Match report by Geoff Sullivan
For those arriving at a grey clouded and wind-bitten Kingsmeadow expectations were high, how many we would get was the question in most people's minds, rather than will we win. With Viking Greenford producing only a single win in 38 games, a 'goals against' tally of 153 goals and virtually a league table between themselves and Wimbledon in terms of position, it wasn't hard to see why a feast of goals was anticipated.
Greenford won the toss and elected to play attacking the Academy end, obviously believing hoping that the wind direction would give them a first half advantage. But from the whistle the Dons began a relentless series of attacks on the Greenford goal beginning with a neat interchange between Graham and Russell that immediately won what was to be the first of a series of corner kicks. Sullivan's subsequent corner was met with a rising header from Ally Russell that went just over the bar.
With play now being completely in one direction only, toward the Greenford goal, attacks were mounted on the left by a Bassey-Sullivan combination, on the right by Lee Sidwell and through the centre by Graham, Bolger and Russell, Greenford were being run ragged. A goal was inevitably and it came on the third minute from a Sullivan corner that was neatly met and completed by Matt Everard, heading into the top of the net. To the Greenford goalkeeper, collecting the ball from the back of the net must have become a formality judging by their past results, but when accompanied but the celebrations and jeers of 'you not very good' being hurled by over 2500 fans behind him, followed by the loudspeakers bellowing out something akin to circus music, the man was clearly phased by the moment.
The pressure continuing with neat moves by Graham and Russell, the speed and agility of Sidwell on the right and the link up between the terrible twins, Sullivan and Bassey, with the Greenford defence giving away corner after corner. It was from one of these numerous corners, in the fourteenth minute, that the second goal was produced with Sullivan delivering a perfect ball which was met again by a rising Everard and neatly headed between the goalkeeper's outstretched arms and the top left hand corner of the goal. Crowd approval and Circus music, Dons were cruising, we awaiting the tidal wave.
With more chances were being created as the half progressed, it was only close man marking on Cooper, who seemed to have problems remaining on his feet, that stopped a rout. With Greenford being denied, through the efforts of Ward and Everard, the chance to mount a serious attack, their first attack on goal came after nearly fifteen minutes with a subsequent momentary lapse of concentration by Mark Nicholas when passing back to Ray Merry giving them a corner, which was safety defended.
The Dons continued to pressurise the Greenford defence with runs on the left and right wings by Sullivan and Sidwell respectively and with Graham particularly impressive in a midfield role feeding balls to Russell and Sullivan. But two nil up and with little being offered by Greenford in way of counter pressure, the Dons moved into cruise control and for a while Greenford were able to bring the ball out of there half, although Merry must have felt more like a spectator as there were absolutely no clear attempts on his goal.
Wimbledon continued the half with attack and counter attack producing some good saves by Derek Lewis the Greenford goalkeeper, one in particularly stopping a stinging Graham shot. This appeared to restore some of the keeper's confidence as there were a number of saves now being made, although the Dons failure to capitalise on some good forward movement was typified in thirty-second minute when Keith Ward from no more than three yards from the goal line and only fresh air to beat thundered the ball over the goal. The Greenford defence seemed to be holding on and despite the superior fitness and general football skills of the Dons they remained fairly resolute, much to their credit.
The inevitable first card of the game came ten minutes before half time when a two-footed tackle by Greenford's Ben Tacon felled Graham just inside the Greenford half, and although most thought this act worthy of red, a yellow card was shown.
With the Dons cruise control moving to a lower gear, the game had slowed considerably, with Greenford able to mute play to their benefit. There were further clear goal chances missed by Russell and Cooper, Cooper just didn't seem to be able to stamp his influence the game, and just before half time another excellent save made by the Greenford keeper, reacting quickly to a shot from Russell. The two added minutes made no difference to the score and the first half was completed.
With Bassey being replaced by Neil Robson, the second half started off much in the same way as the beginning of the first half. Any chance Greenford may have harboured in producing come back was given short shift, when after one minute of the half a neat pass from Cooper on the right allowed Sidwell to shoot wide of the keeper and into the right hand side of the goal.
The Dons fourth goal followed shortly afterwards and was probably the most bizarre seen by this reporter. An aborted attack by the Dons resulted in the ball gently rolling towards the Greenford goal, but with the Greenford defence for some reason unwilling to perform a simple clearance it was it was left to the keeper, standing hands on hips, to watch the ball rolled serenely over the goal line, to roars of laughter by Dons fans behind the goal. Clearly this will be one of softest goals that will be gifted, with Russell being the last Don to touch the ball it was duly awarded to him. Unnecessarily just a minute later, Ally was yellow carded for kicking the ball away after Greenford had been awarded a free kick.
Apart from a few back kicks from his defence, probably done just to make him feel that he was in the game, Merry had little to do as play remained resolutely within the Greenford half, providing the Dons with a golden opportunity to practice passing skills, which they duly obliged. At one stage the ball was passed over fourteen times between players without a Greenford player touching it. The replacement of Graham by Noel Frankum, in the seventy-fifth minute, raised the tempo of the game for a few minutes again slipping back to an exhibition of neat and precise passing between Dons players.
There were further goal attempts, corners now being given away by the Greenford defence as if free gifts with every attack, with Robson producing a stunning run, weaving though the Greenford defence from half way in the Wimbledon half to let fire a thundering shot just outside the Greenford penalty area, met with a good save from the Keeper. Just minutes later, this being followed by a central run by Sullivan to Frankum whose half volley struck the top bar.
With twenty minutes left and the game again moving into cruise control Greenford started to make a series of rare incursions into the Dons half, but all attempts were resolutely handled and muted by Ward and Everard. To their credit and although being completely overrun and showing in the case of some of their players lack of fitness, Greenford were managing to contain the score line.
There was a light-hearted moment in the closing stages of the game when Greenford bought on their secret weapon in the shape of one Dean Richards, whose commitment seemed to match his physical stature as he attempted to rally his team in a final effort to assault the Wimbledon goal. Unfortunately for Greenford, his attempt at lifting spirits was short lived but his presence on the field did bring a period of light relief, subsequently followed by a standing ovation from the Dons fans as he left the pitch. Dean perhaps summarised Greenford that afternoon, although hopeless outplayed lacking in physical fitness in some areas, they played to the final whistle and didn't give up.
With the match drawing to a conclusion, the Dons produced what was the goal of the match, precise cross from the influential Robson from just outside of the penalty area was met by Nicholas and a perfectly timed header directed clinically into the top right hand corner of the goal. Five goals to nil.
Although the expected cricket score result didn't materialise, Wimbledon proved to be in a class very much above that of Greenford, producing a very one-sided match. But credit has to go to Greenford, clearly intimidated by the size of the crowd and out played on every part of the pitch, they came to Kingsmeadow to make a game of it as opposed to some of the tactics of recent visiting teams.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Matt Everard. Two goals and as an excellent captain's role both in motivating the team and ensuring a solid defence was maintained.
Credit also due to Sullivan and Sidwell, whose runs on the wing beat the Greenford defence on so many occasions and Robson, whose second half presence produced some lively runs and made the Nicholas goal.