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Saturday 10 January 2004
Combined Counties League Premier Division

Sandhurst Town    2 - 2    AFC Wimbledon
Marc Boyle, (64)
Marc Boyle, (90)
  (21) Grant Nesbitt (og)
(39) Andy Sullivan
 Paul Cann 1 Matt Martin 
 Colin Bland 2 Simon Bassey (sub 79) 
(sub 46)  Kevin Brown 3 Darren Dobinson 
 Darren Wilson 4 Danny Oakins 
 Martyn Fairminer 5 Matt Everard ( 37) 
(sub 76) ( 54)  Andy Thomas 6 Andy Sullivan 
(sub 46)  James Smith 7 Seb Favata ( 54) 
 Grant Nesbitt 8 Gavin Bolger (sub 61) 
 Mark Anderson 9 Joe Sheerin (sub 79) 
 Marc Boyle, 10 Paul Scott 
 Ricky McNamara 11 Ryan Gray 
(sub 46)  Peter Mulvaney 12 Steve Gibson (sub 79) 
( 56) (sub 46)  Danny Wilde 14 Jamie Angell (sub 79) 
(sub 76)  Colin Hutchins 15 Lee Sidwell 
 Martin Edwards 16 Michael Harvey 
 Dean Matthews 17 Gareth Graham (sub 61) 

Match report

Sandhurst 2 - 2 AFC Wimbledon

I?d quite forgotten what it?s like to get into my car after an AFC Wimbledon game and reflect on a game that we haven?t won. Sensibly, I missed the Ilford London Senior Cup tie in September, so the last time I experienced anything other than a win in a competitive game was 10 months ago on March 15. Sitting in the car that day after watching an incredibly frustrating 90 minutes against Farnham I was amazed that we hadn?t won. Sitting in the car after seeing us throw away a two-goal lead yesterday, I was equally amazed.

On paper, a 2-2 draw away to the team in fourth is not that bad a result. But anyone who was at the game at Bottom Meadow will doubtless agree that the game should have been beyond Sandhurst at half-time.

A glance at the squad, as announced on the official site on Friday evening, wouldn?t have given the indication that five first regulars wouldn?t be starting. Kevin Cooper was rested to give him time to recover from a number of knocks accumulated over the last few weeks, but also absent from the starting line-up were Lee Carroll, Lee Sidwell, Harvey and Steve Gibson. Resting five of your first choice XI against one of the League?s form teams didn?t sound like the greatest idea and as it turned out, it wasn?t. (The Dons all took to the field wearing black armbands, but although it was rumoured to be to mark the departure of Noel Frankum that morning, it hadn?t been confirmed when I wrote this).

A quiet start from both sides was no great surprise, but Sandhurst?s quiet start lasted for more than an hour. For the Dons, Paul Scott in only his second start since joining in September, seemed to be attracting the ball even when he didn?t expect or want it, and his rangy style was causing Wilson and Fairminer at the heart of the Fizzers? defence all sorts of problems. However, as can be the case with Scott, his legs and feet don?t often get the message his brain is sending in time to do anything useful with the ball, and despite Favata, Bolger and Sullivan giving him plenty of opportunity to prove his worth, he more often than not chose the wrong option (if giving the ball away cheaply is indeed an option).

Slowly but surely the Dons began to exert more and more pressure on Cann?s goal. Only some surprisingly poor control from Joe Sheerin denied him a clear chance when Darren Dobinson?s chipped through-ball found him unmarked on the edge of the six yard box, and when a Sullivan cross was deflected out by Brown for a corner, the unfortunate Sandhurst striker Nisbett toe-poked into his own net under pressure from Matt Everard on 22 minutes. For the rest of the first half it was all AFC Wimbledon, but only a Sullivan penalty, awarded when Cann pushed Danny Oakins over at another corner, added to the tally, largely due to a succession of poor crosses and corners and some profligate finishing. Sheerin?s snapshot from 20 yards struck a post, Sullivan?s curler from slightly further out after some wing trickery was well-saved by Cann but it was Scott who was causing havoc. Three times he picked out a Sandhurst defender when finding a waiting team mate seemed to be easier, once when presented with the ball twice in the space of 10 seconds in the home side?s penalty area he fluffed horribly and the opportunity disappeared. His worst effort came just after Sullivan?s penalty, when with the goal at his mercy he lazily swung at the ball and sent an absolute sitter floating into the air, going off for a goal kick off the top of the bar. Had any of those chances been converted, the sort that Cooper would take with his eyes shut, then a 22nd consecutive league win this season would have been comfortably ours. A 2-goal lead was scant reward for completely dominating proceedings in which Simon Bassey was outstanding at right-back.

The second half was a completely different kettle of poisson. I can?t believe for a minute that Terry Eames? team talk centred around sitting back on a two goal lead, but that?s pretty much what happened. For the first time this season, the Dons were casual. Against some teams this would not have mattered, but Sandhurst are a different kind of side altogether, and they perhaps took umbrage at the Dons apparent lack of respect for them, and made them pay. Not that the visitors were without chances to miss, but Bolger?s fine 25 yard drive was superbly saved by Cann, and Scott carved out three opportunities for himself but shot weakly every time.

Did anyone actually say "I hope we don?t come to rue those misses"? If they did, their prophesy came true. How on earth Boyle?s 66th minute goal, finishing tidily when clean through on goal under pressure from Oakins and the advancing Matt Martin, could have signalled a frantic last 25 minutes is anyone?s guess. It should have been a consolation goal, but it was actually the spark to a fevered comeback by the home side who for the remaining half of the half showed why they had been on such a good run. In the first half they were a shambles, neglecting to even create a half chance for 27 goal striker Anderson. Favata was presented with a simple chance to put the game beyond the Fizzers when Scott worked a bit of unfathomable magic on the touchline and sent in a perfect low cross into the six yard box, but somehow Favata lifted his shot high over the bar from no more than two yards. Cue more rueing, and Sullivan?s volley from a deep cross that hit the side netting only served to make us think that we were destined to only score twice.

First Boyle?s 20 yard daisy cutter struck the outside of the post and then a series of corners caused far more danger than any of the Dons? had in the first half. Jamie Angell came on to shore up the midfield, from whom control had been wrested by Sandhurst. Favata, all ferocious energy in the first half, was starting to lose out to Thomas, and Gareth Graham, on for the injured Bolger, had only a fiercely struck free kick which was well saved by Cann to his name. Thoughts of the Dons? first meeting with Ash came flooding back, when they lost a 2-0 lead in the final 20 minutes. Would it happen again? Would we leave Sandhurst with nothing? Mulvaney?s shot from the edge of the box was well saved by Martin and Anderson finally had a chance that went wide, but it was Boyle?s header from another dangerous Wilde corner which beat Martin all ends up and made it 2-2, just 8 seconds from the end of the 90.

All credit to Sandhurst, their second half performance was well worth two goals, but they should have meant nothing, scant replies to the Dons? four, five or even six. The Dons only have themselves to blame that this was not the case.

MOTM: A reasonable performance from almost everyone without any being overly outstanding. Andy Sullivan was nearly back to his best, Everard and Oakins were steadier as a pair than of late and Darren Dobinson did absolutely nothing wrong in Harvey?s stead. However, my man of the match is Simon Bassey. For the first hour he was faultless and only lost his temper twice, neither of which resulted in a yellow card. Given much more to do in the further 14 minutes he was on the pitch, he was quite unlucky to be taken off, and perhaps moving him into the midfield when Gibbo came on, instead of bringing on Jamie Angell, a move that seemed to completely upset the Dons? already stuttering rhythm, might have been a better idea.

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