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  • Billy Wooldridge

AFC Wimbledon defeat Cheltenham Town in seven-goal thriller in the second round of the FA Cup

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

AFC Wimbledon survived a late Cheltenham Town comeback to reach the third round of the FA Cup with braces from Ayoub Assal and Ollie Palmer to secure a 4-3 win for The Dons.

With 4,322 fans watching on, Mark Robinson’s side recovered from an early setback to reach the third round for the fourth time in the last five years.

Alfie May fired home in the 2nd minute in front of the Cheltenham away end with a brilliantly taken right footed finish after Daniel Csoka had given the ball away in his own half.

Wimbledon responded well in the 36th minute with Assal finishing off a rapid Wimbledon counter attack after Robin’s goalscoring May had the ball snatched off him just past the halfway line.

Five minutes later, The Dons pulled in front as Palmer was able to tap into an empty net after Luke McCormick’s beautiful edge of the box strike fortunately bounced the way of the striker.

The chances of an early Cheltenham comeback in the second half were quickly shut down as Assal found his second of the game with a calm finish into the bottom left of the goal, after a lovely Palmer pass.

Ten minutes later it was Palmer’s turn to grab his second of the game as he cut inside the Cheltenham box before curling a gorgeous strike into the top right of Scott Flinders’ goal.

However Michael Duff’s side refused to give in and halved the deficit in the 73rd minute as substitute Andy Williams was able to slot past Nikola Tzanev after a lovely, weighted ball by Liam Sercombe.

Cheltenham’s hope of a comeback increased massively in the 81st minute after a Flinders goal kick was headed towards the Wimbledon goal by Don’s centre back Ben Heneghan, without realising his own goalkeeper had come to collect the ball, leaving the header to roll into an empty net.

However Tzanev responded brilliantly for Wimbledon as he expertly saved efforts from Williams and Matty Blair late on to see out the game for his side.

Robinson pleased with all round performance

‘I thought we were excellent for 60-65 minutes’, Robinson told AFC Wimbledon YouTube, ‘we want to play, so unfortunately when you play sometimes you’re going to make some errors, that’s part of the growing if you want to play aggressive football.’

On the topic of the exciting attacking display for The Dons, Robinson said, ‘it was exciting, there were times when it didn’t quite come off but I loved our attitude when it didn’t, the discipline was great.

To a man, up until the second goal, we were very very good, I couldn’t fault any of them.’

Duff ‘disappointed’ with his side

‘We can’t let the last 10 minutes disguise the first 80 minutes’, Duff explained to Cheltenham Town media, ‘it was nowhere near good enough and we deserved the outcome.

I’m disappointed as much as anything, we can’t turn up anywhere and not show up physically and without a desire to win the ball and we didn’t do that today.’

Youngster Assal shows his class for Wimbledon

The 19-year-old was a real stand out for Robinson’s side today as he showed the impact he can have on the team, as he struck twice and ran riot around the Cheltenham defence.

The right winger has managed three goals in 12 league appearances for The Dons this season but showed today why there is much more to be expected from him as he was able to link up perfectly with fellow goal scorer Palmer on multiple occasions.

‘People talk about his ill-discipline, but he showed none of that today and continued to effect the game’, said Robinson who wasn’t surprised when told Assal had been awarded Man of the Match.

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