Alan Bennett on the drama of 2012/13
Alan Bennett is currently helping another fans-owned club Cork City to recapture former glories, but he says that keeping AFC Wimbledon in the Football League is an achievement that still makes him feel proud.
As part of our countdown to fixture release day on 17 June, we spoke to Wimbledon’s former captain about the dramatic events of 2012/13 when Neal Ardley took over as manager and kept the Dons up, but only after a tension-filled final-day victory against Fleetwood.
Below Alan selects his key games from that season, what it was like to be a part of, and fills us in on his current career with hometown club Cork City.
Northampton Town (h) on 19 February, 2013 (drew 1-1)
On a cold Tuesday night in February, the home faithful raised the temperatures by creating a great atmosphere and Wimbledon’s players responded with an all-action display against a side chasing promotion. Alan Bennett (pictured above celebrating his goal with Jack Midson) put Wimbledon in front and though a penalty from Bayo Akinfenwa earned a point for the Cobblers, Neal Ardley’s men took heart from the manner of their performance.
“At the time Northampton were flying, but we went in front and we should have wrapped it up with a second goal,” recalled Alan. “Though they got an equaliser, we felt afterwards that we were more than capable of picking up the points required to stay up.”
Fleetwood Town (h) on 27 April, 2013 (won 2-1)
Alan said that Wimbledon’s fighting draw at Champions Gillingham a week earlier was absolutely vital as it meant that the Dons could control their own destiny. Wimbledon threw everything at Fleetwood and Gary Alexander finally broke the deadlock, but a scrambled effort from Andy Mangan put the Dons back in the mire. However, a penalty from Jack Midson proved decisive and the final whistle signalled euphoric scenes at the Cherry Reds Records Stadium.
“It was a hell of a game a week prior to that at Gillingham and we knew after that 2-2 draw that staying up was in our own hands. It meant that we could control the situation better during the week leading up to Fleetwood. There was massive pressure on the day and we knew from the club’s perspective how much was riding on it. We knew what was required and it was a big relief when the final whistle went.”
Fighting relegation was something that Alan had never been through before in his career and he said that maintaining belief after the defeat to relegation rivals Barnet in April was of vital importance.
“I am very proud of what we achieved in such a short space of time,” added Alan. “That group was only put together in January by the manager. That meant we were up against it in terms of time. We experienced plenty of ups and downs. We put a lot of good results together and it looked like we would be safe with about two months to go.
“But we got beat by Barnet and that put us in the bottom two. That was a real low point, but we knew that we could not let the situation get the better of us. I had never previously been through it in my career and it was fantastic in the end that we stayed up.”
Cork City currently have a chance to win the national title as their win at home to Bray Wanderers on Friday night consolidated second spot in SSE Airtricity League. Alan returned to the side after injury in that victory and he is enjoying being back at the club he helped win the title in 2005.
“It’s going well as we are second in the league,” said Alan. “We have the draw coming up for the Europa League so that is exciting and hopefully we can get through a couple of rounds. That will be the target.
“Cork City went through a tough time while I was away, but the fans got together for the good of the club. It’s a similar story to what Wimbledon went through. We are now getting back to the standard the club was at when I was here previously. We are getting crowds of between 3,000 and 4,000 so it is a good place to be playing my football now.”