Match report by Richard Brown
After defeat last Saturday at highflying Withdean, the Dons were looking for a much-improved performance and, more importantly, maximum points. With top scorer Kevin Cooper back in the side after straining a hamstring injury, the fans expected all three points.
Having started the game cautiously in order to relieve a bit of early pressure after previous performances, the wombles began to string their passes together and carve out some chances in the opening 20 minutes with Joe Sheerin doing well to hold the ball up against some tight defending by Reading. Soon, however, on the half hour mark a pass from Ward gave Sheerin a chance to show his strength and guile as he slid past the left back, committed the goalkeeper, and squared for Andy Sullivan to place the ball into an open net, and put the Dons ahead.
Now the Dons showed some of the form as well as the battling instinct needed to obtain promotion from the Combined Counties League. Reading continued to battle for the point that they had come for, but were unable to pass the growing partnership of Sim Johnston and the young Danny Oakins, but even when they were able to get a shot in, Glyn Shimmel was always equal to it. The impressive (so far) referee blew for half time and the lads trotted in with their heads held high and to warm applause from the aroused yellow and blue crowd all kitted out in the new home and away shirts.
In the second half attacking towards the newly named West Bank, a flurry of attacks bombarded the Reading goal but without finding the final touch. Lee Sidwell worked tirelessly, making copious runs down the right hand side, producing crossing of quality, yet the Dons were unable to produce the killer header to make the result safe. A few breaks in the game gave an opportunity for some terrace fun targeting the unlucky goalie, Michael Pratley, whilst the bandanaed Reading physio, responded in good humour to the banter. Minutes later an obviously not fully fit Kevin Cooper hobbled off the pitch for some well needed treatment making way for the big busily Ali Russell and battling midfielder Sean Marshall making their debuts after rejoining the club. They were 'moving on'- however, they both reconsidered and decided to stay, realising that to play in front of such a large and passionate group of fans, is not an everyday occurrence in this league. This can only be good for them as well as AFC Wimbledon.
After injuries and debuts there was still the small matter of finishing what would turn out to be a well-deserved victory. The second goal was made after more good work by Sidwell who crossed with minutes remaining, evading the two centre backs, the ball falling to the debutant Russell who bundled home the decisive winning goal. This set up jubilant scenes behind the goal as Dons fans enjoyed the first win of what will hopefully be a long unbeaten run as we march up the league to challenge for promotion. The next test for AFC will be the first cup game of the season against Brimsdown Rovers in the London Senior Cup, and if Terry and co. are able to produce a performance like today, we may be advancing in more than one competition come Wednesday night.
Man of the Match has to be awarded to Joe Sheerin who indeed showed why he was picked by Terry Eames to be captain as he led the attack with power and pride, pulling the Reading Town defence to pieces. His work for the first goal gave us Dons fans definitive evidence that his first competitive goal is not far away either.
A special mention has to go to Shane Thompson, a referee who could actually handle 3,000 people in a ground without getting stage fright, unlike those at Southall and Withdean.
MAN OF THE MATCH: JOE SHEERIN