FA Cup heartbreak Curzon Ashton 3-4 AFC Wimbledon
Tuesday 6th December 2016 @ 09:57 by Mark Phillip
Football Sports

By Martin Frost:

Picture: Ian Charles

Football can be a cruel mistress, but never more so than on Sunday afternoon. In 162 seconds joy turned to heartbreak; ecstasy to agony; and a 3rd round and a first ever 3rd round appearance being replaced by National League North action at Tamworth on January 7th.

A crowd of 1,831 had gathered at the Tameside Stadium with the majority hoping, maybe beyond hope, that Curzon Ashton could overcome AFC Wimbledon. 82 places separate the Clubs in the football hierarchy, but those braved the bitingly cold wind, plus millions on television, saw a performance from the Nash that was to put it very simply, outstanding. It isn’t easy to put aside those last ten minutes but John Flanagan’s team were more than a credit to him. It will be a game remembered for years to come and well worthy of the expectation leading up to the tie – the first 2nd Round FA Cup match to be held on Ashton soil in over 130 years.

Only 30 seconds had elapsed before the Curzon faithful were in raptures. A challenge from Ian Howard saw the ball fall to Adam Morgan. A quick turn and a supreme left foot shot saw the ball rifled past Shea and into the top right hand corner. What a start! Things only got better 20 minutes later as Joe Guest put in a brilliant cross which Morgan stooped to head in. The ex Liverpool youngster has been a revelation at Curzon. His first half brace took him to 8 goals in only 7 games, and he was to further improve on this after the break. Playing with the wind at their backs Curzon’s football was a treat to watch, and they deservedly went into the break with a two goal cushion.

Half time conversation centred on how the Nash would meet the challenge of the wind in their faces. The Dons certainly played higher up the field, but it was Curzon who struck again. Once again the Guest – Morgan combination struck. A great cross saw Morgan hit the perfect volley. Three goals to the good, only 28 minutes to play. Surely the game was won?

Wimbledon fans displayed a banner proclaiming “We are the Resurrection”, reflecting their reformation and revival after the Milton Keynes debacle. Even the optimist amongst them couldn’t have dared to hope that a resurrection from a 3 goal deficit was on the cards. But how prescient it turned out to be!!

Dons manager Neal Ardley introduced Tyrone Barnett with 20 minutes left – an inspired change as it brought gangly striker Tom Elliott more into the game. The Nash weathered the storm until the 82nd minute. Elliott turned the ball home in a goalmouth melee after Hakan Burton, in the Curzon goal, failed to reach a crossed ball. Surely only a consolation? The next 3 minutes proved not. A carbon copy gave Poleon a chance to bring it to 3-2, and within seconds Barnett beat Burton with a low shot into the corner.

With only 8 minutes plus injury time left the initiative rested with the Dons. Curzon withstood the pressure for all bar the last 9, (yes – nine!!), seconds. A free kick in the centre circle was pumped forward; Elliott got his head to it; and in a heartbeat it rested in the Curzon net. All that was left was to restart the game and then listen to the final whistle.

It was heartache and heartbreak as a stunned silence descended on the Curzon support. Flanagan buried his head in his hands, and looks of sheer emptiness were etched on the faces on the Nash bench.

A truly remarkable game, and considered reflection, after the immediate emotions dies away, will conclude that Curzon did themselves proud. They announced their name to a national audience; showed the quality of football on offer at the Tameside Stadium and made a fair amount of money which is to be used wisely in upgrading the 3G pitch. As a community club Curzon’s endeavours will see the area benefit from upgraded.facilities.