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Five of the best: Long range strikes

Memorable goals from Wimbledon’s history

8 July 2021

Club News

Five of the best: Long range strikes

Memorable goals from Wimbledon’s history

8 July 2021

In the latest part of our summer series, Stephen Crabtree recalls five of the best long range strikes that led to key victories in Wimbledon’s history.

1. Mick Mahon (v Burnley, FA Cup third round, 4th January 1975)

It was the goal that put Wimbledon on the map. Starting at Bracknell Town, the Southern League Dons had won through six FA Cup rounds before facing Burnley at Turf Moor. Lying sixth in the First Division, the Clarets were expected to win with something to spare but they could not find a way past a well organised defence and an inspired Dickie Guy. Then, in the 49th minute, came the goal that led to Allen Batsford’s men becoming the first non-league side to win on a top flight ground for 56 years.

Skipper Ian Cooke had forced his way past home defender Jim Thomson before firing in a shot that was charged down by goalkeeper Alan Stevenson. The ball ran along the edge of the box, where striker Roger Connell miscued before Mick Mahon, a 30-year-old PE teacher from Colchester, swept the ball home with a low left foot drive. The Dons protected a narrow lead from then on before emerging with a famous victory.

Pic: Mick Mahon (centre) sees his shot from the edge of the box enter the net at Turf Moor

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2. Alan Cork (v Reading, 4th Division, 23rd September 1978)

A stunning 72nd minute strike from Alan Cork allowed the Dons to leapfrog Reading and go top of Division 4 for the first time. Starting just our second year in the Football League, Wimbledon had begun the season brilliantly before facing a showdown with the division’s only other unbeaten team. On a warm afternoon at Plough Lane, defences were on top before the teenage striker fired home a fierce drive from outside the box with less than 20 minutes remaining.

With future Dons Gary Peters and Lawrie Sanchez in Wimbledon's line-up on that day, the Royals were to go on to be crowned champions the following May with Wimbledon joining them in the Third Division after finishing third. Asked by reporters to explain his side’s success, manger Dario Gradi replied: “The picking of lively players rather than established ones. The players that have been brought into the side have given us much more life and movement. The younger ones are full of enthusiasm.”

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3. Robbie Earle (v West Ham United, 1st Division, 24th August 1991)

It was the start of a new era. With the Premier League looming, the top flight Dons had abandoned Plough Lane the previous May in order to move to Selhurst Park to meet the requirement for an all-seater stadium. The first goal of what proved to be 11 seasons lodging in SE25 was scored in the 31st minute by new signing Robbie Earle with a low drive from the edge of the box. John Fashanu added a second after the break as Wimbledon beat the largely toothless Hammers with some ease.

“We have the scope at Selhurst Park to become one of the major powers in football, especially with the advent of the likely super league,” bullish owner Sam Hammam said. “We have constantly surprised people, season after season, and I think it is time people stopped being surprised and started expecting Wimbledon to be successful. We have some top quality players and the club will continue to do well.”

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4. Sim Johnston (v Hartley Whitney, Combined Counties League, 31st August 2002)

Just the fifth game of the AFC Wimbledon story produced one of its most spectacular goals. The new Dons were 2-0 up in a level 9 Combined Counties League fixture at home to Hartley Whitney when Sim Johnston stepped out of defence to fire home a brilliant effort from fully 30 yards out. Having turned up at the open trials on Wimbledon Common just weeks earlier, the centre back played in a number of early games before being cast aside. But his strike will never be forgotten.

"I remember picking the ball up inside our half and going past a couple of players before I found myself slap bang in the middle of the goal 30 yards out,” the goalscorer recalled recently. “I couldn’t have dreamed of hitting it more sweetly. I’d love to say I was aiming for the top corner but I just gave it a belt and it flew in. The Channel 4 breakfast show, RI:SE, were showing highlights of our games every Monday morning and they sent me the video. Whenever I feel a bit low I put it on.”

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5. Jake Reeves (v York City, League Two, 19th March 2016)

The goal that rekindled our League Two promotion hopes. With the score against relegation-threatened York City tied at 1-1 as the match entered injury time, Jake Reeves’s 93rd minute wonder strike gave the hugely-relieved Dons a first win in six games. At the start of April, Neal Ardley’s men embarked on a five-match winning streak that carried us into the play-offs where a two-legged semi final win over Accrington was followed by a glorious afternoon at Wembley.

“It was immense,” the manager said of Reeves’ goal. “You need those moments and we have had enough bad moments that have changed games against us this season, but that was a great one. You feel someone is looking down on you. We’ve told Jake to drive more and use his legs to get into the box more. Today he has popped up with a great moment; let’s hope it is a moment we look back on that changed the course of the season.”

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