Match report by Leamington Pete.
I bet when Eric Elkins walked through the door of the Dolphin public house in Wallingford on Friday evening, the last thing he expected was to be mobbed by a hoard of Dons fans participating in ‘The Wallingford Experience’.
A heroes welcome for a man who is only famous to Dons supporters for being the father of the legend that was Gary Elkins. The only known ‘link’ between the AFC’s of Wallingford and Wimbledon. Gary Elkins, for the uninformed, played for Wimbledon FC in the Premiership and was known for his ‘pinball’ free kicks. He has apparently made an appearance or two for AFC Wallingford. A quiet unassuming man, probably never thought he would see us again, in a football capacity. How wrong he was. His father though benefited from our Elkins adulation, by attaining our ‘love’ and a lovely AFC Wimbledon scarf. Which he wore proudly at the game the following day.
The remainder of ‘The Wallingford Experience’ for the 15 odd Dons supporters and a Wallingford fan known only as 'Stilez', has now become a hazy memory. A singsong with the locals was greatly enjoyed by all, but I only have pictorial evidence of what followed for the rest of that night. My Polaroid images raise two questions: 1.Why was AFC Wimbledon’s head of security tied up to a hotel bed by AFC Wimbledon scarves and surrounded by ladies in Dons replica strips. And 2.Why was Dave Boyle, the Vice Chair of the Football Supporters Association, naked, wearing only a leather jacket, in the same hotel room, whilst all the events of No.1 were taking place! What were they doing? Goodness knows.
Visiting the stadium, to see the locals working hard, at 11am, was succeeded by a trip on the superbly organised ‘Football Special’ train from Cholsey to Wallingford. There was a tremendous amount of work from AFC Wallingford and the Dons, to make this day as special as possible for all concerned. Credit all round for making the game happen after rain had almost flooded the ground, where it was literally “all hands to the pumps!”
The game itself started on time with a sizeable crowd of over 2000 and before most people had finished their burgers, AFC Wallingford took the lead. A handling gaffe from Shimell trying to hold onto a low cross from Small-King in the penalty box, meant that not even a last ditch clearance attempt from Oakins, under pressure from Shildrick, could prevent the ball finding the back of the net. Shildrick may or may not have got the final touch but as any striker would do, he seemed to claim it. And with his record of goals over the last year and his physical size, who would argue with him.
The goal inspired the Dons and wave after wave of chances followed. On 11 min Bolger surged forward took a great back heel flick pass from Sheerin and the keeper saved the resulting shot. After 20mins, another flick by Sheerin, this time with his head, allowed Robson to spoon a shot into the trees from 7 yards out. Cooper took a chance just before the half hour with a well placed 25 yard lob-shot which appeared to make the keeper tap it over the crossbar, but a corner was not given. A moment later Oakins threaded a through pass on the edge of area to Sheerin who took it in his stride on the turn, with the keeper beaten the ball beat the post as well.
AFC Wallingford, however, were sniffing out a second and Bradley Ward scorched Shimell’s hand with a blistering drive from around 30 yards out. This inspired Sheerin further as he led the Dons to come closer to an equalizer by heading a Robson free kick toward the empty goal with the keeper beaten, however the ball stayed out with a stretching defensive header. The resulting corner fell to Cooper who from an angle, 10 yards away, fired disappointingly wide.
Just as the fans were getting into the rhythm of the Dons’ surging attacks the referee decided to put on his clown nose, his baggy trousers and wave his coloured cards to brighten up the darkening sky. He sent off Joe Sheerin. Why? Let me try to explain.
Sheerin as he was all game, was involved in winning the ball from two AFC Wallingford defenders. Both players took a hack and eventually he lost the ball and retaliated resulting in a free kick against him. Annoyed with the lack of protection from the referee he made his captain’s voice known to the referee and walked away. The referee, without his hearing aid (he had left it in the changing room, being guarded by his guide dog!) decided that whatever Sheerin said was worthy of a straight red card. Perhaps it was a good decision. Perhaps Sheerin made a terrorist threat? Who knows.
Then the game drifted away from Dons. This was confirmed just before half-time when the huge Andy Shildrick unmarked, overhead volleyed a cross past Shimell ensuring the referee had won the game with his comedy moment and AFC Wallingford had taken full advantage.
AFC Wallingford took precisely 5 minutes of the second half using their experience and determination to end the game. Dangerous right-flank play by Small-King saw an uncleared cross struck sweetly by Simpson past Shimell and that was that. The crowd of mostly Dons supporters was stunned into silence. Demoralised by the lack of our best player the second half petered out into sporadic chances where every Dons shot seemed to fly directly to the hands of the AFC Wallingford keeper. The home sides enthusiasm also drained away and the two AFC Wallingford sending off’s did little to change the outcome of the game.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Paul Strudley – AFC Wallingford keeper.