AFC Wimbledon 3 Crawley Town 1
If you’ve ever wondered what happened to old fashioned, exciting cup football, it’s been here all along. A breathless FA Cup tie at Kingsmeadow, witnessed by 2467 lucky souls, saw AFC Wimbledon defy a one man deficit for 45 minutes to achieve a trip across London in 10 days time to take on League One high flyers Millwall. therealfacup’s collective pens and cameras are still smoking, RSI all round from capturing notable incident.
Terry Brown named an unchanged side and, perhaps surprisingly, kept faith with Ricky Wellard in midfield after his rather dismal FAIL in the first game. Steve Evans made one forced change with the injured Rents giving way to Karl Broadhurst. therealfacup named a 2 Burger Brunch, Beef & Mash and a Mega Breakfast as pre-match meal and washed it down with some Deuchars in AFC’s well appointed bar.
It started at breakneck speed, flowing from end to end like one of those executive toys where a set of balls on strings bounce endlessly off each other backwards and forwards. Tortured analogies aside, Crawley had not won away since the middle of August while the Wombles had lost their last two home games, both sides seemed hell bent on changing that and providing cup magic.
Pullen’s kicking was as bad as it was at the start of the previous game. His third kick hit the spot and was greeted with an ironic cheer from his own fans, his fourth got an even bigger one. The game carried on in the same vein but without clear chances, AFC provided the extra urgency their manager had requested. In the 14th minute the ball fell to Main about 25 yards out. He took a touch, picked his spot beyond the keeper and placed the ball into the left hand corner off the right hand post.
AFC Wimbledon 1 Crawley Town 0
Ricky Wellard was repaying his manager’s faith with an assured performance sprinkled with fine passes. Pinault and Forrest were doing the same for Crawley while both forward lines looked busy and sharp and both defences looked a bit shaky.
For the next 15-20 minutes it was bonkers. AFC thought they’d sprung the offside trap, the lino thought otherwise and saved Rayner’s blushes as he miskicked a clearance. Crawley scythed through the centre of AFC’s defence twice in quick succession but Pullen saw the danger and was off his line smartly to stifle the attacks. A bout of scrappy head tennis in the AFC box ended with a good Pullen save from a Forrest shot. A cross too shallow for the ‘keeper was expertly dealt with by Saturday’s scorer Sam Hatton.
Crawley were being direct and purposeful and started to edge the possession and threat. Forrest was switching sides and Duncan was booked for a clumsy tackle on him out wide. Forrest fired a warning shot, Pullen saved. The AFC centre backs then got dragged out of position and Forrest spotted the gap, played the ball inside the full back, who was caught in two minds, while Louis raced round the back and through on goal. He took a couple of touches, gave Pullen ‘the eyes’ and tucked the ball past him (left).
AFC Wimbledon 1 Crawley Town 1
We noticed that Haydon Womble was nowhere to be seen. No crowd pleasing touchline gimmicks this year? Where was the wheelie bin? No horns today.
Crawley were still in the ascendancy and the AFC fans saw it, “Get into ‘em, fuck ‘em up” came the rallying cry. Forrest’s movement was causing trouble on both flanks, Duncan dealing with him slightly the better of the two full backs. The spell of possession only harvested one real chance for Ben Smith who found himself in the area with just Pullen to beat. He did but also beat the post when he should have done better. Crawley need to find a striker, only 4 or 5 Blue Square sides have scored fewer.
AFC relieved the pressure and in the 3 or 4 minutes before half time, several crosses came in and were glanced away by a red head. Main shot at Rayner’s legs and the Red Devils’ fans sung for the keeper to give them a wave. Charged up to retain momentum, Duncan launched an ugly two footed challenge and got his second yellow. Disaster for AFC, down to ten men and a whole half to weather the inevitable storm. Main was sacrificed for Paul Lorraine and Kedwell was now the lone striker looking to add to his 12 goals this season. But it was half time and now Terry Brown had to pull his troops together.
HT AFC Wimbledon 1 Crawley Town 1
Pause for breath … … … … and continue.
The half started with Hatton blasting over from a Welland free kick and for five minutes the ball flew from end to end. No let up then? No. Gradually the man advantage started to tell, although it was the disadvantaged side doing the telling.
Kedwell must have been given some loopy juice at half time, he led the line brilliantly, harrassed defenders, chased everything, held the ball up and sprayed balls wide to the flanks. He was being supported well by the midfield and the 10 men were really giving it a go. Even on the break, as they were now having to play, Crawley were unconvincing. Only one team seemed to want to win it, or Crawley were waiting for AFC to tire.
Another out-ball was held up well by Kedwell on the right, he beat the fullback on the outside and whipped over a cross that was touched back to Luke Moore who tucked it in the corner. Moore headed for the touchline, sliding on his knees (left) towards the home fans. The crowd went mental and it was no less than they and the players deserved. Now, would they sit back or just carry on playing as they had been?
AFC Wimbledon 2 Crawley Town 1
It was the former. Crawley had been shocked into action, AFC sat back and, 10 minutes later, had barely seen the ball but had brilliantly repelled almost everything. What they missed Louis headed wide or had blocked on the line. The only downside was an awkward landing under pressure for Pullen that resulted in a twisted ankle. He carried on with a kicker but was on his line for the rest of the game.
In the 74th minute AFC finally relieved the pressure when Hatton raced on to a lofted Wellard pass but was tackled as he was about to shoot. Corner. Indeed three corners in succession, the final one saw the ball girl blast the ball into the box to the corner taker, much to the amusement of the crowd. She looked really bored, god knows why, the game was riveting. AFC regrouped and, oddly, it was largely down to Crawley switching to three at the back, which meant AFC had less defenders to hit with the out ball and Kedwell had to work less hard to retrieve them. Forrest had also been bafflingly withdrawn after about an hour. Tactical cock up from Steve Evans we thought.
The crowd responded to the pressure release and were now trying their best to see their boys through the last 15. “We’ve only got ten men” came regularly and “I can’t help falling in love with you” got cranked up. Crawley were getting sloppy, desperate and narked, Kedwell was getting leggy but still chasing everything.
Another AFC corner and this time the ball girl took a purposeful slow walk to the corner flag and neatly placed the ball in the quadrant. Someone had been giving her sarcasm lessons. The crowd cheered. The corners were cleared. Bar a looping header that bounced off the top of Pullen’s bar, the occasional Crawley foray produced little. With 90 minutes nearly up, AFC looked like they’d done it. They took the ball into the corner and, perhaps inadvisedly, crossed. Rayner came too far, fumbled, and Kedwell was there (left) to crown his MoM performance with the 3rd and final goal.
FT AFC Wimbledon 3 Crawley Town 1
One can only wonder what Terry Brown said at half time and where that performance came from but we’re glad we braved the Waterloo-Norbiton sardine tin on wheels. Without intending to get too political, this is the real Wimbledon. A fantastic game and a fantastic advert for the FA Cup. £13 for that fayre was fantastic value. FANTASTIC.