The conditions were perfect for football, cool but not too cold, a pitch in good condition, and a crowd full of the joys of the season.
There was just the small matter of Mansfield Town, who would surely be easy-beats. The WDSA cognoscenti Liam Nolan, Colum McAndrew and I, all felt confident. We should have known better.
Almost nothing happened in the first half. Bayo Akinfenwa lasted less than a minute before limping off, Mansfield hit the post, Mansfield had a man sent off, Wimbledon didn’t have a meaningful shot until the end of time added on, which was eight minutes.
It was so boring I thought I might step into the kitchen and make a cup of tea and wait for the second half; but then I remembered I wasn’t at home!
When The Beast trudged off, replaced by Ade Azeez, you would have thought that would have changed the game, but not a bit of it.
Wimbledon for 45 minutes continued banging long high balls at every opportunity as if the big man was still there. Whatever the modern mantra of keeping possession, the Dons were having none of it, getting rid as if this was pass-the-parcel. You had to feel sorry for the ball. Mansfield couldn’t believe their luck.
We hoped for better in the second half but so did Mansfield and when Jake Goodman, supposedly a new rock at the heart of the defence, tamely lost a contest for possession, the Dons found themselves a goal down as Vadaine Oliver coolly beat James Shea. And then the fun began.
It is strange to enjoy a defeat but as Wimbledon laid siege to the Mansfield goal there was much excitement, tension and endeavour to enjoy.
It was thrilling, it was wonderfully entertaining. I had a fabulous viewpoint: in the main stand, high up the back, directly in line with the penalty area; only the Nongshim would have had a better view. Under the floodlights the drama unfolded. I didn’t even notice the cold.
How Wimbledon did not score will forever be a mystery as they rained shots on the Mansfield goal.
Their goalkeeper was inspired making a string of saves, one from Sammy Moore stands out, as the men in front of him played for their lives.
Shot after shot was scrambled away. It was a fabulously courageous effort; you could not have known they only had ten men.
They reminded us too, that we were vulnerable as we poured forward, Shea having to make two smart saves in succession as they almost doubled their lead.
My entertainment was heightened by the young woman next to me who squealed with excitement at every chance made, and missed.
Her emotional high-pitched contribution made for even more fun. In one dramatic melee, about ten minutes from the end, she let out five consecutive squeals as the Dons were denied five times, as Mansfield defied the odds, and gravity, to stay afloat.
Adam Barrett missed a sitter with a clear header, over the top, but it was the poor Harry Pell who had the worst miss.
In the last seconds of time added on, six minutes for the half, Callum Kennedy slung over yet another cross and Pell met it perfectly, timed it beautifully, and sent his powerful header wide. When the final whistle blew he was inconsolable as he walked off, head down.
Wimbledon deserved a point but sometimes things don’t happen. I still left the game with a smile on my face. I got value for money.
The MOTM went to Barrett. I don’t know why, he didn’t stand out for me. I will give my nomination to Sammy Moore, who epitomised the never-say-die spirit of Wimbledon with brave tackles, driving midfield play and almost scoring on a couple of occasions.
(Editor’s relieved note: Thanks Wiz for the piece, you saved me writing about yet another dross loss at home to a team below us on the table — for a reason — and actually you made losing to agricultural Mansfield Town sound like a lovely day out! WDSA’s best wishes for Christmas to all our readers.. there’s no doubt what we are hoping Santa’s going to bring us for the coming months.)
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Great Christmas reading in the Wombles Downunder newsletter #209 out now