Ali al-Hamadi caps Wimbledon rout as Ramsgate’s FA Cup dream left in tatters
Ramsgate’s FA Cup adventure came to an end as they were blown away by an AFC Wimbledon side inspired by Ali al-Hamadi.
The Iraq forward scored twice to set up a money-spinning tie against Ipswich here in the third round for Johnnie Jackson’s side. Yet despite their heavy defeat, this was still a night to savour for Ben Smith, the Ramsgate manager, and the 1,400 travelling fans, who sang themselves hoarse throughout and left proud of a team that usually ply their trade four divisions below their opponents.
Ramsgate’s FA Cup campaign began back on 2 September and the side who currently lead the Isthmian South East Division had battled through four qualifying rounds before dumping out National League opposition in Woking in the first round. Twenty coachloads of fans had made the trip to southwest London to watch the lowest-ranked team left in the competition attempt to make more history against a club that knows all about upsetting the status quo.
A picture of Terry Gibson during the famous 1988 Cup final win over Liverpool on the cover of the programme was a nod to AFC Wimbledon’s forebears, with Jackson having stressed the importance of not taking their opponents lightly. Judging by a ferocious start that was roared on by their supporters, Ramsgate were certainly up for the fight.
Yet the wind was sucked out of their sails inside the opening eight minutes when Jake Reeves beat the goalkeeper Thomas Hadler with a piledriver from outside the area just after Connor Evans had headed over the Wimbledon captain’s free kick. Hadler tried his best to keep Ramsgate’s heads above water but the pressure eventually told when Hamadi nodded home his 10th of the season midway through the first half.
Down on the touchline, Smith – a deputy headteacher at a local school and the club’s first permanent manager – encouraged his side to attack but they struggled to create an opening for their top scorer Joe Taylor, who works a day job as a safety equipment salesman. Ramsgate finally had an opportunity to claw their way back into the game three minutes before half-time but Alex Bass did well to parry the initial header from Tijan Jadama and Lee Martin blazed over the follow-up. Wimbledon clinically made them pay seconds later when Neuville steered home their third goal after Hadler had saved from Hamadi.
Wimbledon are hoping to make a return to League One after being relegated two seasons ago and find themselves three points off the playoffs with a game in hand. Their chances of achieving that could depend on whether they can keep hold of Hamadi, although he has been linked with a move to a higher level in January. Evans made sure there would be no comeback here when he rammed home the fourth minutes after the restart before Hamadi grabbed his second of the night following a defensive error.
Try as they might, Ramsgate could not give their fans a goal to celebrate. But that did not stop the party in the away end, even if one took it too far by sprinting the length of the pitch to confront home supporters before being hauled away by police.