Sutton United 0 v Wimbledon 0
Wimbledon will relive their 1975 FA Cup heroics against Leeds United after the sides were paired together in this season’s fourth round – but only if the Dons can overcome Sutton United in a third-round replay.
In 1975 then-non-league Wimbledon won the hearts of the nation, with Dickie Guy saving a Peter Lorimer penalty as they drew 0-0 at Elland Road before narrowly losing the replay in front of 46,000 people in a tie switched to Selhurst Park due to ticket demand.
Those two matches against a Leeds side that was defending league champions and went on to reach that season’s European Cup final, combined with successive Southern League title triumphs, helped the Dons earn election to the Football League in 1977 – and everything that came after it.
While re-living those days is a mouth-watering prospect for Dons fans of an appropriate vintage, first they must overcome a tricky replay against Sutton United after the two sides drew 0-0 at Gander Green Lane on Saturday (7 January).
The Dons struggled to adapt to the slope of Sutton’s 3G pitch and also came up against resolute in-depth defending that smothered their attacking threat, with the home side posing a threat on the counterattack.
The first notable goalscoring attempt came when Jake Reeves was dispossessed in midfield and Roarie Deacon surged forward with the ball. His pass found Matt Tubbs in space but the former Wimbledon loanee skewed his shot across goal when he should have done better.
With Wimbledon pressing around the half hour mark, Dannie Bulman did extract acomfortable save from another ex-Don, Sutton keeper Ross Worner, but it was from a Dons attacking corner that Sutton enjoyed their best chance of the half.
The ball fell again to the pacey Deacon and he played a ball through to Maxime Biamou, who had ground to make up but out-paced Bulman and Barry Fuller before rifling the netting with a shot that was narrowly off target.
Soon after the break an Andy Barcham cross from the left had to be palmed away by Worner as it threatened to dip under his bar. And as the second period progressed, the Dons began to exert more control but kept on banging their head against the massed Sutton defence.
Yet the hosts’ threat on the counterattack remained constant, none more so than when a long ball found Biamou who took a shoot early from the edge of the area and forced Shea into a low save.
With time gradually evaporating, Wimbledon had a strong penalty appeal without reward when Fuller was sent tumbling after being tackled from behind by Bradley Hudson-Odoi. Soon afterwards Paul Robinson hooked the ball over the bar when a Dean Parrett free-kick was only partially cleared.
As the home side began to tire from their ceaseless running, Barcham delivered an injury-time cross from the left that a defender just got to ahead of Tom Elliott at the near post, while Sutton also managed to scramble clear following another Elliott header.
Afterwards, Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley was relieved to still be in the cup. ‘[Sutton] have quick players on the break and they are very good on this surface,’ he told the club’s website.
‘We did not play brilliantly but when you do not play brilliantly all you can ask from your team is that they stay in the game. We worked incredibly hard to do the basics well.
‘We are slight favourites [for the replay] but we still have to play well because they are a decent outfit.’
The replay takes place at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday 17 January, before which the Dons entertain Oxford United in a league encounter (Saturday 14 January).
Sutton: Worner, Downer (Hudson-Odoi 82), Beckwith, Collins, Amankwaah, Deacon, Bailey, Eastmond, Gomis, Biamou (Monakana 92), Tubbs (Fitchett 72). Subs not used: John, May, Spence, Shaw.
Booked: Downer 25, Biamou 47, Collins 60, Bailey 75.
Wimbledon: Shea, Fuller, Robinson, Charles, Kelly, Parrett (Francomb 91), Reeves, Bulman, Barcham, Elliott, Taylor. Subs not used: Poleon, Barnett, McDonnell, Egan, Owens, Robertson.
Booked: Reeves 22, Robinson 61.
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January 10, 2017