A 90th minute strike from Mitch Pinnock earned a last-gasp Emirates FA Cup victory for AFC Wimbledon tonight.
It all looked set for a replay with Haringey having worked admirably to defy Wimbledon, but Pinnock fired home from an acute angle, via a deflection, to secure a 1-0 victory.
In atrocious conditions at Coles Park, Wimbledon kept going to see off a plucky challenge from a club four divisions below them in the league pyramid.
Neal Ardley made just one change to his starting line-up from the side that started the league match against Shrewsbury Town. With James Hanson injured, it meant a recall for Kwesi Appiah, who was aiming to score again after his midweek goal in the Checkatrade Trophy. As we built up to this match there was a cracking atmosphere at Coles Park with the home faithful really getting behind a group of players plying their trade at four divisions lower than Wimbledon. The 700 or so Dons fans behind the goal were also creating plenty of noise.
On a 3G pitch in front of the TV cameras, Wimbledon wasted no time in taking a grip on this match, dominating possession and creating half chances in the first 10 minutes. Mitch Pinnock had the first shot, which he struck wide from outside the area, and then Scott Wagstaff struck a superb effort that flashed just wide. A really good Dons move followed with Wagstaff finding Sibbick on the right and his cross was met by Joe Pigott, but he was unable to get enough on his header and Haringey keeper Valery Pajetat.
With 15 minutes on the clock, Haringey threatened for the first time. Good work by Joel Nouble initially caused Wimbledon problems down the left and the ball was worked to Michael Ademiluyi, who showed good touch to create a shooting chance, but Deji Oshilaja did well to block the attempt. Following that burst of energy from the hosts, Wimbledon started to get on the ball again and Anthony Hartigan tried his luck with a shot from outside the area that was just wide. Terell Thomas also had a decent chance from a corner, but he headed just over the crossbar. At the other end, Michael O’Donoghue struck a decent effort that was just over the crossbar. Wimbledon continued to have the better of it though and Pajetat was almost caught out by a goal-bound cross from Ben Purrington that he just managed to get back and save.
Wimbledon came so close to opening the scoring in the 35th minute through Mitch Pinnock. Following a foul on Wagstaff 20 yards out, Mitch Pinnock struck a free-kick well, but his effort was just over the crossbar. There was a good Wimbledon move five minutes before half-time that ended with Appiah putting over a good cross for Pigott, but his shot was comfortably wide. Wimbledon twice came so close to an opening goal on the stroke of half-time. First, Appiah and Pigott combined to create space for Purrington, but his shot was well saved by Pajetat and Wagstaff was just unable to scramble the ball home. Then Pinnock struck a superb curling effort that just missed the far post. As the half-time whistle shrilled, Wimbledon were perhaps unfortunate not to be in front, but the hosts had dug in and defended valiantly.
The Dons produced a very good move in the third minute of the second-half, but yet again the finishing touch was lacking. Anthony Hartigan picked out Mitch Pinnock on the right and his superb delivery found Pigott just six yards out, but he headed wide. Wimbledon continued to dominate possession, but Haringey were proving to be a tough nut to crack. Neal Ardley made his first change in the 59th minute with Anthony Wordsworth replacing Anthony Hartigan. With an hour gone, Wimbledon had completely dominated, but Haringey had clung on in there to keep their hopes alive. Haringey also looked dangerous on fleeting occasions when they put the ball into the box and on one occasion it needed Purrington to make a last-ditch headed clearance to stop Nouble getting on the end of it.
Midway through the first-half Wimbledon almost scored in fortuitous fashion when a cross from Pinnock caught in the wind and deceived Pajetat, but the ball hit the crossbar. Sibbick also had a shot beaten away by the keeper. With 22 minutes remaining, Wimbledon made another change with Jake Jervis entering the fray for Wagstaff. There was a real scare for Wimbledon 15 minutes from time when Haringey had a goal ruled out. The home faithful erupted when Joseph Staunton slotted home emphatically, but the flag was up for offside. Wimbledon quickly responded and Pinnock’s shot from an acute angle was well saved by Pajetat.
Despite exerting pressure in the latter stages, Wimbledon struggled to create clear-cut chances. Tom Soares did threaten to win it though with a fine effort from just outside the area, but Pajetat did well to save it. Though Haringey did go forward in pursuit of a late winner, Wimbledon stayed professional and it all looked set for a replay at the Cherry Red Records Stadium. However, Pinnock had other ideas. After a cross from Jervis was deflected into his path, Pinnock's shot from an acute angle beat Pajetat at his near post to find the back of the net and send the Dons fans behind the goal into raptures.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Ben Purrington, Deji Oshilaja, Scott Wagstaff (Jake Jervis), Anthony Hartigan (Anthony Wordsworth), Mitch Pinnock, Kwesi Appiah, Tom Soares, Toby Sibbick, Terell Thomas, Joe Pigott.
Pic credit: Nigel Coles, Pro Sports Images.