AFC Wimbledon threatened to take West Ham to penalties in the Carabao Cup tonight, before two late goals won it for the Premier League side.
Playing with 10 men for 72 minutes after Rod McDonald's sending off, Wimbledon held the Hammers at 1-1 until six minutes from time. Then goals from Angelo Obonna and Javier Hernandez earned a 3-1 for the visitors.
It was a proud night for Wimbledon with such a fine display against a top-flight side and the Dons ended it with three academy products on the pitch, Will Nightingale, Toby Sibbick and Anthony Hartigan all performing with great credit.
Neal Ardley made four changes to the side just edged out by Sunderland on Saturday. Tyler Garratt, Rod McDonald, Anthony Hartigan and Scott Wagstaff all came into the side with Ben Purrington, Will Nightingale, Anthony Wordsworth, and Andy Barcham having to settle for places on the bench. West Ham selected a strong side, which included internationals Pablo Zabaleta, Robert Snodgrass, Andriy Yarmolenko and Javier Hernandez.
There was a cracking atmosphere at the Cherry Red Records Stadium as the two sides emerged for a match televised on Sky Sports and there was a storming start to this cup tie. Mitch Pinnock swung in a lovely corner from the left that Joe Pigott rose highest to meet and his brilliant soaring header had enough power to beat West Ham keeper Adrian. What a way for Wimbledon to start this cup match and the celebrations were not bad either as all of the outfield players celebrated with Haydon the Womble!
A big response followed from the Hammers with Wimbledon pinned back towards Tom King's goal. The first real chance for West Ham came in the seventh minute when Snodgrass got on the end of a cross from Zabaleta, but his header was over the top. Ukrainian winger Yarmolenko looked particularly sharp early on, causing problems on the West Ham right, but he should have done better in the 13th minute. Played into space by Hernandez, Yarmolenko was through on goal, but his shot lacked accuracy as the ball flashed over the crossbar. A big incident in this match came in the 18th minute with Dons defender Rod McDonald receiving a red card. Already booked earlier on, McDonald was adjudged to have brought down Hernandez just outside the box and a second yellow card was shown by referee Tim Robinson. Thankfully for Wimbledon, there was no double punishment with Aaron Cresswell's free-kick wide of the target.
With 26 minutes on the clock, Neal Ardley made an understandable change with goalscorer Pigott sacrificed and Will Nightingale entering the fray. With a one-man disadvantage, Wimbledon were forced to defend in numbers. However, the Hammers were denied time and time again by valiant defending from the resolute 10 men. Though Lucas Perez forced Tom King into a save, superb defending stopped West Ham creating chances. Scott Wagstaff made a brilliant contribution to the cause when he reacted well to clear Yarmolenko's cross. Wagstaff also made a fine clearance to block Yarmolenko's well-struck shot. Nightingale also showed just why it was worth strengthening the defence when he made two vital blocks in his own area. The half-time whistle signalled a job well done so far from Wimbledon with a performance full of spirit and defensive resilience.
The second-half was always going to a tough assignment for Wimbledon, particularly with one man less, but West Ham struggled to break the Dons down. There was a half chance when substitute Felipe Anderson sent over a fine cross that Perez reached first but his header was well gathered by King. Anderson also tried his luck with a 25-yard effort, but it flashed into the side netting. West Ham's best chance of the second-half followed shortly afterwards when Yarmolenko crossed to set-up Hernandez, but he shot wide of the target.
Just when Wimbledon appeared to have frustrated West Ham with the visitors becoming increasingly desperate, the equaliser arrived in the 62nd minute. It was a fine goal too with Issa Diop striking a fierce 30-yard drive that had too much power for King to reach. A second goal for West Ham so nearly followed with Diop's header thudding against the crossbar. With West Ham pouring forward in search of another, it needed Toby Sibbick to make a superb tackle to stop Perez opening up the Wimbledon defence.
Neal Ardley made his first change midway through the second-half with Wordsworth introduced for Mitch Pinnock. West Ham continued to pile forward, but there was a wastefulness in attack, Yarmolenko summing that up with a shot well over. The Hammers also failed to make the most of excellent balls into the box from Cresswell on the left, though Wimbledon's defending was worthy of real credit. At the other end, a rare Wimbledon attack ended with James Hanson almost getting on the end of a cross from Liam Trotter.
Just when it looked like Wimbledon might earn penalties, West Ham took the lead. It was a goal that belied all of Wimbledon's previous good defending with a corner reaching the back post and Angelo Obonna side footed the ball home in the 84th minute. It was harsh on Wimbledon to concede so late on after such a resilient display. Hernandez made it three in injury-time after rounding King with Nightingale just unable to stop it on the line, but that did not take the shine off a fine performance from the Dons. Despite another defeat, the circumstances of it meant that everyone in blue and yellow could be so proud of a fantastic effort on the night.
AFC Wimbledon: Tom King, Toby Sibbick, Tyler Garratt, Rod McDonald, Deji Oshilaja, Mitch Pinnock (Anthony Wordsworth), Anthony Hartigan, Liam Trotter, Scott Wagstaff, James Hanson (Kwesi Appiah), Joe Pigott (Will Nightingale).
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.