AFC Wimbledon 6 - 0 Chessington & Hook
After the rather tense game at Pagham on Sunday, a visit from Chessington & Hook, beaten only once in the league this season, and 7-0 victors over Westfield a few days before our own seven goal haul against the same opposition, looked to be a potential banana skin on the road to the Seagrave Haulage League title.
Andy Sullivan, suspension completed, resumed service on the right flank, allowing Steve Gibson to drop back into the right back berth in place of the unfortunate Jamie Angell. Joe Sheerin returned from injury, but only as far as the bench, so Ali Russell extended his forward partnership with Kevin Cooper, and youngsters Ryan Luffman and Lewis Taylor forced their way into the squad.
After half an hour of an even contest I turned to Pete, standing next to me, and said I'd only written down two points of interest from the game thus far; the first was five minutes in, Kevin Cooper's clever angled pass found Ali Russell steaming through the middle. This Russell v Russell tassle was won by the keeper with a fine parry and Cooper, following up, could only half-hit his shot from ten yards out and a defender on the line headed over. Matt Everard, with a trademark header from the corner could only direct the ball narrowly over the bar. The second was in the 22nd minute, Gavin Bolger bustled down the left midfield to the edge of the box, cut inside and whipped it goalwards. Ali Russell, poaching on the penalty spot, timed his run to perfection, but for the second game running crashed a header against the bar. If the first half hour had been uneventful, the next 30 minutes, either side of the break, more than made up for it. Cooper, tormenter in chief of the Chessington defenders for the rest of the game, received the ball on the right edge of the box with his back to goal, turned past one defender, shimmied past another on his angled run towards goal and unleashed a drive with the outside of his right foot that comprehensively beat the keeper but crashed against the foot of the post. Two minutes later the same player shot just wide from 25 yards, and five minutes later he was involved in a one-two with Gavin Bolger that saw the Irishman flash a drive just wide. Ali Russell, who hardly missed a header all evening, was sandwiched between Danny Heath and Tom Duffell, and Duffell appeared to throw a punch in the scuffle that resulted, but the referee didn't see it and the linesman, who must have seen it, didn't tell the senior official. Retribution was almost immediate when Simon Bassey curled the ball into Cooper who again turned his defender but clipped his shot against the other post. Halftime, and still scoreless, somehow, but as in previous games, patience would surely win this one. Nu-uh!
Patience, as it turned out, was the last thing on the Dons' minds, indeed any impartial observer may have wondered if the half-time brew might have contained something more than simply sugar, as AFC stunned Chessington with four goals in the opening fifteen minutes of the period. Just four minutes in and Andy Sullivan turned his man inside out, hit the byline and swept the ball across the goal-face for Ryan Gray to sweep home at the back post. Gray was unlucky not to double his tally with a twenty-five yard drive after the Chessington Russell has mis-cleared under pressure from Cooper, but there was no luck required and game over on 54 minutes when Cooper received the ball on the edge of the box, back to goal, turned his man right then left to make space and curled a peach into the keeper's top left corner. Ali Russell got the third within two minutes, chasing onto his own headed flick-on and forcing a save from the keeper which bounced out to Gray, who's shot was also saved, but Russell was waiting on the edge of the six yard box, in front of goal, to volley it in. Dons' fourth goal in eleven electric minutes came after Gray forced a handball on the left wing; Simon Bassey swept in the free kick and Danny Oakins ran unmarked from the back post to nod the ball into the back of the net. With and hour gone, and four goals adrift, Chessington decided to make a fight of it, but a timely booking for Tom Duffell after a scything tackle had upended Cooper forced the game back towards football, although Gray was also booked for one word too many after a blatant foul against him was given the other way. Fingers crossed these silly bookings for dissent don't cost us dear later in the season! Ten minutes on and Bolger left a defender on his backside before hitting the line and pulling it back across goal, Cooper was waiting, but scuffed his shot straight towards Ali Russell, who was taken by surprise and could only direct the ball wide. Cooper didn't have long to wait for his next chance, taking advantage of the keeper's indecision to nip in, bring the ball down and smash it past the now retreating custodian from six yards. Chessington's only chance of the half came with twelve minutes of the game left, a twenty-five yard curler that Ray Merry watched inch past the upright after Dons had given the ball away at the back. With five minutes to go, AFC wrote another page in the history books. Gray broke down the left again and curled over a perfect cross for Cooper to head (yes, head, again!) down past the unprotected goalie. Cooper's third hat-trick this month, AFC's biggest ever victory margin and the first Don's six goal haul on home turf since way back when! So the Dons go marching on-on-on.