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Saturday 14 August 2004
Ryman League, Division One

AFC Wimbledon    5 - 1    Ashford Town
Richard Butler (23)
Jamie Taylor (26)
Steve Butler (31)
Richard Butler (48)
Jamie Taylor (73)
  (21) Matt Bower
 Danny Naisbitt 1 John Whitehouse 
 Michael Woolner 2 Tom Adlington (sub 67) 
 Ryan Gray 3  
 Antony Howard 4 Martin Anderson 
( 45)  Matt Everard 5 Matt Bower 
(sub 72)  Steve Butler 6 Joe Wade 
 Robert Ursell 7 Michael Azzopardi 
 Gavin Bolger 8 Yomi Dada 
(sub 62)  Richard Butler 9 Paul Jones 
(sub 84)  Jamie Taylor 10 Joby Thorogood (sub 55) 
 Chris Gell 11 Tom Evans 
(sub 72)  Gareth Graham 12 Barry Gardner 
 Paul Smith 13  
(sub 84)  Martin Randall 14 Pat Kingwell 
(sub 62)  Joe Sheerin 15 Will Taol 
 Steve Gibson 16 Lee Blackman (sub 55) 

Match report

The Dons cruised to a comfortable 5-1 victory in their opening Ryman League fixture. Having fallen behind early on despite dominating the game, Wimbledon roared back to indicate that their impressive pre-season form could be replicated in the heat of league action.

The familiar 3-5-2 formation saw Everard, Steve Butler and Howard at the back, Woolner and Gray as the wide men, with Bolger, Gell and Ursell in the middle and Taylor and Richard Butler up front.

Dave Anderson has explained the need for dogs as well as wizards, but the whole team set their stall out to work hard: flair man Ursell harrying, rushing and diving into tackles in the opening few minutes. He was in more familiar mode on six minutes after good set-up play from Bolger, sending in a wicked curling cross that Whitehouse punched off Everard?s head.

Ursell then shot wide when perhaps a lay-off to Gray was the better option and a swivelling Taylor tried to turn a Richard Butler cross goalwards, but his weak connection was easily gathered by Whitehouse.

But despite the first 20 minutes belonging entirely to the home side, it was the visitors who took the lead with practically their first attack. Matt Bower pounced after some confusion in the Dons area to steer a shot into the far corner of the net off Naisbitt?s arm.

A minute later it was 1-1. Bolger?s shot was only half-saved and, as the ball ping-ponged around the goalmouth, Richard Butler smashed it in gleefully from five yards to open his Wimbledon account.

The Dons then took the lead three minutes later as Taylor swivelled on a long through-ball and planted a precise volley into the bottom corner. Butler then dispossessed a dithering defender but shot at Whitehouse and Taylor?s follow-up header rebounded off the post.

On 31 minutes the scoreline finally reflected the yellow-and-blue superiority. From another corner, Everard?s header would probably not have made it inside the far post, but Steve Butler came crashing through to power it home from no more than two yards. Standing there with clenched fists raised to the West Bank he clearly enjoyed the moment.

Quite how more weren't added in the first 45 minutes was anyone?s guess. Taylor shot just over, great skill from Ursell culminated in a square ball that was cleared and Richard Butler had a shot held by Whitehouse. Right on half-time, a further Everard header from a corner was only just clawed away by the keeper after a touch from Taylor. Everard was booked by the referee for an accidental collision as the Ashford keeper went down theatrically.

Within three minutes of the restart it was 4-1. Whitehouse saved Woolner?s shot and the right wing-back and Ursell saw their follow-ups blocked. But the ball squirmed left to Richard Butler, who made no mistake in hammering the ball across the despairing keeper and inside the far post for his brace.

Ursell drove just wide from a Richard Butler pull-back and Bolger smashed a shot across Whitehouse and narrowly wide as the Dons threatened a rout. Joe Sheerin entered the fray in place of Richard Butler and the Dons continued to dominate. Ursell curled a free-kick onto the crossbar and the home superiority was so total that Everard attempted a 30 yard piledriver. It fizzed wide and the ghost of Seb Favata must have been smiling over the Athletics End.

The fifth goal, when it finally came on 73 minutes, was the pick of the bunch. Bolger, substitute Gareth Graham and Ursell combined to set up Taylor, who fired a rocket shot into the top-left corner of the net off the outside of his boot to seal a superb demolition job.

There could easily have been more in the last 17 minutes, including Taylor and Sheerin sending good opportunities wide, but with five goals already netted and the home side rampant, few in a plus-3,000 crowd felt like complaining. They were, after all, treated to some wonderful build-up play and a small selection of Ursell's tricks, culminating in a drag-back-cum-flick-cum-step-over which tee-ed up Woolner for a cross.

One suspects tougher challenges than Ashford Town lie in wait during the season ahead, but this comprehensive victory not only ensured that Wimbledon took their unbeaten league run to 63 games, but suggested that Dave Anderson?s side can look forward to making a second successive promotion challenge.

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