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Crabtree’s Classics: A memorable away day in a season of frustration

Dons strike five, but bid for a third successive promotion comes up short

17 July 2020

Stephen Crabtree, the editor of The Historical Don, today selects an away match from 2006 when everything seemed to click into place.

During July, Stephen chooses a memorable game from each of the last 31 seasons and the emphatic victory against Wealdstone is his selection from the 2005/06 season. It was a win that appeared to signal a promotion charge for Dave Anderson’s men, but they would ultimately fall just short in their efforts to escape the quagmire of the Ryman Premier League.

Saturday 25th March 2006: Ryman Premier League

Wealdstone 1 (Miller 39)

AFC Wimbledon 5 (Barnes 10, 25, 72, Howard 47, Smeltz 75)

It was a squad that blew frustratingly hot and cold. Looking to gain their third successive promotion having started out in the step 9 Combined Counties League, the Dons were finding the Ryman League a tougher nut to crack. Despite being capable of beating any team on their day, Dave Anderson’s side had dropped too many points for a serious title challenge and were down in seventh place as they travelled to Northwood in late March to face Wealdstone.

With club legends Allen Batsford and Francis Joseph looking on from the VIP seats, the Dons brushed past free scoring Wealdstone with almost embarrassing ease. Paul Barnes was the star of the show as he scored a perfect hat trick, one with either foot and another with his head, but Shane Smeltz notched the goal of the game with a delicate chip over goalkeeper Carroll to complete a rout.

Any hopes that the Dons would go on to sweep all before them were dashed a week later when Hampton won 4-0 at Kingsmeadow. “Following a brilliant performance at Wealdstone this has brought me back down to earth,” said manager Dave Anderson after the humiliating reverse. “I can’t remember a day I’ve so looked forward to so much that has turned out so bad.” 

The season was to end in further heartache with a play-off semi final defeat at the hands of Fisher Athletic.

AFC Wimbledon: Little, Finnie, Sargent, Daly, Curley (Woolner 81), Howard, Ursell, Garrard, Barnes (George 78), Smeltz, Plummer (Brennan 67).

The picture above (taken by Paul Willatts) shows Antony Howard heading home the third goal.

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