AFC Wimbledon 4 - 2 Southall
Southall were one of only teams that AFC Wimbledon failed to beat last season. The other was Withdean 2000 and we face both of them over this August bank holiday weekend. Six points come Monday afternoon and we can really start the think about having an even better season than the last. First the good news, we?re halfway there after this surprisingly comfortable win over a Southall side shorn of its' most potent threats. The bad news is that we?re going to have to try to complete the second half of this potentially onerous task minus Messrs Oakins and Everard.
Donal O?Sullivan, the beanpole striker who scored five times against the Dons last season (although admittedly four of those were against Andy Bell) was out with a broken wrist, fellow striker and the only footballer named after a planet in an alternative solar system, Alpha Bangura, was also missing and niggly midfielders Phil Eagle and Mo Kadi had moved on in the summer in an attempt to clean up the club?s appalling disciplinary record. 14 reds and a tally of yellows threatening to break into treble figures had almost got Southall expelled from the CCL during the summer. Any side missing four of its best five players is going to struggle ? but every side facing the Dons this season is going to have to be at their very best and they quite clearly weren?t.
With Donal?s influential brother Shane moved forward in an attempt at replacing his brother, Southall were showing signs of being overrun in the opening exchanges, with the returning Gavin Bolger and his former Franchise FC team-mate Seb Favata almost nonchalantly controlling things. The only thing threatening to spoil this game was the erratic performance of referee Kasey and his perpetually behind the play assistants. With 15 minutes gone, the Dons took a lead that they never looked likely to surrender. Ryan Gray?s cross from the left was met by Lee Sidwell and although Daniel Leonard blocked his shot with a combination of hands and body, the ball broke loose to Joe Sheerin and the Dons skipper slid the ball under the keeper?s body and into the back of the net for his fourth goal in a game and a sixth. Three minutes later and the fractions were very difficult to work out as Sheerin had his second of the game. Collecting a cross that had been partially headed clear by the enormous Barrett, Sheerin controlled the ball on the edge of the penalty area, swivelled and volleyed back over Leonard?s head.
Just six minutes after that, it was 3-0. Bolger was brought down in the area by Alan Johnson and Kevin Cooper tucked away the penalty. Some were hoping that Sheerin would have been offered the ball, but Cooper is the club?s penalty taker and there ain?t no room for sympathy round here. It could have been four within minutes when Gray?s superb cross was just missed by Sheerin, although the referee had given a foul against the Dons captain, one of many bizarre decisions that don?t deserve mentioning.
Southall looked much weaker than last season and on the odd occasion they did mount an attack, the Dons rarely troubled defence of Steve Gibson, Jamie Angell, Matt Everard and Sean Daly dealt with what was coming towards them with consummate ease. Accept on the one occasion that O?Sullivan got to the byline and chipped a perfect centre into the path of Andre Robinson who spectacularly volleyed past the returning Ray Merry with perplexing gymnasticism. I am Stuart Hall, you may kill me. 3-1 at half-time, but the first period finished an a sour note, when Eddie Tucker, grappling for possession with Favata on the touchline swung his elbow into Favata?s face no more than 18 inches away from the fourth official, equidistant between the home and away dugouts. A clear sending off .. only the fourth official was completely unmoved, the referee who was no more than 10 yards away himself claimed he didn?t see anything and the assistant referee refused to get involved until it all calmed down, telling Neil Robson to sit down. Tucker actually fell onto the fourth official he was that close, but despite the eight often incredulous bookings that preceded or followed the incident, Tucker?s name did not enter the referee?s notebook.
The second half was, as is often the case when one side has dominated the first, quite dull by comparison. The Dons dominated from start to finish and Southall?s minimal attacks faded away, leaving their director of football, former England defender Terry Fenwick, to describe the performance as ?poor?. It wasn?t that good. The only down side to the game was the injury to Matt Everard, who appeared to twist his knee on the half hour and was replaced by Simon Bassey at the interval. Daly moved across to fill Everard?s position, Bassey slotted in at left back and as he had done in November before Daly?s arrival, did extremely well in an unfamiliar position. The Southall central defensive pairing of Barratt and Richard Rufus?s brother Marvin had started getting the better of the still not 100 per cent Cooper, and Terry Eames reacted by sending on Leon White for his debut. White had scored four times for the reserves last Saturday and deserved his chance.
It looked like the Dons had declared at three, but with six minutes remaining Gray either got lucky or scored the goal of his life. From right by the corner flag he drove in either a stupendous left-footed half volley that dipped over the keeper?s head or mis-hit a cross. One of the two ? I suspect the latter, but either way it was 4-1 and no more than the Dons deserved. Gray had come into the side for Andy Sullivan who had not been at his best in the opening two games, and the fitter, faster Gray has certainly given Eames a selection problem. The same could also be said for Angell, who didn?t put for a foot wrong and will be understandably upset if Danny Oakins waltzes back into his number 4 shirt after his unfortunately timed holiday. Bolger?s late withdrawal to be replaced by Noel Frankum seemed likely to be the last action of note, but due to what can only be imagined to be a brain seizure from the Dons? sub, Southall pulled a goal back in injury time. Tired of the home side playing keep-ball for 20 passes, Frankum picked out Robinson with a perfect pass and the striker had the simplest of tasks to fire home past the bemused and probably rather bored Merry. An aberration that thankfully meant very little. The second-half?s other bizarre moments came courtesy of the referee who booked O?Sullivan for having an ugly brother (presumably as he done nothing else to warrant a caution), booked Favata for something equally mystifying and topped it off by booking Daly for swearing at his own team-mate. If every referee did that, Simon Bassey wouldn?t last five minutes?
MAN OF THE MATCH. Five goals in two games is enough for anyone. Joe Sheerin.