Hampstead & Westminster strike twice in final four minutes to shock Wimbledon
- Credit: Archant
Hampstead and Westminster seized victory from the jaws of defeat as they started their 14th consecutive season in the NOW:Pensions Premier League with a last-gasp 2-1 home win over London rivals Wimbledon.
The visitors took an early lead in just the fifth minute and held their advantage until the dying moments – but H&W’s star signing Andy Hayward struck his first goal for the club with four minutes left and Will Naylor then hit his 50th Premier League goal to win the game at the death.
Wimbledon, bolstered by the arrivals of internationals James Bailey and Ian Sloane, went into the match as favourites over a H&W squad who have added 10 new faces themselves, but had spent very little time together in pre-season.
The visitors went on the attack from the first whistle with H&W playing deep inside their own half, attempting to shut down space as best they could. However, the expected lack of match sharpness and team understanding meant that Wimbledon had little trouble in breaking down the defence, and they scored a well- worked goal inside five minutes, an unmarked striker tapping in on the far post.
A combination of improved individual defence - with Alex Jakeman standing out in particular for the home side - and profligacy from Wimbledon allowed H&W to gradually work themselves into the game and stay within one goal until the interval.
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H&W enjoyed more possession at the beginning of the second half but still struggled to put together any meaningful attacks, with Michael Hoare and George Farrant in the centre of the Wimbledon defence remaining largely untroubled.
Meanwhile, the away team continued to squander their attacking possession, including four penalty corners - one of which was cleared off the line by H&W captain Toby Roche.
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As time ebbed away and Wimbledon failed to kill the game off, Hampstead grew in confidence and, with four minutes left, they finally won a penalty corner of their own.
New Zealand international Hayward is a specialist in such situations, and he made no mistake from the top of the ‘D’, netting with a trademark strike to level the scores.
The home fans celebrated at the prospect of an unexpected point from this first, difficult fixture – but more was to come.
Moments after the restart another summer signing, James Simpson, stole the ball, allowing Oliver Didham to attack down the left and cross for Naylor, who exploited the space between the retreating defence and onrushing goalkeeper to finish expertly seconds before the final whistle.