Harrold's hat-trick a royal flush

AFC Wimbledon 1 Wycombe 4
  • @GlennMoore7

Royalty came to the Kingsmeadow last night, and produced a regal hat-trick. Well, almost. Matt Harrold, a jobbing striker for Wycombe Wanderers, is such a dead ringer for Prince Harry he has featured in a television documentary on the subject. AFC Wimbledon's defence, perhaps overly aware they now play in the Royal Borough of Kingston, granted him the freedom of their defence and the 24-year-old took full advantage in this FA Cup first-round tie.

Harrold's treble earned Wycombe a trip to Nottinghamshire to play Eastwood Town, of the Northern Premier League, in the second round on 29 November. Wimbledon can return to their main aim; that of climbing the non-league pyramid back into the league.

Unsurprisingly, given the circumstances of their founding, they guard their traditions jealously at Wimbledon. After long and sometimes bitter negotiations MK Dons ceded to AFC the right to regard the original club's triumphs, including the 1988 FA Cup triumph, as their own.

One tradition, however, has been forgotten. The feared "Wimbledon way" of Dave Bassett, Vinnie Jones and John Fashanu, with its physicality and direct football, was nowhere to be seen last night. Instead the Blue Square South club sought to build from the back, pass through midfield, work the ball wide and get behind the Wycombe defence.

The motivation was as much philosophical as practical. Wimbledon's manager, Terry Brown, said beforehand he had considered a negative, spoiling approach, but that was not playing to his team's strengths. He added: "I want our players to play without fear and express themselves. They need to show me they possess the courage and composure to pass the ball under pressure when it matters."

Admirable words, but while Wimbledon are a good side at their own level so are Wycombe, and League Two is two tiers higher. "We looked naïve," admitted Brown afterwards, "and it was down to the way I sent us out to play. Because they are a big side I thought we'd play football from the start and it cost us. But we don't play the old Wimbledon way."

Eight minutes into the match the Wimbledon goalkeeper Andy Little eschewed kicking long to take advantage of the wind, instead passing to Jake Leberl. The centre-half, who as a youngster watched the Dons at Plough Lane, played a risky pass and the ball came to Harrold. For a man with one previous goal this season he converted with aplomb.

The Dons kept passing, but Wycombe's defence were well-drilled. Peter Taylor's teams usually pass the ball well themselves but Wycombe, in deference to the conditions, were happy to go long. Ten minutes from the break Chris Zebroski rose to flick on a long punt and Harrold rounded Little to score.

The Wombles were given hope after 56 minutes when Sam Hatton turned in a cross by Davis but Matt Phillips soon scored his first senior goal to silence the home support and Harrold completed his treble 17 minutes from time.

"These games can be banana skins," said Taylor, "if we were complacent we'd have been punished." Brown concluded: "They have done the perfect job on us, but we'll have learnt from it. I have."

AFC Wimbledon (4-4-2): Little; Garrard, Leberl, Inns, Haswell (Hussey, 66); Hatton, Adjei, Davis, Godfrey (Finn, 66); Kedwell, Main (Mason, 89). Substitutes not used: Goodliffe, Pullen (gk), Judge, Aiteouakrim.

Wycombe Wanderers (4-5-1): Shearer; Hunt, Williamson, McCraken, Woodman; Zebroski, Mousinho, Holt (Duncan, 84), Spence, Phillips (Vieira, 78); Harrold (Bloomfield, 89). Substitutes not used: Young, Crooks, Ashton, Johnson.

Referee: A Taylor (Wythenshawe).