Wim­ble­don sur­vive pitch bat­tle

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - SPORT - By Jeremy Wil­son DEPUTY FOOT­BALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT at Gan­der Green Lane

There were fans look­ing over the fence from an ad­ja­cent park, chil­dren on the pitch at the fi­nal whis­tle, the rich his­tory of two clubs re­spon­si­ble for some of the big­gest up­sets in all FA Cup folk­lore and the spice of lo­cal ri­valry.

The pres­ence in the stands of men like David Pleat, Dave Bas­sett and Alan Pardew also only added to the pre­match sense of a big Cup oc­ca­sion but, for a tie seem­ingly made for ev­ery pos­si­ble cliché about the ro­mance of the FA Cup, the foot­ball was of­ten more mun­dane than mag­i­cal.

A goal­less draw, though, was still glee­fully cel­e­brated by most of the ca­pac­ity 5,013 fans crammed into Gan­der Green Lane and, ul­ti­mately, there was sat­is­fac­tion for both man­agers.

A re­play five miles up the road a week on Tues­day means added rev­enue and both teams en­ter­ing to­mor­row’s fourth-round draw.

“It was a great oc­ca­sion and we savour days like this,” said Paul Doswell, the Sutton United man­ager.

For Neil Ard­ley, the man­ager of AFC Wim­ble­don, there had been par­tic­u­lar con­cern about play­ing on Sutton’s ar­ti­fi­cial 3G pitch.

“It’s a mas­sive fac­tor; I’ve played on both and you re­ally have to master it. It was backs against the wall a lit­tle bit at times,” he said.

Sutton cre­ated the best chances, es­pe­cially early in the game. Matt Tubbs quickly broke clear be­hind the Wim­ble­don de­fence but dragged his shot back across the goal be­fore Roarie Dea­con clev­erly played Maxime Bi­amou clear on James Shea’s goal.

His sub­se­quent left-footed shot beat Shea but grazed off the very top of the cross­bar and over the stand.

Wim­ble­don were ini­tially largely con­tent to ab­sorb pres­sure and look to strike on the break, with Lyle Taylor forc­ing Ross Worner’s only sig­nif­i­cant first-half save.

Wim­ble­don did as­sume a greater hold on pos­ses­sion in the second half but the next clear chance was again Sutton’s when Bi­amou’s pow­er­ful shot from an­other Dea­con as­sist was well blocked by Shea.

Sutton had missed the clear­est op­por­tu­ni­ties and, in an in­creas­ingly ragged fi­nale, Wim­ble­don came clos­est to vic­tory. Tom El­liott had a close-range ef­fort blocked and there were ap­peals when Bradley Hud­son-Odoi ap­peared to have up­ended Barry Fuller in­side the penalty area, but ref­eree Keith Stroud waved play on.

“Live, it looked a penalty, but he made the right de­ci­sion,” said Doswell. “They will be favourites now but we will give it a go and maybe it can be the shock that the FA Cup needs.”

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