THE HISTORY OF WIMBLEDON FOOTBALL CLUB
1954
1954-55

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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