AFC Wimbledon held on to a one-nil lead for over an hour to ensure their place in the FA Cup second qualifying round draw on Monday.
The Dons? first game at this stage for thirty years saw around 1,500 traveling fans make the trip to The Crabble, contributing to a noisy and passionate crowd of 2,103 which added to the sense of occasion. Both sets of supporters got behind their team throughout the match and Wimbledon fans enjoyed the exchange of banter with a sizeable opposition support, something they haven?t experienced for a long time.
Wimbledon started with an unfamiliar look, Robert Ursell accompanying Richard Butler up front in front of a tough central midfield of Bolger, Gell and Bates, with Gray and Gibson filling the wingback roles. Two on-loan Crystal Palace scholars, Wilson and Conroy, joined Antony Howard in defence to complete the team.
The first half started as it was to continue, with uncompromising challenges from both sides. The first of eight cautions went to Dover?s Dale Skelton, joined in the book by teammate Craig Cloke ten minutes later. Chris Gell was the first Wimbledon player whose name was taken, and Gavin Bolger was booked for a challenge on Whites keeper Paul Hyde, though it was difficult to see exactly what contact had been made. Dons fans were bemused by the yellow card shown to Ryan Gray at the same time as Shaun Welford was booked for his foul on the Dons wingback, and to complete the set, Tom Hickman made it 4-3 to Dover on 37 minutes.
Between the bookings, there was football as well. Cloke shot high and wide for Dover on six minutes after a well-worked corner. Shortly afterwards, an Ursell backheel on the left led to Gray?s cross, which eventually came out to Bates, who dragged his shot just wide from the edge of the box. On 25 minutes Ursell put a pinpoint pass through to Butler in the penalty area, who shot low and hard into the Dover net, the ball crossing the line just before Whites defender Hamshare connected with it.
Cloke?s long powerful throws for Dover caused some trouble all through the match, with Danny Naisbitt having to make a double save, parrying Wilkins?s flick-on and then scurrying to collect the ball himself on the edge of the box.
Shortly before half time Hyde was replaced having aggravated a thigh injury. Dover made another substitution at the break, bringing on Smissen and going to a three-man front line. The Dons? defence remained solid, however, and the Whites struggled to provide any serious threat to the Dons? lead.
Wimbledon twice thought they had added to their one-goal lead in the second half, both efforts chalked off by an assistant?s late flag. Appeals for what appeared to be a stonewall penalty, for a foul on Butler, were waved away by the referee, who seemed to think Humphrey had played the ball rather than the man.
Butler?s frustration got the better of him soon afterwards and he was booked for kicking the ball against the advertising hoardings after being pulled up yet again by the whistle.
Chris Gell missed badly after some great work by Butler on the left, picking himself up after a foul and retrieving the ball from a seemingly hopeless position, then pulling the ball back only to see the Dons midfielder put his shot well over.
Sheerin replaced Ursell on 79 minutes and the Dons did their best to run the clock down, sending the ball into the corners for the front men to hold up. Dover made another change on 83 minutes, bringing Wright on for Wilkins, and used Cloke?s long throw again and again to try to force a late equalizer. Roddis for Wimbledon replaced the hard-working Bolger on 87 minutes and added some fresh legs and composure to the middle of the park, and although Dover hustled and bustled right through to the final whistle, it was to be Wimbledon?s day.