WHETHER it was deliberate or a deflection, Jon Otsemobor’s stoppage time flick sent MK Dons into the third round of the FA Cup as they beat AFC Wimbledon 2-1.
The game was never going to live up to the hype. A drab first half was given a late twist courtesy of Stephen Gleeson’s rocket in stoppage time, but it gave birth to a brilliant affair in the second half.
Jack Midson’s headed equaliser came somewhat against the run of play, but just as it looked like a replay was coming, Otsemobor threw a foot at Zeli Ismail’s scuffed shot in injury time at the end of the game and watched as the ball looped over Neil Sullivan and in, unleashing a roar the likes of which stadium:mk has seldom heard before.
Fans of both teams took up their seats as early as 11am to be part of this historic occasion – which like it or not was finally upon them. Dean Lewington returned to Karl Robinson’s starting line-up, and Ryan Lowe was given a starting role up front. Exciting teenagers Ismail and Ibra Sekajja were named among the substitutes.
With so much written in the last month about the history of both clubs, the rights and wrongs, there was almost a collective sigh of relief when referee Scott Mathieson blew the whistle to kick-off, as football finally took centre stage.
As all eyes finally focussed on the pitch, and unsurprisingly it was the home side who looking in the ascendency. As AFC sat back in two banks of four, they invited Dons to come on to them. Lewington, the only surviving member of the team which moved to Milton Keynes, fired in the first attempt after three minutes, but launched his effort into the away supporters behind the goal.
With all the hype surrounding the second round tie, the game itself was never going to live up to expectations. While Dons were on top, there was little penetration in behind the AFC defence. Lewington and Angelo Balanta didn’t seem to be gelling on the left flank, while Dean Bowditch and Otsemobor on the opposite side were seeing eye-to-eye, but simply didn’t get enough of the ball to make an impact.
But they weren’t alone as none of the 22 on the pitch were particularly outstanding in the first 45 minutes. So naturally, as the clock ticked over into stoppage time, it took a spectacular strike to open the scoring. As Dons passed the ball around the midfield relentlessly, Lewington found Gleeson with 10 yards to break into in front of him before he unleashed an unstoppable strike into the top corner - Sullivan left with no chance.
It was just what the doctor ordered too – the game was running the risk of going stale, but while it probably wouldn’t have changed Robinson’s half time team talk, the goal certainly would have given Dons the extra confidence to get forward.
And with that mentality, Sullivan needed to be at his best to keep out Lewington, again within two minutes of kick-off, as his free-kick looked to be dipping in at the near post.
As if written in the stars, this wasn’t the end of the tale. Enjoying a spell of possession for the first time in the game, AFC found an equaliser just before the hour mark as Midson’s diving header beat David Martin – though there were unnecessary scenes as a few of the visiting supporters sparked a mini pitch invasion.
The goal made for a more balanced encounter, though this time both sides looked eager to go on and score a second, rather than sit back an defend like in the first half.
Dons thought they had edged back in front with 20 minutes to go when substitute Ismail got in behind Jim Fenlon to cross for Ryan Lowe to tap in, only for the offside flag to come to AFC’s aid in the nick of time.
Ismail was proving, once again, to be a real pain on the right-hand side, and he was soon joined by Alan Smith for some added threat in the air as Lowe made way.
Dons continued to force the issue as the clock ran down, but they simply could not find a way through as AFC sat back, content to take them back to London for a midweek replay.
But it could have been entirely different when Steven Gregory capitalised on Darren Potter’s mistake in midfield, but his strike was just tipped wide by David Martin.
There was one more sting to be had though, and it would be decisive. From Bowditch’s corner, AFC failed to clear and Ismail was unmarked on the edge of the box. His scuffed effort bounced around and Otsemobor, fresh from scoring his first for the club last week against Colchester, threw a foot at the ball and it looped out of reach of Sullivan and into the net. Ugly scenes followed once more as Dons fans invaded the pitch, urged off by an elated Robinson.
As the final whistle blew, both sets of players respectfully shook hands. What could have been a far more edgy affair was played out with respect by the players and, by and large, the fans too.
The first meeting of the two clubs may just settle a few nerves ahead of future fixtures.
Referee: Scott Mathieson
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Otsemobor, Williams, Kay, Gleeson, Potte, Chadwick (Doumbe 90), Balanta (Ismail 65), Bowditch, Lowe (Smith 80)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, MacDonald, Chicksen, Sekajja
AFC Wimbledon: Sullivan, Osano, Long, Harrison (Strutton 71), Midson, Moore (Johnson 81), Fenlon (Balkenstein 90), Gregory, Antwi, Mambo, Ajala
Subs not used: Jaimez-Ruiz, Mitchel-King, McNaughton, Djilali
Booked: Moore, Ajala, Midson