"It's all my fault", claims Grant
Report by Ian Grant
First of all, I promised Kate that I'd accept full responsibility for this defeat - it was entirely my fault and I am quite prepared never to darken the juniors' doorstep again as long as I live. After months of being told how good these players are and seeing win after win being chalked up, I finally get round to going to see them and...they play like turkeys with their legs tied together. So, what Tim Brennen is to the first team, I am to the juniors...
Plough Lane, original home of Wimbledon FC if you didn't know, is in a state - not that it was ever particularly magnificent in the first place - but it serves as a reminder of what Wimbledon came from and, to a certain extent, what they still are. They're a non-league club playing in the Premiership, pissing off the big clubs and getting jealous glares from the likes of us. And bloody good luck to 'em.
Palace, on the other hand, are not my favourite team (as you probably know by now - if not, PAY ATTENTION) and I wanted to see us win, even if the game meant rather less to me than the massed ranks of juniors' regulars who were preparing themselves for a trip to Liverpool in the next round. There was a healthy turnout of Watford fans - probably the same number as Palace fans - and they gave the team good support.
There was no doubt that Palace were the better side on the night - they were quicker into the challenges, forever hustling our players off the ball so that we never really looked like stringing a few passes together and calming the game down. However, we did create good chances, particularly in the first half. The main action took place after about twenty Palace-dominated minutes when Wayne Andrews when clean through and saw his powerful shot parried by the keeper. That brought a couple of corners - one led to a goalmouth scramble, the other saw Andrews' diving header go just past the post.
At the other end, we looked relatively secure - Palace were getting opportunities but they tended to waste them with poor final passes. Our keeper had to deal with a few shots, most of which went straight at him, but I can't remember much else really. That said, Palace had had the vast majority of possession in the half, so confidence wasn't particularly high when it came to predicting a result after the break.
Eventually, Palace managed to find a way through - the first goal came just after half-time. A cross came in and our keeper appeared to have grabbed it - but the ball came loose and was turned into the net after a scramble. That setback seemed to fire our boys up a little and it was a much better game afterwards, with both sides looking to attack all the time. Palace came close with a shot that went just past the post and we cleared the ball from an almighty bundle on the goalline, but they extended their lead after a while - a low cross from the left wing was missed by everyone and finished in the bottom corner.
After the departure of Andrews, it was left to Gifton Noel-Williams to lead the attack and he had the best two chances to pull us back into the game as we resorted to long goal-kicks over the top of the Palace defence. The first chance was a looping header from a corner that the keeper got a hand to and pushed onto the bar, with a Palace defender reacting quickest to clear the danger; the second was a one-on-one with the keeper in which the striker attempted an ambitious shot just as the ball bobbled on a divot and skied the effort high and wide.
Disappointment at the end, and assurances that we're a much better side than this performance suggested. I can imagine that's true - maybe some day I'll come up with a cunning disguise and attempt to find out...