Brendan Kiernan strikes killer blow to Ashford
Substitute Brendan Kiernan finally landed the knockout blow in extra-time tonight as Wimbledon made hard work of edging out Ashford Town.
Kiernan, who only recently returned to full training after a knee injury, earned a 1-0 Surrey Senior Cup second round win in the 103rd minute after more good work from the impressive Huw Johnson.
While it was hardly a performance to set the pulses racing among the 255 spectators who paid to watch at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, manager Neal Ardley at least had the satisfaction of watching several first-teamers gain valuable game time.
It was a strong side selected by the Wimbledon manager for this Surrey Senior Cup tie with experienced heads Pim Balkestein and Mat Mitchel-King included in the starting line-up.
Jason Prior, who would have had more reason than anyone to be enthused about taking on Ashford Town after eight months out through injury, had an opportunity to mark his comeback with a goal after just 20 seconds when Kieran Djilali put him through, but his effort was saved by Kyle Merson. If the Dons thought that was a sign of things to come, they were mistaken as Ashford provided stubborn opposition. The likes of Huw Johnson and Ryan Hervel showed promise in midfield as they attempted to dictate matters from the centre of the park, but Wimbledon lacked a cutting edge in the final third. Indeed, it was Johnson who took matters into his own hands with a smart turn and shot that was just wide of the far post. However, the visitors showed no lack of ambition though and Pietro Palladino tried his luck with a 25-yard shot that fizzed just wide.
Ashford, currently mid-table in Evo-Stik Division One Central, could be well satisfied with their first-half efforts as they restricted Wimbledon to very few chances, the hosts struggling to support lone front-man Prior.
The second-half started in a similar pattern to the way the first had ended with Wimbledon dictating the play, but struggling to break down the resolute visitors. Johnson continued to show just why he has made the breakthrough at first-team level this season by looking the most likely to break the deadlock. The 18-year-old fancied his chances of securing that elusive goal for Wimbledon and he fired just wide from the edge of the box early in the second-half. Rashid Yussuff, making his first-team return after shrugging off a hip infection, then tried his luck with an audacious lob that was just too high. Wimbledon then came even closer when Yussuff’s corner picked out Pim Balkestein, but his header was cleared off the line.
minute with Kiernan and Mitchel-King replacing Prior and Yussuff respectively. The Wimbledon manager decided to give more of his squad a chance as the second-half wore on and Harry Wise entered the fray in place of Warren Cummings. The Dons eventually started to put more pressure on and yet again it was Johnson who provided the spark. The all-action midfielder cut inside and unleashed a powerful drive that deserved a goal, but the ball bounced off the inside of a post and Djilali screwed the follow-up wide from close range. Wimbledon failed to make an impression during the rest of normal time and Ashford secured extra-time relatively comfortably.rdNeal Ardley made a double substitution in the 63
There was little to enthuse about in extra-time and it therefore came as a surprise when the Dons finally broke the deadlock in the 103rd minute. Johnson was again at the heart of it as he latched onto a Djilali flick and fired against the post once again, but Kiernan was in the right place to tap into the empty net. Djilali came close to making it more comfortable when he forced a fine save from Merson, but one was enough to set-up a home tie against Horley Town in the next round.
AFC Wimbledon: Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz, Emmanuel Akiotu, Warren Cummings (Harry Wise), Kieran Djilali, Dan Sweeney, Pim Balkestein, Will Bor, Ryan Hervel, Jason Prior (Brendan Kiernan), Rashid Yussuff (Mat Mitchel-King), Huw Johnson.