Report by Tim Hanson
An enthralling night of cup action at Kingsmeadow ended with the Dons defeating Brimsdown Rovers 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out after 120 minutes of thrills and spills in the London Senior Cup. Before the game we’d discovered that Brimsdown plied their trade one level in football’s pyramid below us and had lost all their games so far this season. With this in mind there was much pre-match optimism in the air and forecasts of a comfortable Dons victory were almost unanimous.
However after 45 drab minutes those forecasts didn’t seem so certain. To be blunt, we were rubbish in the first half. Cooper looked woefully short of confidence and Bassey looked woefully short of everything. In addition, the Simmo-less defence looked out of sorts and an error in the Dons back line allowed Tony Burke to steal in between defence and goalkeeper and nod Brimsdown ahead in the 16th minute to give them a shock half-time lead.
The Dons came out for the second half looking much hungrier after a half time rollicking from Terry. Passmore was brought on in place of Bassey and his extra composure in the middle of the park was to prove key in getting the Dons back into the game. However, while the Dons were hungrier the quality was still lacking and when a Cooper free-kick was blocked Brimsdown scored a break-away goal courtesy of David Townsend who had picked the ball up in his own half. While it was a superb goal from Brimsdown’s point of view, Townsend was allowed a clean run on goal and managed to beat Shimell at his near post. That looked to be it for the Dons in the London Senior Cup for this season. However, even before we had time to say, “There’s always next year” Sully hit an inch perfect cross for Ali Russell to nod in his first Dons goal.
This was more like it. The ‘West Bank’ were roaring their new heroes on and captain for the night Keith Ward was demonstrating the sort of never-say-die spirit we’ve become used to over the years. Danny Roberts’ dismissal for a second booking almost went unnoticed as the Dons poured forwards in search of an equaliser. However as the minutes ticked by it looked as though it was not to be. Not so. We forced a corner in the 90th minute and captain fantastic Wardy nodded it in. Cue scenes of mass hysteria in the packed out ‘West Bank’ and Wardy going straight into the crowd, Sandhurst-style. “Wombles are back,” chanted the crowd and make no mistake – this was vintage Dons. A man down, playing below par but refusing to give in.
Extra time came and Brimsdown’s youthful looking side hit back as the Dons defence capitulated once more. Substitute Paul Dodds (who looked about twelve) stroked the ball past Shimell and celebrated in front of the West Bank by cupping his hands behind his ears. With Brimsdown playing out time and the Dons tiring it looked like this would be it. However, with about 10 minutes left, Sidwell found himself one-on-one with the keeper with the whole goal to hit – he can’t miss - he blasts it straight at the keeper (resplendent in tights). Time was running out but the team and the West Bank refused to give up and seemed to spur each other on. Near the death the Dons win a free kick. The ball is swung in. There’s a scramble and a roar. We’d done it again! Danny Oakins is credited with the goal although from my view in the packed ‘West Bank’ it could’ve been anyone. More hysteria behind the goal with the Dons fans ‘going mental’.
Just as the game looked to be heading for penalties Akin Gallimore, fresh off the bench, breaks out of defence and the ball finds it’s way to Ali Russell. He’s through on goal only the keeper to beat... but he saves it... the ball rebounds back to Ali, six yards out, open goal. He must score. He tries to side-foot it into the corner... but somehow misses. Nobody knows how. A Brimsdown defender (about twelve) rubs salt into the wound by riling the fans behind the goal over the miss. And that was it. The tie would be decided on penalties.
They were to be taken in front of the ‘West Bank’ to the joy of the majority of the crowd. Brimsdown were first up. Their player walks from the halfway line. Boos, hissing and "who are ya" directed at him from the Dons fans. He steps up and Glyn ‘big ears’ Shimell makes a fantastic save. The ‘West Bank’ rejoices. The next eight penalties are all dispatched, ours by Passmore, Cooper, Gallimore (who nearly misses) and Oakins. It’s left to Ali Russell who missed a sitter in the last minute and who originally decided against turning out for AFC Wimbledon because he was worried about the size of the crowd. He shows typical Dons guts by stepping up and finding the net. The players run to the ‘West Bank’ where there is absolute bedlam. After a fantastic night of dramatic cup football we were through and the ‘West Bank’ were ‘going mental’ once more. Credit should also be given to the Brimsdown players who gave everything and clapped us at the end of the game, a gesture we happily returned.
As I left the ground someone told me that three years ago to the day we were celebrating Walid Badir putting us ahead at Old Trafford and now we were celebrating beating Brimsdown Rovers in the preliminary round of the London Senior Cup. But who cares? No one who was there on Wednesday would have swapped it for anything, not even the Champions League at Old Trafford where Walid was playing on the same night. It was a truly special night and one that will live in my memory for many years to come.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Keith Ward.
The oldest member of the squad but looked the youngest as he ran and ran for 120 minutes. A truly great performance from a man who’s already established himself as a Dons legend.