Ramsgate bowed out of the FA Cup in front of the television cameras on Monday but their 1,400 travelling fans still made it an evening to remember.
While the Rams were, quite rightly, outclassed on the pitch by League 2 AFC Wimbledon, their fans never stopped singing and cheering the Isthmian South East minnows throughout.
Despite the goals against column it was still a performance to be proud of, a night when they stuck to their football philosophy.
Ramsgate were without the cup-tied Craig Stone and Alfie Paxman, who cruelly missed out through suspension. There were three changes from the line-up that knocked out National League Woking in the First Round.
AFC Wimbledon certainly didn’t take the gap between the two clubs lightly, making just two changes from the side beaten in their last League 2 outing at Gillingham.
That parity lasted only eight minutes didn’t seem to dampen the spirits among the away supporters who had made the trip up from Thanet.
Skipper Michael West’s heavy backpass gave keeper Tom Hadler an early concern but Ramsgate’s insistence on playing the ball out from the back quickly proved to be their undoing. Alfie Young’s pass was intercepted in an instant and skipper Jake Reeves curled in the opener. Such speed in attack merely highlighted the gulf between the teams.
Hadler was always going to be the busiest man in Plough Lane and so it proved. The former Gillingham and Maidstone keeper produced an excellent save to keep out Ryan Johnson’s far-post header, Joe Lewis’ goalbound follow-up was deflected wide.
Ramsgate produced their first attempt at goal midway through the half, West’s driven free-kick was only cleared as far as Lee Martin, whose right-foot shot whistled narrowly past the upright from the edge of the area.
Young looked to make amends at the heart of the Ramsgate defence and he did well to turn behind a dangerous Hus Biler cross.
But the waves of attacks from the hosts were relentless, although there was a touch of fortune about Wimbledon’s second goal on 26 minutes. Jack Currie’s cross deflected off the unfortunate Abdul Anidugbe and while Hadler did well to prevent it looping in, he could only direct the ball straight to the grateful Ali Al Hamadi to nod in from close range.
The excellent Hadler turned away a left-foot curler from Josh Neufville, Armani Little volleyed over from the resulting corner and Jack Parter did brilliantly to block Al Hamadi’s goalbound effort.
Ramsgate’s Tijan Jadama caused the league outfit plenty of problems with his direct running and swift footwork in central areas, creating time for himself in a game when others saw space quickly vanish before them.
Attacking their fans in the first half, the goal Ramsgate wanted so nearly arrived on 42 minutes. Joe Taylor did well to hold the ball up and feed Parter out wide. His cross was headed goalwards by Jadama but keeper Alex Bass pushed out his attempt, only for Martin to hook the ball over the bar from close range.
Within a minute, the tie was done and dusted. Al Hamadi initially overran the ball but when he collected it a second time his near-post shot was parried by Hadler, straight into the path of Neufville, who showed good composure to pick his spot between bodies in the six-yard box.
Biler went into referee Christopher Pollard’s notepad for a trip on Jadama, who then lacked power on his shot after the resulting free-kick from Martin was deflected out to him on the edge of the area.
Hadler carried on where he left off after the break, tipping over Reeves’ right-foot drive that was destined for the top corner within 40 seconds of the restart.
But he could do nothing two minutes later to prevent Connor Evans adding a fourth, collecting Reeves’ pass from a short corner, he took advantage of a defensive slip and fired low into the far corner.
There was no parking of the bus, no sign of a change in Ramsgate’s approach. They were here to play the game their way, knowing it was leaving space for their full-time opponents to exploit. Some will call it foolish, some will call it refreshing. Either way, for that, they should be applauded.
There were more gifts to be handed out by Ramsgate, though, So close to Christmas, Wimbledon couldn’t turn them down. Another misplaced pass out of defence allowed Al Hamadi to blast home the fifth on 53 minutes.
Ramsgate responded, they didn’t stop all night, and were nearly rewarded when Taylor did well to fashion a cross which was met by West, whose goalbound shot was well blocked by a covering defender.
Hadler tipped over Evans’ near-post shot as Ramsgate's legs began to tire past the hour mark, their cause not helped when they lost the experienced Joe Ellul to injury. Hadler was again down smartly to deny Neufville his second of the night before holding on to Omar Bugiel’s long-range drive.
The evening got too much for one gentleman who emerged from the away end and ran the length of the pitch before performing a knee slide in the penalty area. He was finally led away and the game resumed.
The usual flurry of substitutions also disrupted the flow of the game in the closing stages but that would take away from Ramsgate’s ability to keep out their opponents having trailed 5-0 just eight minutes into the second half.
Substitute Josh Davison hit the upright late on, ensuring there was no late addition to the scoreline – as did Ramsgate substitute Jack Paxman, who cleared off the line from Currie in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
Wimbledon took this one seriously and will now host Championship side Ipswich in the Third Round.
AFC Wimbledon: Bass, Biler (Ogundere 64mins), Reeves (Ball 86mins), Johnson, Al Hamadi (Davison 64mins), Neufville, Little, Bugiel (Sasu 82mins), Evans, Currie, Lewis (Pearce 86mins). Subs not used: Tzanev, Brown, Tilley, Pell.
Ramsgate: Hadler, Young, Porter, Ellul (Christie 64mins), Anidugbe (J Paxman 76mins), Bioletti (Elito 76mins), Taylor, Green, Martin (Oliver 87mins), West, Jadama (Holdon 87mins). Subs not used: Johnson, Procopi, Hennessey, Simmonds.
Referee: Christopher Pollard.
Attendance: 6,894 (1,400 away).