T&MUFC 2 AFC Wimbledon 1
(London Senior Cup Final at Hendon FC)
The Terrors were able to end a truncated and surreal season in pleasing fashion by lifting silverware on a sun drenched afternoon at Hendon’s Jubilee Park. It was a young AFC Wimbledon team who opposed us in the latest Wandle Derby, but for all their talent and enthusiasm it was the extra experience of the slightly older Terrors that won the day.
A little over sixty-one hours had elapsed since the final whistle was blown on one of the most dramatic semi-finals ever seen in this venerable old competition, and that was probably the catalyst for the slight freshening up of the teamsheet with Jake Rose and Noah Kelo being the two changes from Friday night’s eleven, replacing Daryl Coleman and Jamarie Brissett.
Billy Brown, so impressive in an attacking role against Erith, was once again filling the left wing-back slot and he was called into some early defensive duties, cutting out a couple of threatening moves from the Dons in the opening exchanges.
It was Brown who was instrumental in setting up our first chance, following some good work down the left flank. He beat his marker for pace, and squared the ball for Dontai Stewart but his shot from the edge of the box went just wide. Stewart again had a half-chance a few minutes later, but this time his curled effort was too high and failed to trouble Harry Griffiths in the Wimbledon goal.
Ahkeem Belford and Nathan Daly were looking as solid as ever in the heart of the defence, and the latter floated a nice crossfield pass which Rose was unable to control just inside the Dons’ penalty area.
It had been an encouraging first ten minutes for Tooting, feeding off the enthusiasm of the massed hordes of travelling Bog Enders, and Stewart continued to put himself about up front, causing problems for the fledgling Dons defenders who, nevertheless, were sticking to their task doggedly. Jola Lahan, in particular, was doing an impressive job for them.
Wimbledon had their first attack of any note as the quarter hour mark approached, when a free-kick was floated dangerously toward the far post, but Ross was able to gather the ball comfortably amongst a mass of bodies.
Having been closed down impressively on the left, Dontai tried his luck down the right flank and got away from Lahan into a shooting position of sorts; the angle was tight though, and he pulled his shot across goal and wide.
Just before the twenty minute mark, Stewart forced Griffiths into the first real save of the afternoon when he twisted and turned just inside the area, and floated an effort towards the top corner which the keeper did well to tip over. From the resultant corner, there was a scramble of players inside the six yard box, and the ball somehow skewed toward the goal-line with Griffiths well beaten; Dylan Adjei-Hersey was alert enough to get back and clear the ball off the line, but the young Dons were hanging on a bit at this point.
Mark Waters, seemingly pleased to have Jake Rose back alongside him - they read each other’s games so well - was starting to get his eye in in midfield, and he made space for a shot at goal but couldn’t get his effort on target and another chance went begging.
Wimbledon’s attacks were sporadic, and from one of their corners Dean Hamlin cleared the ball out from the back and Dontai Stewart was away once again; using his strength to shrug off Lahan this time, he powered into the box and got his shot away. Once again, Griffiths was equal to it, impressively pushing the effort round the post with both hands.
Just past the half-hour, the Dons had their first really threatening move when Tom Jelley was dispossessed by Morgan Williams who slid the ball into the area for Aron Sasu whose snap shot tested Gary Ross, but the Tooting custodian was equal to it.
They were finally enjoying their best attacking spell of the match, though, and a corner found Kwaku Frimpong in a good position for a header - but he was unable to get power or direction on his effort, and it was off target.
Tooting looked to re-establish their superiority, and Rose released Stewart through the middle, but once more his shot was dragged wide of the upright. Rose himself tried to muscle his way through the Dons’ defence, but the youngsters were equal to it and crowded him out as half-time approached.
HT : T&MU 0 AFC Wimbledon 0
The second period started in cagier fashion, as if both sides realised they may struggle to keep up the tempo set so far as the temperature warmed up. Ten minutes into the half, the ball was in the Wimbledon net, but the offside flag was already up so Rose’s lob solicited only ironic cheers.
As the game moved into the last half-hour, and players tired further, space suddenly seemed to open up a little more and chances began to be created again. Dontai Stewart headed on a threatening ball from midfield and Noah Kelo set off on a chase with Jola Lahan; the Dons defender stuck to his task and Kelo was unable to get a shot off.
The Terrors’ usual skipper, Daryl Coleman, entered the field of play in the sixty-fourth minute, and was straight into the action winning a 50/50 challenge, and tidying up nicely at the back. His experienced and cool head was to prove invaluable in the time that remained.
In the seventieth minute, Jake Rose seized on a through ball, outpaced his marker and rounded Griffiths as he came off his line, but with the angle narrowing by the second he could only strike his effort against the post and Ethan Sutcliffe got back to clear the ball away from the goal.
Tooting were turning the screw, and it looked only a matter of time before the deadlock was broken; but when the goal finally came, a minute later, it was as a result of an error from the keeper. Griffiths collected the ball inside his box and, rather than clear downfield, elected to play a dubious short pass to his right-back who was already under pressure from Stewart. When Griffiths received the ball immediately back he didn’t seem to know what to do with it, panicked and hit it straight at Daniel Williams who controlled, looked up, took his time and found Rose unmarked in the six yard box. Rose’s was the coolest head of all as he took a touch, side-stepped, then struck it firmly home past the defender on the line to give the Terrors a deserved lead.
Almost immediately, it was two-nil when a corner floated by Dontai Stewart was heading directly in at the far post, though Mark Waters headed in almost on the goal line to make sure. The identity of the scorer was in dispute but, frankly, it mattered little as Tooting had seized control of the game and looked unlikely to let it slip now.
However, we never like to do things the easy way and with eight minutes of normal play remaining, Dons substitute Paris Lock showed impressive feet to collect a cross from Morgan Williams, turn and beat three defenders before getting in a shot. Gary Ross saved well with his legs but Williams was on hand to turn in the loose ball and it was game-on again.
Both teams were feeling the pace now, though, and despite enjoying most of the possession, Wimbledon were unable to create any real openings to force extra-time and it was Tooting who almost sealed things when late substitute Kesna Clarke had a sight of goal with his first touch, but was unable to get sufficient power on his shot and sent it wide of the target.
The Dons forced a couple of corners as the game entered a sixth minute of stoppage time, but the Tooting defence dealt with them comfortably and the referee’s whistle seconds later sparked scenes of jubilation as the Terrors lifted this cup for the first time in five years - our eighth triumph overall. A magnificent effort from all concerned to end the season in style.
T&MU : Ross, Jelley, Hamlin (Coleman 64”), Waters, Daly, Belford, Brown (Ademiluyi 81”), Kelo, Williams (Clarke 90+2”), Rose, Stewart. SUBS NOT USED : Campbell, Brissett.
Attendance : 561
Semi Final London County Cup Hanwell Town 4 T&MU 5 (aet) (at Haringey Borough FC) on 28th May 2021
One of the most extraordinary matches of this, or any other, season unfolded in the unlikely surroundings of Coles Park in north London on a damp Friday night in May. Quite how a west London club came to be meeting a south London one on a north London pitch is a convoluted story in itself and that, allied to the notorious capital city traffic, provided an epic tale of its own even before the match got underway.
When Hanwell beat Haringey on this ground on the preceding Tuesday evening, after a dramatic penalty shootout, we assumed we would be travelling to the former’s Powerday Stadium in west London, scene of a memorable eight goal thriller won by ourselves just prior to the first lockdown last year (and a convenient hop for this correspondent, domiciled as I am just down the road in Acton).
A rumour began to form in the aftermath of the game that Hanwell had already begun renovation on their pitch ahead of the new season and they would be in no position to host the match, scheduled as it was for seventy-two hours later. There was no immediate word to confirm this from either Hanwell or the London FA, and as of the following (Wednesday) morning, the latter’s website was still advertising the fixture as being in Ealing.
By late afternoon, confirmation was finally received that Hanwell would be unable to stage the game and were in consultation with T&M and the London FA as all parties attempted to find a suitable location in which the contest could be staged. Sensible options (given the ‘hosts’ location) such as Rayners Lane, and Bedfont, were mooted - and quickly dispelled. There was even a suggestion that Windsor FC were amenable to hosting the fixture, but given their (lack of) proximity to London, it may as well have been Windsor Park who were in negotiations!
Finally, on Wednesday evening, less than forty-eight hours before the scheduled kick-off, it was formally announced that Tuesday’s vanquished hosts, Haringey Borough FC, would stage the match and both sets of fans would be required to make the trek out to Tottenham territory if they wished to be there to witness it.
With the start time set for 7.45, I was rather surprised to find on arrival at quarter past that there was none of the traditional pre-match buzz, nobody from either team warming up on the pitch and very few people in the vicinity of the playing area (the bar and its surrounds, of course, was a much different story…)
A quick chat with Caroline MacRoyall, sadly stepping down from her role as Chair in the coming weeks due to her family’s impending relocation to the south coast, revealed that although the players and management were all present and correct, and mingling outside the portakabin that served as their dressing room (welcome to an important semi-final, lads) they had no kit to change into as the carrier of same was stuck in traffic, despite setting out from south London some three hours earlier.
Just before the scheduled kick-off time, it was confirmed the kit had arrived and we were looking at a revised start of 8.30; it was also confirmed that despite not previously figuring in the competition, extra-time was a possibility in the semis and finals should the scores be level at ninety minutes, with the dreaded penalty shootout to follow if needed - we could be looking at a very late finish indeed…
However, once the match finally got underway, Tooting looked in no mood to rely on any added frills in their attempt to get the job done as we surged into a two goal lead before the quarter-hour mark; first, just five minutes in, Hugo Sobte in the Hanwell goal decided to play silly beggars with a routine back-pass and Daniel Williams seized on the opportunity to rob him, before virtually walking the ball into an empty net to the delight of the faithful behind the goal.
Shortly afterwards, it was two when a free-kick from deep deceived Sobte and Dontai Stewart was able to get a touch on the ball before the keeper could clear, and gleefully slid itl into an unguarded goal.
But the Terrors never like to do things the easy way, and just before the half-hour mark a free-kick for the de facto ‘hosts’ was floated goalwards by Harry Rush, and although Gary Ross made a decent save he couldn’t hold onto it and Edon Pruti was on hand to bundle the loose ball over the line. 2-1, and the game was back on…
HT : Hanwell T. 1 T&MU 2
Hanwell began the second half on the front foot, and threatened an equaliser on a couple of occasions; a few minutes in, a corner flashed across the face of goal but no attacker could get a decisive touch and the Tooting defence breathed again. Then, just before the hour, a cross from the right was headed back towards goal and Dean Hamlin was well-placed to clear off the line.
It was backs-to-the-wall stuff from Tooting for a time, though Billy Brown had a chance to provide some respite when a jinking run, and a cut-in from the left afforded him a shot at goal but he couldn’t keep the effort down and the ball comfortably cleared the bar.
When Jamarie Brissett emerged from a 50/50 encounter with a yellow card, it looked like the referee was beginning to lose control of the action and that thought was reinforced minutes later when Gary Ross received his marching orders for bringing down an attacker on the edge of the box. Brissett was sacrificed to enable substitute keeper Morgan Campbell to make his entrance and, with no time to warm up, Campbell was immediately beaten by Joel Jacob’s direct free-kick. 2-2, and a man up - the momentum was clearly with the Geordies.
Five minutes later, it was beginning to look even more ominous as Hanwell were awarded a penalty, and Ogo Obi struck it confidently past Campbell to complete the turnaround. It was a task that looked hopeless, but the management team had other ideas and freshened things up with the introduction of George Ademiluyi and Jake Rose for Billy Brown and Daryl Coleman.
A man light, and a goal behind, Tooting had to chase the game and Hanwell had chances to extend their lead and put the game to bed. A curled effort from the edge of the box went just wide as the game entered the final ten minutes, then we breathed a huge sigh of relief as the ball hit the back of the net, but the ‘goal’ was disallowed for a foul on Campbell as he attempted to gather it.
With six minutes of added time signalled, it gave us the merest glimmer of hope that the race was not quite run - and so it proved when a second corner in quick succession came in, there was an almighty scramble on the line and the ball was forced home. It looked like the final touch had come off a Hanwell defender, though which one and exactly which part of the body was involved nobody seemed to know - or care; 3-3 was all that mattered, and we had the chance to extend our tenure in the competition with another thirty minutes ahead.
Hanwell started the extra period in determined fashion, and struck the post four minutes in. Shortly afterwards, they were back in front with a fine Harry Rush strike into the bottom corner but, amazingly, had no time to celebrate their good fortune as straight from the restart, Daniel Williams’ snap shot found its way into the net with Sobte stranded once more.
This was breathless stuff now, with everybody understandably feeling the pace. And it would have been no surprise had the game petered out in the second period of extra-time leaving penalties as the only fitting way to end the tie.
But both teams seemed reluctant to accept that as a way of deciding things and Hanwell almost went in front again when a game of head-tennis in the box ended up with the ball on the roof of the Terror’s net. Nathan Daly was bundled over in the box, but the referee waved play on and then, in the 113th minute (and close to quarter past eleven), Dontai Stewart finally brought the scoring to a close with a blistering run and shot that gave Sobte no chance.
Hanwell pressed forward in the minutes that remained, and Morgan Campbell received a booking for delaying a free-kick, but were unable to create any meaningful chances and finally - finally - at about twenty past eleven on a Friday night, the referee called a halt to the proceedings and we had a final to look forward to.
T&MU : Ross, Jelley, Hamlin, Waters, Daly, Belford, Brissett (Campbell 63”), Coleman (Rose 74”), Williams, Brown (Ademiluyi 74”), Stewart. SUBS NOT USED : Kelo, Clarke.