WALLY DOWNES has urged AFC Wimbledon’s players to use their stunning FA Cup triumph over West Ham as inspiration to pull off a ‘great escape’.
The Dons’ 4-2 fourth-round victory over Premier League opposition was all the more remarkable as Downes’ side are five points adrift of second-bottom Bradford at the foot of League One and eight points from safety.
‘Will this start a good run? It’s got to,’ said Downes (below), who only became manager last month. ‘There was a poor run before, we managed to put a stop to that, battled and got some decent results. But the form has really got to pick up if we are going to make a fist of it now.
‘This is a club that creates its own history every day, just by being around. If we can pull this off it will be in keeping with what this club is about, certainly what the old club was about. It’s the great escape I suppose, isn’t it?’
Wimbledon had gone into Saturday’s tie on the back of heavy home defeats to Barnsley and Fleetwood, so their performance against the Hammers was stunning, even for a team led by a member of the club’s original 1980s Crazy Gang. Goals from Kwesi Appiah and two from Scott Wagstaff saw them lead 3-0 early in the second half, with West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini telling his players he was ‘ashamed’ of them at half-time.
Substitutes Lucas Perez and Felipe Anderson raised hopes of a comeback by the visitors, but they were extinguished when Dons replacement Toby Sibbick headed the hosts’ fourth goal two minutes from time.
Wagstaff was reminded by BT Sport afterwards that he had promised to dye his hair and bushy beard in Wimbledon’s yellow-and-blue colours if they won the tie.
In true Crazy Gang style, boss Downes insists he is holding the former Charlton midfielder to his word.
‘He made the mistake of saying it on national TV,’ added Downes. ‘So unless he shaves it off, he will be.’
If we can pull this off it will be in keeping with what this club is about
football // fa cup fourth round