Fightback falls just short
London Senior Cup 5th Round
AFC Wimbledon vs Cray Wanderers
With the majority of the team made up of Mark Robinson's Under 18 side it was going to be an evening of adventure, and so it proved.
sticks in place of the Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz. Also last week's Surrey Senior Cup goal scoring centre half, Owen Roberts had a further run out. Just Warren Cummings, Charlie Strutton and Frankie Merrifield had first team experience with 17 year old Jack Greenaway taking the position between the
Cray Wanderers boasted a 48 year old and 16 year old amongst their squad with a number of others with extensive non league experience. Cray's last visit to the stadium was a 9-3 defeat to Kingstonian and despite that they clearly set out intent on attack.
Within a minute of the start, Strutton forced visiting keeper Andy Walker into a save after fine work by Cummings and Yousseff Bamba down the left hand side and that was repeated as the Dons youngsters put their more experienced opponents under the cosh for the first 30 minutes.
20 yards following a well worked corner, Walker made a full length save to turn the goal bound shot away to safety. A truly fine save. Next up was Khan Williams-Mitchell in the 4th minute who tried his luck from
Frankie Merrifield was dominating midfield and found Strutton free in the penalty with a brilliant 30 yard pass. Strutton controlled the ball and set himself up and let fly - the keeper beat the ball away, rebounding to Strutton, whose next shot was blocked by a defender.
Strutton was at it again, taking a cheeky shot-cum-cross, which Walker tipped away from under his cross bar. Tom Beere, lurking at the far post, collected the ball and lashed in a shot, and the keeper turned it away for another corner.
More pressure followed in the 28th minute, as Merrifield found Yousseff beyond the defence and sped away into the area; his shot was again saved by Walker, who was really earning his crust.
Strutton advanced to just outside the box, found Beere in space, who calmly sidestepped a defender, and buried the ball for 1-0 in the 30 minute. A minute later, Strutton was free and shot with power as Walker managed to keep a clean sheet at the second attempt, but not for much longer. Within seconds the Dons were ahead.
That lead unfortunately lasted only 60 seconds, as Greenway had his clearance charged down by Cray striker Paul Booth - the ball could have gone anywhere but unfortunately for the Dons it settled snugly into the net.
Pressure was mounting and Cray's Matt Pooley tried his luck next; but he didn't connect properly and his shot trickled to Greenaway. Next, Roberts was robbed in defence and Booth shot from 15 yards, it was saved, the rebound falling to Danny Phillips who found the resolute Oluseyi Daley clearing his shot to safety. It was now non-stop Cray Wanderers as they began to dominate play.
Cray's third successive corner was returned with value at the near post and Billy Burgess got in ahead of the challenge to steer his shot home and put Cray ahead. A sequence of corners was the undoing of the Dons defence in the final minute of the half.
Goals in 51 and 63 minutes put Cray into a seemingly unassailable 4 -1 lead. The second half was extraordinary as it seemed that Cray would race away with the game after early Dons pressure.
Cray's fourth goal was a move of simplicity. Michael Power powered away from injured right back Matt Cunnington and played a fine cross into the six yard box for Bremner to nod home past the keeper. The third goal was of the Dons own making as a mis-hit clearance fell to Cray and ended with Leigh Bremner taking his chance from eight yards.
The injured Cunnington was replaced soon afterwards by Greg Hayden; he was joined by Dan Pearse and George Oakley, who respectively took over from Khan Williams-Mitchell and Chace Jacquart.
A consolation goal arrived on 74 minutes with a close-range nod home by Strutton, after Bamba had beaten his man and passed to Oakley, who then set up the The game now swung back Wimbledon's way as the fresh legs started running Cray ragged with fine passing and movement.simple chance.
At this stage, experience told, as Cray set about playnig keep ball and running down the clock, and even with five minutes added time a fourth an equalising goal could not be found. And so it was 3-4 to Cray, with five minutes plus stoppage time to play and, given the pace cof the game, not surprisingly cramp was affecting several players. A fine pass to Beere set him racing towards goal and as the 'keeper advanced to close the angle Beere simply looked up and chipped him from twenty yards. More chances followed, but the scores stayed the same, until Pearse and Oakley combined in a break from defence, surging up the field.
All credit to both sets of players for what became quite a breath-taking game of seven goals and plenty of thrills, witnessed by 176 fans.
AFC Wimbledon: Greenaway, Cunnington, Cummings, Merrifield, Roberts, Daley,
Bamba, Williams-Mitchell, Strutton, Jacquart and Beere
Subs: Pearse, Bishop, Hayden, Oakley and Baffour
Cray Wanderers: Walker, Pooley, Clark, Stavrinou, Burgess, Abott P, Power,
Saunders, Bremner, Phillips, Booth
Subs: Estrada, Fray, Fasunan, Abbott G and Eshilokun