THE HISTORY OF WIMBLEDON FOOTBALL CLUB
1984
1984-85

The Second Division was going to represent the toughest of tasks and when Portsmouth put them out of the League's Milk Cup at the first hurdle, there was early talk about their inability to survive.

The League season started with a real tester, with Dons' opening Second Division game at home to promotion favourites Manchester City. They could have been swept aside, but Bassett's boys reckoned otherwise and were two up inside 13 minutes. City came back to salvage the draw, but it was a thriller in front of an 8,000 plus gate and Wimbledon had proved their worth.

There were defeats against Birmingham and Oxford while trips to Shrewsbury and Middlesbrough looked tough prospects, but Wimbledon dispatched them both, scoring six goals in the process to move up the table.

Good home wins were savoured, particularly a thrilling 3-2 Sunday victory over Crystal Palace, with Wimbledon scoring three goals in five second-half minutes.

There was a 5-2 defeat at Leeds and 3-0 reverse at Manchester City to suffer, in front of 10,899 and 23,303 gates respectively. But Wimbledon's return fixture at Selhurst Park was to provide Bassett with plenty of solace.

Lawrie Sanchez, a recent £20,000 buy from Reading, got off the mark in that game and he came into a changing Wimbledon line-up that had already seen favourites Peters and Dean Thomas released pre-season, with John Kay from Arsenal taking over at right back.

Bassett tried all sorts of combinations, with Hodges, Fishenden and Andy Sayer in and out of the side and Carlton Fairweather, signing from Tooting, given a chance along the wing. The manager was pinning a lot of his hopes on the club's youngsters, with two more in central defenders Brian Gayle and Andy Thorn, breaking through before the end of the season.

His introduction of Thorn as the spare, sweeping defender ensured Wimbledon won more points than they lost during the last 10 games, clinching a very comfortable 12th position.

The goals dried up during this spell, with Wimbledon finishing on 71 as opposed to the high nineties in the two previous seasons. But if the League campaign was without the thrills or spills of promotion and relegation, the FA Cup more than made up for it.

Apart from a run to the fourth round in 1981, Wimbledon's Cup record since they joined the League made for pretty unspectacular reading. But this time, courtesy of their Division Two status, they were automatically in at the third round stage and duly knocked out Burnley at Plough Lane.

Now Surprise, Surprise! The old chestnut, Brian Clough, came out of the hat for round four and after Wimbledon had drawn goalless at Forest, Fishenden hit the winner in the Plough Lane replay.

The Dons had by now progressed further in the FA Cup than ever before and were drawn at home to West Ham. Over 13,500 fans packed out Plough Lane to see a creditable 1-1 draw, before the Hammers surged home in the replay, 5-1.

Unusually for Wimbledon, then, they were able to enter season of 85-86 knowing fully what to expect. After all, they had come through their first experience of a season's Second Division football relatively unscathed.

Twelfth in the table and a run to the fifth round of the FA Cup were no mean feats. They had answered any critics by twice bouncing back from poor runs when lesser sides would have succumbed. They clearly had what it took to succeed: An abundance of self belief.