness creeping in as they ran out of ideas. The game went a little flat as Wimbledon kept possession without really testing the home side, except for a 30 yard Cooper effort that went just over.
On 71 minutes Cooper was replaced by Petty, who looked like he had been on the kebabs since we last saw him vs Westfield. Maybe Terry had told him to bulk up a bit, either way he looked lively with the Feltham defence struggling to contain him.
Two substitutions by Feltham failed to make an impact, and as their frustration grew, Hickey finally received a booking for a blatant bodycheck on Sullivan.
In the 80th minute, Passmore came on for Frankum, and a few minutes later another Bolger shot flashed narrowly over. Although the referee managed to find 6 minutes of injury time, he finally located his whistle, much to the delight of Terry and the players, and almost all the 1,310 crowd. Victory here was certainly a banana skin avoided.
Overall, an excellent performance. Not only did Wimbledon largely outplay Feltham, they also battled for every ball which was nice to see. Everard and Daly, in their first pairing in the centre of defence, looked strong and confident, and soaked up pressure from the potentially dangerous Feltham strikers. Robson had a good game continuing at right back, and I should also mention Dave Towse who played well at left back in his first game since September. Frankum & Bolger were excellent in midfield.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Gavin Bolger - superb goal, could have had a couple more and never stopped running. Just shaded it over Matt Everard.