Chessington & Hook United 3 - AFC Wimbledon 5
THE Dons kept their unbeaten run after an extraordinary encounter at Chessington & Hook's Chalky Lane ground. The game finished nine-a-side as the referee had what could perhaps be politely termed an eccentric afternoon.
The drama was confined to footballing matters at the start, as the Dons found themselves 2-0 down after just three minutes. In the first attack of the game, the back four were all at sea and Everett converted at the far post. Worse was to come two minutes later when Matt Everard produced one of his sweetest finishes of the season, but did so at the wrong end, firing a precise low volley past Standen and into the bottom corner.
The somnolent Dons were roused briefly and got back into the game after Ryan Gray was fouled on the edge of the box. Shane Small-King's freekick was tipped wide. From the resultant corner, Matt Everard went for the initial header and received a punch to the head from the goalkeeper and a hefty kick from Danny Oakins' boot for his pains, but while he lay prostrate, Paul Quinn stole in behind him to loop a header home for 2-1.
The goalkeeper came out well to block from Bassey before the game's first talking point, as Seb Favata won the ball on the edge of the box, beat his man and went down, seemingly having been tripped. The referee declined to give a penalty and booked Favata at the next break of play, explaining that he had been fouled but that he had thrown himself to the floor. No explanation was given as to why no free-kick was given if he had seen a foul. Nicky English described the decision as "poor", which prompted the referee to book him, and ask him to leave the dugout.
As the half-time whistle went, Gareth Graham took it upon himself to suggest to the referee his wish that he would have a better game in the second-half, which prompted him to give the Ulsterman a red card. This in turn sparked a confrontation between John Harris, on the pitch to treat the still groggy Matt Everard, and the referee, and saw the sports therapist spend the rest of the match watching from behind the barriers, although he would have been allowed on to treat injured players if necessary.
As the referee emerged for the second-half, the name of club secretary Trevor Williams also went into his notebook, although he did not actually pull the card out on this occasion.
The officials' sideshow had distracted from the fact that the Dons had been poor in the first half, and were staring into the barrel of losing their proud unbeaten run with a man disadvantage. Small-King was booked as the second-half got underway for questioning the referee's advice to him. And the opening period of the second half saw the Dons enjoy more possession and pressure, but create few clear cut chances. Andy Sullivan replaced Paul Quinn as Nicky English gambled on greater attacking creativity from his pitchside standpoint.
Just after Darren Dobinson replaced Bassey on 70 minutes, Chessington broke away from a Dons attack as Oakins missed his challenge on the half-way line. The build-up looked suspiciously offside, but Wicks took the ball into the area and fired underneath Standen for a 3-1 lead. With 19 minutes remaining, the home celebrations were protracted and loud.
Danny Oakins took the ball off Matt Everard's head from a corner as Wimbledon fought to get back on terms. But shortly afterwards, Sullivan and Dobinson combined to tee up Small-King. His cross hung at the far post for Ryan Gray to head home and kick-start the fightback.
Three minutes later, Cooper was felled in the area. The referee pointed to the spot and the man himself hit his 100th goal for the club high to the keeper's left. 11 v ten quickly became ten v nine, as Small-King and Duffell saw red for their part in a fracas as the players made their way back to the halfway line, although Smith in particular seemed lucky to escape further sanction after appearing to be the instigator.
With open spaces appearing across the pitch, the Dons looked for a winner. Cooper found Gray at the back post, whose flick may or not have snuck into the net. Smith produced a fine one handed diving save to prevent it going in despite not being the goalkeeper, and a second penalty and red card were the inevitable outcome. He aimed what can only be termed a "coffee bean shaking" gesture at the referee on his way off.
Cooper found the same spot again to put the Dons into the lead for the first time in the match. Finally, on 88 minutes, Darren Dobinson chased a lost cause, somehow won the ball after a terrible mix-up between Keeley and keeper Russell and pulled it back for Ryan Gray to fire home and seal a remarkable victory.
And that was pretty much that. All credit to the team for grinding out a win in heated circumstances, although given the number of cards shown, one suspects we have not heard the last of this matter as far as the referee is concerned.