1960 to 1969
The promised floodlights went up during the close season
and although Wimbledon were drawn away at Arsenal in the London Challenge Cup,
The Gunners were persuaded to come to Plough Lane for floodlighting up time
later in the season. The opening game of the campaign was the 1959-60 South of
the Thames Cup semifinal and after a 1-1 draw against Bromley, the match was
decided on the toss of a coin. Visiting Secretary Charlie King called
correctly, and Wimbledon were out.
The League season started promisingly, Wimbledon winning
2-1 at Oxford City with two late goals and then 8-1 at Ilford. Woking were the
visitors in the FA Cup first qualifying round and their resistance crumbled in
the second-half, as Wimbledon won 5-1, including four headed goals.
In the next round, Wimbledon met Dorking for the third
successive year and started disastrously, going 2-0 down after eight minutes.
Wimbledon gradually took control and shortly after half-time scored twice to
lead 32 only to fold ignominiously as Dorking scored twice in the last 15
minutes to win 43.
The much awaited Arsenal match took place on October 3 and
8,900 spectators saw Arsenal outplay the Dons to win 4-1. Soon afterwards, Ted
Murphy joined from Tooting and Old Dons' stalwart Jimmy Wright made the reverse
journey. International honours came for Wimbledon, with Roy Law being picked
for England Amateurs against Wales and John Martin also being selected.
2,400 spectators would be present for the Dons 3-1 victory
over St. Albans City in the league (match
report) Away from home, Wimbledon had been finding the going hard,
but in December they hit a purple patch, winning 4-1 at Corinthian Casuals and
2-1 at Dulwich, a game in which Mike Kelly made his first team debut. And in the
London Senior Cup first Round, Athenian League Leyton were trounced 9-0, with
Reynolds scoring a hat trick.
In the Surrey Senior, Wimbledon comfortably saw off
Dorking 3-0, before defeating Tooting and Mitcham 2-1 in a Boxing Day derby to
remain well placed in the League.
The latter part of this match was played under
floodlights, but Tooting refused to play under lights for the Surrey Senior Cup
tie 12 days later. Their lights duly went out, as a Kenchington hat-trick saw
Wimbledon home 5-0. (match report)
Wimbledon came from behind at halftime to win 2-1 at
Barking in the London Senior Cup and then played brilliantly at Bromley, winning
3-2 at one of the title favourites. In the first round of the Amateur Cup
Wimbledon received the most difficult draw, away at Wycombe Wanderers, where
they hadn't won in 25 years.
Before a crowd of over 5,000, Wimbledon dominated the
early exchanges, only to fall behind before Reynolds equalised just before
half-time. The second-half was fairly even, but as the game went on Wycombe
gradually got on top until, on a breakaway in the 87th minute, Norman Williams
scored a brilliant goal to seal a Wimbledon victory.
Wimbledon were drawn at Woking in the next round and there
was a pre-match dispute when Wimbledon were offered only 30 stand seats and in
the end declined to take any. Wimbledon fell a goal down after 40 seconds, but
two from Kenchington helped them to a comfortable 5-1 win.
Another goal was conceded in the first minute in the next
game against Carshalton Athletic in the London Senior Cup, but this time Dons
never really recovered and lost 32.
Wimbledon's third round Amateur Cup opponents were Whitley
Bay, who were lying second in the Northern League. In a good game, Wimbledon
went ahead early on, and Reynolds added another shortly after the interval. But
Whitley Bay were a good side and scored twice midway through the second half to
draw level. It looked as if Wimbledon had clinched victory, however, when Hamm
scored a brilliant goal in the 86th minute, but a lack of concentration in
defence allowed Whitley Bay to equalised a minute later to force a replay at Hillheads Park. The attendance of 7,780 was the largest Amateur Cup gate of the
Because of an England international game, Wimbledon
managed to get the replay put back a week and four days before traveling north
the Dons opened the Kingstonian floodlights by winning 3-1 in a League match.
Wimbledon made the perfect start at Whitley Bay, with
Reynolds scoring early on and Wimbledon dominating the next half hour. But
Whitley Bay scored a shock equaliser in the 35th minute and Wimbledon were
forced to hang on. They had a brief spell on top and Hamm scored to put the Dons
back in front, but Whitley Bay pressed continuously and a quite brilliant
40-yard shot gave them the equaliser in the 80th minute. Kelly had to play
really well as Whitley Bay poured forward in extra rime, but Wimbledon held on
and won the toss to choose a venue for the second replay, opting to play at
Interest in the tie was so great that 9,870 turned up at
Richmond Road and the gates had to be closed with many hundreds locked out. The
floodlights failed shortly before kickoff but power was quickly restored and at
half-rime, Whitley Bay must have wished that the lights had stayed off.
Wimbledon had produced their best football of the season to score four goals
without reply. Whitley Bay scored immediately after half-rime, but Brian Martin
scored twice more to complete a hat trick as Wimbledon won 6-1 to move into the
Four days after the third match of their Whitley Bay epic,
Wimbledon entertained Walthamstow Avenue in the Amateur Cup quarter-final and
10,806 fans, the largest crowd at Plough Lane since the teams had met in the
same round in 1952, turned up.
Wimbledon, though, looked jaded and although dominating
territorially, they lacked a finishing thrust.
It was Walthamstow who took the lead when Minall scored
from a quite brilliant move in the 46th minute. After this, Wimbledon pushed
forward re1entlessly, but they persisted with long high balls down the middle
and Walthamstow clung on to win 1-0. Like Hendon the season before, they went on
to win the Cup. Their title hopes finally ended at Maidstone where they lost
1-0, but on the following Monday they took the South of the Thames Cup by
beating Bromley 5-2.
The title was now between Bromley and Walthamstow Avenue
and Walthamstow came to Plough Lane needing one point to secure an Amateur Cup
and Isthmian League double. Ardrey missed a penalty but rain caused the match to
be abandoned after 30 minutes with no score.
It was replayed the following night and Wimbledon avenged
their Amateur Cup defeat 3-2, letting Bromley in to take the tide by one point.
Wimbledon finished third. But at the annual meeting that close season, Wimbledon
supporters were accused of lacking sportsmanship, too quick to knock the players
when things went wrong.
It was pointed out that Wimbledon's away form was worthy
of the Champion's 20 points from 15 games, but that the home form was
disappointing, producing just two points more. Some of the players said that
they preferred playing away from home.
That away form was to hold firm as Wimbledon opened the
season by winning 2-0 at Ilford, but then picked up only three points from the
next six games. Mixed fortunes too, in the FA Cup. They comfortably beat Woking
5-1 after going a goal down early on, but then played pathetically, surrendering
2-1 at home to Walton & Hersham.
But suddenly Wimbledon hit form, with a surging run that
saw them win 18 of the next 19 matches. The highlights included a 3-2 win over
leaders Walthamstow and a 7-0 thrashing of second place Leytonstone. That was
followed a week later by a 6-0 win at Oxford City, where Les Brown celebrated
his first team debut with four goals and Eddie Reynolds scored two and hit the
bar three times.
Reynolds then hit a hat-trick as local rivals Tooting
crashed 5-1 at Plough Lane. In the Amateur Cup, a crowd of 2,650 three times
Ilford's normal gate - turned up at Lynn Road to see a bruising match. Keats
scored for Wimbledon in the fifth minute and Ilford threw everything forward,
including a shot against the underside of the bar, but Wimbledon held out to
win. Seven days later it was Ilford again, in the second round of the London
Senior Cup. No jitters this time, though, as Dons won 6-2.
The second round of the Amateur Cup brought giant killers
Ford United to Plough Lane. The Aetolian League club had won 2-0 at holders
Walthamstow in the first round, but after Brown had put Wimbledon ahead in the
21st minute, Wimbledon turned up the pace in the second-half to win 6-0, with
Les Brown scoring four.
Wycombe Wanderers were next and the programme price was
raised to 4d for the third round tie, while admission prices were raised to two
shillings as a one off. This didn't stop a crowd of 9,254 turning up to see
Moore deservedly put Wimbledon ahead, slotting the ball into an empty net from
close range after brilliantly sidestepping the goalkeeper. Brown then hit the
post before Rudge had to clear off the line at the other end. The Wycombe fans
constantly out shouted the home fans as Wycombe dominated territorially, but
Wimbledon had the best chance, Reynolds hitting the post, as they held out to
move into the quarter-final.
Wimbledon had to journey to the far North to meet Crook
Town, lying sixth in the Northern League with games in hand. Over 500 supporters
traveled with the team to find the pitch covered in slush and snow some three
inches deep. Wimbledon were outplayed and only goalkeeper McAlpine kept the
score down with a brilliant display. With 10 minutes left they were still in
with a chance at 1-0 down, but Crook duly added a second and at the end were
still on the attack.
But Wimbledon recovered to win their next eight games,
including beating Hayes 7-0 in the Semi-Final of the London Senior Cup and after
a 3-0 defeat of Bromley they went top, and steadily pulled away.
The League title was all but decided when the Dons drew
0-0 at home to St. Albans, going six points clear of Leytonstone, who had three
games in hand, but a vastly inferior goal average.
Wimb1edon then clinched the South of the Thames Cup,
beating Kingstonian 5-1 at Plough Lane, with Reynolds hitting a first-half
hat-trick, to add to the League Championship as they finished three points clear
of Leytonstone and eight ahead of third place Walthamstow.
England Amateur call ups had robbed Wimbledon of most of
their best players and against Wealdstone in the London Senior Cup final at
Dulwich, they had to field seven reserves, yet still dominated. They could only
score once through Moore in the 49th minute, but it looked as though this might
be enough until Wealdstone equalised five minutes from time. Wimbledon held on
to draw 1-1 in extra time, however, and the trophy was shared.
At the end of the season, the dressing rooms were
modernised and the Supporters Club extended, the extension being financed by the
Football Club to the tune of £2,200, while the supporters made a donation of £1
,500 to the club.
During the close season, it was announced that admission
prices would rise to two shillings. There had been a slight drop in League
attendances, but this was blamed on thecoverage of the FA and Amateur Cup
Finals, which both took place on days Wimbledon had home games. Gate receipts
for the season were £5,202, down by nearly £1,000.
The season began with a 3-2 defeat against the Rest of the
League, but in the first League game at Leytonstone Wimbledon led 1-0 until a
hotly disputed penalty gave the home side a last minute equaliser. A nasty brawl
between the players followed and later continued in the tunnel.
Wimbledon's FA Cup record over the past 10 seasons had
been very poor, but they won comfortably 4-1 at Leatherhead in the first
qualifying round, although it was not until the 36th minute that Reynolds put
In the next round they were drawn at home to Woking for
the third successive season, having previously beaten the Cardinals 5-1 on each
occasion. This time, though Woking dominated early on and went ahead, before
Brown lifted the growing tension with an equaliser just before half-time.
Wimbledon got on top after that, scoring three times before a late Woking
consolation, going through to the third qualifying round for the first time in
New Isthmian League leaders Kingstonian were the next
visitors to Plough Lane in the FA Cup. Kenchington's goal for the Dons separated
the two sides at half time and he scored again in the 3-2 win. And Wimbledon
duly progressed to the first round proper by crushing Oxford City 6-1, Oxford
having no answer to Wimbledon's aerial dominance as all six goals came from
So to a home draw against Third Division Colchester United
and 9,500 fans were present to see Colchester dominate the early stages, forcing
corner after corner. But their finishing was way off and Wimbledon showed them
how it should be done soon after when Brown put the Dons ahead in the 27th
minute. Then Ardrey was injured in a clash of heads and had to go off for
treatment – and Colchester sensed that this was their chance. Dons held out to
half time, when Ardrey was fit enough to resume and it was Ardrey who set up the
second after 76 minutes.
He set off on a run down the right wing and his cross was
met by a bullet header from Reynolds just inside the area to put Wimbledon 2-0
ahead. Colchester immediately pulled a goal back as Wimbledon relaxed and then
laid siege to the home goal. By now, Wimbledon were content to kick the ball
anywhere as they clung on to win 2-1, their first ever victory over a full
Football League side.
Wimbledon had been going well in the London Challenge Cup,
beating Crystal Palace and Bexleyheath and holding Chelsea to a goalless draw in
the semi-final. In the Stamford Bridge replay, Wimbledon wanted to play under
floodlights, but Chelsea refused, even though Wimbledon offered to pay the £35
it would cost to turn the lights on.
Consequently, only 1,202 fans turned out to see Williams
put Wimbledon ahead against the run of play. Chelsea soon equa1ised and Mike
Kelly had to save a penalty before Mullholland scored an 85th minute winner
for the home side.
Wimbledon were getting behind with their League fixtures
and their cause wasn't helped at Wycombe where they led 2-0 and then resorted to
some rough stuff to maintain the lead. They eventually went down 3-2 to a last
minute penalty and fighting broke out between rival supporters at the end of the
They had been drawn away to Bristol City in the second
round proper of the FA Cup and the large Wimbledon contingent must have feared
the worst when they were completely outplayed in the first-half and went in 2-0
down. However, Les Henley's half-time words made a deep impact and Wimbledon
were back in it when a Bristol player, Peters, sliced a clearance back past his
own goalkeeper. Wimbledon poured men forward, but with the home fans whistling
desperately for time, they did everything but equalise. A brave and determined
cup run was over.
There was a brief interlude from Cup matches and Wimbledon
beat Woking 4-0 to improve their League position. But their match at Tooting was
postponed because of fog and then the winter set in with a vengeance, causing
all games to be called off for nearly two months.
Wimbledon faced a crippling backlog of fixtures, even
though the season was extended and the first opponents were Athenian League
Southall, in the Amateur Cup. Two Kelly blunders and a needless handball by Law
gave Southall a 3-2 half-time lead, but Wimbledon then laid siege to the
Southall goal, forcing 14 comers and hitting the woodwork four times. They could
only score once, Brown hitting home the equaliser in the 70th minute, but in the
replay, Reynolds scored either side of half-time, and Hamm clinched victory
with a great goal.
Wimbledon's League form continued to be good and they
remained undefeated in the League between November and May, the highlights being
the 5-1 victory over Wycombe and a 9-1 thrashing of Clapton.
Their Amateur Cup progress took Wimbledon to Chesham
United, where they found the ground a sea of mud. Driving rain made good
football impossible, but Chesham took a shock lead midway through the
first-half, before Wimbledon equa1ised. Two second-half goals saw them through
The third round took Wimbledon to Barnet. McAlpine played
brilliantly in goal and Wimbledon went ahead just before half time when the
Barnet goalkeeper dropped the ball and Brown stabbed it into the net. The game,
though, was becoming a maul and the number of fouls reached 40 midway through
the second-half. Brown then hit the post and Wimbledon missed a penalty but held
on to win 1-0.
So to the quarter-final. Wimbledon were drawn at home to
Bishop's Stortford from the Delphian League and a sixth minute effort from Hamm
proved enough. Wimbledon were now into the semi-finals, where they played
Leytonstone at Highbury, with a chance to avenge their 1947 Final defeat on the
Leytonstone started well, but against the run of play,
Brian Martin put Wimbledon ahead with a shot that went in off the far post.
Wimbledon now gained control, but failed to capitalise on their dominance until
midway through the second-half, when Williams put them 2-0 up.
Leytonstone immediately pulled a goal back and pressed
forward for an equaliser. Roy Law had to make two great saving tackles in the
last minutes to keep Wimbledon ahead, but the final whistle blew and Wimbledon
were at Wembley for the first time.
The great day dawned on May 4.
Photo Gallery Wimbledon were to face
Sutton United and both were presented to the Lord Mayor of London before the
Final got underway. Sutton had decidedly the better of the first half and
Wimbledon were relieved to be still on level terms at half-time.
But in the opening minute of the second half, Brown
crossed the ball to Reynolds, who headed the opening goal. Nine minutes later it
was 2-0, Reynolds heading home a Brian Martin cross. But Sutton United, playing
some beautiful controlled football, forced their way back into the match on the
hour when Goodall pounced on a poor header from Law to reduce the arrears and
then Bladon equalised in the 67th minute.
For ten anxious minutes, Sutton pushed forward for a
winner, but they gradually faded and it seemed both sides were going to settle
for extra time. But in the 88th minute, Hamm beat a defender and crossed
beautifully for Reynolds to head the ball home and in the last minute, Murphy
crossed, Reynolds met the ball with his blond head and the ball went in just
under the bar to make the final score 4-2. The Wimbledon fans were delirious as
Law climbed the steps to the Royal Box to receive the Amateur Cup for the first
time in Wimbledon’s history.
Back in the League, it seemed that Kingstonian, 12 points
clear at one stage, would win, but Wimbledon beat them home and away in a five
day period to throw the tide race wide open. Dons then suffered their only home
defeat of the season, losing 2-1 at home to bogey side Ilford, but Kingstonian
had completed their fixtures and could only watch as Wimbledon remorselessly
closed the gap.
Three points from two fixtures with Tooting, which were
watched by over 10,000, edged Dons nearer their target and in their penultimate
match, they went joint top, winning 4-0 at Dulwich Hamlet with Reynolds scoring
Anything other than a 7-0 defeat at Walthamstow would now
win them the tide and a Reynolds header in the 86th minute clinched a 1-0 win
and the Championship. Wimbledon had achieved the Isthmian League and Amateur Cup
The Double Champions started their season with a 3-3 draw
against the Rest of the League, but then won their first nine competitive
matches, in sharp contrast to their usual lethargic start. In their opening
game, they beat the 1962-3 Athenian League Champions Enfield 3-0 at Enfield,
Hendon, Hitchin and Sutton all joining the Isthmian League.
They also added the South of the Thames Cup to their
trophy room for the third successive year, beating Sutton United 5-0 and
Kingstonian 2-1 to take permanent possession of the trophy in its final season.
For some years, there had been persistent rumours that
certain amateur clubs were paying their players, in strict breach of the amateur
code. Chairman Sydney Black appeared on the "Sportsview" TV programme, denying
that this was the case at Wimbledon. "Wimbledon do not make any illegal
payments and I invite anyone to investigate this," he said. "I swear that none
of our players are paid."
Also on the programme was Micky Stewart, the Surrey and
England cricketer and amateur footballer. He had played for a number of amateur
clubs, including Wimbledon and he stated that he had been offered money and
goods by certain clubs.
Controversy off the park and injuries on it. Brian Martin,
playing for Britain, broke his leg in an Olympic Games qualifier against
Iceland, while at one stage Wimbledon played four different goalkeepers in
successive matches, before Kelly regained full fitness to re-establish himself
as first choice.
By virtue of their Amateur Cup Final appearance, Wimbledon
guaranteed themselves exemption to the FA Cup first Round Proper, where they
were drawn away at Bexley United from the Southern League. Reynolds put them en
route, before three goals in the last 12 minutes made it a flattering 5-1.
The second round brought Bath City and manager Malcolm
Allison, to Plough Lane and Wimbledon twice came from behind to grab a 2-2 draw
and feature in the third round draw for the first time. Bath or Wimbledon were
drawn at home to First Division strugglers Bolton Wanderers, but Bath were to
sink Dons in the replay, 4-0.
Wimbledon, however, bounced back quickly. At Hitchin,
Reynolds grabbed yet another hat-trick for a 3-2 win and they moved into the New
Year leading the Isthmian League on goal average.
The defence of the FA Amateur Cup started with a home tie
against Athenian League Maidenhead United, but although Wimbledon won 4-0, they
looked far from convincing. It was a similar story at Finchley in the London
Senior Cup, Wimbledon eventually winning 2-1 at Summers Lane after the first
match had had to be abandoned because of fog.
Wimbledon had home advantage again in the Amateur Cup's
round two tie against Windsor and Eton. They came from the Athenian League
Second Division and were clearly underdogs. The Wimbledon Boro' News thought
Wimbledon should win by six clear goals.
It soon became clear that this was not to be the case,
however. Reynolds put Wimbledon ahead but it was no surprise when Windsor and
Eton equalised seven minutes before the break. For the first 20 minutes of the
second half, Wimbledon were on the rack as Windsor swept forward repeatedly,
but, right against the run of play, Reynolds scored again and Wimbledon scraped
No joy, though, in the London Senior Cup. Wimbledon lost
3-1 at Kingstonian and Reynolds was sent off for violent play in the 83rd
minute. As the game neared its conclusion, some of the crowd began streaming
towards the area between the pitch and the dressing rooms. Police arrived to
push the fans back onto the terracing, but a linesman was hit on the leg by a
stone and had to be helped off.
The draw for the Amateur Cup was not kind. Wimbledon had
to visit Enfield, where the home side had not lost to an amateur side for two
years. Sixteen coach loads of fans made the trip from South London and given
Enfield's home record, a 2-0 defeat was not too disappointing, although the
Meanwhile, the FA feared the position regarding alleged
payments to amateur players had been allowed to drift too far. All amateur clubs
were ordered to sign a legally-binding declaration stating that they conformed
to all the regulations governing amateur clubs. Wimbledon were the first side to
refuse to sign, although they were later joined by Tooting and others. Wimbledon
argued that, for all they knew, supporters could be giving the players money,
which no club official might be aware of.
On the park Wimbledon's run of bad form continued when,
after a run of 12 straight home League victories, they crashed 5-0 at home to
Sutton United. The League had developed into a two horse race, with Wimbledon
and Hendon the two contenders still having to meet each other twice. By the date
of their first meeting, on March 28, Hendon's free scoring attack had already
smashed the Isthmian League goalscoring record with 107 goals in their first 30
League games. By contrast, Wimbledon had managed only 67.
Claremont Road resembled a ploughed field as the two sides
came out for what many saw as the title decider. O'Rourke set Hendon on their
way with a goal in the first minute and soon after Hamm was badly injured. He
was effectively a passenger for the rest of the match and Hendon scored twice
The two teams met again a week later at Plough Lane. Heavy
rain had turned Plough Lane as well into a sea of mud and Hendon scored in the
12th minute to take an ominous grip on proceedings. But Law equalised from the
penalty spot to send the teams in level at half-time, before Reynolds put
Wimbledon ahead on the hour. There were ugly scenes again. When Ardrey was
injured, visiting supporters cheered and an iron bar was thrown onto the pitch.
An official was then threatened, and police had to go behind the goal to control
matters as Wimbledon edged it 2-1.
A useful 4-2 win at Kingstonian, in which Ian Cooke made
his debut, was followed by a 1-0 win over the same club in the final home League
match of the season, watched by 3,350. Hendon's form, meanwhile, had slipped,
and with three away games to go, Wimbledon needed only one point to clinch the
title. They duly scored five times in the first half to lead 5-1 at Woking and
that was the final score. Wimbledon were Champions for the third successive
year. Wimbledon then beat Corinthian Casuals 2-0 at Dulwich in the final match
of the season, Cooke opening his Wimbledon account with the club's final, and
87th, League goal.
Champions they were and behind the scenes Wimbledon
officials had been gearing up the club for a move that would shock football's
They had decided the time was right to 'Join The
Professionals' One vacancy had arisen in the Southern League, Division One, as a
result of Clacton Town's intended resignation and Wimbledon applied.
It all hinged on a special meeting, called for May 11,
which was open for all members to discuss the issue and then vote on it. There
were over 200 present to hear club chairman Sydney Black's address and he left
them in no doubt whatsoever over his intentions. He would walk out on the club
if they decided to stay amateur.
The nine man management committee had already announced
they would resign as well if the vote went against. Roy Law, club captain, chose
his words carefully. The team would stay together, whether amateur or
professional, he said. There was, in the end, no doubt. Of the200 plus present,
just 24 voted against and the proposal to turn professional was carried.
Romford duly proposed Wimbledon for the vacant spot, with
Guildford City the seconders. And at the Southern League's annual meeting of
June 6, 1964, the Dons were duly voted into the League's First Division. Four
days later, on June 10, 15 Wimbledon players signed professional forms.
Yet another new age was dawning in the history of
Wimbledon Football Club
The step up from amateur to professional status was a
giant one. There were big changes to be made behind the scenes, affecting
particularly the 242 members of the old amateur club set-up, who had made the
decisions and who had been liable for any debts.
With the new found responsibility of paying staff and
players, the club had to form a limited company. This would generate instant
capital and, at the same time, keep the liability for any overspending at a
Wimbledon opted to issue 4,000 shares at £5 each, thereby
raising £20,000. That would become their share capital and that, as a limited
company, would be their total liability for any debts. A full time secretary was
appointed, with John Young joining from a position at FA headquarters.
The members were duly called together for the crucial
vote, but there was not really a choice in the matter. A vote against the move
into the professional world of limited companies and paid players would mean no
football at Plough Lane, for a season at least.
Even so, some amateur diehards stayed away and some voted
against. The majority of 139-6, however, was easily sufficient. The council then
gave permission for the ground to be transferred from the amateur club to the
new limited company, which was duly registered on July 7, 1964 as Wimbledon
Football Club Limited; company No. 811820.
All the members were allocated one share each, with the
directors being chairman Sydney Black, Edwin Fenton and Stanley Jasper. Black
was to make a £49,000 covenant to the club, payable at £7,000 a season for its
first seven years in the professional ranks. By then, he must have thought, it
would have been big enough and strong enough to make its own way.
Finances were now even more critical, and at the club's
annual meeting it was announced that a £2,000 Supporters Club donation, plus a
further £3,500 from the Development Fund had contributed to a healthy profit
from the previous campaign.
The season started with challenge matches against
Guildford City, a Premier Division side. A 2-2 draw at home was followed by a
match at Guildford, where the visiting supporters must have feared the worst at
half-time, with the Dons trailing 40. But in a remarkable turnaround, Reynolds
scored a hat-trick and new signing from Wycombe, Paul Hodges weighed in with two
to give Wimbledon a 5-4 win.
The opening Southern League match was at home to Poole
Town, and a good crowd of 3,432 saw Wimbledon dominate, but have to settle for a
0-0 draw. The Travel Secretary had been worried about the effect of long
journeys reducing the away support and the Southern League fixture list had not
been kind, giving the Dons midweek away games at Gloucester City, Merthyr Tydfil
and Hereford United before the turn of the year.
Only 17 travelers signed up for Wimbledon's first away
match at Gloucester, and the coach had to be cancelled. Those who made their own
way saw Wimbledon force a 2-2 draw and traveled home on the team coach.
Three coach loads traveled to Ashford to see Wimbledon's
first Southern League victory, but the 2-0 success was soured when Hodges was
sent off near the end. But the team made a good start, with only one early
defeat at Ramsgate, where John Martin had been carried off after only five
A tough trio of away matches then followed, starting at
unbeaten Merthyr. Over 5,000 turned up to see a hard fought goalless draw, but
in contrast, only 766 were at Hinckley Athletic for the next match, and more
controversy. Wimbledon opened the scoring when Hinckley won a free kick. The
goalkeeper passed it to a full back to take in his place, but Hodges intercepted
and slotted it into an empty net.
The referee allowed the goal to stand and two Hinckley
players were booked for protesting. Two more were sent off late on and the
referee was pelted with rubbish when he left the field.
Wimbledon then travelled to Hereford to meet the clear
leaders, and 5,123 fans saw their best victory so far in the professional world,
as they came from behind to win 2-1, and inflict what was to prove Hereford's
only home League defeat of the season.
Wimbledon's new status meant a reduction in the number of
Cup ties, as they continued in the FA Challenge Cup and the London Challenge
Cup, but dropped the London Senior Cup and FA Amateur Cup. Their decision to opt
out of Surrey FA affiliation seasons earlier had already cost them a Surrey
Senior Cup place.
But there was the Southern League Cup and Wimbledon beat
Dover 5-2 over two legs in the first round before two late goals against
Tonbridge saw them through to a third round match at Chelmsford. Wimbledon also
faced Southern League Premier Division opposition in the FA Cup, being drawn at
home to Romford.
The biggest crowd of the season, 5,195, saw Romford take
an early lead, but in the last minute, Wimbledon were awarded a penalty. Angry
Romford players surrounded the referee in protest and he threatened to abandon
the match, until after a long delay, play eventually resumed. Hodges kept his
nerve to equalise from the spot. It all ended in the return. Reynolds gave
Wimbledon the lead, but Coates scored twice after the break, for the win.
Then two days later, Wimbledon lost 4-2 at home to a
strong Brentford side and their London Challenge Cup hopes were over as well.
But Wimbledon moved second in the table by beating Gravesend and then earned a
1-1 draw at Canterbury, where Les Brown and a Canterbury player were sent off
That match attracted 1,284 spectators 200 less than were
at Plough Lane to see the reserves play Tottenham Hotspur 'A' in the
Metropolitan League, where crowds were averaging around 850 for reserve home
Their Southern League Cup run ended at Chelmsford.
Wimbledon did well to hold a rampant home side to a single goal in a one-sided
first half. But they gradually improved and when Gerry O'Rourke scored 15
minutes from time, the Dons looked the more likely winners. But Chelmsford were
to score a last minute decider.
Hereford were the League high-fliers, but Wimbledon
weren't far below and for the trip to Barry opted to fly there in two 14 seater
planes. Two coach loads of fans boosted the gate and they saw Reynolds score a
hat-trick in the second half as Wimbledon won 3-1.
Three days later Cambridge United were the visitors in the
Eastern Professional Floodlight League, a midweek League set up to give a game
to first team squad members. Although there were five Premier Division teams and
only two First Division sides, Wimbledon clinched the title by winning 3-1 at
Kettering on March 24. Wimbledon won all their home games, the highlights being
the 6-2 win over Cambridge City when all the goals came in the second half, and
6-1 and 5-1 victories over Romford and Cambridge United respectively.
Wimbledon then had two players sent off in successive
games. Scottish amateur international O'Rourke, who had signed pre-season from
Hendon, was dismissed at home to Stevenage and Law at Chelmsford in the EPFL.
The high spot came at Deal, where Wimbledon were 2-0 up
after eight minutes and went on to win 7-0, Reynolds scoring four. In fact,
Wimbledon came storming through to finish their season on a strong note, winning
all eight matches in April. And promotion was sealed at Gravesend & Northfleet,
where Wimbledon's final goal in the 4-1 victory was also their l00th in the
Two days later at Falling Lane, Wimbledon won 4-3 to
clinch second place, Reynolds delivering his second hat-trick in three days.
Wimbledon finished off their campaign by beating Merthyr Tydfil 4-0 at Plough
Lane, the one and only Reynolds scoring all four to take his tally to l0 in the
last three games.
Wimbledon, not content with a place in the Premier
Division, applied for Football League membership at the League AGM and,
surprisingly, in view of the fact that they had just one season's experience as
professionals, received one vote.
This came from the Gillingham chairman, who was casting
his vote on behalf of the lower division clubs. Barrow and Halifax, who finished
third equal in the ballot, both received 41 votes, while the best position
achieved by non-league clubs came from Bedford and Gateshead, who both received
So, Premier Division football it was. Barry Cordjohn
signed from Portsmouth and the Supporters Club made a donation of £2,500 to the
club. Wimbledon were able to announce a £ 1,654 profit. New floodlights, on four
pylons instead of eight, would be ready by Christmas, and a concrete wall was
built around the ground.
At the beginning of the season, there were 25
professionals on the club's books. Everything was looking rosy.
Wimbledon opened the new League season with a visit to
Champions Weymouth and although going down 1-0 on an appalling surface. They
recovered to win 5-1 at home to Guildford City in the next match. Dons gave
their worst display for years, however, in the London Challenge Cup, losing 1-0
at home to Leytonstone, but gradually started to improve and a 2-1 win at
Cheltenham ended the home side's unbeaten home record.
In the FA Cup fourth qualifying round, Wimbledon were
drawn away to Fareham Town, who were then playing at Bath Lane. There was an
enormous interest in the match and a black market developed in the stand seat
tickets, where the 400 four shilling tickets were reputedly changing hands for
up to 30 shillings.
Five coach loads of supporters travelled and the two teams
found the fans only inches from the pitch. Some spectators climbed up
neighbouring trees to get a good view and the crowd was officially recorded as
2,479. But if the home supporters were expecting a shock result, similar to the
one when they had knocked Hendon out of the Amateur Cup two years earlier, they
were to be sadly disappointed.
The Hampshire League side tried hard enough, but Ian Cooke
put Wimbledon ahead in the 27th minute and O'Rourke scored twice in the 67th and
78th minutes to complete a 3-0 win and gain some personal revenge. He had been m
that Hendon team of 1963-4.
Wimbledon had easily beaten Sittingbourne 13-1 on
aggregate in the Southern League Cup, including a 10-0 win at Plough Lane, but,
having been given a bye to the third round, they lost 1-0 at Hastings United.
Bobby Smith, the ex-England and Tottenham player, scored the only goal.
Their League form remained good and they took nine points
from five games to move fifth in the table, only two points behind leaders
Back in the FA Cup, Gravesend and Northfleet visited
Plough Lane in the first round proper. After Cooke scored an early goal for
Wimbledon, trouble erupted when a Gravesend player was sent off and the whole
team headed for the tunnel. The Gravesend manager managed to persuade his team
to continue and Cooke scored again to give Wimbledon a 2-0 advantage at
half-time. Cooke was to complete his hat-trick in the second half, as Wimbledon
won 4-1, but Brown was sent off to mar a good display in front of the largest
crowd of the season so far, 5,089.
Two days later, Wimbledon crashed 5-1 at Bedford in the
EPFL and Kelly suffered a fractured jaw in the closing minutes. Les Henley moved
quickly, buying Frank Smith from QPR for £1,500 and he made his debut at Corby,
performing heroics before O'Rourke scored a late winner. The following week,
Wimbledon's 3-0 win over Wellington took them top of the table.
The new League Leaders moved confidently on to the FA
Cup, where the draw for the second round had given them a home tie against
Folkestone. But it was just one of those days. Over 7,000 fans saw Wimbledon do
everything but score and Wimbledon gifted Folkestone victory with a freak goal
in the 70th minute. There seemed no danger when a cross came over, but Smith
collided with a defender and the ball bounced in off his chest.
The new floodlights were switched on for the first time
during the match against Tonbridge and Wimbledon turned on a show worthy of the
occasion, winning 6-1 with Cooke scoring three.
Wimbledon left it very late against King's Lynn, scoring
three goals in the last eight minutes and although they won 5-1 at in-form
Romford, were rarely producing Championship winning form.
Smith had by now established himself in goal and Kelly was
not content to play in the reserves. Although Wimbledon had turned down a £5,000
Millwall bid for Kelly earlier they granted his request to go on the transfer
Wimbledon felt they had had a wasted journey at Kettering
in the EPFL when the match was abandoned after 65 minutes because of fog, with
Wimbledon leading 2-0. But the EPFL committee decided that the result should
stand and one person who was particularly pleased was veteran striker Joe
Wallis, whose first goal of the season had come at Rockingham Road
A 1-0 win at Guildford City took them back to first
position, but the following week, the Dons lost 2-0 at Poole, slipped off the
top and were never to return. Wimbledon drifted down the table, reaching seventh
position, and with the table being very closely-packed, they could have drifted
into the bottom half.
Kelly was eventually sold to QPR and Wimbledon ended the
season quietly, finishing fifth, with 50 points from 42 games, seven points
adrift of Champions Weymouth.
Wimbledon's average attendance for 1965-6 was 2,650, with
EPFL gates averaging 1,350. At the League AGM, Wimbledon applied again for a
League place, but this time received no votes. Wimbledon resigned from the
Eastern Professional Floodlight League because of the traveling expenses
involved, and entered instead the Premier Midweek Floodlight League,
comprising mainly amateur clubs.
Wimbledon announced that eight players would be released,
mostly from the amateur days. And among those departing was the legendary
Reynolds who had said at the start of the season that this would be his last.
The Amateur Cup winning hero moved briefly to Ashford, before returning to
Ireland to play for Derry City.
At the Southern League meeting, it was decided to fall
into line with Football League rules and permit substitutes from the beginning
of the next season. The travel secretary reported good away support, having
taken three coaches to most games, while the club colours were changed for
1966-7 from blue shirts and white shorts to blue shirts and blue shorts.
Wimbledon were down to 17 professionals by the start of
the season, but after some indifferent friendly matches, began well, winning the
first three matches to move in to an early lead. They continued to prosper and
in the best game of the season so far, won 1-0 at Cambridge United to move six
points clear, Cooke scoring the winner in the first-half.
Wimbledon were again drawn against Dartford, this time in
the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round, having already put them out of the League
Cup. Dons were trailing to a ninth minute goal at half-time, which arrived with
Dartford having conceded 18 fouls, but after the interval attacked down the
slope and quickly scored twice through O'Rourke and Cooke.
Wimbledon could not sustain the momentum, though and
Dartford equalised 20 minutes from time. But in the Plough Lane replay, 3,849,
the largest crowd of the season so far, saw Wimbledon completely overrun
Dartford to win 3-0. Wimbledon were still unbeaten in the League, but their luck
turned on October 25 when they lost at home to a last minute goal against
Hereford United, their nearest challengers. A defeat at Guildford City then cost
Dons the leadership, and it was Hereford who assumed pole position.
In the first round of the FA Cup, Wimbledon had to visit
Midland League Grantham and 400 traveling supporters boosted the crowd to
3,845. On an atrocious pitch, it became clear that Wimbledon would struggle as
they were dwarfed by their opponents. Grantham had three great goal chances in
the first five minutes, but missed them all and it took a freak own goal to put
them ahead in the 40th minute. Cooke equalised in the 54th minute, but three
minutes later, Grantham went in front again and held on to the 2-1 advantage.
The lowest home League crowd of the season, 2,070, saw
Wimbledon take on strugglers Folkestone Town in the mud and at half-time
Wimbledon led 3-2. It was a different story 45 minutes later, however, as
Wimbledon had added six further goals to make the final score 9-2, Cooke
And seven days later Cooke was on the boil again, scoring
four as Wimbledon crushed Corby 6-1 to move top. Wimbledon strengthened their
position over the Christmas period by completing the double over their erstwhile
amateur rivals Barnet, but although Davies gave them the lead at Hillingdon,
the League leaders collapsed in a 10 minute spell to fall 4-1 behind. Wimbledon
pulled two back but it was not enough to earn a point.
Wimbledon had beaten Dartford and Stevenage Town to reach
the Southern League Cup quarter-final, where they had to visit First Division
pacesetters Margate. Many in the 1,153 crowd were surprised that the match even
started, as dense fog ruined the game as a spectacle. But O'Rourke scored a
first half hat-trick to give Wimbledon a 4-0 half-time lead, which they retained
to earn a semi-final tie at Barnet.
Five coach loads travelled with the team across the
capital to see Wimbledon kick off down the slope in front of a bumper 4,005
crowd. Barnet got the boost of an early goal, but Wimbledon couldn't take
advantage of the slope and went in 2-1 adrift. Barnet increased their lead soon
after the break, Wimbledon missed a penalty and they never looked like pulling
the game round.
They still held the lead in the League, but a disastrous
Easter cost them dear. Wimbledon went ahead at Romford, but lost 4-1 and the
next day they slipped again, 2-1 at King's Lynn - their ninth away defeat in
their last 11 League outings.
The return match against Romford on Easter Monday saw
Wimbledon go ahead again, but Romford soon equalised and scored three in the
second half to repeat that 4-1 thrashing and knock Wimbledon off the top.
Their old failing of conceding late goals was also costly.
A Law own goal in the 89th minute put an end to victory over Chelmsford, while
two weeks later, Wimbledon were 2-0 up at home to Guildford City with 10
minutes remaining, but it finished 2-2.
Wimbledon's last home game was against Nuneaton Borough,
who were themselves in the tide race and a dreadful Smith error cost Wimbledon
an early goal and with it any realistic tide chance. With one game to go,
leaders Weymouth had the best goal average, with Wimbledon one point adrift,
third, so they had to win at already-doomed Bath City in their final game to
have any chance.
It was to prove a bitter, brawling affair. Wimbledon had
two clear penalty appeals turned down, and then an O'Rourke shot appeared to
cross the line, but his appeals were waved away, to the surprise of even the
Bath players. Some Wimbledon fans invaded the pitch and jostled the referee in
an attempt to make him change his mind, but in the 65th minute, Bath killed the
game on a rare breakaway and the match fizzled out.
Romford and Nuneaton both won to finish first and second.
Weymouth and Wimbledon, both losers, missed out completely. At the end of the
season chairman Sydney Black was re-elected a vice-president of the Southern
League, while at the Football League AGM, Champions Romford obtained five votes
and Wimbledon one.
In common with other clubs, Wimbledon's gates had
increased over the previous season, no doubt due to the increased interest in
the game following England's World Cup win, as well as Wimbledon's involvement
in the title chase. Wimbledon had averaged just under 2,900 in the Southern
League and in the PMFL, the first six games averaged 1,330, but fell away after
Admission prices were raised by one shilling, to four
shillings for 1967-68, partly in response to the financial results, which
showed that Wimbledon had just about broken even. Three players signed for
Wimbledon during the close season, including an 18year-old goalkeeper with
Isthmian and England Youth caps - Richard "Dickie" Guy. But Guy, to become a
national hero, did not have the happiest of starts at the club. Training on a
local rugby pitch, the crossbar collapsed on him and he was out of action for
the start of his Wimbledon career.
In the first round of the Southern League Cup, Wimbledon
were drawn against Guildford City, the holders and after a 2-2 draw at Josephs
Road, were confident about the return. But after Hodges had put the Dons ahead
midway through the first half, two breakaway Guildford goals, scored in the
closing minutes of each half, put the Dons out in the first round.
Wimbledon started brightly, gaining five points from the
first three games, but then suffered a slump. At Nuneaton, Frank Smith gave a
magnificent display, saving three certain goals in the first half, but Nuneaton
still went on to win 4-1.
Worse was to follow. In the London Challenge Cup,
Wimbledon may have had five injuries, but they played pathetically at Enfield
and went down 4-1. In the League, Wimbledon were just mid-table. The directors,
too, were extremely concerned about the financial situation, as attendances
were greatly down on 1966-7.
Increased admission prices, poor performances, bad
weather and transport difficulties were all to blame and the club were even
considering Friday evening football, although this would clash with events at
Wimbledon's form, however, took a turn for the better. In
the wind and rain at Yeovil, Hyde scored two in the last eight minutes to give
Wimbledon victory and the following week, Cooke scored four (including three
headers in seven minutes that Eddie Reynolds would have been proud of) as
Wimbledon crushed Poole Town 8-1.
Wimbledon were drawn at home to Ashford Town in the FA Cup
fourth qualifying round and in truly appalling conditions, scrapped their way
to a 3-0 win, earning a home draw against Southern League Champions Romford. In
a dress rehearsal for that first round tie, Romford visited Plough Lane in the
League and, after a bruising rough house in which Collins was sent off, the
points were shared.
Wimbledon defeated Burton 4-0 to continue their push up
the table, scoring all four in the last 17 minutes, but Henley realised the need
for another goalscorer. He moved swiftly, signing £1,500 Eddie Bailham from
Worcester City late November.
Bailham had won full Eire international caps while at
Shamrock Rovers and made his debut the following day at Corby, where he scored
to clinch a 3-2 win. Three days later, he scored again as Wimbledon won 3-0 at
Cambridge City to move top and the Dons extended their lead to three points by
beating King's Lynn at home.
Wimbledon were, therefore, in good heart as they prepared
to tackle Romford in the FA Cup first round. Snow had fallen during the week and
there was some doubt over the match, but the referee gave the go ahead, even
though the first coin used in the toss-up dropped into the snow and was lost!
Both sides found it very difficult to keep their feet, but
the 4,995 crowd, good considering the conditions, saw Wimbledon start to assume
control. Hodges opened the scoring in the 35th minute with a well-struck penalty
after a Romford handball and Hobbs added a second after the break.
The lines marking the pitch, swept at half-time, were now
almost completely obliterated as the blizzard continued, but the match had
almost run its course and Hodges clinched Dons' passage with a 30-yard screamer.
Wimbledon's reward for this victory was a third consecutive home tie in the
second round when they were drawn against Third Division Bristol Rovers.
Over 9,500, the largest crowd since the amateur days,
turned out to see Wimbledon establish midfield supremacy, but Rovers score the
vital goals. The nearest Wimbledon came was when Cooke's shot hit the bar as
Rovers scored twice in each half to win 4-0. There were record gate receipts of
£1 ,830 and all 7,000 programmes were sold.
Wimbledon went back top courtesy of a three goal blast in
14 minutes at Hereford, while at Weymouth they played very well in the opening
20 minutes to establish a 2-0 lead and eased off to win 3-1. A 2-0 win at Barnet
established them as firm title favourites. But then came the fall.
At home to Cheltenham, Wimbledon were frustrated by the
visitors' constant use of the offside trap and lost out 2-1 and two days later
at Chelmsford, the home side scored three times in a 15 minute spell midway
through the first half to ease home 3-2 in front of a bumper 5,055 crowd.
Wimbledon were then outplayed at Romford, where only
brilliant displays by Law and Smith kept the score down to 1-0, and Dons were
now third - Cambridge United the new title favourites. But on Apri14, 1968, the
club suffered a great blow when chairman Sydney Black died.
He had been very ill for some years and had not been able
to attend many matches for the last two years. In his will, he bequeathed to
Wimbledon FC £7,000 for each of the two following seasons, to cover the
outstanding period of the £49,000 covenant he had drawn up when the club turned
A minute's silence was observed before the home game with
Cambridge United and the players wore black armbands as a sign of respect. The
sombre atmosphere seemed to affect the home players, who found it difficult to
raise their game in front of the biggest League crowd so far of 3,843. But in
the 82nd minute, the crowd erupted when O'Rourke put Wimbledon ahead with a
brilliant goal, only for Cambridge to equalise three minutes from time to keep
them on course for the title.
Easter had ended Wimbledon's title hopes the previous
season, but this time round the festive period started brightly when they
defeated Stevenage Town 3-0 at Plough Lane. The Dons lost at Burton Albion
before the return match at Stevenage. The home club had just announced that it
would be going into liquidation at the end of the season and their players were
determined to go out with a flourish.
Guy was making his Southern League debut for the injured
Frank Smith and although Stevenage moved into a 3-0 lead after 37 minutes
Wimbledon recovered brilliantly to force a 3-3 draw. Wimbledon then crushed
Hastings United 5-0 at home to go back to the top on goal average.
The Cambridge challenge had faded and Chelmsford, with a
game in hand, were now the title favourites. But as they still had to visit
Plough Lane, two convincing Wimbledon victories would see the Championship back
The crunch match arrived on May 4 when the largest crowd
in Wimbledon's 13year Southern League period, 5,028, saw Chelmsford start as
they meant to carry on, conceding 15 free kicks in the opening 15 minutes.
Bailham then put Wimbledon ahead in the 37th minute, running half the length of
the pitch to slot the ball home, but Chelmsford equalised three minutes later
and clinched a controversial victory when the winger appeared to handle the ball
Chelmsford needed one point to take the tide and achieved
that in the following week at Hastings, while Wimbledon found their best form a
week too late, crushing Barnet 5-0 to clinch second place.
At the end of the season, John O'Mara signed from Margate
and Epsom and Ewell, who had been promised the old floodlights, finally removed
them. Len Hibberd took over as caretaker Chairman, but was to stay in that role
for over two years, while at the Football League annual meeting, Wimbledon again
received one vote and champions Chelmsford three.
Attendances at Plough Lane, however, were down. In the
Southern League, the average was 2,650 and this had been boosted by the 5,028
gate for the last game. In the PMFL, gates were cut dramatically to an average
of 830. The club knew that Sydney Black's bequest would only last two seasons
and so, as no new benefactor had emerged, a painful series of cost cutting would
have to occur.
Wimbledon began the new season with 16 professionals, and
were again grateful that the Supporters Club donated £2,250. But it was Blacks
to the rescue again. Sir Cyril Black, the club President and elder brother of
the late Chairman, gave the club a £20,000 interest-free loan to help with the
It was essential that some money-spinning revenue was
obtained in the cup competitions, but this was not to be. In the Southern
League Cup, Wimbledon crashed out 6-3 on aggregate against Chelmsford and then
played embarrassingly poorly at home to Sutton United in the London Challenge
Wimbledon started off inconsistently in the League, too
and soon found themselves mid-table. One week they played brilliantly, winning
3-1 at Cheltenham, where the home side had been undefeated in 10 months, and the
next they were losing 2-0 at home to Romford.
The need for a good FA Cup run was paramount and they
seemed lucky in the draw, as Woking had to visit Plough Lane in the fourth
qualifying round. But here Wimbledon reached their lowest point since turning
professional. Leading 1-0 at half-time, Woking swept into the attack at the
start of the second-half and scored a match winning second before Wimbledon had
even touched the ball.
Smith was dropped and Guy recalled to give an almost
faultless display at Worcester City. Smith found he couldn't get back in the
side and asked for a transfer. Wimbledon, however, were beginning to improve.
The Dons won at Margate to move within one point of leaders Yeovil, although it
was all very close at the top, while they then beat Champions Chelmsford 1-0 at
But Wimbledon's crowds were down in the Southern League.
They were finding it difficult to score goals and the entertainment value was
not as high as before. But matters were even worse in the Metropolitan League.
With virtually all the players amateurs, the standard was low, and gates of
800-900 had now dwindled alarmingly.
The home match against Bletchley, for instance, had
attracted just 51 people, giving receipts of £4.10 shillings, and Wimbledon
consequently announced their intention to resign from the Metropolitan and
ditch their reserves.
With no cup commitments, Wimbledon could concentrate on
the League and they put together a fine run of eight straight victories - the
straight eight concluding with a 2-0 win over Rugby Town to move six points
There were stormy scenes off the pitch. At a heated
meeting in March it was officially decided to drop the reserves, against the
advice of Henley. A 500 name petition was drawn up asking for their
retention, pointing out that the £1,500 a year saved would be recouped if one
player a season was found for the first team. But the vote had been taken and
the reserves were dissolved.
Once again, the Easter period was to prove vital.
Wimbledon lost at Dover, but recovered to draw 2-2 at Romford and beat Dover at
Plough Lane to leave them joint top with Hillingdon and one point ahead of
Cambridge. Wimbledon's next match was at home to Burton Albion, Guy had played
very well all season, but in the 24th minute, he made a dreadful mistake,
fumbling a long clearance from the Burton goalkeeper into his own net.
Wimbledon just could not equa1ise and Burton added a
second goal five minutes from time before Hodges pulled one back. Wimbledon's
title hopes, now very slim, effectively vanished at Kettering, where Bailham put
the Dons ahead in the fourth minute before Kettering took charge, 3-1.
Wimbledon finished third behind Cambridge, who had pipped
Hillingdon to take the title. But hooliganism was to raise its ugly head at Plough Lane
after a testimonial match against Chelsea. A bumper crowd of 5,250 turned out
and after the match, visiting thugs broke down two admission gates, snapped the
crossbar of one of the goals and uprooted some of the railings around the pitch.
Damage was estimated at nearly £500.
More problems with the finances as well. Wimbledon's
crowds were dramatically down, with their Southern League gates averaging just
under 1,950. This, allied to the fewer number of Cup games, meant that receipts
were down by roughly 30 per cent and the £3,000 deficit virtually nullified all
the savings made.
New signings in the close season included Peter Shreeve
and Graham Roope, the Surrey and England cricketer and Wimbledon began the
season promisingly, taking five points from the first three games. They also
beat Dunstable 5-1 on aggregate in the Southern League Cup to move beyond the
first round for the first time in three years.
But if Wimbledon's League Cup record was not that good,
their London Challenge Cup record was positively disastrous. Wimbledon hadn't
won a LCC match in five years and were given a tough tie in the preliminary
round, drawn at Athenian League leaders Dagenham. A hostile crowd, allied with
an uncompromising home side, proved a daunting challenge, but Cooke scored the
only goal in the 14th minute to break the voodoo and earn a home tie with
Orient fielded three first teamers, but were no match for
Wimbledon, who turned on their best display of the season to win 3-0. And in the
next round Dons played even better, with visitors Millwall decidedly lucky only
to lose out 3-2, Bailham's winning goal coming 12 minutes from time.
Barking had fought their way through to the London
Challenge Cup Semi-Final, but at Plough Lane they made an appalling start,
falling 2-0 down after just six minutes. A Law own goal helped them back into
the game and there were some anxious moments in the closing stages before
O'Rourke scored a killer third to set up a Plough Lane final against Arsenal.
Wimbledon were drawn against fellow Southern League
Premier Division side Crawley Town in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round and
after two goalless draws, two goal Bailham eventually saw Dons through.
Wimbledon were then drawn away at Hillingdon Borough,
missed four easy chances in the first 30 minutes and paid a heavy price.
Hillingdon took the lead in the 63rd minute and defended magnificently, going
further ahead 10 minutes from time to win 2-0.
Two days later, Arsenal came to Plough Lane in the London
Challenge Cup Final, a match attracting 4,494 fans, the highest of the season,
with the future Dons boss, Bobby Gould, leading the Arsenal attack.
Wimbledon were immediately on the rack and it was no
surprise when Gould put the Gunners one up in the 11th minute. Wimbledon
eventually got on top, but Arsenal held out until the 78th minute, when McLeish
equalised. It looked as if a Highbury replay would be needed, but in the 88th
minute, Gould scored the winner.
The financial situation was still poor and even Henley had
a price to pay when he was offered the same wages, but his accommodation
allowance was withdrawn. Poole Town offered £500 for O'Mara, and were turned
down flat and O'Mara promptly scored a hat-trick as Wimbledon crushed Crawley
Town 9-0 in the League.
A new competition for senior non-league teams, the FA
Trophy, had started and promised a Wembley Final. Wimbledon were drawn away in
the first round at Dartford and there, their hopes died in a 3-2 defeat.
On the League front, Wimbledon briefly moved to the top
after beating King's Lynn 2-1 at home, but the lead didn't last long. They had,
however, moved easily into the Southern League Cup quarter-final, where they
were drawn at home to Cambridge United. But after Hodges had scored a glorious
goal in the 30th minute, the visitors began to get on top. Guy stood tall in a
rearguard action, however and Wimbledon held on to move into a semi-final
showdown with Bedford.
The visitors looked capable of keeping Dons at bay, but in
the 79th minute, to the great relief of the home fans, O'Mara tapped in a Hodges
cross and Wimbledon held on to earn a final place against Romford.
Wimbledon had moved back to the top in the League as well,
but others had games in hand and a 1-0 defeat at Hillingdon on March 21 saw them
knocked off pole position. Any title hopes died yet again, over the Easter
period, when the Dons lost 2-0 at Romford and 5-1 at Margate, although an
injury-hit Wimbledon side had held Margate to 1-1 until the final 20 minutes.
The Southern League Cup was now their only chance of
glory. The first leg of the Final was at home to Romford and Wimbledon made a
dream start. Romford's offside trap was breached in the third minute and Obeney
could only deflect a shot past his own 'keeper. Three minutes later, O'Mara
scored with a brilliant header and Davies made it 3-0 at half-time. Romford
pressed continuously from then, but Wimbledon held out to take a three-goal
advantage to Brooklands. The only disappointment was the crowd of only 1,505.
It looked as though Wimbledon would need all that
advantage in the second leg as they were forced to defend desperately. Romford
scored in the 12th minute to keep their hopes alive, but five minutes before
half-time O'Mara equalised and in the second half Wimbledon began to improve,
holding out for a comfortable 1-1 draw and an aggregate 4-1 win to lift the
Worcester Vase for the first time.
Wimbledon finished fifth in the Southern League, eight
points behind Champions Cambridge United, who were promptly admitted to the
Football League in place of Bradford Park Avenue.
Wimbledon made a small profit, but would have lost money
without Sydney Black's £7,000. Gates had declined further to an average 1,820
for Southern League matches and only 490 for Premier Midweek Floodlight League
Admission prices for Southern League matches were raised
to five shillings and with Len Hibberd unable to continue as Chairman, Stan
Jasper was elected. He was in favour of a reserve team and it was thought that
some friendlies might be played in 1970-1 against Amateur Football Alliance
Alan Burton, who had scored the
Championship-winning goals at Dulwich in 1959 before turning professional with
Aldershot, now re-signed for Wimbledon on a free transfer. And Wimbledon had
hopes of signing another former player in Johnny Haynes, who had played a few
games in the 50s. But the former Fulham and England player decided to accept an
offer abroad instead.
||South of the Thames Cup
||Isthmian League Champions
||London Senior Cup winners
||South of the Thames Cup
||Isthmian League Champions
||F.A. Amateur Cup winners
||South of the Thames Cup
||Isthmian League Champions
||Joined Southern League
||Southern League Division One
||Southern League Premier
||Southern League Cup winners