The Dons made hard work of securing a place in Monday night's second round draw with Ollie Palmer's first-half strike enough to defeat Guiseley.
The visitors fitted the mould of a plucky non league side giving everything to upset more illustrious opponents - and we certainly had to endure one or two nervy moments. Ultimately, the records will state that Palmer's well-taken goal secured a 1-0 victory in our first Emirates FA Cup match in Wimbledon with supporters for over three decades. However, there will need to be marked improvement on this performance if the Dons are to make further progress in this competition. On balance, Guiseley played out of their skins to provide stubborn resistance and our defence held it together collectively to avoid an upset.
Guiseley came into this match in 20th place in National League North, but they had shown their danger in the last round by getting the better of a Brackley side occupying second place in the same division. A total of 85 places separated Wimbledon and Guiseley in the league pyramid, but one look at the teamsheet showed that Robbo had delivered on his promise to treat our opponents with maximum respect. The Dons starting line-up showed just two changes from the side beaten at Cambridge with Ollie Palmer and Nesta Guinness-Walker replacing Aaron Pressley and Henry Lawrence. Young talents Luke Jenkins, Huseyin Biler, and Quaine Bartley were all on the bench.
The Dons came out of the blocks swiftly and Ayoub Assal latched onto a through ball by Luke McCormick to go through on goal in the second minute, but the flag was up for offside. Guiseley keeper Brad Wade was forced into action for the first time in the sixth minute when he reacted superbly to palm away a well struck volley by Ollie Palmer. The Dons were unable to build upon that early momentum.
With a vocal travelling support cheering them on, the men from Yorkshire certainly held their own in the first-half. The Dons were put under pressure from corners and free-kicks, but Ben Heneghan’s towering presence was put to good use as he helped to deal with the aerial threat. The visitors also showed that they could play a bit when a good move ended with a shooting chance for Jamie Spencer, but his well struck shot was straight into the arms of Nik Tzanev. With the visitors continuing to hold their own, it appeared that there would be nothing separating the two sides at half-time. However, Ollie Palmer had other ideas, and he kept his cool to put Wimbledon in front. Palmer needed no second invitation to latch onto a flick by Assal and he rounded Wade, before finishing clinically to make the breakthrough.
There was a golden chance to make it two on the stroke of half-time when Anthony Hartigan sent over a lovely cross from a free-kick that picked out Palmer, but he headed straight into the arms of Wade. In truth, a two-goal deficit at half-time would have been harsh on the visitors.
At the start of the second-half the Dons appeared to have valid claims for a penalty when Assal went down in the box after a fine run, but the referee thought otherwise. Neither side had really threatened in the second-half as we approached the hour mark, but there was a decent opportunity for the visitors from a free-kick situation after Palmer was adjudged to have fouled just outside the box. Jordan Thewils struck the free-kick from just outside the box well over the crossbar. At the other end, Assal fired wide from close-range after a brilliant ball into the box by Hartigan, but the flag was up for offside.
With the game still not sealed, Guiseley started to sense there was something in it for them and they started to commit more men forward midway through the second-half. After a penalty appeal was waved away, Heneghan put his body on the line to block a goal-bound shot. Lebron Mbeka had earlier fired over the crossbar from an acute angle on the right side after getting in behind our defence. With 25 minutes remaining, Robbo made his first change with Aaron Pressley entering the fray for goalscorer Palmer, who was given a rousing ovation by our fans after his impressive display.
Guiseley substitute Jacob Grafton fired a shot just wide in the latter stages, and the visitors poured forward during seven minutes of injury-time, but the Dons defended resiliently to earn a place in the second round of the competition.
AFC Wimbledon: Nik Tzanev, Dan Coska, Alex Woodyard, Cheye Alexander (Henry Lawrence), Anthony Hartigan, Ollie Palmer (Aaron Pressley), Ayoub Assal, Jack Rudoni (Dapo Mebude), Nesta Guinness-Walker, Luke McCormick (Ethan Chislett), Ben Heneghan.