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Rochdale drama for WDON

5 November 2013

Late twist provides day to remember for commentators

With the drama of lightning strikes, floodlight failure and a late Wimbledon winner at Rochdale, it was certainly an eventful Saturday for our WDON commentary team.

The football commentator’s nightmare of being unable to report live to supporters briefly came true at Spotlands Stadium, but thankfully WDON were soon back on air – and there was euphoria in the press box when Andy Frampton struck that late winner.

Rob Cornell (pictured far left with his WDON colleagues and Jonathan Meades after the Fleetwood game) provides us with a behind-the-scenes blog from Saturday’s game.

smashing home a goal that was to be Saturday’s eventual match-winner. A player born in Wimbledon slides across the drenched Spotland surface on his knees in sheer jubilation after

For warrior Andy Frampton and his Dons team-mates who piled on top of him on a muddy touch-line, it could be a turning point after a dramatic, weather worn, afternoon. For those of us commentating on events for Radio WDON (the club’s official channel via Dons Player) it was yet another extra-special moment to be a part of and bring to listeners worldwide.

Why extra-special? Your team behind the mic are already in the privileged, and possibly even envied position, of using our broadcasting skills to bring the match into your living rooms via the airwaves. We love the responsibility of reporting about what’s going on (or not, at one stage on Saturday) involving the subject that we’re already so passionate about - AFC Wimbledon.

But exceptional circumstances such as Saturday certainly tested those in the press box after the usual start on an away trip.

First thing to be prepared for is the early start on the supporters’ coach, but at least it’s daylight now as the media team meets up for yet another long journey around the country this season.

With a five-hour trip, it’s essential to “bring yer banter” as Sammy Moore would say. Talking football, chewing the fat on issues, and surveying the form helps get you through the first few hours as the weather is changeable around you outside. It’s also useful to pick up the vibe of travelling supporters around you. The last hour tends to drag on a little, which is when madness usually breaks out and you delve into classic comedy television lines.

Having arrived and signed in, it’s time to set-up and do sound checks for broadcast. On some occasions, the legend that is Mikey T (my colleague) will venture onto the edge of the pitch and tap it with his sparkling set of wheels. “The game is ON” he confirms to eliminate any doubt. This time I look to the gaffer and Neal says: “Not bad, seeing as they’ve been playing Rugby League on it.”

The final part of the pre-match warm-up is a new ritual introduced this season. Goalkeeping Coach Bayzo momentarily breaks concentration from working with Ross and Seb to acknowledge our presence. In an empty stadium, Bayzo booms out “Alright lads!” followed by his usual cheeky grin. But it’s quickly back to work for Ashley Bayes and the WDON commentary team.

The first-half offered little indication of what was to come and with Wimbledon 1-0 down at half-time, we hoped that our attacking players would be as greedy in front of goal as our board of directors, who were going through our chocolate supplies at half-time. Well, we’re all in it together I guess!

Second-half we grow into the challenge and it’s a strike from a former WDON player of the year Sammy “Ratter” Moore that levels it up in the gathering gloom. Game on! Or is it? A spectacular lights show behind the visiting supporters’ stand illuminates the Lancashire skyline on the hillside, a storm is brewing. Surely, not the freakish conditions endured at Morecambe a fortnight previously yet again? No, much worse.

With Wimbledon very much back in the game and the commentary in full flow, the heavy rain, thunder and fork lightning suddenly takes effect in the worst way possible. Nature’s director yells “Cut!” with another clap of thunder signalling an all-out power failure, therefore ending our commentary, plunging everywhere into darkness, and sending everyone scurrying for cover.

I stay in touch by text with producer Geoff Hawley back at the BBC (Basingstoke Broadcast Control). Safety announcements give way to black comedy as an almighty hail storm passes and the PA system kicks back into life with the Travis track “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?”.

With communication restored, WDON all of a sudden becomes a rolling news network as we keep listeners up to date with the very latest. We hope that the match restarts again and the Dons can go on to earn a precious away win.

 The first part of the dream scenario comes true as the lights come back on and the 22 players enter the pitch once again. Concerns among our press team that we may not make the train back from Manchester Piccadilly are quickly forgotten when the man Neal Ardley refers to as a “warrior” joins in the attack and strikes a late winner.

Just enough time afterwards before our departure through the flooded streets to catch up with our co-commentator at Brentford earlier this season - Alan Bennett. Down in the tunnel area, the skipper is clearly going to enjoy the “craic” tonight. Baz Fuller walks out with a ghetto-blaster over his arm that’s as almost as big as him during a lively post-match interview.

That old Wimbledon dressing room spirit will never die and your commentary team will keep going through thick and thin!

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