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Stars from 1988 FA Cup Final win celebrated our first season after reformation

On this day 17 years ago

5 May 2020

It was certainly an extra special end of season celebration on this day 17 years ago as AFC Wimbledon hosted Dons stars from the past.

On 5 May 2003, to mark the final Combined Counties League Premier Division fixture of the 2002/03 campaign, we welcomed two of our FA Cup winners from 1988 with Dave Beasant and Lawrie Sanchez presented on the pitch to supporters. Our current Club President Dickie Guy, whose goalkeeping achievements are still revered by Wimbledon supporters, is pictured above with Beasant, who made history as the first goalkeeper to save a penalty in a cup final.

Robbie Earle and Roger Joseph - two more Wimbledon favourites from the past - joined the list of former players. Members of Wimbledon's 1963 FA Amateur Cup Final team also attended and so too did Kevin Cooper (former Dons Player of the Year - not to be confused with his namesake who was playing that day!)  

In a celebration of Wimbledon's first season after reformation, AFC Wimbledon youth players were also presented to the sell-out crowd, who watched the Dons win 5-1 in a local derby versus Raynes Park Vale. Kevin Cooper and Danny Oakins both scored twice with Neil Robson also on target. 

Take a look at our gallery of pictures above (photographs by Derek Goodhew) and read the match report below from our old official website (written by Dean Parsons).

Where do I start to report about this fantastic day! So much happened today I apologise now if this is the longest match report ever written. Well I got there early and bought my "it's been eamotional" t-shirt off Jonesy - and the famous saying was so true by the end of the day! I went around selling raffle tickets, which raised £1,063 for the ground fund.

Fans were queuing to get in as early as 11.00 am making me think "wow, we could have a full house today' and I wasn't wrong. The attendance was 4,560 - our largest of the season and taking our average attendance to over 3,000.

I managed to get to my seat just as Robbie Earle was getting to his and he was amazed by the atmosphere as he came out. Raynes Park kicked off and six minutes into the game out came Dave Beasant and Lawrie Sanchez to take their seats, receiving an amazing reception from the fans. Just as they were sitting down, RPV's Schofield tripped 'Coops' in the box for a penalty. He hit it to the left of the goal, sending the RPV No1 the wrong way, before running into the West Bank to milk the adulation, and picking up a T-shirt from the main stand with the words "that's 40" - to celebrate scoring his 40th of the season.

Almost straight from the kick off, RPV equalised with a cracking goal from 20 yards by Neil Wickes. In the 20th minute, great play between Joe and Coops saw the ball break to Sully, who shot from the edge of the box, and the keeper saved with his feet for a corner. From the resulting flag-kick, Sully hit it to the far post for Sir Matt Everard to head it back into the six-yard box and Danny Oakins scored a bullet header from close range. 2-1 to us!

Just 10 minutes later, we had another corner and Danny O scored again with his head, reeling away to high five with everyone in our dug-out. In the 38th minute, in walks last season's player of the year Kevin Cooper, now at Wolves, to chants of "there's only 2 Kevin Coopers". The Wolves man then nearly witnessed the unthinkable. Another Sully corner found our Cooper on the pitch and he nearly scored with his head, which would have raised big money for the ground fund. At the other end, RPV's Victor shot from 20 yards, only to see it beat Ray Merry, but not the post, and it rebounded to safety. Just before the half-time whistle was blown 'Tall Mark' managed to get into double figures with his (should be copyrighted) favourite phrase "you muppet!".

The half-time interval was full of eamotion (we will make this the new way how to spell emotion!) With almost all of the surviving players from the 1963 cup final team being introduced, along with McCready and Guy from the team that got us into the football league, and 1988 cup winners Beasant and Sanchez, as well as Forever Barmy tra la la la Roger Joseph, Robbie Earle and super Kevin Cooper. Not forgetting the return of the womble mascot (and contrary to the rumours it wasn't me inside, even though I would love to do it). This was where I became a little kid again, getting autographs and posing for photos with them, just managing to sit down in time for the second-half to kick off.

We kicked off towards the Athletics End and only had to wait eight minutes for a moment of magic. Neil Robson forced Coops into letting him take a free kick 25 yards out and curled it around the wall and into the bottom corner, where the keeper had no chance - it was almost as good as his one in the away fixture, total quality! Just five minutes later and great play by Robbo as the ball fall for Joe, only for him to blast it over (the referee with a smile on his face pointed as if a conversion had been scored!). It was nice to see a referee with a smile on his face all game, I have got to say he was one of the best refs we had all season. Before the ball was retrieved, Ally Russell replaced Joe.

RPV probably had their best spell of pressure for the next ten minutes, hitting the woodwork and striking a free-kick just over with Wickes and Dobo junior really impressing, but enough about them. Just five minutes from time, Coops managed to somehow get the ball past two RPV defenders and the keeper to roll the ball home for his 41st of the season and 5-1 to us.

Almost immediately, RPV went on the attack. Ray gathered the ball and collided with Sir Matt. Play resumed with Matt still being treated as we went up the other end and good link up play between Bolger and Coops finished with Coops shooting just wide and unlucky not to claim a hat-trick. A minute later, the ref blew the whistle and the party started!

Sadly, Coops didn't score with his head, but up stepped Ivor in a green keepers' jersey (looking like the green goblin!) to try and stop Coops scoring with his head. Ivor managed to keep him at bay until the fourth attempt when Coops, after hitting the post with his previous header, finally managed to score with his head (with maybe a little help from Ivor!). Then came the awards and out came all the players and staff. At which point, Robbo threw me his shirt. I had to pull down my shades as I was overcome with eamotion and could feel the tears welling up. I had never been so happy on the last day of the season, I can never remember such a great end of season send off. Lee Sidwell won both the fans and players' player of the year awards and looked really chuffed - he deserved it. The Junior Dons voted for Coops, who was equally chuffed. Then the party started for the night, and I managed to get past and present players to sign my shirt.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Neil Robson. Could it have been anyone else? He has played in every position this season, except striker and goalie, and he has always been remarkable. He finished the season with a great goal and a commanding performance at the back. I don't think its any coincidence that Sully reclaimed his form when Robbo played behind him. I really hope he doesn't hang up his boots yet. And anyway it's my report, he is my player of the season and I can be biased!

After thought: It's now only 71 days to our first pre-season friendly, so what do I do with myself? Apart from jump out of a plane, play in the five a side tournament, and await the arrival of my first child!


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