James Shea
James Shea .. a ‘world-class double save’ to keep the Dons in the FA Cup

JAMES SHEA kept Wimbledon in the FA Cup with what was described as a “world-class double save” to deny York City a late winner and take the Minstermen back to Kingsmeadow for a replay after a 1-1 draw at Bootham Crescent.

A week of soul-searching after a castigated performance at Northampton Town had some interesting consequences as leading scorer Matt Tubbs was left on the bench until the 76th minute as the Dons hung on to stay in Monday’s second-round draw and pending the outcome of the November 18 replay at home.

But it was Shea who ensured Wimbledon would live to fight for another day with his superlative double save with six minutes left in the Cup tie.

The Minstermen pressed for a late winner to claim their first home victory this season but Shea stood tall. He initially pulled off a brilliant full stretch save to deny York substitute Wes Fletcher and then reacted instinctively to turn away Fletcher’s follow-up attempt, before the defence scrambled the ball clear.

Have no doubt that Shea is entrenched as Wimbledon’s number one goalkeeper with last season’s custodian Ross Worner biding his time on loan and getting game time at Woking in the Conference.

“Our goalkeeper was called upon to make what can only be described as a world class double save and our players got around him quickly to make sure the ball did not go in,” Neal Ardley acclaimed.

“James Shea is an outstanding goalkeeper and we have to make sure that he stays with us for a few years and that we develop him. James works well with Ashley Bayes (goalkeeping coach) and hard work on the training pitch gives him a chance to make saves like that.”

The Dons will be hoping for the repeat outcome of the last time they took York City to a home replay in the FA Cup two years ago before they bowed out to Milton Keynes in the second round.

Wimbledon are yearning for a Cup run after a brief flirtation with the competition that made them famous in world football some 26 years ago.

Let’s face it we’ve hardly lived up to the reputation of doughty Cup fighters in recent times. Look at our record since returning to the Football League: 2011 – 2nd Rd Bradford (a) 1-3. 2012 – 2nd Rd – Milton Keynes (a) 1-2. 2013 – Rd 1 Coventry City (h) 1-3. Precious few FA Cup memories among that lot.

But at least the draw at York City keeps hopes flickering and maybe jump-start a lift in form and confidence after a win-less patch of four league games before this Cup stalemate.

Ardley made a very public denunciation of his players after their blank showing against the Cobblers last week. The gaffer said he was “appalled” and  “bereft” at what he had seen from his team. He also made it known that he had meetings with “certain players” during the week and made sure everyone was clear about where he stood.

“It really hurts me and if I think they’re not as hurt as me, then there’s going to be a problem,” he admitted.

While some may question this very public rebuking of players to get a reaction, Ardley said he was pleased with the response he got at York City.

“Absolutely [I got a response]. When you’re as raw as we were, we have done a lot of talking this week about things we need to do better and the boys gave me everything I asked for today,” the gaffer said.

“We had the blow of going behind after the disappointment of last week, but we showed character. I asked them to be brave by wanting the ball and passing it and I thought we showed those qualities. We had to dig in near the end.

“We had a chat with the players about how we had been playing and actions speak louder than words. They did very well today and now we have to continue that. If someone had said beforehand that we would still be in the hat for the next round then I think we would have wanted that.”

The absence of Matt Tubbs from the starting team was a big call by Ardley for such an important game and its potential ramifications for the Club with finite revenue streams and looking further ahead to a move back to Plough Lane.

Tubbs began in a blaze with nine goals in his first 14 games on a planned season-long loan. Since then the goals have dried up, he hasn’t scored in his last five appearances and his work-rate in games has been questioned. There has been some anxiety among fans that the sharpshooter may be pinched by a rival club in the January transfer window.

So in that context any possible falling out over his omission from the starting team for the FA Cup tie could have consequences.  But it may also stir Tubbs out of any lethargy that his place in the Wimbledon team is a given. Time will tell.

Another striker linked with the Dons during the summer scored the opener for York City in just the eighth minute.  Jake Hyde, who left Barnet in the off-season, diverted in a strike across goal by Michael Coulson after Wimbledon had failed to clear their lines.

It was a booster for York City to go ahead so early especially in the charged atmosphere of a Cup tie as they had not won at home in any competition this season.

Frankie Sutherland3
Frankie Sutherland … passing made a difference in midfield

But Andy Frampton got the Dons back on terms in the 22nd minute.  He cracked home the equaliser after the home defence had only half cleared a George Francomb corner. Wimbledon were lifted by the goal and had several near misses before they were forced back in the closing stages.

Frampton was forced off just on the hour with a knock to the ankle he fractured in pre-season training and was replaced by Alan Bennett. He will be assessed in the coming days, but initial reports suggested he might have rolled the ankle.

Another first-team regular Sammy Moore was left on the bench to make way for the full debut of new on-loan midfielder Frankie Sutherland from QPR.

“I thought for Frankie’s debut at this level it was an excellent performance from him. He did all the things that the game demanded and passed it well when he had the opportunity,” Ardley said.

Cup action keeps coming fast and furious with the Dons off to League One leaders Bristol City for their JP Trophy Southern Area quarter-final at Ashton Gate on Tuesday. It will be a very tough assignment for the Dons and their defence with the Robins yet to lose in the league this season.

Read more views (and some lively banter) on the WDSA forum match thread