Matt Tubbs celebrates goal with Sean Rigg
Matt Tubbs .. the goal drought has broken. Let it rain. Hallelujah !

MATT TUBBS justified his gaffer’s faith with a drought-busting brace to sweep Wimbledon past York City and into the second round of the FA Cup at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday.

The Dons, trailing to a spectacular fifth-minute Wes Fletcher howitzer, surged home in the FA Cup replay after a limp opening half with Tubbs’s double bursting a seven-match blank run, a game-changing double substitution from Neal Ardley and more goalkeeping heroics from the ever-improving James Shea.

The final 3-1 scoreline and a trip in the next round to Wycombe Wanderers did not look likely as Wimbledon ceded the initiative and momentum to the Minstermen only to be aroused in the second half when Tubbs and Adebayo Akinfenwa underlined their goal threat after a barren spell.

Tubbs will dominate the post-match talk with his welcome pay back for the belief of his manager. All the talk had been about where the goals had gone for the man Ardley had described as “good a goalscorer at our level that I’ve seen.”

“He still looks as if he’s going to score and I’m sure that will turn around and he’ll be a 20-goal a season striker. That’s why we worked so hard to get him.”

Ardley again vouched for Tubbs’s predatory instincts when he said on the eve of the FA Cup replay: “Goals are like London buses, and I am sure they will return if he carries on as he is.”

And sure enough the red double-decker London buses came into view on cue at Kingsmeadow nine minutes apart to much rejoicing.

We’re still not totally sure whether Tubbs will see out his season-long loan from Bournemouth. Ardley says the club will do all it can to keep him at the club. Hopefully, if that scenario comes during the January transfer window, Tubbs will factor in Ardley’s support should any club come knocking.

No doubt Ardley had some choice words for his players during his half-time team talk. The reaction was obviously apparent as the players came out with renewed vigour and commitment and began to take the game more to the Minstermen.

“In the first half we lacked intensity and penetration. I think the boys were surprised at half-time by how hard I was with my summary of the game,” Ardley said of his ‘hairdryer’ oratory.

Shea, who kept the Dons in the opening Cup tie at Bootham Crescent with a wonderful double save late on,  had to make a fine save at his near post to deny Jake Hyde before Ardley rolled the dice on the hour.

The gaffer decided to alter Wimbledon’s attacking shape and made a double change with wingers George Francomb and Sean Rigg replaced by Sammy Moore and Ade Azeez.

“Brave move from Ardley taking wide midfield players off after an hour and bringing on Sammy Moore and Ade Adeez and going to 443,” Essex Womble said.

Windlesham Don added: “The speed of Azeez seemed to put the wind up the York defence, which had been happily coping with our pedestrian front line until then.”

The home side was rewarded with the equaliser 19 minutes from time. Frankie Sutherland picked out Akinfenwa on the left side and his flick-on fell nicely for Smith, who smashed home.

Jack Smith
Jack Smith … “a lung-bursting run from deep and has finished it as cool as you like.”

“Part of Jack’s downfall in the past was that he’s been used as a utility player,” Ardley said. “He can play anywhere and be excellent, but we’ve kept him in the same position, which is good. We want him to build up a rapport with the winger. Tonight he has produced a lung-bursting run from deep and has finished it as cool as you like.”

Shea again had to deny Hyde with a brilliant save  before Akinfenwa put Tubbs through with a clever piece of play and his angled finish across York goalkeeper Michael Ingham put the Dons in front for the first time.

“In the second-half we had more midfielders making runs and I thought we needed another forward to come on. Ade Azeez came on and caused problems with his pace,” Ardley said.

“It worked really well, but it all changed from us being braver higher up the pitch. When you have more runners playing off Bayo then he will be a big threat.”

Wycombe manager Gareth Ainsworth had seen enough by this stage and left his seat in the stand.

“The equaliser seemed to drain the confidence of York and the winner seemed inevitable. After another anonymous 80 minutes it was Matt Tubbs who finally buried a chance and grabbed the glory,” Windlesham Don said.

York had nothing to lose but to go after an equaliser, but they were killed off in stoppage time. They sent everyone up for a corner, including their goalkeeper, only for the ball to be cleared up field for Tubbs to dart clear and roll the ball into an empty net. Job done.

“We created the most chances and Jake Hyde could have walked away with the match ball but we did not deal with the pressure they put on us,” York City manager Russ Wilcox said. “We did not do the basics well in both boxes, which is frustrating.”

The comeback capped a wonderful night of Cup action for AFC Wimbledon with the Under-18s winning 2-1 at Gillingham in the FA Youth Cup and now to face Burnley at home in the next round, prompting nostalgic memories of that ‘other’ great FA Cup clash with the Clarets in 1975.

Read more view on the WDSA forum match thread