MK Dons’ Alex Gilbey holds nerve to knock out AFC Wimbledon in shootout | Football
“We are the resurrection‚“ read a banner in the Chemflow End at Kingsmeadow but it was the false prophets who came away with the victory after Alex Gilbey converted the winning penalty. MK Dons beat AFC Wimbledon after a 2-2 draw in normal time that saw the hosts lead early and claim parity at the last. Dons have now won five of the eight matches contested between the pair since AFC were founded in an act of opposition to the first – and to this day the only– franchised football club.
The historic enmity between these two teams shouldn’t need explaining. Some of the more recent contretemps might, however. One such instance occurred the last time these two teams met at Kingsmeadow a year ago, when Wimbledon denoted their opponents as simply ‘MK’ on the scoreboard and programme cover. A charge of misconduct followed, and then mediation, which concluded Wimbledon must write MK Dons in full at future fixtures. This was agreed in principle by both clubs. In practice, the scoreboard was apparently broken on the night and AFC, as is their right under EFL rules, chose not to publish a programme.
A spicy atmosphere off the pitch – including a tiny, but particularly vocal travelling contingent of 280 – was matched on it in an opening half that was particularly eventful for MK midfielder Connor McGrandles. He was charged with taking a third minute penalty after David Kasumu had been tripped by goalkeeper Nik Tzanev. With the home fans hollering at him, the 23-year-old broke his run up with a stutter. Tzanev flinched but McGrandles then went and skied his shot completely, sending it yards over the bar.
Five minutes later and Wimbledon were in front. Their tidy front pairing of Joe Piggott and Kwesi Appiah had been pushing at the MK Dons defence and won a corner. Anthony Hartigan sent a ball to the near post which was flicked on to the penalty spot and not cleared. Anthony Wagstaff seized his opportunity and stroked a clean left foot volley into the right hand side of the net. MK Donswho were more composed on the ball and it didn’t take long for them to find an equaliser. Enjoying lots of space on their right hand side, the marauding centre-half Regan Poole broke into the AFC box. He cut the ball back low to the far post and who should be on the end of it but McGrandles who found his own smooth finish across Tzanev and into the net.
Wimbledon had the physical edge and the willing, but MK Dons increasingly had the ball and after a half-time break which saw no changes on either side, the visitors quickly took the lead. It was McGrandles’ midfield partner Kasumu who scored it in the 50th minute after a prolonged spell of possession for the visitors. Lurking on the edge of the box, Kasumu had largely absented himself from the play, but when he finally received the ball from the left hand side he and knew exactly what he wanted to do. He steadied the ball with his first touch and, with his second, curled it into the top corner. It was an impressive strike from the teenager who was making only his seventh appearance for the club.
Following the pattern of the first half, the action quickly switched up the other end. Once again there was a penalty kick as a melee in the MK Dons box ended with Appiah having his legs kicked out from underneath him. Referee Craig Hicks pointed to the spot and Pigott took the responsibility of the kick upon himself. There was no fancy run up this time, but the outcome was just as dismal, a low effort with no power behind it that keeper Lee Nicholls claimed at his leisure.
With the clock ticking into the last minute, however, AFC scrapped their way back into the game. when a flick on fell to fullback Luke O’Neill at the far post and he thrashed a shot past Nicholls. There was barely time for the players to catch their breath before they were pressed into a penalty shootout. After one miss apiece it came time for Pigott to take his second penalty kick of the match. Sadly for AFC it was just as bad as his first.