As the club announcer indicated that there would be five minutes of added time, the AFC Wimbledon fans packed in the Chemflow End watched on eager eyed, hoping for that moment of elation that a last minute winner often brings.
The seconds counted down, and a towering header by Terell Thomas that sailed wide of the post in the dying moments proved to be the final piece of action as the referee’s whistle sounded. Wimbledon had drawn 0-0 with Bolton at Kingsmeadow – the third successive goalless stalemate that the Dons fans had witnessed on their own patch. Cue the stands emptying faster than the beer kegs in the back bar.
As it turned out, that drab affair was Wimbledon’s most recent match at their makeshift home ground, and it could also be their last. The EFL has suspended all fixtures until April 3 at the earliest, but despite a date being set for things to return to normal, the completion of the league season is in doubt.
The club hope to move into their new stadium at Plough Lane in time for next season, which would represent a homecoming back to the borough of Merton.
Should it happen, an abrupt end to proceedings at the Norbiton-based stadium for the Dons will not be the way the side wanted to bow out of their home of 18 years.
AFC Wimbledon have not always owned Kingsmeadow – the club initially had a groundsharing arrangement with non-league side Kingstonian, who had played at the ground since the stadium opened in 1989.
However, the K’s found themselves in a difficult financial position soon after the arrangement began, entering administration, which saw them lose the lease. The Dons then entered discussions to buy it with the K’s then-owner Rajesh Khosla, for a fee of £2.4 million, which was duly accepted, courtesy of a share issue created by the Dons Trust so that the money could be raised – the supporter’s association that owns Wimbledon.
The two sides continued to share the ground, with Kingstonian paying Wimbledon rent to remain. This ended in 2017, as Wimbledon sold Kingsmeadow to Chelsea for £5 million to help fund the new Plough Lane, with the west London club not willing to accommodate the K’s. They now groundshare with Corinthian-Casuals.
There has been many changes to the look of the ground since Wimbledon’s non-league days. The former Kingston Road End terrace has been transformed into an all-seater stand with a capacity of 1,000, now known as the ‘John Green Stand’.
Yet, the stadium retains it’s old school feel, with burger vans on two open corners of the pitch, and two tightly-packed terraced stands – the Chemflow End and the less aesthetically pleasing low-roofed RyStand, which is divided into two sections to accommodate away fans.
It also goes without saying that many a memory has been seen at the stadium during Wimbledon’s rise from the lower reaches of the football pyramid. From Jon Main’s incredible solo effort against AFC Hornchurch in the Ryman Premier Divison play-off semi finals, to the time when the Dons secured their Football League status in 2013 on the final day of the season against Fleetwood Town with a 2-1 win.
If the season was to become void, it would be a shame for Wimbledon to end their time at the ground on the back of three disappointing 0-0 draws, and not have the chance to give Kingsmeadow a fitting send-off.
That, however, remains out of the club’s control, and only time will tell if the Dons fans will make the walk under the arch on Sir Jack Goodchild Way again.