For any AFC Wimbledon fan like me, April has to be one of the most exciting months ever in the 7 year history of the club. Having let a large lead at the top of the Blue Square South over Hampton & Richmond slip with defeats against Eastleigh and Welling United, the lead was down to 3 points with Hampton having a game in hand. With the momentum seemingly with Hampton & Richmond, how would Wimbledon fare?

The first match in April that I watched was at home against the students of Team Bath who started the season strongly but had lost their early-season form. This was a relatively uneventful game with goals from Kezie Ibe and Tom Davis (who has a remarkably good tan considering the British weather) sealing the 2-0 victory. However, Hampton & Richmond beat Dorchester Town 1-0 to maintain the three point gap. On Monday, Hampton & Richmond had to play their game in hand, to their annoyance being just 2 days after their last game, against play-off hunting Chelmsford City. Just to explain, only the top team gets promoted automatically with one of the next 4 teams going up in the play-offs. All Wimbledon fans became Chelmsford fans for that evening. Chelmsford 3 Hampton & Richmond 2 was the final result and AFC Wimbledon fans got the result they wanted which kept the gap at 3 points, with Eastleigh another point back.

Over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, AFC, Hampton and Eastleigh had to play twice. I was away on holiday for these two matches so unfortunately I was not able to watch them. The games on Good Friday and Easter Saturday resulted in wins for all three title-chasing teams with an Alan Inns goal sealing a 1-0 win for AFC against Basingstoke. All three of the important games as far as the title was concerned passed without too much controversy. However, the same could not be said for Wimbledon’s next game against Bromley. Leading 2-1 in the ninetieth minute thanks to goals from Elliot Godfrey and debutant Rocky Baptiste, coupled with the fact that Eastleigh had lost and Hampton had drawn meant that AFC had a 5 point lead at the top with only two games remaining. However, as AFC’s defender Jay Conroy was down injured, team-mate Jon Main decided to put the ball out of play in order for him to get treatment. However, when Bromley player Ryan Hall passed the ball back to the Wimbledon goalkeeper James Pullen, the ball sailed over his head into the top corner of the Wimbledon goal. The referee had no choice but to allow the goal. However, the referee asked the Bromley management team if they would allow Wimbledon to walk the ball into the goal to make amends for the goal. They refused and the game finished 2-2. Winning the title looked less certain. Next up was arch-rivals Hampton & Richmond away at the Beveree, still in the knowledge that a draw would almost certainly see us become champions.

My father and I managed to get tickets, albeit at the Hampton end as AFC Wimbledon had managed to sell out their allocation of tickets (which was higher than Hampton’s allocation even though AFC were the visiting team) and Hampton still had plenty left. Nonetheless, we were with some other Wimbledon fans experiencing the same situation as us. Manager Terry Brown decided to play a 4-3-3 formation in order to cope with the physical capabilities of a strong Hampton side, leaving goal machine Jon Main on the substitute’s bench. As the game started, we initially tried to stay as quiet as possible as Wimbledon started to dominate with many good chances. However, towards the end of the first half, Hampton & Richmond started to have the upper hand with a Rory Delap-like throw-in taker launching his missile into the Wimbledon box, causing all kinds of havoc for our defence. However, Hampton & Richmond failed to take advantage of their opportunities and the teams went into half-time at 0-0. As with the home games I go to, I decided to go over to the refreshments stand and buy a portion of chips, which cost 20p more than Wimbledon chips and didn’t taste as nice (in my opinion).

The second half started just as the first half finished with Hampton & Richmond on top, using their throw-ins and corners to good effect. However, on one of Hampton’s corners, they unexpectedly played the ball short (all of their other corners had been long and high into the penalty area) finding the unmarked Francis Quarm, who calmly stroked the ball past James Pullen in the AFC goal. All the fans around me and the other Wimbledon fans were ecstatic. Perhaps we weren’t going to seal the title today after all. After the goal, we brought on from the substitute’s bench Anthony Finn and our talismanic striker Jon Main, who had already scored 32 goals this season and reverted to their usual 4-4-2 formation. Unsurprisingly, Hampton and Richmond decided to sit back and protect their lead but had a chance to seal the game when Lawrence Yaku’s shot sailed just wide of James Pullen’s left hand post. Despite this, AFC had most of the chances with ex-Hampton player Elliot Godfrey and Sam Hatton coming closest, being stopped by sprawling Hampton legs desperate to get in the way of the shots. The game became more dramatic still. When trying to cut out the ball, Hampton players John Scarborough and Marcello Fernandes collided into each other. Then the ball went out for a Wimbledon throw. Surprisingly, the referee didn’t stop play for them to get treatment and Chris Hussey threw the ball to Danny Kedwell in the 82nd minute who managed to make a pin-point accurate cross to Jon Main who headed past Hampton goalkeeper Matt Lovett to score his 33rd goal and arguably his most important goal of the season. This send the AFC Wimbledon fans crazy but the Hampton & Richmond fans were incensed that the referee did not stop play to treat John Scarborough who had a 12 inch gash in his leg. Eventually, the final whistle sounded. AFC Wimbledon had all but guaranteed themselves promotion and many of their fans decided to run onto the pitch to celebrate with the players. Would AFC complete the job at home against St Albans City?

Barring an AFC Wimbledon loss and a 13 goal swing towards Hampton & Richmond on the final day of the season, AFC Wimbledon would be promoted. However, the nightmare scenario was not to happen as a capacity crowd of 4,722 saw second-half goals from Kennedy Adjei, Sam Hatton and captain fantastic Jason Goodliffe, so solid at the back all season, which sealed the Blue Square South and promotion to the Blue Square Premier. Hampton & Richmond won 3-0 away at Maidenhead United but this didn’t matter. AFC Wimbledon will be playing in the higher tier of non-league football. How will AFC Wimbledon cope next year as a semi-professional club against full-time clubs such as Luton Town? We will have to wait and see.