Thursday, 15 November 2012

AFC Wimbledon 4 York City 3

(After extra time; full-time 2-2)

“We’re coming for you,
We’re coming for yooooouuuu,
You franchise bastards,
We’re coming for you.”

And so the inevitable prophecy has come to pass - the club that was brazenly pulled up by its roots and replanted sixty miles to the north will play the club that rose from the ashes of the wreckage left behind. 

It is the Cup tie they knew would happen, yet didn’t want it to. The franchise against the phoenix, the fake against the still beating heart. And they didn’t really believe it in this replay either - it was deep into extra time at Kingsmeadow before the home end, having seen their team outplayed by ten-man York, summoned the courage to sing the above. 

Of course, they didn’t know at that point that the dreaded tie with Milton Keynes would go ahead. But 24 hours later, their detested rivals thrashed Cambridge City to make it happen. 

In truth, AFC were very fortunate to fulfill their side of the bargain. I headed south of the river in the hope of a York City victory, feeling optimistic based on the two Minstermen performances I’d seen this season (Barnet and Southend) and not particularly bothered about the prospective “Dons Derby”. I very nearly saw them win in improbable circumstances.

I always wondered what Ray Davies of The Kinks was talking about when he mentioned “People swarming like ants round Waterloo Underground” in his classic “Waterloo Sunset.” Now I know, having hit the rush hour flush in the face. Crammed like sardines into a commuter carriage, the stop at Norbiton couldn’t come soon enough. 

Once on the away terrace, I was once again impressed by York’s travelling support. This was a match played hundreds of miles away on a Monday evening, screened live on ESPN and their third meeting with AFC Wimbledon in nine days. And yet 210 were there, filling the tiny bit of terrace and few seats allocated. 

They were rewarded with a defiant York performance, despite the handicap of being a man light for much of the match, and saw their men force extra time at the death. When fatigue did consume them, and Wimbledon established a telling two-goal lead, they continued to fight, scoring late on to set-up a nervous finale. There was no shame in their Cup exit, despite the associated disappointment. 

Wimbledon had destroyed York 3-0 at Bootham Crescent just 48 hours earlier and the Yorkshiremen had clearly taken it to heart. They stormed out the blocks, attacking purposefully down the flanks through Ashley Chambers and Matty Blair, and took the lead on 22 minutes. A corner from Daniel Kearns caused consternation for home goalkeeper Seb Brown, under pressure from Clarke Carlisle, and the stopper conspired to punch the ball into his own net. 

It should have been many more - Lanre Oyebanjo missed a sitter of a header from about four yards out, placing it into the home support behind the goal, while someone else rattled the crossbar. All told, York were kicking themselves for not being four or five in front.

Then, disaster. In controversial circumstances on 34 minutes, the entire complexion of the evening changed. Wimbledon set out on a rare foray forward, only for Rashid Yussuff to be hacked down by the already booked Scott Kerr. The official played a correct advantage and Charlie Strutton brilliantly beat Michael Ingham with a shot to the near post for 1-1. 

But Yussuff was struggling to carry on and, as the home side celebrated, the referee returned to the scene of the crime and sent Kerr to the changing rooms. Like many of the York fans, I didn’t see the red card flashed and it was only when bewilderment got the better of me and I counted York’s players that I realised one was missing. 

Frankly, it didn’t make a blind bit of difference. For all that I want AFC to beat Milton Keynes, they wouldn’t stand a chance with a performance like this. York continued to be the better team and should have re-assumed the lead both before and after the interval. 

Half-time brought one of life’s awkward moments. I’d migrated to the outdoor bit of the terrace to chomp some chips when a bloke who looked vaguely familiar came up and started chatting. We exchanged pleasantries and I nearly offered him a ketchup-smothered chip. It’s entirely possible that I had known this person during my three years in York, but I just couldn’t recall when. 

As soon as I started speaking, he visibly looked taking aback. He didn’t know me, I didn’t know him. But, as you always do in such occasions, it’s just not becoming to ask. We had a conversation until its natural conclusion and then he scurried off. Why is it that you always keep talking to save face! I was also distracted by the sight of a Womble fighting a giant FA Cup trophy mascot in the centre circle. I had never seen this before. 

For York, the inevitable nerves and legginess crept in but extra time loomed. With 13 minutes to play, though, a killer blow. Strutton again, running straight through the York defence, forced a save from Ingham and then pounced to convert the rebound. A hush descended on the away section, the Cup dream looked over and it was hard to take. 

But we all know football better than that. In the game’s last breath, right in front of us, substitute Jamie Reed, with his first touch, equalised. There was pandemonium all around me. Fans leapt onto the barriers to goad the home fans, they jumped and embraced. A moment to match Richard Brodie’s last minute winner against Crewe in the FA Cup in 2009 for me. 

So, after anxiously checking the later train times, we entered an extra 30 minutes. At last, Wimbledon got a grip on the game - in the 97th minute, a testing cross by Cummings and a misjudgment from the usually infallible Carlisle and the ball ricochets into the net. A jammy goal, but there was no doubt about the fourth - Jack Midson got on the end of Strutton’s knockdown and knocked it in. All over. 

We moped around waiting for the final whistle. There was a late glimmer when Reed struck again at the death but this was Wimbledon’s night. I think it must be fate. 

Next Match: This Saturday, where I’ll probably head to Watford vs. Wolves.