2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 24 (Part 2) – Saturday 22 February 2020: AFC Wimbledon v Blackpool

As mentioned in Part 1 of this Match Day adventure, we left Griffin Park with about fifteen minutes to go. I’ve never been a fan of leaving games early, but time was of the essence. So with the Brentford game still in progress we walked to the car through relatively empty streets, along with a few others who had also left early, possibly heading to the local pubs to avoid the queues. Fortunately, we didn’t miss any goals, however with Brentford having levelled with a penalty as we left, they had the momentum and it wouldn’t have been a surprise if they had come up with a late winner.

Kingsmeadow – The Cherry Red Records Stadium

So onward to Kingsmeadow for AFC Wimbledon versus Blackpool game in the Sky Bet League One. It was a fairly uneventful journey other than the masses of people in Richmond Park exercising and taking their dogs for a walk which immediately brought to mind the YouTube sensation “BENTON! BENTON!” especially when we saw a few herds of deer scattered around the park. Being uneventful traffic wise gave us the opportunity to chat about the two most important things in life, football, and music. We’d both started watching ‘the beautiful game’ around the same time and in a similar part of London, although my early days were primarily Stamford Bridge, whilst Paul’s were just down the road at Craven Cottage. It also turns out we also have a very similar music taste too; a bit of rock, a bit of indie, a bit of prog, plus there was a similarity to our gig history too, so a very enjoyable jaunt over to Kingston upon Thames, home of AFC Wimbledon, Kingstonian and Chelsea Ladies up until 2017. We parked up just in front of a car we saw park on an off road area very close to the ground, looking back on it, all a little too easy given how close it was to kick-off. More of that later.

AFC Wimbledon are another club founded by disgruntled supporters following the relocation of Wimbledon FC 60 miles up the road to Milton Keynes. My last house in London was in Wimbledon Park, so Plough Lane was about 20 minute walk from where I lived and I attended a few games as they rose through the top four tiers, primarily following Grimsby Town with my friend Nigel. I was at the “Harry the Haddock” FA Cup tie in 1988 and also a game in the “old” Second Division where around 16 Grimsby Town supporters turned up and me and Nige had a chat with Nigel Hatch the Grimsby ‘keeper whilst the ball was up the other end. The Wimbledon team that day was managed by Harry Bassett and included players who had seen them promoted the previous season and would see them promoted to the First Division in time, including Dave Beasant (who would move to Chelsea in the future), Alan Cork, Wally Downes, John Fashanu, Glynn Hodges, Ian Holloway, Lawrie Sanchez, Andy Thorn, Nigel Winterburn and a future Chelsea favourite, Dennis Wise. It was shortly before my old school football team member Dave Gilbert, joined the Mariners in 1989 where he spent seven seasons, playing 259 games, and scoring 41 goals before following manager Alan Buckley to West Brom.

Matchday programme and ticket

Wimbledon were formed in 1889 as an Old Boys Team from Old Central School on Wimbledon Common, Wimbledon Old Centrals and moved to Plough Lane in 1912.  They plied their trade in the Amateur Leagues lifting the FA Amateur Cup in the 1962/63 season, the season I was born. At the same time they dominated the Isthmian League winning it three years in succession before turning professional and joining the Southern League. An extraordinary FA Cup run in the 1974/75 season which saw them make their way through to an away game at Turf Moor against Burnley, a First Division side. They’d entered at the First Qualifying Round and had seen off Brackley Town, Maidenhead United, Wokingham Town, Guildford & Dorking United, Bath City and Kettering Town to book a date at Turf Moor in the Third Round. They became the first non-league team that century that had beaten a team from the top-flight courtesy of a single goal from Mick Mahon. Their next game was against the First Division Champions Leeds United and incredibly they drew 0-0 at Elland Road, with Dickie Guy saving a Peter Lorimer penalty. The replay was switched to Selhurst Park, home of Crystal Palace with the Dons narrowly losing 1-0 in front of 40,000 fans through an own goal. They won the Southern League twice out of the following three seasons and gained election to the Football League, replacing Workington in the 1977/78 season. I saw Lincoln beat Wimbledon 5-1 in 1981 at Sincil Bank, but this was before their dramatic progress through the divisions which saw them rise to the First Division with three promotions in four seasons. Their crowning glory was a 1-0 FA Cup Final victory over Liverpool in 1988, when as BBC commentator John Motson famously put it, “the Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club”. With the ruling on all-seater stadium for all top-flight clubs in England, the Club were forced into moving to away from Plough Lane to Selhurst Park. Following relegation from the Premier League there were attempts to relocate the Club and it was a dark day for football when a move to Milton Keynes was sanctioned by the football authorities. In 2002/03 AFC Wimbledon started life in the Combined Counties League Premier Division. Five promotions in nine years, saw the Dons once again grace the Football League and plan to return to Plough Lane on the site of the Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium for the 2020/21 season. 2015/16 also saw another promotion for the Club as they won the League Two Play-Off Final and have been in League One since.

Their current home, Kingsmeadow is a compact ground, with a capacity of less than 5,000 and today you can see why they need to move, with cramped conditions in the Rygas Stand where we found ourselves standing.

Break in play.

The Dons started brightly and forced an early save from Blackpool ‘keeper Chris Maxwell from Anthony Hartigan’s shot. They also had the first corner of the match with Kwesi Appiah’s header just wide. The positive opening fifteen minutes also included a good chance for Appiah, as from a Luke O’Neil cross the resultant header was just over the bar. Blackpool though responded with former Aston Villa striker Nathan Delfouneso through on goal, only for Joe Day to make an excellent save. The Tangerines in fact went on to dominate the rest of the half with Delfouneso and Matty Virtue the main threats. However, with defences on top it was not s surprise that the teams went in at the break level at 0-0.

Blackpool started the second-half on the front foot, with Day the busier of the ‘keepers, having to tip an early corner over the bar. However, he was a spectator just before the hour when from a cross, Taylor Moore just ten yards out, managed to blaze over the bar. The Dons were struggling to get any foot in the game and midway through the second period, the visitors had another great chance as Delfouneso was clean through, but he delayed his shot and the ball was eventually scrambled clear by Mads Sorensen. Wimbledon though ended the match on top, and in the final fifteen minutes substitute Adam Roscrow, forced Maxwell into a decent save. Then in the final minutes fellow sub Daniel McLoughlin, popped up at the back post but his shot was superbly saved by Maxwell. The home side had started and ended well, with the visitors dominating during the middle part of the game and in the end a draw was probably just about the right result.

Au revoir Kingsmeadow

As you may remember from my visit to Blackpool for the Lincoln City game, the traffic was a nightmare and I missed a large part of the opening half. Well the curse of cars and Blackpool struck again. At the whistle we made our way out of the ground to return to the car, sadly what we didn’t notice when we had initially parked up, was the ‘No Parking’ sign and therefore came back to a parking-ticket plonked on the windscreen. However, we had made it to two games in a day and even this could not dampen what had been a cracking Saturday in the capital. Whilst Paul returned to the North on the train that evening, Sunday was to provide another Match Day opportunity for me!


Saturday 22 February 2020

Sky Bet League One

AFC Wimbledon 0 Blackpool 0

Venue: Kingsmeadow

Attendance: 4,593

AFC Wimbledon: Day, O’Neill, Thomas (Rod McDonald 88’), Wagstaff, Hartigan, Appiah (Roscrow 66’), Rudoni, Sorensen, Reilly (McLoughlin 77’), Osew, Pigott.

Unused Substitutes: Trott, Pinnock, Lammy, Guinness-Walker

Blackpool: Maxwell, Feeney, Turton, Moore, Husband, Calum Macdonald, Virtue, Ronan, Dewsbury-Hall, Delfouneso, Madine (Nuttall, 81’).

Unused Substitutes: Sims, Howe, Bola, Edwards, Spearing, Ward


Steve Blighton

2015/16: Sky Bet League One – Chesterfield v Bradford City

004Having suffered five consecutive league defeats coming into this fixture, there was little Festive cheer at the Procat Stadium on a squally afternoon for the visit of Bradford City. The Bantams arrived in Derbyshire having lost their first league game in eleven outings, after a 2-1 defeat to Walsall.

The Spireites started the day in 17th place in League One with their opponents Bradford City eight points ahead in 10th place.

Before the action started there was a minute’s applause for former Chesterfield Chairman Barrie Hubbard who recently passed away.

Chesterfield kicked-off and within two minutes Sylvan Ebanks-Blake won a free-kick in a good position, but it was easily cleared by the City defence. James Hanson was prominent for Bradford in the opening minutes as was Tony McMahon who found himself clear on the right but mis-controlled the ball allowing it to go out of play.

The visitors were dominating early on with Hanson and Kyle Reid looking to get behind the Chesterfield back four in a direct manner, although this was not always successful as the wind was taking some of the passes straight through to Tommy Lee in the Chesterfield goal.

The home team’s first opportunity came on ten minutes. Jay O’Shea got down the left and his partly cleared cross fell to Ebanks-Blake, but his shot lacked power and was easily save by Ben Williams. This was the only brief opportunity for Chesterfield in an opening fifteen minutes that City dominated.

Reid earned City’s first corner on the quarter-hour mark, which Billy Clarke headed against the post and the resulting Gary Liddle shot was easily gathered by Lee. Minutes later Hanson was at full stretch for The Bantams, but he could only put his effort wide of the left post.

Chesterfield gradually started to work their way back into the game and after twenty three minutes Ebanks-Blake had a header on target for the home-side. However, The Bantams continued to press and Lee had to be alert to turn Reid’s effort away for a corner.

It was thirty minutes before Chesterfield had their first corner of the game. The effort was punched away but the resultant Dion Donohue effort to keep the attack alive was wayward.

As the last ten minutes of the half approached Lee needed attention after taking a goal kick, although it proved to be nothing serious.

Ebanks-Blake was continuing to work hard for Chesterfield as was O’Neil down the right, who also had an excellent drive which went not too far over the bar.

With the interval approaching, the visitors picked up the pace as Hanson had a shot deflected for a corner and minutes later Reece Burke had a header on target. However, Chesterfield almost snatched the lead before half-time in the minute of time added one, when from Talbot’s cross, Ebanks-Blake headed over.

Chesterfield made a change at the break with the injured Drew Talbot replaced by Ritchie Humphreys.

As with the opening half, Bradford started the better of the teams and four minutes in a teasing cross from Burke evaded the City forwards. The visitors then had a double chance to take the lead after fifty two minutes. First, Reid had a shot saved by Lee and from the corner the Chesterfield keeper was again in action to brilliantly save from Hanson’s header.

There was a brief scare on fifty four minutes as Chesterfield captain Ian Evatt went down with a head injury, but was thankfully soon up on his feet.

Just before the hour mark Gboly Ariyibi dragged an effort wide for Chesterfield and it was his last significant action as two minutes later he was replaced by Dan Gardner.

A minute later the first booking of the afternoon arrived as substitute Ritchie Humpheys was cautioned.

With sixty five minutes gone Ollie Banks had an effort deflected for a corner, but before it was taken there was a goal-mouth altercation which led to Ebanks-Banks and McArdle being booked. It was an incident that seemed to spark the crowd into action as the volume from both sets of fans increased.

Bradford were starting to warm to the task and on sixty nine minutes Hanson’s flicked header had Clarke through on goal, but his first touch was poor and the chance was gone. Clarke had a chance to redeem himself just minutes later when he bore down on goal, but his shot was deflected for a corner.

Then on seventy two minutes the breakthrough came, Clarke again caused problems for Chesterfield down the left and his cutback was swept in by McMahon for a deserved lead for The Bantams.

With fifteen minutes remaining, the home-side made their last change with O’Neil departing for Rai Simons. Five minutes later Bradford made a change with Clarke making way for Devante Cole.

The final ten minutes saw Bradford come under little real pressure from Chesterfield who looked bereft of any real idea as to where an equaliser might come from and could only produce a couple of long range efforts from Donohue and a header from Ebanks-Blake.

With four minutes of time added-on Reid gave way to James Meredith as The Bantams looked to wind-down the clock.

At the whistle the fifteen hundred plus City fans celebrated what was a deserved three points.