Like a Victorian builder, the Dons completed a two-up, two-down as their Bryco Cup adventure came to an end with a brave but ultimately unsuccessful performance at Slough Town.
Richard Butler passed a late fitness test to be included in the starting line-up, with Micky Woolner deemed fit enough for a place on the bench. Steve Butler wasn?t fit enough to be included, so Chris Gell kept the captain?s armband. Andrew Martin was absent cup-tied. Despite their fixture backlog and impending FA Trophy tie at Gravesend, hosts Slough fielded a full-strength side. The Dons lined up in an orthodox 4-4-2 to limit their hosts? attacking opportunities and provide a springboard for breaks of their own.
With three minutes gone Slough won their first corner and very nearly went one-nil up, as a header was somehow kept out by a combination of the woodwork, Paul Smith and a defensive block.
But it was a corner at the other end that broke the deadlock. Rob Ursell curled it in at waist height and Allaway came out to claim under little or no pressure. Somehow his attempt to clutch the ball resulted in his flicking it between his hands and into the back of the net. The players ran to congratulate Ursell, but it?s hard to see it as much else other than an unfortunate error from the home goalkeeper.
Slough took the early score in their stride and looked to hit back, but despite plenty of possession and some dangerous crosses couldn?t find a quick reply. Smith saved well from a shot that bounced wickedly in front of him.
Having weathered the storm, the Dons doubled their advantage. Mark Jones swung a corner into the box and it was headed away at the near post. Ursell sent a delightful cross curling to the back stick and Mark Cooper rose to head it in. There may still be a dispute over Saturday?s equaliser at Hastings, but there was no doubt this one was his.
Slough came back once more and Smith was alert to grab a couple more crosses, while he was relieved when a free header was sent straight at him. But Cooper and ex-Rebel Antony Howard were marshalling their defence well and standing firm. At the other end, Ursell and Butler broke clear but Allaway came out well to deny them, while a long ball saw Butler nip ahead of the floundering defender, but the goalkeeper did well to race out and deny him once more.
In an entertaining end-to-end half, neither side created any further clear-cut chances. Bolger was sent up the right wing by McDowall and nutmegged his man, but his final ball was poor and easily hacked clear. The Rebels stuck to their gameplan of sending crosses into the box, but none of their headers seriously troubled Smith. The half-time lead was just reward for some stalwart defending and hard work from the visiting underdogs.
But within seconds of the restart, Slough pulled one back. A cross was half cleared to the edge of the box and Carbon pounced to steer a low shot in at the near post for 2-1. And 45 minutes of effort was utterly undone by a Carbon copy five minutes later. The Dons couldn?t deal effectively with a low cross and the Rebels number two stabbed the ball home in space in the six-yard box for his second of the game.
Having seen their hard-won lead utterly wiped out inside six minutes, the Dons steeled themselves and regrouped as Slough pushed forward in search of a third. Micky Woolner and Ryan Gray replaced Ursell and Jones as the Dons switched to 3-5-2, but the home team continued in the ascendancy. Carbon continued to be a menace, breaking the right wing and crossing dangerously to the back post. Smith raced out to block excellently from Murphy.
Steve Daly then had his name taken for a shocking late challenge on the impressive Cooper, who spent some time on the floor after his legs were taken away having cleared the ball.
With 20 minutes remaining Carbon jinked his way into the area and fell over a Dons leg. The referee pointed to the spot and Glen Harris dispatched the penalty pretty much straight down the middle.
Bolger was felled by a flying knee on the edge of the Slough area, but Gray sent the free-kick ballooning a long way over the bar.
With 14 minutes remaining the reverse from two up to two down was complete as the stricken Cooper was left exposed at the back. Seedel jinked round him and hammered the ball past the luckless Smith for 4-2. Cooper then limped off to be replaced by Randall, but the Dons faced a mountain to climb as the Rebels had their tails up.
Indeed, it was the home side who went closest to adding to the scoring, as Harris twisted and turned before letting fly from the edge of the area, but Smith flew to his right to save well. Howard sent a shot over in injury time for the Dons, but it was already too late.
If any fans were under any illusions about the task ahead next season, mid-ranking but highly impressive Slough provided an object lesson in the pace and power the Dons can expect to encounter on a regular basis in the Ryman Premier. There?s no shame in being undone by a better side, but Dave Anderson and his team will be bitterly disappointed at letting a two-goal slip, no matter who the opposition.