Equal to the task
Report by Ian Grant
God knows I would have settled for a draw at the start. That doesn't signify a lack of ambition - I think we can win the replay - just a realistic assessment of our depleted squad's chances. It's way too easy to take Wimbledon lightly, to dismiss them like we dismiss Palace. Even with old duffers like Mick Harford, Wimbledon are a far better side than their media image suggests - you don't stay in the Premiership for ten years by playing dumb kick-and-rush football (ask Leicester!).
The game's pattern was established in the first five minutes as Wimbledon strolled through our flimsy midfield and started flinging in crosses for their three centre forwards (see? some sides have more strikers than they know what to do with - it's just not fair!). I've got thoroughly bored of trying to tell everyone that Steve Palmer is a very fine acquisition (it's one of my doomed-to-failure personal crusades, like my "Bogshed are the new Beatles" campaign of the mid-eighties) - maybe now we've seen how badly we miss him, people'll be convinced. To their credit, Richard Johnson and Geoff Pitcher did all they could to stem the tide but they were fighting a losing battle.
The central defenders were always going to have their work cut out. A clattering shoulder charge by David Holdsworth that flattened a Wimbledon player showed how fired up the players were - it was exactly that kind of unflinching commitment that got the result. Between them, Foster, Millen and Holdsworth made the Wimbledon forwards work for every chance - when those chances did come, Kevin Miller was in utterly inspired form.
It appeared that we'd started to get into the game as the first half progressed - we'd slowed the pace down a little (you'll get nothing by trying to beat Wimbledon at their own game) and, with Bazeley getting forward on the right, looked like we would begin to create chances. That was all ruined when Wimbledon scored after half an hour - Ramage dwelt on the ball for an age and was robbed, giving Wimbledon the chance to break. Leonhardsen got free and, rather than bothering to go to the trouble of rounding Miller, smacked the ball home from the edge of the box.
That deflated the fans but not the players and we were level within three minutes. As a corner was cleared, Phillips pushed the ball back to Tommy Mooney, who hit a first-time shot from miles out - these usually end up in the back of the stand, this one was going in all the way, swerving into the top corner. An absolute beauty.
The rest of the half was pretty much end-to-end. Wimbledon created better chances, though, with wayward finishing and Miller saves keeping the ball out of the net. For us, Moralee and Phillips did all they could to find a way past the Dons' defence but somehow it never looked likely to happen - we were, inevitably, too lightweight up front and the midfield didn't provide good enough service for Phillips to use his pace to any great effect.
The second half belonged to Kevin Miller. As Wimbledon stormed forward, powering through the midfield, Miller was forced to make a series of outstanding saves to earn the draw. The central defence coped reasonably well with the aerial threat until the last ten minutes - instead, it was the brilliant Leonhardsen who posed the real threat. Three times he was denied by Miller - a flying save to keep out a shot bound for the top corner; a superb blocking hand in a one-on-one situation; and a reaction stop from a close range chance.
Miller had earnt a bit of luck and he got it when Efan Ekoku, running across the goalmouth, diverted a goal-bound effort past the post. As the game went on, and the pressure increased, so the Dons' strikers started to win headers - again, Miller was equal to the task, tipping over three headers that were going to dip just under the bar. It was a brilliant individual performance.
By the end, we were really hanging on but we got the result. Aside from Miller, two players typified the spirit shown by the side. Tommy Mooney, clearly relishing the challenge of his new position, who will never give up when things aren't going well - his goal was the icing on the cake of an intense and passionate performance. And Keith Millen, who had taken a bash and was clearly concussed for the last ten minutes - Miller had to tell him where to stand and what to do. He kept going till the final whistle in the knowledge that we had no-one to replace him. Even Craig Ramage did his bit, using his height to help out in defence, although his attacking work was largely nullified by the Wimbledon midfield.
Wimbledon will be considerably less happy about this result than we should be. They dominated the game but didn't win it. If we can get some players fit for the replay and if the efforts to sign Wilko or the (ahem) "mystery striker" (henceforth to be known as "Striker A") come to fruition, we must have a chance.
Deserved a second chance
Report by Kate Holmes
I didn't feel over-confident before this game, in fact I couldn't see us getting a result out of them. With a midfield of Ramage, Pitcher and Johnno, it didn't look good. Moralee made a return up front, having played about an hour of football since he got injured. For reasons unknown, we were forced into wearing red shorts at home, whilst they turned out in these totally ridiculous black efforts. They also made us shoot the wrong way - gits.
The game was actually a lot better than I thought it would be, but we were having problems containing Leonhardsen in midfield. He is their version of Hessy, and we had Ramage trying to track him. It was quite funny really, although to give a bit of credit to "Speedy" he did try. Rams could have given us the lead when he ran onto a through ball, looked like he had beaten the keeper, but was tackled by him just as he was about to shoot.
Ramage was also at fault for their goal. He had the ball in a decent position, but spent too long thinking what he was going to do with it, was dispossessed and before we knew what was happening Leonhardsen had planted an unstoppable shot beyond Kevin Miller. The signs did not look good, as they are a very strong physical side, whilst we had a very makeshift lightweight side.
We got ourselves back on level terms with what must be a contender for Goal of the Season. Rams took a dreadful corner, they couldn't clear it, and Phillips played the ball back to Tommy Mooney who smashed it into the top right corner. As soon as he had hit it we were all on our feet, as there was only one place that ball was going. Totally wild celebrations followed, both among the fans and the players, who for some reason all lay on their backs kicking their feet in the air. In the middle of this, Scum Harford walked straight into the middle of the celebration, clearly stamped on Super Kev, and carried on walking as if nothing had happened. Hopefully Freddie will get revenge at Selhurst Park.
We made it to half time feeling fairly pleased with ourselves. David did not let Deano have a kick of the ball, and Fos, Milly and Kev looked secure. The half time scores were read out, and on hearing that Scum were losing 4-1 at Grimsby, the rest of the scores were lost beneath the laughter.
The second half was a lot tougher for us, and Wimbledon began to bombard our penalty area a lot more. Deano was really not in the game, as David was always at his heels. The other forwards we re marshalled well by Fos and Milly, and Kev was in incredible form in goal. I think that could well go down as one of the best goalkeeping displays I have ever witnessed. This was cup tie football at its most nerve wracking.
The longer the game went on, the more I began to remember that fateful day at Selhurst Park last season when we were stitched up 90 seconds before the end of extra time. David Holdsworth's determination not to let Deano get any glory seemed to spread to the rest of the team, who gave everything they could. In midfield, Pitcher ran more than he has in his entire career put together, Johnno was battling away and even Rams put in a lot of work. Super Kev didn't really get much of a chance up front, but him and Moralee put themselves about and "worked the defenders" - a manager's phrase.
But it was the defence who were performing heroics. We lost Mooney to an injury after he was fouled by Ekoku or Earle, and he was replaced by the rarely seen Dominic Ludden. Pitcher was also taken off, with Freddie making a very welcome return. In goal, Kev pulled off a string of stunning saves, tipping the ball round the post, and one from a shot taking a major deflection off Johnno was heading in until Kev somehow grew to a Fos height and tipped it over the bar The last ten minutes felt like an hour, as we battled to earn a replay. We did so with honour, even if it does mean going to Selhurst Park for another FA Cup replay.
Coming out of that game I felt proud of our boys, as the amount of effort they put in was unbelievable. My brother is not usually too impressed with us, but even he came out of the game saying he hadn't seen us battle like that for years. As the crowd was leaving, the tannoy announcer started giving the full time results. He stressed that this was only a latest score, but Grimsby 7 - I don.t think anyone heard the rest of the result for laughing. That made it a nice day all round.
I really do not welcome going to Selhurst Park for another miserable Wednesday night, but we did deserve a second chance. Hopefully by then we will have Freddie at full fitness, another couple of players back, and signed a striker (Wilko is cup-tied if we do sign him). By the time we come to play up at Middlesbrough, we might even have Penrice back!
Happy with a replay
Report by Dan Exeter
Yes, it's that time of year again, when we all look excitedly to see who gets knocked out and wonder whether we'll do respectably well before being left to 'concentrate on the league'.
Wimbledon at home was a pretty crap fixture I thought, as we wouldn't get any money like we did with Blackburn nor were we likely to go through. Considering our injury crisis and their return to form I was quite pessimistic before the game, especially as I had visions of Dean Holdsworth banging a hat-trick past us. So I'm pretty happy with a 1-1 draw, as we'll get the money from the replay and we were in the 4th round draw for the second year running.
The first half was amazing, one hell of a game. Leonhardsen scored a great goal, but Mooney's equaliser was pretty good too, a 30 yarder Johno-like blaster. They also had one goal disallowed (anyone know why?) and a blatant penalty (I thought it was) turned down quite early on so perhaps we were lucky to go in at the break level...on the other hand we'd attacked them quite a few times and to be honest I felt it could easily have been a 3-3 draw by then.
As for the second half, inevitably it wasn't as good as the first, I think having to attack the away end affected the lads a bit, although Moralee and Phillips hardly had any midfield support.
Miller kept us alive with a string of brilliant saves, while Holdsworth (Dave) kept kid brother in his pocket, much as Sir Colin kept Scumbag Harford in his. Mooney came off injured, so Ludden finally got a chance to play in the first team for a bit, and he looked a bit hopeless but I think a decent run will have him back to speed.
So overall I was quite happy. We defended pretty solidly, and in the first half at least we did give their defence a number of problems. I thought Ramma, Johno and Pitcher did a respectably good job in midfield, and even Bazeley did all right as wing-back. If we could just bottle up those first 45 minutes and produce it against Huddersfield....