A lacklustre and strangely tepid FA Cup Dons display was no match for a solid Swans performance. Walton & Hersham gained revenge for their Surrey Senior Cup extra-time heartbreak with a deserved 3-0 triumph to book a place in the Third Qualifying Round.
And it was all change for the second cup clash between the teams in four months, with both sides naming just five apiece of the starting elevens in May?s titanic Surrey Senior Cup Final. Dave Anderson named an unchanged side after the midweek routing of Redbridge, with Cooper and Sobihy together at the heart of the defence once more and Barry Moore sporting the captain?s armband.
Smeltz was Walton?s Woking nemesis and he almost repeated the goalscoring feat in the very first minute, ghosting across to the near post to get on the end of a low Daly cross, but he couldn?t get any power behind the shot. Michael Harvey whipped the ball back across, but it was headed clear as Smeltz threatened again.
Walton wasted no time in testing the Dons? defence in return. Cooper conceded a corner, and an unmarked Tristan Frontin headed wide. An almighty Little punt almost unlocked a scrambling Walton defence. Richard Butler brought the ball under control but was crowded out before he could get a shot away.
But with ten minutes gone, the visitors took the lead. Harvey conceded a freekick on the halfway line, one can only assuming for backing in, although he appeared to be in control of the ball. The freekick was taken quickly from the wrong place, but the referee waved play on. Cooper backpedalled and made a terrible hash of his header, failing to give it anywhere near enough oomph to reach Little. Nwokeji snuck in to hook the ball over the stranded Dons keeper as both stopper and centre-back sank to the turf in despair.
Wimbledon continued to look for a direct breakthrough as they attempted to grapple their way back into the match. Butler raced on to another long pass, but opted for a shot on the run from a difficult angle, sending the ball wide of Nick Gindre?s near post. Gindre was comfortably the most impressive keeper in Ryman Division One last season and he showed why once more, with an excellent double save. First he raced out to block a Smeltz shot when a goal seemed likely, then jumped up to snatch the rebound as Daly raced in.
But for all their potency in front of the packed West Bank, the Dons continued to look shaky at the back. Haylock found himself in acres of space at the near post and it took a smart one-handed block from Little to prevent Walton doubling their advantage.
Wimbledon could find no way past Gindre, and it was the visitors who scored the game?s second goal. Micky Woolner committed a foul on the edge of the home penalty area. The referee showed him a yellow card, but further punishment was meted out by the boot of Sam Keevill. The Walton midfielder stepped up to curl a stunning free-kick around the wall and in off the post, giving Little absolutely no chance. Without having put a foot wrong, the Dons keeper picked the ball out of the net for the second time in the afternoon.
Harvey and Sargent huffed and puffed down the left wing, but couldn?t carve out a clear opportunity. The referee further endeared himself to the home crowd when he awarded Walton a freekick for a clash of heads which left Sobihy on the ground.
Harvey then sent a free header sailing over the bar from a Barry Moore cross. Howard fired well wide from a Smeltz header back across goal after a Moore corner, and Cooper eventually sent the most speculative of shots high and wide.
Matters nearly worsened on the stroke of half-time. First Little went walkabout, forcing Sobihy into a last-ditch header off the line. Then the keeper made amends with a brilliant one-handed tip over to deny Haylock from the subsequent corner. The half-time whistle sounded before the Dons could manage to make a dent in their deficit and the interval arrived with Wimbledon staring elimination from the FA Cup in the face.
Howard was forced out owing to injury during the break. Wayne Finnie replaced him at right-back, but 4-4-2 remained the order of the day. Injury also affected Walton, with goalscorer Keevill limping off to be replaced by Lee Riddell.
Finally some level of intensity was present in the Dons? play, but Walton dealt comfortably with the home threats in the early stages. Smeltz nearly set up Woolner in the area, but Gindre raced out bravely once more to deny Wimbledon again.
Sobihy and Edgar clashed off the ball at the other end, with the Dons man claiming he had been elbowed. After lengthy consultation with his linesman, the referee booked both men.
Having dealt well with every ball in the air, Gindre finally spilled a cross on the hour mark, but with everyone having already tracked their runs across him was able to collect the ball at the second attempt.
With 22 minutes remaining, Sonny Farr replaced Harvey as Dave Anderson sought to find a way back into the match at a late stage. But solid Walton defending and constant harrying meant Wimbledon couldn?t string together any spells of possession.
A third would certainly have convinced even the most optimistic of Dons fans that a comeback was impossible, and it nearly arrived after a free-kick was blocked. Frontin?s follow-up shot took a wicked deflection and looped narrowly over the crossbar. Nwokeji went close shortly afterwards, but Little eventually gathered the ball. Cartwright headed wide from a free-kick on another Swans foray forward.
But the third didn?t in truth seem necessary, as Wimbledon failed again and again to create anything of note. Gindre came out to punch a Woolner whipped cross away, but aerial probing yielded little reward.
Richard Butler was, as ever, a shining light of inspiration and dedication. Despairing of his teammates, he tried to fashion a comeback on his own, dispossessing Gindre well out of his area and swinging a hooked shot towards the goal from out wide. Sadly for the Dons, the execution couldn?t quite match the audacity and the ball dropped harmlessly wide.
Sobihy joined the front men in a desperate last throw of the dice, but Woolner?s header wide with three minutes remaining was as close as Wimbledon could come.
Cartwright put the tin lid on a thoroughly miserable afternoon with a blinding third goal for Walton in the closing stages, letting fly from the edge of the area with a shot that flew into the roof of the net. 3-0 in fairness did not unduly flatter the visitors, and the Swans flew back to Stompond Lane understandably cock-a-hoop with their well-earned win.
Dave and the Dons, on the other hand, were left with just heartache and soul-searching. A greater cutting edge and more passion needs to be found from somewhere to ensure better returns in the League and the remaining four cup competitions.