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Get out of jail free…

… feel free to pass Go, collect £100,000. This card may not be sold or traded, and you need international clearance to use it.

Come off the ceiling yet? After Eurostar 2 Tramlink 3 (AET), do yourself a favour. The next time you watch a cup tie where the lower division side is taking it to the bigger club, about one minute from beating them because the opposition is having a brainfart, then end up conceding right at the death, just cast your mind back to last night and stop complaining at the injustice.

Let’s face it, today we should be licking our wounds and lamenting yet another wank performance. Forget the penalties that weren’t given for us (which Dre’s one certainly was, although haven’t checked back on the other), and their penalty that most definitely was (again, seen them turned down). When you’re constantly misplacing passes, and looking as likely to score as Franchise are of winning games against Stevenage – stop laughing -  you don’t really deserve to go through.

That said, it just needed one bit of quality, one bit of skill, one bit of something we hadn’t shown much of all game. And in true FAC folklore, it would have to be Luke Moore to Sammy Moore wouldn’t it? You know when you see a ball delivered and you get that sense that something is going to happen…?

When Sam “I need a nickname” Moore slotted home, I don’t think we were going to lose after that. You could see Ebbsfleet were mentally shot – even though they came back a bit in the second half, it was ours for the taking. Is it any co-incidence that the best we played all game was in extra time?

I don’t need to explain Moore (S) and his second goal do I? Well, it certainly wasn’t offside. In fact, it was one of the best goals I’ve seen for some time, simply because in such a high pressure situation in the last minute of extra time, he controlled it and slotted it home almost like he was in a training session. Cue muted pandemonium – how many of us thought the ref was going to disallow it because it was offside?

Still, it doesn’t matter now. We’re through, and we get to face ritual humiliation on ITV against Stevenage – at least, we will if we continue to play like that. This was my first game for a month, and worryingly it doesn’t look like we’ve improved since Wrexham away. Though apparently we were OK against Barrow and good against Alty.

Maybe, just maybe, this result will give up the almighty kick up the oversized arse we need? Christ, we need it. If we had played in the full 90 minutes like we did in extra time, ESPN could have gone home early…

One other thing before I carry on : it’s almost impossible to comprehend that we did go ahead early on. Through Nokkers too, who I think needs to start justifying his opinion of himself, although I think I’d start him ahead of Main these days. Just think how much easier last night would have been if we’d kept the lead, taken the sting out of the game and worn out the opposition with a professional performance? Winning is always a good feeling, but so is playing well.


Plus points: We won. Away. Difficult tie. 95th minute. 120th minute. Kept going till the last. Sammy Moore. Brett Johnson returning.

Minus points: Shit for a lot of it. Gregory is the new Sam Hatton. Crap passing. Defence looked poor. Riding our luck.

The referee’s a…: Another good thing about winning games like this is that you can say the referee was a complete cock without sounding bitter. At times it really did feel like 11 vs 13 – Dre’s penalty shout really can’t be down to sheer misfortune. But it was little things like offsides given that really didn’t help us. Mind you, after the shit decisions he gave us, the 120th minute winner was some kind of justice…

Them: Should be preparing for Stevenage a week tomorrow rather than us. But then, that’s football isn’t it? Has happened to us enough times in the past, after all. Far more up for it than we were, took their chances, and if they’d won we would have had no complaints.

Got to say, while being in the BSP is something I wouldn’t swap for anything other than a League place (OK, and an FAC third round tie at Old Trafford or the Emirates), it would have been nice if Ebbsfleet were in our division next season. If only because it takes less than an hour to get home afterwards. I guess we used up our Kent/Essex visit quota in the Ryman.

Oh, and how typical was it that Quiche got MoM? He could have at least relived old times with giving us a penalty or an own goal. As for Derek Duncan, he did prove why he has a syndrome* named after him…

(* – Derek Duncan Syndrome. Given to a player who impresses immensely in pre-season friendlies and is horse cock when the actual season starts. One suspects Callum Willock, who also played against us last night, would have fallen into this category).

Point to ponder: Whither Franchise? We all know they will be a major talking point for years to come, but let’s try to make one final commentary about the past fortnight.

Last night proved many things, but it also showed us just how important St Evenage winning on Tuesday was. When Sammy Moore poked home deep into extra time, we all know how we felt afterwards. I bet you’re still buzzing even now. Imagine how you would be feeling right this moment when you realise that his slotting home meant we would have played them.

I know a match-going Womble who wouldn’t have been there last night if Franchise had won, because they just wouldn’t have been able to cope with the conflicting emotions. In the comments section of SW19’s last writeup, somebody wondered why people wouldn’t want to have won last night – while I always want to win a football match, I can understand where people were coming from with this.

If you’re a Franchise customer right now, and you have any sort of emotion whatsoever, this week has been horrible for you. Your lifelong (sic) team has been knocked out of the cup, and more importantly you lost the propaganda war. Most of the media coverage has been either neutral or on our side – this has been the most prolonged coverage in the AFCW era that I can remember, and it will only continue. And it’s been good – we’ve come out well from it.

And Franchise haven’t. Not because they’ve said or done anything, because they haven’t, but they’ve been out of mind within the general footballing world since Tuesday night. Nobody gives a fuck about their “story” now, plenty will give a fuck about ours. Can AFCW get to the third round? It’s a story in itself, and a good footballing one too. Stevenage will be hard to beat – christ, play like we did for most of last night and they’ll be impossible to overcome – but that glittering prize is now within reach.

Had we played them, amongst all the other emotions and sub-plots would be that we would have to share a propaganda platform with them. Wankie would have come on, lied about how he had to “save” Wimbledon and we would have been on the back foot. We would have lost some battles in the build-up because it’s easy to get a reaction out of AFCW fans – I know it, you know it, and plenty of other people do too. And then what?

But it doesn’t matter now. All that matters is AFC Wimbledon and whether we can put in just one more performance before the big guns come in. Our success was never going to be defined by how well we did in the Ryman, or the CCL, or even the Conference South. It’s where we are now that matters. Top of the Conference (somehow) and in the second round of the FA Cup (somehow), on live national television too.

Franchise will always be with us, and there’s always the risk of playing them. But right now, they have never been so irrelevant…

Three’s a crowd: Am I the only one disappointed with our turnout last night? Seeing a good quarter of our terrace empty on telly isn’t good to look at, and you do wonder if we’re starting to get out of the habit of going to away games.

OK, it was a Thursday night – I know at least three people who would have gone on a Saturday – and it was on telly. And apparently getting to/from Kent from SW London in the evening by public transport isn’t easy. But I would have expected a couple of hundred more down there.

I know this is going to be yet another barb aimed at the OS, but for these sort of televised local fixtures, it doesn’t seem to encourage people to turn out and support us. There was as much written about how the KM bars were open as there was in telling people how to get to Ebbsfleet and how much to get in (OK, more of the former than the latter…). If we remember the Luton game, one could be forgiven for thinking that the club was actively trying to get people to stay away from Kenilworth Road.

There are some times when we ought to stop being concerned that our opposition will be getting money from us turning up and just get people along to support us if they can. If Stevenage were telling their fans to watch our game next Saturday against them on the big screen at their place, we’d get the hump. And anyway, I’m sure TB and the players would like to see a few more people supporting them…

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) “Sing when we’re drawing” – us at full time. (2) For those complaining about price of catering at KM, it was £1-50 for a cup of tea at Stonebridge Road. And not a very good one, either.

Anything else? The sooner Premier Sports gets into trouble and ESPN buy them out the better. I haven’t seen all of The Worldwide Leader In Sportsâ„¢ coverage of our game yet, but what I have seen has been very impressive and on a par with Sky. The outside broadcast is done by the same people who used to do the BBC, which is a bit different from the cheap-and-nasty stuff that Premier Sports and Setanta supplied.

You got the feeling they did some proper research into us, pointing out beforehand that Callum Willock played on trial for us. I expect that we got more out of them financially last night alone than PS will pay us for all their games this season too. Could you imagine Conference football being covered in this manner? It might start looking a bit more like League 2.5 rather than the non-league division it comes up like.

Plus of course, unlike PS, ESPN is available to more and more homes. Somehow, you hope that there really wasn’t an offer by them to show BSP games, and the board turned them down…

What was also of major note last night was John Fashanu doing the in-studio bit with Westley. Is this the first time Fash has been directly involved with AFCW in one way, shape or form? Got to be honest here, and say that his legacy has suffered a fair amount of taint over the years. The match-fixing saga did a lot of damage to his image – before it, he was the Banardos boy made good. And then, there was the time when he called Koppout a very nice man

Which is why the sight of him last night about to run onto the pitch when Sammy Moore netted in the 120th minute, then realising he shouldn’t, is as symbolic as anything else this past couple of weeks.

I suppose we may have to give slack to people like Fash, Vinny, Warren Barton and even Dean Holdsworth over their early dalliances with Franchise (or at least, indifference to AFCW). Back then, AFCW really could have been a flash in the pan, and it was a confusing time for everyone. Many probably still thought that the club calling itself Wimbledon FC from 29/5/02 was the Wimbledon FC before then. Some people now involved with AFCW were still planning to go to Selhurst after that date. That’s how emotionally messed up it was back then.

Some ex-WFC people “got it” from the start. Jason Euell, Chris Perry, Terry Burton and Neal Ardley certainly did. As did Wally Downes, Dicky Guy and Ian Cooke. And two individuals called Roger Joseph and Marcus Gayle.

Others came round sooner or later – Gareth Ainsworth (who had his official website designed by Marc Jones during the move) has come out in favour of us. Vinny Jones has given/loaned his FAC medal to the club. Past interviews with people like Trond Anderson have suggested that they didn’t want the move to happen but had to keep quiet due to legal issues. What they think today is unclear, because nobody has asked them. Or at least we haven’t heard…

OK, a couple are still in the dark side. Darren Holloway for one, but nobody remembers him at all. Paul Heald is still involved with them. But apart from people you’re not sure about (REMBE springs to mind here, though he has been seen at some AFCW games), very few WFC alumni are involved with them.

Perhaps it’s because Franchise has absolutely nothing to do with Wimbledon FC? Forget the legal continuation – it’s apparently been proven that Franchise isn’t the legal continuation of Wimbledon FC, it’s a totally separate entity altogether – on the brief times that one looks at Franchise, it doesn’t feel like Wimbledon FC eight years down the line. I’m not just saying that because I’m a dyed-in-the-yellow-and-blue-wool AFCW fan – I honestly cannot detect ANYTHING about Franchise that makes me think it’s remotely my club.

Then again, AFCW hasn’t felt like Wimbledon FC until the Conference South. Now, you can watch us play Ebbsfleet and recognise the Wimbledon pre-28/5/02  in some way, shape or form. For a fair amount of people, it was very difficult to get into AFCW before it started playing Newport County regularly. If it’s true for the fans – and there have been a couple more returnees from the South Midlands recently – then it’s true for the players.

People like Fash may be late converts, but perhaps that’s understandable. For a split second last night he remembered who he was watching. It may be bandwagon jumping, it may be more sincere, but things are starting to be how they once were.

But then, we knew that already, didn’t we?

So, was it worth it? Eventually…

In a nutshell: The magic of the cup.