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


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.

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam