Dons inflict FA Cup heartbreak on Borough, but Loizou’s boys make club proud
- Credit: George Phillipou/TGS Photo
FA Cup first round: Haringey Borough 0 AFC Wimbledon 1
Mitchell Pinnock’s deflected strike on the stroke of full time was all that separated AFC Wimbledon and non-league minnows Haringey Borough on a tremendous night of FA Cup football at Coles Park which ended 1-0 to the League One outfit.
Tom Loizou’s Bostik Premier team played their part in a wonderful cup tie and really should have claimed a replay from it.
Yet the fact the BBC cameras were present and a record attendance of 2,710 was recorded made the north Londoners’ winners before a ball had even been kicked.
It was a heartbreaking way for their FA Cup campaign to end, but the five wins they had achieved since August 25 in this competition made them heroes anyway.
There was a cold chill and gust sweeping across Coles Park, but it didn’t dampen any of the excitement building inside the stadium.
Everyone was here. The FA Cup, the BBC Two cameras, ex-footballer Dion Dublin, Arsenal women’s legend Alex Scott, presenter Dan Walker plus a gigantic crowd.
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Just as the two sets of players entered the pitch to warm up the rain began to fall to add to the feeling something special could happen at White Hart Lane this evening.
Borough are incredibly proud of the fact they are the only club playing at White Hart Lane right now and they will tell you even when Tottenham Hotspur return to N17, they are still the only team to play at White Hart Lane!
Loizou made four changes to the team which drew 2-2 away to Enfield Town in the Bostik Premier last weekend.
Femi Akinwande missed out due to suspension and was replaced by Joel Nouble while Georgios Aresti, Michael Ademiluyi and Charley Barker also returned.
Making way for the midfield trio was Coby Rowe, Jorge Djassi-Sambu and Chinedu McKenzie, who had scored five times in the competition so far, but the three were among the substitutes.
Dons boss Neal Ardley showed plenty of respect to the hosts and picked 10 of the 11 players who started their last League One match – a 2-1 loss to Shrewsbury Town on November 3.
In the build-up to the game, the third-longest serving manager in the Football League admitted he could face the sack if his team lost this tie.
Wimbledon had been struggling for most of the campaign and despite this clash being on a tricky 3G pitch, they were the big favourites rather than the underdogs, like they have been used to for much of their history.
Fireworks went off probably less than a mile away from the ground 20 minutes before kick-off perhaps as a sign of what was to come.
After a minute’s silence, the Dons got the first round tie underway and won a corner kick inside two minutes, but the big hands of Valery Pajetet claimed the cross to settle any of the home side’s nerves.
Wimbledon enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges and Scott Wagstaff tried his luck in the seventh minute, but his strike skimmed off the surface and went wide.
Haringey enjoyed a rare spell of possession six minutes later and nice play by Nouble on the left won the hosts a corner, but they failed to make the most of it and were soon on the back foot again.
It lifted Loizou’s men and they began to gain confidence and went close with 16 on the clock when Adimiluyi was picked out inside the area and turned well to get a shot off, but Terrell Thomas blocked behind for another corner.
This set-piece was much better and caused the Dons problems, but they just about got the ball clear and it remained goalless in the pouring rain.
Referee Michael Salisbury was letting plenty slide with a number of late challenges not deemed fouls, although the wet conditions maybe persuaded him to give more leeway than usual.
A moment of controversy might have occurred in the 24th minute, but Terrell Thomas headed wide from a corner, which was awarded after Toby Sibbick’s shot had hit his own team-mate Joe Pigott and gone behind.
Three minutes later and the Bostik Premier side threatened with former Dagenham & Redbridge forward Nouble causing the visitors problems.
He combined with Ademiluyi and the ball fell for Michael O’Donoghue, but the left-back blazed over from a tight angle.
As the half an hour mark approached, Borough had more than settled into this tie and were slowly beginning to give the south Londoners more to think about.
Wimbledon were presented with a fine chance in the 36th minute when Aresti fouled Wagstaff around 22-yards-out.
Free kick specialist Pinnock stepped up to take it and although he curled it over the wall, he also sent the effort wide of Pajetet’s goal.
Back came Borough, though, as Nouble won the hosts a set-piece of their own in the 38th minute, but Barker’s low strike was cleared impressively by Thomas.
Three minutes before half time the hosts had appeals for a penalty turned down when Barker went down inside the area and soon after the visitors created their best chance of the match.
Kewsi Appiah held the ball up well from Mark Kirby and found the bursting run of Ben Purrington, but his strike was just about saved by Pajetet and the ball evaded the free Wagstaff at the back post.
From the resulting corner a slight scramble ensured before Pinnock curled just wide from outside the area and the first half was brought to a close seconds later.
It had been a tremendous effort from Borough so far and they were 45 minutes away from a potentially fantastic replay.
The wet and windy conditions had made it tough for both sides with the ball spending a decent chunk of time in the air, but as the second period got back underway, the two teams knew the first goal was key.
Wimbledon should have grabbed the opener in the 48th minute when Pinnock did well out wide and cut inside before his curled cross found Pigott inside the area, but the tall forward headed well wide when unmarked.
It was another great chance for the League One club and Loizou had seen enough and made his first change in the 52nd minute.
Djassi-Sambu replaced the hard-working Aresti and moments later the first booking of the night was handed out and went to Borough captain David Olufemi for a late, rash challenge on Wagstaff.
The resulting free kick come to nothing and then the hosts attacked for the first time in the second half when Barker found Ademiluyi and he forced a corner with a fine run down the right.
From the set-piece Wimbledon captain Deji Oshilaja only headed partially away from goal with the strong wind making things different for the visitors now, but Borough could not take advantage this time.
Ardley’s men tried to turn the screw and enjoyed the better of the play in the opening 15 minutes after the restart.
A bizarre goal almost occurred with 67 on the clock when Pinnock’s cross – intended for the back post – got caught up in the wind and landed on top of the crossbar.
Pajetet was then called into action two minutes later when Appiah teed up Sibbick and his low effort was smartly saved by the Borough number one.
Then, from nowhere, Loizou’s men found a second wind and a lovely passing move involving Nouble and Barker saw O’Donoghue get in down the left, but his low cross was cleared with no home player making the near post run.
In the 72nd minute Borough had the ball in the net, but the jubilation was short-lived as the offside flag was up.
A wonderful one-touch move between Staunton and Ademiluyi saw the former get in on goal and he finished with aplomb past Joe McDonnell, but the linesman ruled the goal out for offside.
It seemed the right decision, but everyone inside the stadium was not sensing the tide had turned and the non-league minnows could win this.
The excellent Barker was taken off with 14 left to a standing ovation with McDonald introduced in his place as Loizou looked to catch the Dons on the break with pace.
Seconds after the substitution and Wimbledon’s best player, Pinnock, tested Pajetet, but his excellent effort with the outside of his left boot was well saved.
Borough continued to look a threat and a lovely run by Nouble in the 81st minute should have resulted in a chance, but the forward was tackled by his own team-mate Djassi-Sambu, who also attempted a shot and the end result was the pair on the floor on top of each other.
The next opportunity went to the away side as Tom Soares almost curled into the corner, but Pajetet got across well to make another save in the 85th minute.
Haringey made their final change with four minutes left as Coby Rowe replaced the tireless Lionel Stone and now it was all about who held their nerve.
One last opportunity was surely set to arrive and it duly did and this time the League One club took it.
Sibbick’s cross was cleared by the outstanding Kirby, but only as far as Pinnock and this time the ex-Dover Athletic attacker found the net with his explosive strike taking a deflection and beating Pajetet at his near post.
It was so cruel on Loizou and Borough, but the fans immediately chanted their love for the team as three minutes of stoppage time was added on.
The hosts tried to force some late drama and create one last chance themselves, but it never arrived.
When the full time whistle occurred the players were immediately greeted with huge applause - it was the least they deserved.
A replay is what Borough should have got, but they could be so proud of their efforts and the adulation they got as they come off the pitch was a small consolation.
Up next for Loizoi’s men is a Bostik Premier encounter on Monday night against leaders Tonbridge Angels in what will be a slightly less high-profile event, but this night will always live long in the memory of the White Hart Lane club.
Haringey Borough: Pajetet; Olufemi, Richards, Kirby, O’Donoghue; Nouble, Staunton, Stone (Rowe 86), Aresti (Djassi-Sambu 52), Barker (McDonald 76); Ademiluyi.
Unused substitutes: Byfield, Rowe, Mitchell, McKenzie, Edwards.
AFC Wimbledon: McDonnell; Sibbick, Thomas, Oshilaja, Purrington; Wagstaff (Jervis 68), Hartigan (Wordsworth 59), Soares; Pinnock, Pigott, Appiah.
Unused substitutes: King, Watson, Garratt, Trotter, Burey, Wordsworth.