AFC Wimbledon do themselves and football proud
It is a very rare occurrence in any story telling medium that the villain of the piece walks away victorious at the end but unlike art the beauty of sport is its unpredictability; there is no script that the story has to follow and so occasionally in sport, the bad guys do walk away the victor.
Its Milton Keynes who take the role of bad guys in this story. This Sunday saw the first encounter between MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon in the FA cup second round, a game which had every football fan in the country rooting for the same result.
Though as I stepped into the away end at Stadium MK I was shocked to find that it was the game was not all about revenge for the travelling supporters, they were there to showcase the pride they had in their club. AFC Wimbledon fans were there not to humiliate MK as sweet as that would have been but to showcase how far they had come. How they had risen from the depths of non league football and re established their place in the football league in spite of all the injustices that they had been served.
As I took my place in the stands I looked around and saw myself surrounded by a sea of different colours. Oxford United, Morecambe, Stoke City, fans from clubs all across the divisions had made the journey to Milton Keynes to show their support for The Dons.
There was a strange atmosphere around the ground as the game prepared to kick off. MK revealing a banner declaring ‘We’re keeping The Dons, get over it’ and another describing their opposition as ‘AFC Hypocrites’ whilst the away end was alive with colour Blue and Yellow balloons floating high with fans holding up printed sheets declaring ‘We are Wimbledon’.
There was very little in the way of chances during the first half of the game but the atmosphere was exciting enough to keep me entertained. Passionate exchanges between the fans going on throughout the half with old Wimbledon songs being brought out with a clear statement of intent. The gulf of quality between the two teams was clearly evident, MK approached the game with the organisation and efficiency you’d expect from a team fighting promotion in League one but Wimbledon were strong enough at the back to hold on with Will Antwi putting in a man of the match performance at centre-back, hoofing and heading away every ball that come is way.
AFC’s stronghold was finally broken down as Stephen Gleeson fired in a wonder striker on the stroke of half time which set of scenes of jubilation in the home end of the stadium. The Wimbledon fans were clearly disappointed but their singing wasn’t to be silenced, their support was fantastic throughout the half as they drowned out the support from their rivals.
Mk embarrassed themselves at half time when they opted to parade ex players around the pitch in a weak attempt at annoying AFC fans. Kevin Gallen came out and was described as a club legend for his 30 appearances and 9 goals for MK. If that is enough to warrant legendary status then me using instagram qualifies me as a photographer and Delroy Facey deserves a statue at every club in the bottom two divisions.
The second half started in the same fashion as the first half, neither team giving the other much in terms of chances until AFC got away on the break and after a lovely bit of passing Jack Midson finished the move which he started, converting a diving header right in front of his fans and sending them into the raptures. Passion boiled over as Wimbledon fans charged the pitch and Midson received a yellow for his participation in the event.
MK were riled following the goal and really began to put the away team under pressure though Wimbledon stayed strong, a one on one fell to Midson in the 88th minute of the game following a defensive error but the normally prolific frontman dragged the ball miserably wide as the away end held their heads in their hands.
Then came the twist in the tale. As the away end was trying to deal with the shock, MK stormed up the pitch earning themselves a corner. The ball was swung in but once again Antwi headed away but this time only as far as Wolves loanee Zeli Ismail who hit a shot in the ground which was flicked up and over the Wimbledon keeper by MK right back Jon Otsemobor. The away end was stunned into silence for the first time in 90 minutes whilst MK fans invaded the pitch in celebration.
Once order had been restored in the stands the final whistle inevitably came but to my surprise it was the away end that were in full voice, cheering on their heroes who were led over to the away end by Neil Ardley. An overwhelming sense of pride was felt among the following fans and rightfully so. Wimbledon had shown that they were back and that they were here to stay, it might have been MK who progressed to the third round of the cup but ultimately the result felt like a trivial matter, Wimbledon had come to show what they were all about and they had done it with their heads held high.
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