Wednesday, 20 December 2017


Wimbledon 3-1 Charlton

3rd December 2017

I felt there was something rather neat about attending matches at MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon over the same weekend.  Neat, as in it's old-fashioned meaning of tidy you understand, as opposed to cool, or whatever it is generally taken to mean these days.

A reminder of the history between the two clubs – should anyone require it.  The old Wimbledon FC had attained Football League status in 1977, and within nine years were playing Division One football (i.e. top flight, back in those sensible-naming days).  The club finished sixth in that inaugural season with the big lads, even having enjoyed a couple of weeks at the top of the pile in early September.  So began an eminently admirable 14-year long adventure in the top flight, during which the club famously won the the FA Cup in 1988.

Wimbledon's modest Plough Lane had long been regarded as a hindrance to the club's long term progression; a fact which led to the Dons spending much of the 1990s as tenants at nearby Crystal Palace.

This was hardly a feasible long term solution, and relegation at the end of season 1999/2000 provided the club owners with the impetus/excuse to begin the process of relocating the team some 50 miles north to the new town of Milton Keynes.  Thus it was, in September 2003, to the dismay of their supporters (and the general disgust of most football people with even a modicum of decency), Wimbledon FC played its first ever match at the Milton Keynes National Hockey Stadium on Friday September 27th 2003: a 2-2 draw with Burnley.

At the end of that season, the club's name was changed to Milton Keynes Dons.  The retention of the suffix could hardly have been an attempt to engender some measure of support from within the old fan base, as any goodwill had long gone.  In my more cynical moments, I would suggest it was a grubby plot to attempt to retain the old club's history and legacy – having an FA Cup win on one's CV is always a good thing.

But even this fantasy was swiftly jettisoned, and Milton Keynes Dons FC now record their date of formation as 2004 i.e. the year of the name change.  Although I would be most surprised if the “Dons” suffix itself is not (ahem) lost over the next decade or so.  Since the rebranding, the club have moved into a newly built 30,500 seater stadium (Stadium MK) within the town of Milton Keynes, and have more or less consolidated a place for themselves within in the English Football third tier.  Although they did enjoy (if that is quite the correct word) a single painful season in The Championship recently.

And what of those Wimbledon FC supporters left behind, for I cannot imagine many, if indeed any, chose to follow (what was) their club north?  Well they simply formed their own club: AFC Wimbledon, in 2002.  

This new outfit was compelled to begin life in tier nine of the English Football Pyramid, but manfully toiled up through the strata, to the point where it presently shares tier three with MK Dons.  As an aside, I happened to attend a win by AFC Wimbledon over Oxford United in October 2016 – a victory which, coupled with a concurrent MK Dons loss to Port Vale, hoisted the “new “ Wimbledon above the “old" Wimbledon in the Football League placings for the first time ever.

AFC Wimbledon presently play their home matches at Kingsmeadow, just over 5 miles west of the former site of Plough Lane.  Unfortunately the current ground presents all the same issues as the old one – primarily a modest capacity (5000) with little real scope for future development.

I did note though, a couple of days after my visit, an announcement that planning permission for the club to redevelop the site of the nearby Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium had been granted.  I shall follow proceedings with interest.

The main entrance to Kingsmeadow, off Kingston Road

Kingsmeadow - home of AFC Wimbledon & Chelsea Ladies...
but Kingstonian FC no longer.

As to the actual match this afternoon, the home side ran out worthy winners, helped, in the first half certainly, by some decidedly Bambi-esque displays by the Charlton central defensive pairing of Ezri Konsa and Naby Sarr.  A number of the former's attempts at clearances ended up as shanks across his own penalty box, whilst it was Sarr's reluctance/inability to take control of a potentially dangerous situation which presented Dons' Cody McDONALD with a simple 10th minute opener.  

Visiting right-back Anfernee Dijksteel did his best to attempt to shore up his side's shaky defence, and for much of the match I felt he looked the most accomplished player on the pitch.  But even he eventually succumbed to the Charlton disease.  With 20 minutes remaining he was guilty of ball-watching and allowed Lyle TAYLOR free to score at the far post, before the Dutchman's clumsy 80th minute challenging  on Andy Barchan, resulted in TAYLOR sealing Wimbledon's win from the penalty spot.

Charlton's Karlan AHEARNE-GRANT had earlier equalised McDonald's opener. 

Uncle Bulgaria has put on a few pounds since his TV days.

AFC Wimbledon V Charlton Athletic
FA Cup - December 2017

Charlton Captain for the day Jake Forster-Caskey heads away an early Dons attack.

Here Forster-Caskey appears to be taking a rather more unorthodox approach to clearing the ball.

AFC Wimbledon V Charlton Athletic

Lyle Taylor (partly hidden in blue) scored Wimbledon's third from the penalty spot.

Lyle Taylor - AFC Wimbledon

Anfernee Dijksteel enjoyed a fine first 45 minutes,
but a rather less memorable second period.

As to be expected perhaps, from what is really just a non-league ground, Kingsmeadow appears barely adequate as a Football League venue.  What I did like though was the fact the  stewards seemed happy to let folks wander all around the ground.  So I switched from my purchased seat in the main stand (I was stuck behind a knob-head who insisted on filming whole swathes of the match on his phone), to watching a bit of the match from behind one of the goals, before traversing round to the Rygas Stand (actually covered terracing).

I did not try it, but I almost felt I could have wandered unchallenged into the area reserved for Charlton fans had I so wished.  This, I rather feel, is how things should be.

It cannot be much fun up there when it rains.

Panorama of Kingsmeadow.

The Athletics or Chemflow End, Kingsmeadow.

Panorama of Kingsmeadow.

Kingsmeadow - AFC Wimbledon 

Panorama of Kingsmeadow.

Uncovered terracing looking towards The Rygas Stand.

Paul Strank Stand, Kingsmeadow.

Panorama of Kingsmeadow.

With a morning to spare before the match, I had spent it poking around Wimbledon Common; a place synonymous, for those of us of a certain age, with the TV show The Wombles – based upon Elizabeth Beresford's children's stories about furry, pointy-nosed bear type thingies charged with the task of clearing up litter on the common.  I never had much time for the programme as a child – indeed never had much time for any show which kept Tintin off that 5:45pm pre-BBC Evening News slot.

The place on this misty Sunday morning was chock-full of rich people doing rich people stuff with pedigree dogs, Barbour jackets and wellies with buckles.  I came across the incongruous sight of a windmill, but it was regretfully closed for the winter.

I did notice a lot of litter around the visitor centre, so in the absence of any real wombles to be seen, spent a few minutes picking up a fistful of bottle tops and popping them into a waste bin.  Which sort of made me feel quite good.

Wimbledon Windmill.

The Windmill Museum was, regretfully, closed for the Winter.

A chunk of hardware from the original mill workings, I assume.

A pair of cormorants on Queen's Mere, Wimbledon Common.

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