Iron fire blank as AFC force replay

Photo by Mark Dickinson

It was a close but not quite on an engaging trip down to Kingston - as the Iron were unable to find the killer goal that would have surely sent Scunny straight through to the 2nd Round of the FA Cup.

Scunthorpe bossed proceedings down at the Cherry Red Records Stadium: with less than 2,500 home fans present for the tie, but owing to a combination of a lack of killer instinct, cutting edge and plain luck.

That said - the loyal souls who trekked down to the League Two side for the FA Cup tie will no doubt be sick and tired of hearing the third one: no sides can truly and honestly blame luck for any considerable stretch of the season. You make your own luck in football.

And it was a truly surreal experience for all concerned.

Not many grounds have the away fans behind the goal anyway: let alone in a terrace so small and cramped: that whilst a good atmosphere was generated - the fans were literally a yard away from the linesman and the player benches.

So it was perhaps no shock when some of the visiting fans decided to turn on the linesman - calling him a paedophile and homosexual amongst other delightful things. Children's ears were covered, certain players' in hysterics: and the linesman not best pleased!

Weirdly - this wasn't as surreal as it had got for the Iron fans actually.

For not only had the stadium announcer thanked the Scunthorpe United fans for "beating the Franchise on penalties in the play-offs" - (his words, not mine!), and seeing both the Scunny & AFC Wimbledon mascots with a sombrero on. That Wombles' dance will scar me for ever!

But these were highlights of the day's affair for the visiting fans, and they will now just have to hope that we can sneak past Terry Brown's League Two side in the replay scheduled for next week.

The AFC Wimbledon manager's take on it all was very revealing - admitting here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/15604801.stm - that his side had to hold on against the "best footballing side we've played all year." 

He also went on to explain how they had to hang in there, calling us basically a Championship team - and a "proper football club with proper history". Nice to hear praise from the outside, even in times like this!

Iron gaffer Alan Knill wrung the changes throughout the Iron side - hoping to inspire a little bit of impetus after the incredibly disappointing defeat away to Bournemouth.

With Sam Johnstone fit, it was a surprise to see Sam Slocombe in goal for us: and thus the Man Utd loanee had to settle for the bench.

Slocombe was behind the changed back four of Andy Wright, Niall Canavan, Michael Nelson and Eddie Nolan.

Nolan was the only main-stay of the back 4 - for with Paul Reid injured, and Shane Duffy on international duty: it was a changed centre-half pair. Andy Wright also came back in at Right-Back, with skipper Sam Togwell pushed back into his natural position of central midfield.

The flat midfield four for the Iron went from right to left as: Mark Duffy, Sam Togwell, Michael O'Connor and Nicky Ajose.

The Peterborough loanee was starting only his 2nd game for the Iron - and it was once more out of position on the left-wing. Square peg round hole anyone?

That said, huge credit is due to Ajose. For despite that - he was the Iron's stand-out performer from the game: offering real attacking impetus throughout.

Had he been in his natural centre-forward position, no doubt the Peterborough loanee would have done even more. On an another day, Nicky would no doubt have ended up with a goal and an assist.

Up top was however completely unchanged for the Iron - with both Bobby Grant and Chris Dagnall once more partnering themselves up front for the Iron.

It was a 7-strong subs bench for the FA Cup and the Iron: filled to bursting with: Sam Johnstone, Ash Palmer, Cliff Byrne, Oliver Norwood, Garry Thompson, Aron Wint and Jordan Robertson.

The Iron definitely started the game brighter: but found everything wanting with wayward long-range efforts and crosses doing nobody any good except the ball-boys.

Both sides traded speculative efforts from long range: but neither Eddie Nolan or Sam Hatton managed to trouble either keeper.

Photo by Mark Dickinson

Chris Dagnall gave the Iron fans hope when he was able to round the Dons' keeper Seb Brown: but the Scouse frontman found himself at an angle far too acute - so it was no shock to see him screw his effort comfortably wide of the goal in the end.

And then Mark Duffy arguably came as close as any player did all game for either side.

The nippy little winger did well to cut in from the flank - but his sweetly struck effort somehow only struck the post in what was a lucky escape for the home side. Oh how the game might have changed......

But the hosts were not without threats.

They had clearly been told to dig in and try to restrict the Iron: but one of their offensive counters came after about half an hour.

It was a nice move from the Dons up the right flank - exposing Nolan's inability to keep up with the winger, who was as quick as shit off a stick: and when the ball was pulled back, the effort forced a good low stop from Slocombe.

And it was another case of hands in mouths for the visiting Goliath, (!), as the hosts threatened from set pieces. They were clearly intended to be another apt string in the Dons' arsenal.

The free kick was curled in nicely from the right touchline: and the imposing defender got a nice flick on to it: striking the post having beaten Slocombe.

The ball was then desperately hacked away by the Iron's defence, but the linesman's flag, (yes that one!), was up on the near side for offside anyway. Thank God.....

The referee was continually managing to hack off the shackles of all concerned: with his shocking inconsistency seemingly targeting the Iron players rather than their opponents.

So, as the half time whistle sounded - it was no shock to see Chris Brass, á la moustache - remonstrating the Iron's case to the poorly performing official.

Photo by Simon Wright

But that said: had the referee been perfect, would the Iron have been leading? Not a chance....

Half-Time: AFC Wimbledon 0-0 Scunthorpe United 

The second half started in similar fashion, with Ajose constantly proving a threat on the flank for the Iron - impressing Iron fans. Although we were all wondering what he would have been like in the middle of the park mind!

And his was the first chance of the earth - after a lovely one-two between him & Duffy laid him across in the area. He drilled his effort low down to the keeper's left: but Dons' stopper Brown did really well to get down and block it away.

Ajose's effort was struck with real venom - but had it been another half a yard away from the keeper's body: he'd have had no chance, and the Iron would have been leading.

With the winter night sky creeping in - the game began to get more and more stretched, and whilst this increased the Iron's chance of snatching that killer goal: the same would have to be said for the home side.

Slocombe did well to keep the hosts' aerial threat to a minimum - and the Iron did well to block Porter's long-range drive under pressure.

But then it was another close effort for the Iron offensively - for whilst Brown was beginning to look nervous with his semi-fumbles, the Scunny forwards weren't able to capitalise on the close whiskers.

And even from set pieces did we look threatening - but despite Brown flapping at one in particular: it was a close of nearly, but not quite once more.

Photo by Simon Wright

A late change saw Thompson introduced - but many Iron fans justifiably argued that when you're chasing a game: one sub on with 8 minutes to go, just simply isn't enough.

And with 2 minutes stoppage time signalled - the attempts for the Scunny players to grab the ball by its clichéd balls never quite dropped to fruition sadly.

So it was another frustrating day for the Iron - despite ultimately the men from North Lincolnshire remaining in the hat for the draw for the 2nd Round of the FA Cup.

Even if we've needed more than 90 minutes, let's just make sure we finish off AFC Wimbledon once and for all....

Up the Iron!

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