Ramsgate’s brave run to the second round of the FA Cup came to a crushing end at AFC Wimbledon.
The League Two outfit had no time for romance as they proved too strong, fast and sharp for the eighth-tier Kent part-timers, 85 places below them in the English football pyramid, to book a home tie against Championship high-flyers Ipswich in the third round.
Rams goalkeeper Tom Hadler, an England Schoolboy international, prevented a double-figure scoreline with a remarkable performance, repeatedly denying Johnnie Jackson’s side with a series of saves and blocks.
He could not, however, stop Jake Reeves, Ali Al-Hamadi and Josh Neufville putting the tie beyond any doubt before half-time.
The Dons are a formidable force at Plough Lane, racking up their fifth home win on the trot, scoring 18 goals in the process, and they piled on the pressure after the break with further goals from Connor Lemonheigh-Evans and Al-Hamadi’s second.
The club that rose from the ashes of the original Wimbledon, who were FA Cup winners in 1988, never looked like going the way of fellow league clubs Reading, Barrow and Leyton Orient by succumbing to non-league opposition at the second-round stage.
Ramsgate’s run to round two for the first time in their history, began on 19 August against Bexhill United and saw them beat four teams from higher divisions before facing league opposition for only the second time in their history.
It proved to be a step too far for the lowest-ranked team left in the competition as Wimbledon proved too good for the Isthmian League South East Division table-toppers from the first whistle.
The Rams hit the self-destruct button after eight minutes as Alfie Young stuck to manager Ben Smith’s philosophy of trying to play out from the back, giving the ball away to Al-Hamadi, who fed Reeves to fire in the opener.
Former Manchester United midfielder Lee Martin shot wide as Ramsgate made a rare foray forward but the Dons missed chances and found Hadler a determined opponent as they pressed forward relentlessly.
The keeper did well to save when Jack Currie’s deflected cross threatened to loop over him, but the parry fell perfectly for Iraq international Al-Hamadi, and the game was over as a contest when the keeper again saved well, from Al-Hamadi, and Neufville drilled home the third.
Moments earlier, Martin had missed a glorious chance to give the 1,500 away fans something to shout about after TJ Jadama’s header was parried by Dons keeper Alex Bass, but the second half was one-way traffic.
Lemonheigh-Evans turned to fire home following a short-corner routine and more defensive calamity saw Joe Ellul’s sloppy pass to Martin pounced on by Al-Hamadi to round off the scoring.
The rest of the game was about Hadler defying the rampant home side, making 10 saves in total.
Ramsgate manager Ben Smith told BBC Radio Kent:
“You saw the difference in level, in their physicality. When they pressed, it was a proper press, strong and aggressive. They’ve not disrespected us, they’ve taken it professionally and shown what a great club it is, had us watched and done all the right things.
“I told people before the game if we kept it under six I’d be very happy. I know it sounds defeatist but you have to be realistic as well.
“The lads in our dressing room are at the end of their careers, we’re four leagues below and they’re a full-time outfit – they should be doing that. There were little spells where we gave a good account of ourselves but it was naivety. We weren’t going to change the way we play, and I’m proud of the players for sticking to it.
“It’s been unbelievable. Now the run is over, I can say that. I’ve been balancing two jobs – and it is a job when you’re in the FA Cup second round with all the media and so on – but when it’s gone I’ll miss it. It consumes you, getting phone calls every two minutes, ‘Can we have a word? Can you come on this show?’
“But I didn’t come here to have a cup run, I came here to get promoted.”
Ramsgate goalkeeper Tom Hadler told BBC Radio Kent:
“It isn’t necessarily about tonight’s result, it’s how we’ve done for the whole seven or eight games and how we’ve done in the season.
“Tonight was a shame, but they’re an incredibly good side. We tried playing our way of football and it hurt us a couple of times but we’ve had a good night, and we can’t thank our fans enough – for 1,500 people to come and cheer us on the way they did was incredible.
“It was that little bit of naivety when we came up against a team as good as them, a league team that presses a different way to what we’re used to.
“We had a couple of good chances and maybe one of them changes the game but it was a great day and we enjoyed it.
“That was the busiest I’ve been in a competitive game. It was a good feeling to make lots of saves and be a big part of the night.
“As a goalie you never like conceding goals and as a team it hurts because thankfully we’re used to winning, but when I have the chance to make a save I’ll make a save and tonight I had a lot of opportunities.”
- 2BilerBooked at 45minsSubstituted forOgundereat 64′minutes
- 31LewisSubstituted forPearceat 86′minutes
- 4ReevesSubstituted forBallat 86′minutes
- 14LittleBooked at 90mins
- 19Lemonheigh-EvansBooked at 89mins
- 10Al HamadiSubstituted forDavisonat 63′minutes
- 18BugielSubstituted forSasuat 82′minutes
- 6AnidugbeSubstituted forPaxmanat 76′minutes
- 4EllulSubstituted forChristieat 64′minutes
- 15MartinSubstituted forOliverat 87′minutes
- 20JadamaSubstituted forHoldenat 87′minutes
- 7BiolettiSubstituted forElitoat 76′minutes
- Christopher Pollard
Match ends, AFC Wimbledon 5, Ramsgate 0.
Second Half ends, AFC Wimbledon 5, Ramsgate 0.
Attempt saved. James Ball (AFC Wimbledon) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Armani Little.
Attempt blocked. Jack Currie (AFC Wimbledon) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match because of an injury Joe Taylor (Ramsgate).
Attempt missed. Josh Neufville (AFC Wimbledon) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right following a corner.
Corner, AFC Wimbledon. Conceded by Jack Parter.
Armani Little (AFC Wimbledon) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Armani Little (AFC Wimbledon).
Jordan Green (Ramsgate) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Corner, AFC Wimbledon. Conceded by Tom Hadler.
Attempt saved. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans (AFC Wimbledon) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Attempt blocked. Josh Davison (AFC Wimbledon) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jack Currie with a cross.
Connor Lemonheigh-Evans (AFC Wimbledon) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Connor Lemonheigh-Evans (AFC Wimbledon).
Mike West (Ramsgate) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Substitution, Ramsgate. Tristan Holden replaces Tijan Jadama.
Substitution, Ramsgate. Freddie Oliver replaces Lee Martin.