1950 to 1959

1950-51

That South Stand was to be restored to its pre-war glory during the close season, so when the 50-51 campaign opened, Wimbledon's ground capacity was set at the 25,000 mark.

Oxford City were first visitors of a new season and Wimbledon and Stannard, responded in style. Stannard had already proved he had lost none of his old appetite for goal. He scored two for the Probables pre-season, then switched sides and duly added another for the Possibles! He and Jimmie Smith scored twice against City, with Harry Bull bagging another in a 5-0 opener. The Reserves matched that away at Oxford, Charlie Smith scoring a hat-trick in a 6-1 victory.

Wimbledon were showing good early sea­son form and they got a quick chance for some silverware to go with it. They had progressed to the final of the London Charity Cup the previous season and were scheduled to meet Dulwich Hamlet. It was decided to hold the game over, so on September 11 the Dons and Dulwich did battle at Stamford Bridge. Gauntlett and Bull got their eye in with early goals and al­though S. Gray pulled one back, Wimble­don took the trophy.

Stannard was to score six in a 9-3 FA Cup win over Guildford Pinks, only for Walton & Hersham to end their progress there, with a shock 2-0 win at Plough Lane.

But Wimbledon were going well on the Isthmian front again, with Gauntlett grabbing three against Ilford and good wins against Oxford City, Kingstonian and Tufnell Park hoisting them to second place.

Wimbledon's visit to Dulwich on De­cember 9 was covered live by the BBC Tele­vision cameras. But three defeats in their previous four outings had seen them slip to fourth place and there was no respite at Champion Hill, either, in a 3-1 defeat.

In the next four months Wimbledon were to play only two Isthmian matches as their Cup fortunes prospered. They progressed through three rounds of the London Senior before Hendon knocked them out in the fourth, in front of a 4,200 gate at Claremont Road. Victories over Sheppey United and Woking in a replay took Wimbledon into a third round Amateur Cup derby with Tooting which was to take four matches and seven hours of football before the sides were separated. Bob Parker gave Tooting a 2-0 lead in the first game, before Stannard and Gaundett forced replay one. Again Tooting were to open a two goal gap before Wimbledon got their game together, with Lister this time joining Gaundett on the score sheet.

The attendance for these games were averaging out around the 10,000 mark and the punters were getting value for money. Another 1-1 draw followed at Tooting before Wimbledon finally produced the killer touch, with Gaundett, Stannard and Jimmie Smith forcing the win in shocking conditions, but again only after Tooting had drawn first blood.

All that effort, though, came to nothing in the next round against Hendon. A Gauntlett leveler forced the replay, but Hendon held the upper hand for a 2-0 win. Saddened by the sudden death of club chairman Jack Brown, Wimbledon's Easter Tour of the Channel Islands was a more subdued affair, although they did return with the Victory Cup. That, though, was their lot. Despite five wins two draws in their final 10 League matches, they had to be content with fourth place in the table.

Grim news as well on the financial front. A deferred tax liability of £800 left them£281 in the red and they decided to up the annual subs to 30 shillings and raise the price of admission from nine pence to one shilling.

1951-52

There were some big names in store for the crowd to enjoy the following season. On October 13, 1951, a young 16-year old by the name of Johnny Haynes was to make his Wimbledon debut.

But the Craven Cottagers were to provide Wimbledon with the skills of the young Master Haynes. Already an England Schoolboy interna­tional, he had scored six in a recent schools international with Scotland. The cultured, classy player was to go on and dominate the game for Fulham and En­land into the early 70s.

And on his debut against Ilford he proved he could live with the men as well, claiming one in a 5-0 walkover. He scored again in the following match and then he and Gauntlett grabbed two apiece in a 6-0 drubbing of Woking. Fulham, for whom Haynes was working as a £4 a week office boy, recalled their protégé after that, although he was made available for three further games in the weeks prior to Christmas.

And then there was Mickey Stewart, now at the head of the English cricket scene, but then a scorer of vital goals in yet another ex­citing climax to the season. Maurice Boxall was to make his debut that season as well and he scored twice in a 7-1 London Charity Cup triumph over Metropolitan Police.

Erith & Belvedere had ensured Wimble­don's poor run in the FA Cup continued with a single goal preliminary round win at Plough Lane. And the professionals of Fulham put paid to Wimbledon's London Challenge Cup hopes 5-1 in another early round exit.

There were more cup corkers for the bumper gates to enjoy. Wimbledon and Tooting shared nine goals in a 5-4 Surrey Senior thriller at Sandy Lane that ended in Tooting's favour after extra time. And the TV cameras were at Plough Lane again, along with a 14,000 crowd, to enjoy an Amateur Cup tie with favourites Walthamstow.

The sides drew goal-less at Plough Lane, then 1-1 at Walthamstow. A 13,715 crowd turned out at Highbury for the second re­play and Walthamstow, eventual winners of the competition, triumphed 3-0.

A 3-1 defeat at Woking followed and Doc Dowden announced five team changes for the visit of Clapton the next week. The shake-up paid dividends, as Mal­colm Robins and Stannard scored twice, with Jack Wallis adding a penalty in a 5-3 win. More points against Oxford lifted Wimb­ledon to second place and they went into the final league match at Ilford knowing the tide could be won by anyone of four clubs...themselves, joint leaders Leytonstone, Romford or Walthamstow. As it was, Jack Wallis scored both goals in Wimbledon's 2-0 win, but a 4-0 triumph for Leytonstone gave them the title, pipping the Dons on goal difference.

There was a trophy for the reserves, however, with Mickey Stewart scoring the only goal in the London Intermediate Cup final against the Port of London Authority at Walthamstow. The club were back in the black as well, with a £680 profit for the season, while the Supporters Club, now with a membership over 600, voted to take up a £90 eight shil­lings estimate to have glass panels fitted at the ends of both stands to protect their cus­tomers from the elements.

1952-53

Wimbledon's best spell this season again came in the opening months of the campaign. The unstoppable Stannard, who had made his Wimbledon debut way back in 1935, scored 19 goals in the first 18 games, matched virtually all the way by Gauntlett's 16 in 18 outings.

Goals from Stannard and Boxall had en­sured another London Charity Cup Final win, this time over Walthamstow at Dulwich, while the club enjoyed their best FA Cup run for many years. The Metropolitan Police were the first to fold, 5-1 at Imber Court, with Stannard scoring both goals in the 2-1 win over Wok­ing.

He scored two again in the 3-3 draw at Dulwich in the next round and it was his hat-trick that settled the replay 5-3 in Wimbledon's favour. Carshalton Athletic and Gravesend & Northfleet went much the same way, with Freddie Gauntlett this time plundering a hat-trick in the latter.

When Wimbledon snatched a 2-2 draw at Walthamstow in the next round it looked like the hard work was done. But there was no strolling over the Avenue as they overwhelmed Wimbledon 3-0 in driving snow at Plough Lane.

In between time Wimbledon had put to­gether a League run of four wins and a draw in six outings, sitting a comfortable fifth, eight points behind Walthamstow but with four games in hand. Their best performance at this stage was the 8-0 drubbing of Barking, led by Stannard (4), Gauntlett (2), Marsh and Stewart.

They were also to progress to the Surrey Senior Cup Final and a Selhurst Park show­down against old rivals Tooting. Over 8,000 fans turned out to see Gauntlett cancel Bob Parker's opener for Tooting, only for Parker to pop in the winner.

It all turned sour at the turn of the year, however. In 14 League games to the finish, Wimbledon won just five and drew two as the season petered out.

1953-54

They were to fare even worse in a bleak 53-54 season, a sad end to the 18 year service of ace marksman Stannard. His final game for Wimbledon came in a 4-0 defeat at Walthamstow on the last day of the season. Wimbledon, up among the top dogs for so long, were now down among the dead men and applying for re­election.

The writing was on the wall, really, from day one. Stannard's two early strikes had opened a comfortable lead at Ilford. It was an advantage, though, that Wimbledon failed to protect as they crashed 3-2.

Exactly the same thing happened in their FA Cup first qualifying round replay with Kingstonian. This time it was Mickey Stewart who scored the two early goals, with K's then slamming four without reply.

 

A last minute equaliser cost more points at Corinthian Casuals and although Wimb­ledon did put together an eight game un­beaten run, Wycombe Wanderers scraped a one goal win against the run of play to put an end to that.

Goalkeeper Alan Hooper was the star of the show at Delphian Leaguers Woodford in the second round of the London Senior. They went for the early kill, but Hooper held firm and a Gauntlett hat-trick, plus others from Currie and Cammell saw Wimbledon comfortably through.

A 3-1 win at St. Albans continued Wimbledon's post war love affair with Clarence Park, taking their points' tally to 14 in eight visits, while two 4-1 victories away from home took them into the second rounds of both Senior cups.

Stannard, out of the first team since October, scored two of the goals in the 4-1 Surrey Senior success at Woking and although he repeated that double against Dulwich the following week, Dons again contrived to turn a 2-1 interval lead into a 4-2 defeat.

The goals dried up completely in a 1-0 Amateur Cup defeat at Sheppey United. But Doc knew what was up, replaced Bull and Woods in the five man frontline with Porter and Cammell and Wimbledon duly romped in 5-1 against Edgeware Town in the London Senior, second round.

Dowden produced another managerial masterstroke, giving John Dinsdale a first team debut against Oxford City. Dinsdale had proved his worth with a run of goals for the reserves and repaid Dowden's faith with a hat-trick in a 5-3 win.

But that really was it for the season. Ilford put them out of the London Senior semi­final 4-0, while Corinthian Casuals won 2-0 in the Surrey Senior competition. Dinsdale went back to the reserves and four of the next five League fixtures finished in defeat, although there was an eight minute hat-trick by young Derek Clarke to savour in the one victory, 3-1 over Kingsto­nian.

But despite their lowly League placing, Wimbledon did manage to secure some silverware, with a 3-2 South of the Thames Cup Final win over Tooting, with goals from Gauntlett and J. Davies, plus a Les Wallis own goal. So Stannard's career on the park came to a close. He was duly voted vice president at the club's annual meeting in July, where the club announced a £34 purchase of flood­lighting equipment had been made.

1954-55

With Stannard on the sidelines, the Wimbledon forward line was led by young centre forward Jeff Darey. Tipped for amateur international hon­ours, he duly broke through to join the England Amateur ranks that faced Scotland at Hampden Park over Easter, 1955. It was on Darey's shoulders that Wimbledon's hopes of success rested and it was he who scored the winner to bring the Surrey Senior Cup back to Plough Lane after a 2-1 win over Sutton United. Ray Oakes had scored the first, with Staples on the mark for Sutton.

Wimbledon had made a slow start to the season, losing their opening League matches and being knocked out of the London Challenge and FA cups early on. There was a win at top of the table Walthamstow to savour, however, with R. Truby scoring the only goal after 14 minutes.

A 2-0 win at Dulwich and 5-0 against Oxford restored some confidence for a run of cup games that would take Wimbledon from December to March, with just three of the next 15 games in the League.

Again there were early round exits from the London Senior and South of the Thames cups, but Wimbledon did get it right in the Amateur Cup. Having forced an exciting 1-1 draw at Tooting, Wimbledon looked out of it three goals down in the replay, through Hocker (2) and a Waters penalty. But Truby and two goal Gauntlett took up the challenge to force extra time and it was Gauntlett who grabbed the winner to clinch his hat-trick.

Goalkeeper Hooper was again the hero of a second round draw at Northern League Shildon. The home supporters had spent two days clearing the pitch of snow, but couldn't put the skids under Hooper and company. The Plough Lane replay went to extra time in another close encounter, but in ran Gauntlett again for the late winner.

That would have cheered the unwell Dowden somewhat when the result was phoned to him on the final whistle. But the prospect of facing Hayes in round three probably wouldn't have, as they had put Wimbledon out of the FA Cup earlier in the season. Yet here was a chance for revenge and Wimbledon took it with both hands. Hooper kept Hayes at bay and Oakes scored a goal in each half to secure the win and a quarter-final tie against Hendon.

But Hendon came to Plough Lane with no fewer than six Amateur Internationals gracing their line-up: three English, one Scottish, one Swiss and a Norwegian. It was Hvidsten, from Norway, who gave Hendon the lead, with Oakes leveling in the 64th minute to force a replay. Gauntlett was at the heart of matters here, scoring first to cancel out Parker's early goal and then being stretchered off injured. A man down, away from home and against such formidable opposition proved too stiff a task and Hendon won through 4­1.

Wimbledon were sliding down the table, losing seven of their last 12 games, including a worse ever 9-1 at home to Woking. That came just 12 days before the Surrey Senior Final, but the dashing Darey and the Dons dug in for victory.

Doc Dowden's days as manager were over and at the annual meeting Alderman Sydney Black, chairman of the club, welcomed former Arsenal and Reading player Les Henley as first team coach. Formerly coach to Irish club Bohemians, Henley joined Wimbledon under new manager E. Goodens.

It was Hen1ey, however, who would be responsible for team selection. Progress has always been the key word at Wimbledon and the Management Committee decided that a new approach was needed if it was to be maintained.

Attendances had fallen rapidly after the post-war boom and the final home Isthmian League game of 1954-5, against Leytonstone, had attracted fewer than 250 spectators, in contrast to the Amateur Cup ties against Shildon and Hendon, both of which had seen over 7,000 at Plough Lane.

1955-56

The Management Committee decided that a professional coach was needed to revive the club's fortunes, hence the introduction of Les Henley. Sydney Black, the Club Chairman, recal­led that he had consulted Ted Drake, a former colleague of Henley at Arsenal and manager of the Chelsea team which had won the League Championship in 1954-5 and it was on Drake's recommendation that Henley arrived.

Black had also asked the Football Associ­ation for a list of recommended coaches and Henley's name was at the top of the list. And top billing he had, being given full responsibility for the coaching and selection of the first team, so becoming the first manager, in the modem sense of the word, of Wimbledon Football Club.

The first team began training under floodlights for the first time before the season proper began with an encouraging 4-2 victory over Ilford, but this was followed by only one draw in the next three games, as Wimbledon settled into a mid-table position. In the FA Cup, Wimbledon defeated Edgeware in the preliminary round 4-1 after a goal-less first half. The attendance of 2,980 was very disappointing, compared to the 10,600 against Kingstonian six years earlier in a first qualifying round match at Plough Lane.

A second-half penalty duly saw Finchley end Wimbledon's hopes at the next hurdle. Wimbledon had adopted a different style of play, one based on the 'M' formation developed in England by Don Revie at Manchester City. This involved the centre forward playing in a more deep-lying role, hopefully pulling a centre half with him, while the two inside forwards pushed up more.

But spectators were becoming frustrated by the lack of success on the field and matters came to a head during the home game against Bromley. While a Wimbledon player lay injured, one of the spectators jumped over the rail­ings, and remonstrated with the referee. He was escorted off the pitch by the players, but stones were also thrown, and the club warned the fans that any repeti­tion of such behaviour could result in FA disciplinary action.

The lack of success also affected some of the players. As amateurs, they were not bound to the club and so could be poached very easily by the more successful sides. Wimbledon had already lost a couple of players and in November, star man Jeff Darey opted out. Darey, who was in the squad for the Great Britain Olympics football side, decided to switch to Athenian League Hendon and his move led to some angry letters to the local Press complaining about the lack of ambition at the Club.

Wimbledon's performances were very in­consistent, with good home form countered by poor displays away. One week League leaders Romford were beaten 1-0 at Plough Lane, while the next the Dons slumped 5-1 at Woking.

Athenian League Wealdstone were the visitors in the London Senior Cup and although they went ahead early on, Wimbledon recovered to win 4-1, including the first hat-trick of the season by Joe Wallis, one of three Wallis brothers to play regularly for the Dons in 1955-6. Jack Wallis scored the other. But goals from these two Wallis brothers were not enough in the Second Round, when Corinthian Casuals won 3-2 at Plough Lane.

Wimbledon began their defence of the Surrey Senior Cup at Walton & Hersham, where they fought out a 2-2 draw before winning the replay fairly easily 2-0. The second round took the Dons to Fetcham Grove to meet Delphian Leaguers Leatherhead, where a record crowd of 1,300 was present. On a very poor pitch, Wimbledon missed countless chances before Joe Wallis put them ahead in the 55th minute. He was carried off unconscious after Leatherhead had equalised, however, and the home side scored twice more in the closing five minutes to win 3-1.

The Amateur Cup trail began at Enfield, where a disastrous start saw Wimbledon go behind in the fourth minute. But Joe Wallis equa1ised in the fifth minute with a header and Wimbledon went on to dominate the first-half. In the second period it was a different story as Enfield pressed hard for a winner, but Phipps missed a glorious chance for the home team with minutes to go and Wimbledon held out for a draw.

In the replay at Plough Lane, a crowd of over 3,000 saw Wimbledon score three times in the first-half on a mud bath of a pitch and Enfield could only manage one second-half consolation. That was it though, for in the second round tie at the Oval, Wimbledon out­played Corinthian Casuals but lost 3-2.

The programme price had stayed at two­pence since 1946, but mounting costs forced Wimbledon to increase the price by a penny before the home game against Clapton, which was lost 3-0. A run of poor results led to still more frustration and after the game against Leytonstone trouble erupted again. The referee was punched and kicked on the way to the dressing room and left the ground with a jaw injury.

For their part in the affair, two Wimbledon players were disciplined by the FA, one being fined one guinea, while the club was also ordered to display a warning in the first four programmes of the next season, stating that a repetition might lead to the ground being closed. With five games to go, Wimbledon were 13th, out of 15, with 18 points from 23 games, but won their four remaining home games to finish 11th.

The season finished with Tony Wright, a recent signing from Carshalton Athletic, scoring seven times in the last three games, including a hat-trick in the final 5-1 victory over Dulwich Hamlet. Joe Wallis remained top scorer with over 20 goals in the season.

1956-57

In the close season, Wimbledon secretary Bert Corke was elected chairman of the Sur­rey FA, while at the annual meeting, Hen­ley stated that the 'M' plan had been adopted because there was no one in the club suited to play the traditional centre for­ward role. Indeed, he confirmed that Wimbledon would persist with the tactic.

The treasurer reported that the club was £631 in the red; this was partly due to a £600 drop in gate receipts, although the fact that Wimbledon had played one home Amateur Cup tie only was partly responsible for this. Two thousand pounds had also been spent on the lease as the club changed the conditions from a 14-year term at £550 a year to one of 60 years at £400 a year.

The new season started without a public practice match and after an initial defeat at Romford, Wimbledon won their next three League matches before beating Walton 2-1 in an uncompromising South of the Thames Cup tie, in which Jack Wallis was carried off with a broken leg.

Encouraged by this good early season form, 5900 turned up at Plough Lane to see the Preliminary Round FA Cup tie against Tooting & Mitcham. Oakes equa1ised an early Tooting goal, but by half-time it was clear Tooting were the better team and in the second-half they scored four times without reply to win 5-1.

Despite that setback, Wimbledon con­tinued in good form in the League, one highlight being a 4-2 win at Motspur Park, the new ground of Corinthian Casuals, and after eight games, Wimbledon were second in the table, with six wins and 12 points. But after this good start they faded dramatically and on successive Saturdays in October, lost 5-0 and 6-0 at St. Albans and Woking re­spectively.

Plough Lane had been used over the years as a neutral venue for big games, in­cluding four Amateur Cup Semi-Finals and it was now chosen for a match between the Olympic XI and a combined Isthmian! Athenian League XI, which the Olympic XI won 3-1.

After a run of poor results, culminating in a 5-0 home defeat to Dulwich Hamlet, Wimbledon embarked on the Cup tie sea­son with a visit to Hall Lane, Hendon, where they played Wingate, the only all­Jewish senior amateur club in the country. Play was fairly even in the first 25 minutes of this London Senior Cup tie, with both sides scoring once, but Wimbledon got on top and went on to win 6-1. In the second round, however, they played poorly at Southall and went down 2-0.

Wimbledon won comfortably 3-1 at Athenian League Redhill in the Surrey Senior Cup, but home League defeats, by Tooting and Kingstonian over the Christmas period, left the team spirit low for the Amateur Cup campaign, which began at Clevedon. The Western League, Second Division side had a good Amateur Cup record and this was the fifth successive year that they had reached the rounds proper. A crowd of 1,200 saw the match kick off on what the Wimbledon Boro' News repor­ter said was the most uneven pitch he had ever seen, with prominent ridges and gul­leys all over.

Clevedon played the off-side trap very successfully to contain the Wimbledon forwards and went ahead in the 44th minute through an own goal. As the second half progressed, it looked all up for Wimbledon, but Brian Martin, playing only his third first team game, equa1ised in the 70th minute to bring Clevedon back to Plough Lane. But if the 2,700 home crowd thought that the hard part had been done at Clevedon, they were to be sadly mistaken.

The visitors took the lead, but Wimble­don equalised and had two disallowed before Clevedon scored again. Wimbledon leveled again after the inter­val, but Clevedon went ahead for the third time and with 15 minutes left, looked good for a win. But Eric Adams equalised in the 79th minute to force extra time and in the second period Alan Brown headed the Dons ahead for the first time and they then held out for victory.

In the second round, played in torrential rain at Lynn Road, Ilford adopted the better tactics, using the wings and the long ball ef­fectively and after Wimbledon had equa1ised an early Ilford goal, the home side ran in three more to win 4-2.

In the Surrey Senior Cup, Wimbledon beat Banstead Athletic 7-4 before meeting Epsom Town in the semi-final at Tooting. Although Epsom were only a Corinthian League team, they had twice scored five goals in previous rounds. Wimbledon were indebted to goalkeeper Alan Hooper, who restricted the eager Epsom Town forwards to just the one, while Wimbledon scored twice for an undeserved victory.

So into the final at Se1hurst Park where Wimbledon led favourites Woking 2-1 at half-time, only to slip up 4-2 in front of 4,500 spectators.

Results were generally poor on the league front, although at the end of the season they picked up some good points away from home, drawing 0-0 at eventual League champions Wycombe Wanderers and coming back from 3-0 down at Sandy Lane to grab a 3-3 draw.

Wimbledon, though, still finished a disappointing 13th out of 16 and it had become clear that the current team were not going to be good enough.

That key word, ''progress'' was not being made and at the annual meeting, it was revealed that a loss was made of £511 over the season, while the average attendance for first team games had dropped to 1,829, some 300 less than 1955-6. Wimbledon's figures would have made really dismal reading, but for a £500 donation from the Supporters club.

1957-58

But rather than put a brake on their spending, Wimbledon supporters opted on an all round face lift in an attempt to boost a temporarily flagging morale. At the end of July 1957, it was agreed that around £8,000 would be spent on building a new clubhouse, with two lock-up garages. The architect was Alec Fowles and work soon started.

The Dons also announced that the club colours were to change and the traditional blue shirts with white sleeves and black shorts were replaced by new colours - blue shirts with white trim, and white shorts. Henley's policy of introducing new blood was not popular with all the old players, however and just before the opening game at home to Barking, the three Wallis brothers resigned.

The new North stand was opened offi­cially before a friendly against the Army Side R.E.M.E. 4th Training Battalion, who included Corbridge in their side and Wimbledon began to find some good form. A 1-0 victory at Tooting, with Reynolds scoring in the 89th minute, established them as one of the League front-runners.

Wimbledon's appearance in the London Senior Cup Semi-Final the previous year had earned them a place in the London Challenge Cup and they were 'drawn against Arsenal at Highbury. Arsenal played nine first team regulars and the match was played under floodlights, the first time for Wimbledon. The Dons played very well, with Brian Martin twice equalising Arsenal goals, and well into the second half, with the score 2-2, Wimbledon looked as though they could bring Arsenal back to Plough Lane. But First Division class eventually told and Arsenal scored three late goals to win 5-­2.

Wycombe Wanderers were setting a hot pace in the League, but Wimbledon were not far behind, one highlight being an 11-1 thrashing of Leytonstone. Indeed, the 3-2 defeat at Walthamstow was their only League defeat between September 3 and March 21.

In the London Senior Cup, Wimbledon rode their luck to win 2-1 at Southall, surviving a second-half onslaught, but played poorly at Carshalton Athletic and lost 2-1. The following week, they visited Colston Avenue again in the Amateur Cup. Wimbledon's luck was right out and Norman Williams missed a penalty in a match domi­nated by the Dons. They were made to pay and the 3,300 spectators saw Carshalton score twice in the last seven minutes to win 2-0.

In the Surrey Senior Cup, Wimbledon beat Corinthian Casuals and Redhill quite easily, but they failed to take their chances against Dulwich once Reynolds had put them ahead, and went on to lose 3-1.

Wimbledon’s excellent League form put leaders Wycombe under increasing' pressure and the Dons eventually moved top on February 21 by winning 2-1 at Woking. Wycombe kept their title hopes alive by beating Wimbledon rather more convinc­ingly than the 1-0 scoreline would suggest, but it was now clear that Dulwich Hamlet, with games in hand, were the most dangerous challengers.

Wimbledon consolidated their position by crushing Wycombe 4-0, the highlight being a 40-yard goal from Jim Wright and this victory set up a grand stand finale between Wimbledon and Dulwich Hamlet. Both sides had two games to play and had to play each other twice. Wimbledon were two points clear and had a vastly superior goal average and so Dulwich had to win both matches to take the title.

They never got a look in for, at Champion Hill, Alan Burton put Wimbledon ahead in the 15th minute and scored again early in the second half. And although Brown pulled one back for Dulwich in the 60th minute, a breakaway goal from Eddie Reynolds clinched the match 3-1 and with it, the Isthmian League Championship.

Shortly after 8 o'clock the final whistle went and hundreds of schoolboys invaded the pitch to acclaim Wimbledon's first Isth­mian League title since 1936. Wimbledon then beat Dulwich 3-1 at home to finish six points clear on 47 points, an Isthmian League record. They had remained unbeaten at home for the first time, with only Tooting leaving Plough Lane with a League point and had also scored 91 goals.

1958-59

In January of that year Wimbledon had started a Development Association to raise money for ground improvements, there being a regular draw with prize money. This took off so well that at the end of 1958-9, it was estimated that £2,900 a year could be given out as prize money, with a further £2,600 going to the club. The total attendances at the first team's 20 home games topped 40,000, while gate receipts had increased from £2,991 to £3,691.

1959-60

And when Henley turned down the approach of a continental club in the June, Wimbledon's contentment was complete. During the summer of '59 Joe Wallis returned to the club from Bromley and there was a change of personnel in the Isthmian League. Romford decided to turn professional and join the Southern League, while Maidstone United joined from the Athenian League.

There were ground improvements, as well. Cover had been built over the West Bank and work was finished in time for the opening game against Barking, which Wimbledon won 2-0. It soon became clear that it would be more difficult to retain the League title than it had been to win it, as teams played more defensively, raising their game against the reigning Champions.

Dulwich gained some revenge for being pipped for the title, by beating Wimbledon 1-0 to win the South of the Thames Cup, held over from 1958-9.

But in the FA Cup, it was Wimbledon's turn for revenge, as they crushed Corinthian League Dorking 6-0 in the Preliminary Round. Eddie Reynolds broke a bone in his wrist in this match, but was only out for two matches, and returned to score for Wimbledon in the First Qualifying Round 3-0 win over Bromley, all three goals coming in the last 22 minutes. FA Secretary Sir Stanley Rolls was a guest at the game.

Wimbledon were finding it hard to score and this failing cost them dearly in the Second Qualifying Round against Sutton United. Wimbledon had most of the play, but Roy Law missed a twice-taken penalty and Sutton broke away to score eight minutes from time.

It was the same story in the crunch League match against Tooting at Plough Lane. Tooting scored in the 82nd minute for a 1-0 win, Dons fifth defeat of the season and all by the only goal.

The tables were turned, however, in the London Challenge Cup tie against West Ham United, who fielded four first-teamers. Hammers had most of the game, but Wimbledon, this time, took their chances to win 3-0, and move into the last four and a tie against Tooting. Wimbledon played really well in the first half to lead 2-0, but tried to sit on their lead and were pegged back to 2-2. Tooting deservedly won the replay 3-1.

Two hundred and fifty Wimbledon fans, more than double the normal away contingent, traveled to see Wimbledon's first League match at new boys Maidstone and they were nearly rewarded in the opening 10 seconds, when a Wimbledon shot hit the post. Eddie Reynolds scored the only goal just before half-time and Wimbledon's victory left them third in the table behind Wycombe Wanderers and Kingstonian. The closing minutes at Maidstone had been played out under floodlights.

Good news off the park as well. On Monday, November 23, Sydney Black organised a party at the club, where he announced that he had bought the freehold of Plough Lane from the Council for £8,250 and that he was donating this to the club. One of the conditions of the sale, however, was that the Council inserted a pre­emption clause, which stated that if the site was not to be used for sporting purposes, the Council had the right to buy it back at the same price.

This had the effect of protecting the Club from hostile takeovers, but it also meant that the effective value of the site, no matter what facilities were built on it, remained at around £8,000, a situation that existed until 1983 when the pre-emption clause was eventually bought out. At the same meeting, it was announced that £4,000 was to be spent on floodlights, eight pylons to be erected by GEC. This would be happening in the next year

On the field, Wimbledon moved into the Second Round of the London Senior Cup by beating Carshalton Athletic 5-1, including a Reynolds hat-trick. But it was a much harder story in the Surrey Senior, where Wimbledon were drawn away to Addlestone in the first Round. Addlestone agreed to play at Plough Lane in order to raise money to build covered accommodation at Liberty Lane and scored first to lead 1-0 at half-time. After the break, Hamm and Kenchington scored to give the Dons the lead, but Addlestone equalised and looked set to force a replay before Brian Martin scored the winner in the dying minutes.

After beating Kingstonian 5-1 in the London Senior Cup, the best performance of the season so far, Wimbledon entertained Dulwich in the Amateur Cup first Round. Brian Martin put Wimbledon ahead early on and although Dulwich dominated from then, Wimbledon held on to win 1-0 under falling snow.

Dons' luck, however, ran out dramatically at mud bound Hendon in the next round. A debatable penalty gave Hendon the lead and then Norman Williams put the ball in the net, only for the goal to be disal­lowed for offside. Hendon were then awarded another highly doubtful penalty, before Wimbledon pulled a goal back to make the final score 2­1.

Wimbledon's London Senior Cup dreams died in front of nearly 6,000 at Sandy Lane, when Tooting hit top form to win 3-0. Tooting then proved their reputation as Wimbledon's bogey team by beating the Dons in the Surrey Senior Cup Semi-Final. Wimbledon were 2-1 up with four minutes to go in the first match before a late equaliser earned Tooting a replay, which Tooting won 2-1.

In the League, though, Wimbledon's form was good. At Ilford, they came back from 2-0 down to win 6-2, despite having to play with 10 men for over an hour after Ardrey was carried off and the following week won 4-0 at Barking. But in the end, Wimbledon had to settle for third place, with 39 points from their 30 games. Tooting took the title with 42 points and Wycombe were second with 41.

Tooting had proved a real bogey side, winning five of the seven games between the two clubs and drawing the other two. In June, Wimbledon finished their season by beating Interlaken 6-1 in Switzerland, with Roy Law scoring a hat-trick.   next 



Honours

1951-52 Isthmian League runner-up
  London Charity Cup winners
1953-54 South of the Thames Cup winners
1954-55 Surrey Senior Cup Winners
1958-59 Isthmian League Champions