Hats Off to Hat-trick Man Kev
Before Saturday, AFC Wimbledon had never tasted defeat at the hands - or feet, for that matter - of Morecambe. Having said that, the two teams have only ever met twice before and that was last season when the Dons won this fixture 1-2 and then drew 1-1 down at Kingsmeadow in February of this year.
The fact that they have rarely met before is hardly surprising - just eleven short years ago, AFC Wimbledon did not even exist. Having seen the identity of the old Crazy Gang Wimbledon sold to the owners of MK so-called Dons of Milton Keynes, the club has had to rise Phoenix-like from the ashes and get itself established in the Football League very much the hard way by winning successive promotions from relatively obscure leagues over the last decade until they finally made it to where they surely and truly really belong last season. Any true football supporter must salute the team and their fans for this formidable achievement and I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping that Neal Ardley's team get the better of the club which has tried to steal their identity - if not their very soul - when MK Dons (who have been given League status on a plate in a way that actually stinks) entertain the Wombles next weekend in the FA Cup.
Having said that, they will have to be a lot tighter at the back than they were on Saturday if they have any hope of progressing to Round Three of the Cup next Sunday. There has been talk of a boycott of the tie by proper Wimbledon fans as a protest of the parasitical way the Milton Keynes club has been allowed to cannibalise the team which once played at Plough Lane. On this showing, however, it seems that the 'new' Wimbledon team will need as much support as it can muster.
At least they can rest assured that they won't be playing against Kevin Ellison next week. Big Kev was the real difference between the sides this afternoon and each of the goals he scored was a true gem. One of the things that must give AFC Wimbledon fans real hope for the short-term future is the way in which their team were unafraid to run at Morecambe's defence but it could be said that this pleasing and positive aspect of their approach to the game ultimately caused their downfall because they always looked vulnerable to the counter-attack. They suffered for the first time after only six minutes when Morecambe's number eleven caught them on the break with a long run straight at the heart of the goal which he followed-up with a sublime piece of skill to place the ball between a despairing defender's attempted interception in the Wombles' penalty area and a despairing Neil Sullivan in the visitors' goal. He scored again after 33 minutes when Stewart Drummond provided a perfect defence-splitting pass for him to latch onto but once again, his finish was out of the top drawer.
Morecambe went in at the break two goals to the good having controlled much of the game and compressed the play in such a way that the visitors were frequently forced to pass the ball backwards in order to try and create any momentum going forward themselves. In the second half, however, the Shrimps seemed to lose their way in a manner long-suffering home supporters have become depressingly accustomed to in recent times. As a result, Wimbledon began to take the initiative as the game wore on.
With 63 minutes played, Jon Meades only just missed Barry Roche's right hand post with a fierce volley and it was no surprise when - after Jordan Mustoe had clearly fouled Jack Midson in the penalty area - the same player reduced the arrears with an unstoppable shot into the top left hand corner of Roche's net from the spot. The visitors had the next good chance too just three minutes later when the Morecambe keeper could only palm a fierce shot from Jake Reeves away from danger. Faced with the real possibility of an equaliser, the Shrimps belatedly came back to life and the visitors were probably lucky when Will Antwi seemed to use his shoulder to control the ball in his own penalty area with about twenty minutes left: the referee waved play-on at the time. But with just twelve minutes of normal time to play, Kevin Ellison once more produced a large dollop of magic to turn a half-chance into a third goal for himself and his team with a low shot which gave veteran ex-Crazy Gang member Sullivan no chance yet again. It got worse for the visitors when on-loan West Ham striker Paul McCallum was given a straight red card for a foul involving elbows on Morecambe Captain Nick Fenton after 81 minutes. But even with only ten men on the field, the Dons had the last good chance of the game which was foiled only by a brilliant save from Roche up to his top left hand side with 87 minutes on the clock.
At the beginning of this match, Wimbledon were 20th in the league. By the end, they had dropped two places to find themselves just one point ahead of Aldershot, who currently occupy the higher of the two relegation berths. The Dons seem too accomplished on this performance at least to face the drop after just two seasons in League Two but stranger things have happened and they really need to tighten-up at the back. Let's just hope they fare better next Sunday, by which time Morecambe's game away at Coventry in the same competition will be over. On Saturday's showing, Jim Bentley's team must be in with a very good chance of repeating the Shrimps' success against the Sky Blues which followed the first ever game to be played at the Globe Arena.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Nick Fenton (C); 22 Andy Parrish; 4 Jordan Mustoe (Y) (6 Will Haining 78 mins); 15 Chris McCready; 16 Stewart Drummond; 8 Andrew Wright; 9 Lewis Allesandra (7 Izak Reid 69 mins); 18 Gary McDonald; 11 Kevin Ellison (Y); 27 Jack Redshaw (10 Richard Brodie 72 mins).
Substitutes not used: 25 Andreas Arestidou; 3 Robbie Threlfall; 12 Dan Parkinson; 19 Joe McGee.
AFC Wimbledon: 35 Neil Sullivan; 2 Curtis Osano (34 Kieran Djilali 69 mins); 7 Stacy Long (21 Charlie Strutton 37 mins); 10 Jack Midson; 14 Callum McNaughton; 15 Jim Fenlon (Y); 28 Steven Gregory (C); 29 Will Antwi (Y); 31 Jonathan Meades; 32 Jake Reeves; 37 Paul McCallum (R).
Substitutes not used: 33 Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz; 5 Pim Balkestein; 6 Mat Mitchel-King; 17 Huw Johnson; 36 Ryan Hervel.
Ref: Craig Pawson.