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Late drama as Curtis strikes last-gasp winner

A Wimbledon victory that will be treasured for a long time

2 March 2024

Club News

Late drama as Curtis strikes last-gasp winner

A Wimbledon victory that will be treasured for a long time

2 March 2024

Substitute Ronan Curtis stepped forward in the nick of time to earn Wimbledon a victory that will be remembered for years to come.

The match appeared to be heading for deadlock as we approached the final minute of injury-time, but Curtis had other ideas as he steered home expertly to earn a 1-0 Wimbledon victory.

Both sides had chances in injury-time before that last-gasp winner, most notably when Jack Currie's looping header struck the crossbar.

But no one in yellow and blue cared how the victory versus Milton Keynes Dons came about - the scenes at the final whistle summing up what this win meant to everyone involved. 

It was the first victory in Wimbledon versus the side from Buckinghamshire since we returned home - and it was fully deserved. Johnnie Jackson's men gave absolutely everything on the day, every player involved fighting until the very end for the cause - and the victory reignites our play-off hopes after a few setbacks in recent weeks.

Following a delayed kick-off time due to the visiting first-team coach being stuck in traffic, the atmosphere was rocking as we approached the first whistle with all in yellow and blue cranking up the decibel levels in support of their team. Dons heroes from the past were presented on the pitch beforehand with Jason Euell and Mike Kelly given a warm welcome -  increasing the buzz around the place as kick-off time neared.

Johnnie Jackson made three changes from the starting 11 selected last time out at Doncaster. There was a welcome return after injury for Kofi Balmer - Josh Neufville and John-Joe O’Toole also give the nod to start - with Isaac Ogundere, Alex Pearce, and Ronan Curtis making way for them.

Wimbledon started well and visiting keeper Michael Keily was yellow carded early on after taking out Omar Bugiel, who had won the race to reach the ball first just outside the area. However, referee Charles Breakspear deemed that Bugiel was heading wide and that there was a covering defender, so he decided against the ultimate punishment.

As well as showing his defensive qualities when required, it didn’t take long for Balmer’s long throw-ins to cause problems. One of his testing deliveries from the right resulted in the first chance of the game midway through the first-half with Bugiel pouncing on a loose ball, but his half volley flashed over the crossbar. At the other end, Wimbledon nullified the visitors from getting any momentum going, thanks to a well drilled defence - Balmer, Lee Brown and O’Toole at the heart of it with Neufville and Currie as wing backs.

Though the visitors had a lot of possession, they created nothing of note in the first-half, and it was Wimbledon with the only openings fashioned before the break. A fine move ended with Tilley striking a low shot from an acute angle that Keily palmed out for a corner, but the half-time whistle shrilled with the match goalless and little in the way of goalmouth incident. The away side had their first shot on goal just before the break through Stephen Wearne, but Alex Bass saved comfortably.

Balmer showed his defensive prowess once again at the start of the second-half, producing a robust and timely tackle just outside the box, perhaps setting the tone for what was required from Wimbledon to get something from this game.

As we approached the hour mark, neither side had threatened in the second-half with the game so far encapsulated by midfield battles and plenty of energy and endeavour, but little in the way of finesse. The visitors were more ambitious after the break, but Wimbledon stayed resilient, and Neufville’s performance on the right showed his adaptability, the forward showing plenty of defensive resilience in his new role. O’Toole also demonstrated his worth at the heart of defence with a commanding display that highlighted his vast experience.

With 15 minutes left, Bass had a rare save to make when he palmed out a shot from an acute angle by Dan Kemp and thankfully the ball rebounded to safety. Johnnie Jackson made his first change at this stage, with Ogundere replacing Balmer, who could be very proud of his comeback display. Another change followed and it was one with more attacking intent this time as Ronan Curtis was introduced for Tilley.

That turned out to be the all-important change - and what an impact from the former Portsmouth man! Following a late flurry of chances, including Currie striking the crossbar and a near miss from the visitors, Curtis steered home superbly from close range after fine play down the wing by Brown. 

The joyful celebrations that followed showed what this meant - going on long after the final whistle with players, staff and fans toasting an historic victory. Roll on more days like this at the Cherry Red Records Stadium!

AFC Wimbledon: Alex Bass, Lee Brown, Jake Reeves, Kofi Balmer (Isaac Ogundere), James Tilley (Ronan Curtis), Josh Kelly, Josh Neufville, Armani Little, Omar Bugiel, John-Joe O’Toole, Jack Currie.

Att: 8,182

PIC: Stephen Flynn, Pro Sports Images

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