VICTORY OUT OF A BLACK HOLE

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‘WHEN deep in a holewizard image’, the old adage goes, ‘stop digging!’ And Wimbledon had dug themselves a very deep hole in the first half of this remarkable game. Two goals down and going nowhere, it took them almost an hour to find a way out, emerging like trapped Chilean miners to the hugs and back slaps of victory, writes The Wizard of Oz.

Kingsmeadow’s lush turf showed the benefit of recent rain but made for a slippery surface under still sodden skies. It was all Wimbledon in the early stages with Charlie Sheringham heavily involved. A clever Luke Moore pass set the big man free but he needed an extra touch and the effort was blocked.

Minutes later a headed half-chance from a corner went just over and then the effervescent George Porter, as unpredictable to defenders as potassium on water, placed a cross agonisingly inches away from Sheringham, who had cleverly made space for himself.

Sheringham has one major flaw in his game: he suffers from football’s version of erectile dysfunction. He gets himself into a position to score and then at the crucial moment he can’t get it up.

He probably had five chances to score in the first half, and a couple in the second, but failed to ram home the opportunity, including, of course, the penalty. Talk about not being able to score in a brothel! His dad, Teddy, who knows a thing or two about scoring, had a quiet word with him at half-time probably something along the lines that he’s heard Viagra works wonders…

The script of the first half was a familiar one: dominant, rampant Wimbledon playing very impressive football were undone by a sucker punch after a quarter of an hour. Scunthorpe hadn’t threatened but when a cross deflected off a defender Ross Worner, under pressure, spilled the greasy bar of soap; he should have punched it away, two-fisted.

The ball dropped for the giant veteran Chris Iwelumo who hooked it toward goal, Worner recovered to parry the ball but Sam Winnall forced it home. Wimbledon fans are used to this and the already subdued Tempest End fell silent.

Charlie Sheringham action
Charlie Sheringham … missed lots of chances among them a first-half penalty.

It should have been 1-1 a few minutes later after Wimbledon benefited from what seemed a very generous penalty decision but Sheringham’s shot, well enough placed, wasn’t strong enough to beat the keeper. You could only wonder what was going through the mind of benched Jack Midson.

Ten minutes later and it seemed all over: the ball was played from defence to Sammy Moore — surprisingly starting over Peter Sweeney —  who was caught in possession and Scunthorpe played the ball to the tricky No.11 Andy Welsh whose deep cross was perfect.

Iwelumo, a very big boy indeed, took out the blue chalk and marked his cue before calmly slotting the ball with his forehead into the top pocket. Worner got his hands to it but the header was emphatic.

We all hoped and expected a fired up Wimbledon to come out all guns blazing in the second half but they didn’t. Scunthorpe emboldened by their lead looked the most likely to score, Winnall missed a great headed opportunity and it was Worner who was by far the busier goalkeeper.

The crowd was becoming restless, the singing from the Tempest End was feeble, the mood becoming increasingly sombre. Something had to change, and it did. As Midson and Arthur were about to come on, Wimbledon scored.

There seemed little danger; Wimbledon were putting Scunthorpe under the gentlest of pressure;  predictable crosses into the box, easy for defenders to deal with, when Sheringham won the ball and it made its way to Michael Smith who stepped inside and from the edge of the area drilled the ball into the net. It came from nothing, it was all so easy.

Midson replaced Sheringham and Chris Arthur came on for Callum Kennedy; the tempo lifted dramatically. Midson played with controlled fury. Arthur only knows one way to play: go forward.

With the Tempest finally at full throttle Wimbledon threw everything at Scunthorpe. Belief emanated from players and crowd. Midson, typically, rescued a lost cause as Harry Pell’s pass seemed to be going out of play.

The ball was played forward to Porter and then Pell and Midson, both seemed to get in each other’s way, and then out of their way, and somehow fashioned the chance for Pell to leather the ball home. What a goal! It was a glorious moment; the crowd were on their feet. There was more to come.

Porter cheekily smashed the ball to the top corner but the keeper saved it, Pell hit a ferocious drive which the keeper parried. Wimbledon were relentless in the pursuit of the winner.

Kevin Sainte-Luce came on for Porter. I thought to myself ‘if Scunthorpe think Porter was quick wait til they see KSL’. He made an immediate impact, slicing through Scunthorpe’s defence to play the ball to Arthur, whose shot took a little deflection and finished in the back of the net. Unbelievable. What a comeback!

AFC Wimbledon F.C vs Burton F.C Npower Football League 2
Harry Pell … ‘Wimbledon’s Steven Gerrard’

KSL continued to run Scunthorpe ragged but Ardley tugged on the reins and the Dons sat back, providing some nervous moments for the anxious crowd, before every player hugged every player in joyous victory. The crowd stood and applauded and went home beaming with excitement.

Wimbledon were poor at the back without Alan Bennett. Rhys Weston made little impact on his debut, and along with Andy Frampton they often put Worner under unnecessary pressure with poor back passes on a slippery surface. Sheringham’s woes underlined the lack of cutting edge up front.

Harry Pell was again the MoM. I thought Luke Moore with a very intelligent and industrious display, and Porter, a real live wire on the wing, were the best of the rest.

For those Wimbledon fans in Australia who rarely get to see their heroes the best way I can describe Harry Pell is that he is Wimbledon’s Steven Gerrard. He dominates the midfield with his physical presence, his long rangy strides eat up the ground, he is very good on the ball, runs at people, makes things happen, can hit a great long pass and he scores goals! Enjoy!

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Here’s what they were saying in the WDSA forum about Saturday’s match…..

WDSA match thread