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?
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine