THE HISTORY OF WIMBLEDON FOOTBALL CLUB
1966
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.