Virgo bursts Wimbledon bubble

AFC Wimbledon 2 Bristol Rovers 3: Late penalty wins it for fancied Rovers but new boys make their presence felt on historic day

Kingsmeadow

As Chris Bush arrived at the far post to meet Lee Minshull's injury-time cross at Kingsmeadow yesterday a perfect symmetry beckoned: AFC Wimbledon's debut game in the Football League would, like Wimbledon's 34 years ago, finish 3-3.

However, even the game's most romantic club cannot write its own scripts. The substitute left-back blazed his shot into the skies and the new Wombles' last chance of a point had gone. For once, the taking part really was more important than the winning, but that did little to assuage AFC Wimbledon's disappointment. Trailing 2-1 at the break to a far more battle-hardened Bristol Rovers, the League's newest club hauled themselves back to 2-2 only to concede a needless penalty five minutes from time. Adam Virgo, once of Celtic, thumped it past Seb Brown and League Two's second-favourites were on their way.

Disappointment then, for Wimbledon, but not despair. "We looked very nervous and didn't play any football, but I've no doubts about my boys' ability. We will play much better than this," said Terry Brown, their manager.

Brown, who was 59 the day beforethe game, accurately pinpointed Wimbledon's problem. "We conceded three here, and three at Crawley [in a midweek Carling Cup play-off round]. All six goals were down to individual mistakes. We have to cut them out."

Rovers' 17th-minute opener came after Seb Brown, who is encouraged to throw the ball out, bowled it to Ricky Wellard in central midfield. Wellard's first touch was poor, Rovers' Matt Gill mugged him and released the veteran Scott McGleish who drilled a shot inside the far post. His somersault celebration belied the striker's 37 years.

So, too, did the way he sped clear two minutes later after intercepting Brett Johnson's wayward pass. Brown saved McGleish's shot but the Dons switched off and McGleish was able to find Matt Harrold, who headed in.

Before and after these goals Christian Jolley and Luke Moore both failed to beat Scott Bevan when clear. Finallythe captain Jamie Stuart, with a late run, glanced Sammy Hatton's free-kick past Bevan. For older Dons, there was an echo of Lawrie Sanchez heading home Dennis Wise's corner in the 1988 FA Cup final.

Midway through the second half Terry Brown brought on the summer signing Charles Ademeno from Grimsby – born in, of all places, Milton Keynes. That was swiftly forgiven by the Wimbledon faithful as, within a minute, he turned to convert Minshull's knock-down.

The Dons were buoyant, but Rovers carried greater threat. Brown denied Joe Osei-Kuffour and Mustapha Carayol but was helpless after Johnson flapped under pressure and handled Byron Anthony's header from a deep free-kick. "They had got back into it and were on top. Fortunately we got a break and I managed to take it," said Virgo about his spot-kick. The spoils therefore went to the pupil; Rovers' new manager Paul Buckle played under Terry Brown at Aldershot. He has transformed his squad to such an extent that of the 27 players Rovers used while being relegated from League One only one – Anthony – started yesterday. Three of the starting XI followed Buckle from Torquay, others, like Virgo, Gill, McGleish and Harrold, have a lot of experience. Their wage bill will dwarf that of Wimbledon.

In homage to history Wimbledon wore shirts that closely resembled the white ones worn against Halifax Town in their opening match in 1977. Their point then was one of three won in their first seven matches and recovery was slow. In January, with Wimbledon 21st, manager Allan Batsford resigned, to be replaced by a young Dario Gradi. As late as March the Dons were in the bottom four, but they pulled away to finish a respectable 13th.

Incidentally, the opening gate in 1977 was 4,616. After nearly a quarter-century, an FA Cup win, umpteen promotions and relegations, a move to Milton Keynes, the formation of a new club, and the establishment of a base in Kingston, Wimbledon appear to have gained 13 fans. They have in reality gained a lot more, including international admiration. Now the focus turns to gaining a first win.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions