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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

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

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album