Wednesday 28 September 2016

Akinfenwa's goal helps AFC Wimbledon win promotion to League One on their 14th birthday

Andy Sims

Published 30/05/2016 | 17:23

Lyle Taylor and Adebayo Akinfenwa fired AFC Wimbledon into League One as Wembley hosted the mother of all 14th birthday parties.

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Top scorer Taylor struck with 12 minutes remaining and cult hero Akinfenwa tucked in a stoppage-time penalty to sink Plymouth 2-0 in the play-off final.

At the scene of the old Wimbledon's greatest triumph, their 1988 FA Cup win over Liverpool, the Dons defied the odds once more to continue their fairytale rise up the football pyramid.

They have now been promoted six times since the current club was formed by supporters, following a meeting in the Fox and Grapes pub in Wimbledon, 14 years ago to the day.

The Dons have come a long way since holding open trials on Wimbledon Common that summer.

So much so - and whisper it quietly - but they now find themselves in the same division as the club the fans still refuse to acknowledge, Milton Keynes Dons, created when the old Wimbledon was so controversially relocated.

With 1988 heroes Lawrie Sanchez and Dave Beasant watching from the stands, AFC Wimbledon thoroughly deserved their victory while Plymouth, playing in front of an impressive 30,000-strong Green Army, seemed overawed by the occasion.

Amid the poor control and mis-placed passes from Argyle, one nervous clearance from Callum Kennedy's free-kick almost fell to Taylor six yards out, but he could not get enough on the ball.

Taylor then saw an angled shot deflected into the side-netting, Jake Reeves sent a volley wide and Kennedy's drive was held by goalkeeper Luke McCormick.

All Argyle had to show for a pedestrian first half was a Graham Carey effort which flew well over Kelle Roos' crossbar.

The Dons, by contrast showing no signs of nerves, surged forward again after the break and Andy Barcham's goalbound volley was charged down before Tom Elliott's header was deflected over.

Veteran midfielder Dannie Bulman should have set up Barcham for the opener on the hour but made a mess of a simple square pass and the chance disappeared.

Plymouth finally forced a save from Dons keeper Roos when Carey curled in a free-kick which the Dutchman palmed around his post.

Roos dealt with tame headers from Peter Hartley and Craig Tanner before Dons boss Neal Ardley sent on man mountain Akinfenwa.

The striker known as 'the Beast' promptly helped his side win a corner, and although Kennedy's delivery was poor the ball came back out to him on the left wing.

This time Kennedy swung in an inviting ball which Taylor needed the slightest of touches to guide past McCormick and send the Dons fans wild.

Akinfenwa almost grabbed a second but his header was palmed over by McCormick before, deep into stoppage time, substitute Adebayo Azeez was tripped in the area by Jordon Forster.

The big man demanded the ball and tucked away the penalty to really get the party started - and it is likely to be a long night at the Fox and Grapes.

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