1960 to 1969

1960-61

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 day.

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 Kingstonian.

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 Quarter­ Final.

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.

1961-62

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.

1962-63

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 Wimbledon ahead.

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 10 years.

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 headers.

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 game.

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 fairly comfortably.

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 same ground.

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 a hat-trick.

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 double

1963-64

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 home.

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 performance was.

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 more.

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 amateur hierarchy.

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 reasonable level.

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.

1964-65

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 minutes.

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 for brawling.

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 matches.

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 League.

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 four votes.

 

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.

1965-66

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 Corby Town.

 

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 list.

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.

1966-67

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 claiming five.

 

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 that.

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.

1967-68

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 Stadium.

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 professional.

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 in SWI9.

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 be­fore scoring.

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.

1968-69

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 finances.

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 Cup.

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 home.

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 clear.

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.

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.

1969-70

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 matches.

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 teams.

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.



Honours

1960-61 South of the Thames Cup winners
1961-62 Isthmian League Champions
  London Senior Cup winners
  South of the Thames Cup winners
1962-63 Isthmian League Champions
  F.A. Amateur Cup winners
  South of the Thames Cup winners
1963-64 Isthmian League Champions
1964-65 Joined Southern League Division One
  Southern League Division One runner-up
1967-68 Southern League Premier Division runner-up
1969-70 Southern League Cup winners