Champions! Says it all! One of the greatest days in the AFC era, and probably one of the best as a Wimbledon fan full stop. Sorry for those of you who are tuning in looking for my usual high on detail, trying terribly hard to be unbiased match reports; that was never going to happen today was it?
I took my notepad and pen, and my camera, but there was little chance I was going to use it. I knew it was going to be one of those days, I had a feeling when I woke up at 4.30 this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. Today was going to be a special day, but boy were we going to get one hell of a fright first! I arrived at the ground at about 2-ish, which was pretty full already (the Wimbledon sections at least…), and had some kind of turn when I heard the lineups. Out went Hussey, Davies and most amazingly, Main, and in came Haswell, Taylor and Goodliffe. The plan seemed to be match hard bastard for even harder bastard, with Leberl stepping up into midfield, Taylor and Hatton heading forward with Lee holding the whole thing together. Todays man-on-a-mission was Elliott Godfrey, playng in the free-role and who lets not forget spent several years of hell at Trumpton before he was finally given the chance to play some football this season down the road at Kingsmeadow.
Up top on his own was Danny Kedwell, which meant a 4-5-1, for perhaps the only time in recent memory (feel free to fill the comments section with other times 4-5-1 has been used… under Dave Anderson?). A bold move, anbd one that worked for the first half at least. Wimbledon had the games first chance when Taylor took the ball round a defender who had a very clear chance of getting a challenge in, but seemed to be focused more on Taylor himself and ended up falling over. Taylor got to the line and pulled back for (I think it was) Hatton to screw over what appeared to be an open goal.
Of course, Hampton had a great chance of their own shortly after, which kept Dons fans getting too hopeful too soon. Wimbledon had the better of the first half without creating too many clear cut chances except one crazy incident where it seemed Wimbledon must score, but Hatton, Kedwell, Lee and Godfrey were all somehow denied by poor finishing and, well, some kind of miracle as far as I could see. It was like an invisible forcefield was somehow keeping the ball at bay.
Wimbledon had a couple of scares just before the break mainly caused by circus ball-launcher McDonald (who I mentioned on my spying missionlast week). McDonald seemed to take no part in actual play, remaining anonymous until Hampton got a throw anywhere near the Wimbledon penaly area, where he appeared to land it on the Dons penalty spot time and again.
Having survived that the Dons went in at half-time goalless, the interval providing entertainment as the stewards (and they were amazingly actual stewards hired for the day to amke sure everything went according to plan…) decided they wanted to stop a group of Dons fans innocently hanging up a flag. Literally dozens of them flocked to the incident, like little moths to a flame. It looked as though the situation could have turned ugly but thanks to the urgent intervention of three proper policemen who pointed out that the Wimbledon fans were completely in their rights to do so, and these apparently trained stewards were just making the situation worse, stop being silly, and piss off back where you came from until something worthy of their intervention occured. Well done, proper policemen! (The Community So-called- Support officers did their ‘bit’ for the community by preventing Dons fans drinking alcohol on the train, forgetting that a) its a party, and b) its not even illegal! Legendary ex-chairman Kris Stewart was outside reminding people this was just a law made up on the day by the CSO’s for reasons best known to themselves – it worried me I may have broken the law buying cans of lager from the buffet on a recent trip to Doncaster! and its worth remembering they completely ignore any drinking by the rugby boys a few miles down the road at Twickenham).
Of course this created quite an atmosphere among the Dons fans, who know heavy handed stewarding when they see it following a miserable decade-and-a-half being treated like second class citizens by the infamous Selhurst Stewards. That didn’t really carry over into the second half though, in usual Wimbledon fashion, and the atmosphere went a little dead. In fact you could even hear the small band of Chelsea Hampton fans behind the far goal (more on them later!).
On the subject of stewarding, one of the reasons the Dons sections seemed a little packed may have had something to do with this; some friends of mine had Hampton end tickets, but managed to get in the away section just by asking! No wonder we were cramped in and the Hampton areas looked empty!
In this atmosphere kicked off the second half (is that bad English?) and no sooner had I time to check my watch than a ball over the top found a Hampton player in the clear. Too far in the clear, as he was obviously offside, yet much to the annoyance of Wimbledon the linesman decided that no, he needed to be more than two yards offside for him to make his mind up. An excellent challenge from a Dons player I can’t remember, but am going to allocate this one to Ben Judge as he was awesome today and I haven’t mentioned him yet, sent the ball out for a corner. As Pullen started to organise his defence Hampton took it quickly, Quarm (he of the heartbreaking late goals) centred and the ball somehow made its way into the Wimbledon goal via several deflections (I later found out it was credited to Ryan Lake, but looked very much like an o.g. from where I was). The silence was deafening.
So far, so recent Dons bad luck. If anything Hampton could have had a second goal. The tireless Lewis Taylor was eventually substituted on the hour on his full Wimbledon debut (second time round…), by far the standout Dons player at that point. Imagine if Taylor hadn’t blown his knee in pre-season, we would surely have won the league well before now. I’m so excited to see him rip into Conference defences next season, and can now understand Horsham’s post-season confusion that Lewis came home to his old club rather than go to a Conference National, or even League side last summer.
Main, Finn and Hussey came on during the half, with Lee and Haswell (back injury) also making way. It started to come together for the Dons at last. A couple of chances were cleared off the line, and as time ticked down to ninety minutes, it looked as though the agony would continue for another week. Yet the buildup of fortune we were overdue from Eastleigh and Bromley finally came. Hussey tried to skip down the line but was prevented from doing so by two Trumpton defenders, who colided with each other and stayed down. With both players well off the pitch, Hussey took a quick throw in, the ball found its way over to Jon Main (who will never be doubted again!) who bundled over the line. How apt that a side so willing to go to ground as Hampton, in a manner designed to fool the referee (ie, cheating) that the wining goal came when at least one of their players (although he probably only got stretchered off to put undue pressure on the referee; this is Hampton after all…) appeared to actually have some form of injury.
Cue pandemonium on all four sides of the ground as Dons fans celebrated what must have been the goal to win us the league. And, after seven minutes of injury time, was. Virtually all 2500 Dons fans ended up on the pitch, although Hampton don’t make it easy for you getting over those fences when you have a genuine reason to do so (although all that weight I put on recently may have had something to do with it… I initially gave up until another fan told me all I had to do was get one leg over, then it wouldn’t matter if I fell the other side – I’ll be there!). I had famously missed the Staines playoff game (well it was quite a famous incident in my family anyway…) so was looking forward to chairing our heros off the pitch at the end. And what an experience it was! Faces contorted with absolute relief and ecstacy cheered the Dons players all the way to the tunnel.
Of course, someone had to try and spoil it. After putting up with intense provocation at recent games at Eastleigh and Bromley without it breaking into violence, the Dons fans were never going to let a dozen or so posh Hampton college boys upset them. These lads, who had obviously been watching too many hooligan movies, decided to wait behind by the tunnel (the obvious destination for Wimbledon fans to celebrate) and the level of goading could have been quite serious if it wasn’t absolutely hilarious. I had great fun chanting ‘little boys’ at you if any of you are reading, by the way…
Which leads me to think what will happen if they do somehow make it through the playoffs? They will have to play certain Northern based teams whos supporters, if offered the same provocation, will have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about taking up the challenge, and kicking you senseless (I’ve seen it happen, its not nice, not nice at all). Dons fans have experience of this, play at a ground where experienced professionals provide security, and supporters who, by and large, know how to avoid it. Hampton on the other hand may think its funny trying it on against a bunch of Dons fans too busy celebrating to notice, but may have a nasty surprise in wait if they ever do that to pissed off Mansfield fans after an unexpected defeat.
I have to say, I really hope Hampton don’t get promoted, this or any other season. Normally you would say the majority of fans are ok, but in Hamptons case, no, they are definitely not. They are typical of the blazer brigade that have tried to hold us back from day one, with a dose of local pikey thrown in (although unlike Bromley, these aren’t your actual pikeys, they’re South-West London mock Chelsea wannabes, like you find in Kingston, Wimbledon or wherever. Typical scum basically.
And the above paragraph represents a departure from the usual Anonymous Don commentary of not being overly offensive towards the opposition, but for today that goes out the window. There are certain clubs, and certain fans for whom this doesn’t apply, they will know who they are as they are the ones who won’t be offended by it. Chelmo, good luck in the playoffs, you are the closest thing we’ve come to normality in the last seven years.
Again there are exceptions. Smaller clubs like Hendon or Merstham, or in the cup Oxhey Jets, teams willing to hold out a hand of friendship, teams that occasionaly beat us, and more than any others, absolutely deserved it.
Then there are the others. Teams that have a phrase for clubs that have ambition, that want to succeed. Thay call us Billy Big Bollocks. Well to be honest, as we are never going to play any of you again (come on Chelmo!), I really don’t care. I don’t care about your Tony Kempsters message board, which seems to be full of people with absolutely no interest in football, more the booklets you pay for when you get there, or the turnstiles, corner flags, whatever. I refuse to believe this messageboard is anything more than a cover for a paedophile ring, which is why they definitely don’t like Dons fans sniffing about!
Then there is that poor excuse for an board the Unofficial Conference South board of whateve they are calling themselves. Never before have I come across a bigger bunch of whingers, liars and generally jealous lowlifes in my life. That some Dons fans seem to walk on egg shells trying not to offend them staggers me. We should, to a man, swamp that board with messages reminding them that we will be leaving them very shortly, and reminding them who exactly the champions are this year.
The Conference South gave us the impression we would be joining ambitious clubs this year. Sadly not. These people are just as bitter as the rest of them. And we will face bitterness again. It must be galling for Woking to know there is a local team coming up thats going to absolutely blow them out of the water. If Grays escape relegation Im sure their very small band of supporters won’t be happy either. But at least we will be with clubs that don’t see trying to get in the Football League as some kind of hate crime. As after all, thats the ultimate reward of the competition.
So for any Conference South supporter reading this, just one final message. Thanks for the memories, but memories are all they will be to us, as we won’t be playing any of you again in the near future.