Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Anonymous Don Is On Holiday…

Sadly I’m off on a brief mid-season holiday to the States on Wednesday. The wife is going home for a couple of months (hurray! Only joking…) and I get to go for a week as well. So the following regular items are sadly cancelled:

  • Seven Days (This week and next, although this weeks would have included a lot of what I wrote here http://wup.me.uk/blog/?p=364)
  • The Team Bath Match Preview
  • The Team Bath Match Report

On my return next week you can look forward to:

  • The Basingstoke Preview (Thursday 9 Apr)
  • New England Revs vs Dallas FC – A Look At MLS (Thur 9/Fri 10)
  • The Basingstoke Match Report (Sat 11)

Plus much, much more…

I have plenty of packing to do over the next few days, and have to finish a promised WUP article by tomorrow night. A reminder if you enjoyed this blog and fancy having a go yourself, the deadline for WUP fanzine submissions for everyone else is this Friday. Or just write something for the WUP Blog (http://wup.me.uk/blog/).

Before I go, once more thanks for everyone who read this and sent messages of support, so thanks Mark, Kevin, Haywards Heath Don, Baskers, Amy, REPD, Ray, Katie, Devon Don, Sandy, everyone at WUP for their support (and links!) and apologies for those I forgot. I just write this for the fun of it, so hearing that people have taken time out to say ‘thanks’ just makes me want to improve the quality of this blog still further.

Make some noise on Saturday…

Eastleigh 2 AFC Wimbledon 1 – A Match Report

So the Blue Square South championship is now a three horse race once more, after the Dons worst fears were realised at The Silverlake Stadium. It was by no means a poor performance by the league leaders, who seemed to have turned a corner following recent indifferent form with a battling first period display, only to see luck turn against them in a moment of controversy in the second half.

This is usually where I would start a match report describing a defeat with ‘and it all started so well…’ but in truth it didn’t. Some Dons fans had to deal with transport chaos first (unless they drove or took the coach of course… but thats not the proper way to travel to an away match!) as Wimbledon Stations closure forced replacement bus services to Surbiton or extanded journey times from Clapham or Waterloo.

Personally I was in a bad mood from the off. Waking late and spending too long in the shower meant I had too little time to take breakfast in Kingston, but too much time to kill in Surbiton before the train left. The only Woking train running was the stopping service, the same train I get to work in Esher reminding me of the daily drudge on what should be my day of escape. And my irritation grows as I wait for the train to depart as despite signs and information boards travellers feel the need to rudely shout for instruction at weary platform staff.

Local rail facilities didn't live up to the Dons fans expectations

Local train services didn't meet Dons fans expectations

I wanted to make a few notes on the train, but felt self concious doing so in case I was mistaken for a hardcore train spotter. As there were no trains about, it was probably the trainspotting equivilant of playing Ash away in the Surrey Senior Cup. Arriving at Woking and seeing England shirts remind me the national team are playing today. The twenty minute wait seems to take forever on the cold platform. My throat hurt and I felt nauseus, I wondered whether my cold was making a comeback. Strongbow and a Kitkat from the buffet didn’t help. It took a while to realise I was actually very nervous.

Its grim down south...

Its grim down south...

 At Southampton Airport station I realise I left my map behind, but its a simple walk through a lakeside park, and round lanes with no pavement to Eastleighs ground. Like a spacious version of Sittingbourne, the roof down the side provides no cover for fans wishing to see the game, and no view for those wanting to remain dry. Rain turns to hail which turns to merciful sunshine as the teams come out.

From kickoff, and playing with the wind to their backs, the Dons gain the upper hand without really creating much worthy of note. The recalled Davis seems back to form, buzzing around the midfield, picking up loose balls and moving the ball on, simply and intelligently. He puts himself about as well, getting challenges in, losing the 50-50s largely on account of his slight frame, but doing enough. Lee and Hatton are usually on hand to pick up the pieces.

Despite gaining the possesion advantage in midfield, Wimbledon don’t create much. Eastleigh are holding their shape, remaining very well organised. The ball is finding its way back to Conroy and Hussey, forced back into orthodox full back positions, all too often. Hussey in particular looks frustrated. Unable to get forward and cross, he resorts to attempting to thread balls into the left channel. Mostly they catch the wind and drift harmlessly back into Eastleigh hands, occasionally a decent ball is made to look bad by forwards just not on his wavelength. Still Hussey cops flack from the supporters, another bad day at the office, another lesson hopefully learned.

Sunshine! Sort of...

Sunshine! Sort of...

A couple of decent chances fall Wimbledons way. Kezie Ibe, all pace and power, finds his way clear, literally fighting off huge defenders clinging to him in desperation only to see another giant centre half block his shot for a corner. A lofted ball into the box finds Main, somehow in space, who decides to strike first time, high, wide and over. Eastleigh are hanging on, beyond the back line they are poor, passes find touch, mostly second best in challenges. Their desperation shows when Goodhind hoofs Davis into the air just before the break. It looks crude, but the fullback was just late into the challenge, showing no intent, and rightfully only sees yellow.

Three minutes of stopages show, the fans seem to sense the importance of grabbing a goal while the Dons are on top, but no chances are forthcoming. Half time sees a penalty shootout between two Dons fans and two Eastleigh fans. A young Don fires straight at the keeper. The next, brillantly, slips while taking it and falls on his arse. On behalf of everyone in the stadium can I just say to that fan…. thank you! An Eastleigh fan steps forward, boots and all, and sends it into the car park. One young Eastleigh fan scores and moves to the next round. Three shots from the half way line for fifty pounds. He achieves this but sensibly in the blustery conditions declines to double-or-quit with one more strike from the centre spot. What entertainment! We should introduce this to the Meadow as of next Saturday. Ill put the money up myself, if I had it.

The crowd is announced as a record league gate for Eastleigh, 2283, at least a thousand of whom can’t see the pitch properly. Including me in the second half, as I wander around the edge, I eventually find short people to stand behind, a good thing too as the chances start to come. Eastleigh have the wind now, and they clearly know how to use it. Balls rain down the channels, mopped up by a dominant Inns and Judge, but their headed clearances have no distance allowing the Eastleigh midfield to come again.

And they use the ball well, creating early chances. Gavin Heeroo skews wide when well placed. Tony Taggart breaks clear, onside, with just Pullen to beat. The ball drops and he judges his lobbed volley almost perfectly, only to see the Dons stopper claw it wide. From the corner Tom Jordan stoops to head wide. Eastleigh are on top now. Wimbledon are playing long into the wind, playing right into Eastleighs hands.

Yet when Wimbledon get the ball down and play it they look good on the break. A well worked move sees a wild clearance from Eastleighs Aaron Martin narrowly avoid the top corner of his own goal. Then Wimbledon win a free kick in Hussey territory, well struck but down keeper Jason Matthews throat.

With the game now a watchable end to end affair, both sides pushing forward knowing the first goal will be vital, rather than show caution in fear of being the ones to concede. When the goal arrives, its not in any way controversial, its downright disgraceful. Eastleigh force a corner on the right, delivered in at pace, swinging in with the wind. Pullen is clear favourite to gather despite Jordans run to the near post. The Eastleigh captain hopefully sticks out and arm, Pullen scrambling as it finds its way into the top corner. The ground falls silent waiting for a whistle that never comes. Belatedly Eastleigh fans celebrate, the official points to the half way line, and Wimbledon don’t deserve this at all.

Wimbledon look a bit lost for a while. Jonny Dixon curls one wide, and Terry Brown decides action needs to be taken sooner rather than later. Lee makes way for Kedwell, and the Dons switch to a three mand front line. It takes time for the switch to take effect. In the mean time Pullen keeps Wimbledon in the game. A strike from distance is forced away, the follow up from an angle well blocked. Shortly after Jordans scrambled effort in the six yard box is somehow kept out.

As if inspired by their goalkeeper, Wimbledon find their feet and make use of their extra fire power. Kedwell works space outside the box and strikes, Matthews moves to his right to stop. The pendulum has swing in Wimbledons direction, when cruel luck hits them once more. The referee has had enough. He decides an injury he has picked up is too severe to carry on officiating, strange that he felt it more of a liability than the dark glasses and stick he had been carrying for the previous 75 minutes. He could have stood in the bar blowing his whistle at random and still had a better game than the one he had.

Incompetent referee was replaced by incompetent linesman for the remaining fifteen minutes. It made little difference to Wimbledon, caught cold they gifted possesion to Eastleigh, the ball finding its way to Ashley Carew, who skipped passed his man to the byline left of goal before finding Jonny Dixon to stab into the net.

At 2-0 I’d had enough. It was getting late. I didn’t want to miss the train home, my wife so kind to allow me to attend matches every week was making a nice meal, and I didn’t want to let her down before she returns to the States for a few months in the week. Yet still I stayed.The notepad went back in my pocket. I was right to do so. Wimbledon rarely turn round two goal deficits, yet they so nearly rewarded the large travelling support in the final few minutes.

Godfrey, on for the tiring Tom Davis, fired a loose ball wide of Matthews and into the net. The last note I wrote on my little pad was ‘BACK IN IT! Elliott. 1-2’. It was all Wimbledon now, as the minutes ticked over ever faster. Corners and free kicks were forced. On the whole the quality of delivery was good. The frantic last few minutes went by in a blur. The best chance fell to Kezie Ibe, whos powerful header was somehow kept out by Matthews. The keeper flew to his right, almost reaching back on himself to claw the ball away from the top right hand corner. It was a save worthy of winning any match, with the possible exception of this one. There was to be no justice for Wimbledon today.

This all proved too much for the supporters, who held their tempers, and Alan Inns, who sadly didn’t. The centre half had a superb game for the Dons, and while we love his passion and desire to be part of a winning Dons team, he should perhaps leave the abuse to the supporters, picking up a costly red card after the final whistle for absolutely no reason. We are going to miss him during the run in, his second red card of the season and ultimate suspension is going to place too much of a burden on Judge and Goodliffe.

Despite the debatable nature of their victory, I hold no grudge against Eastleigh. The error, and ultimately result could have gone either way. On the whole they were very friendly and knowledgable people, and they deserve a succesful football club for all the hard work put in by those who dragged the club out of the Wessex league and to the verge of a place in the Conference National next season.

The only let down, and I have to mention this as it’s MK related were some of the lads behind the goal. They made a lot of noise, and Eastleigh deserve that sort of support on a weekly basis, which I hope they get. Before the match started they sung ‘Milton Keynes, Wank Wank Wank…’ much to the delight of the Dons fans, at that point surrounding them. Then for some reason they broke into an audible version of the traditional Dons baiting ‘Milton Keynes’. Bravely they waited until the second half when the Dons fans had vacated that end. I appreciate your always going to get a few bad eggs but still, Eastleigh fans, you don’t deserve to be tarred with that brush, show some class.

News of another late Hampton victory reduced moral further. The walk to the station seemed longer, and filled with thoughts of playoffs, and perhaps having to meet this Eastleigh side again before the seasons out. Kindly Dons fans on the train picked me up by pointing out Hamptons harder run in, and our goal difference and the fact we must play them means its still all in our favour.

Hopefully the team won’t be too downhearted. Reading Terry Browns comments relating to the referees decision, he rarely is as vocal against such errors as he was this one. Keeping that error in the supporters and players mind shows his experience of picking up players in a title run in. We were genuinely unlucky not to come away with something from that match. We did play well against another top side, on their ground, and ultimately the result was decided by a mistake by the referee.

It happens. It may well happen once more, this time in our favour before the season is out. Perhaps on the 18th April. Stay positive, and we will ultimately get what we deserve.

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The Eastleigh Match Preview

OVERVIEW

The Dons travel to the Silverlink Stadium more in hope than expectation of coming away with three points. The Spitfires professional 2-0 victory at Kingsmeadow on that chilly night back in December is remembered more as a poor Dons performance but in truth they weren’t given a chance to find any kind of rhythm by an Eastleigh side who well and truely ‘did a job’ on the leaders, and up until last Saturday were the only side to come away with the points at Kingsmeadow this season.

Prior to the November encounter the sides had only met twice before, an FA Trophy third qualifying round encounter that went all the way following a 1-1 draw at TCCFSK and 2-2 down at Eastleigh. Dave Andersons Dons eventually coming out 4-2 winners on penalties.

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HOME

Showing decent form and only conceding those heartbreaking two late goals at Trumpton in their last five games. Eastleigh are a side which despite featuring no truely standout players, contain plenty of height and strength throughout the team, work as a unit, and as we saw at Kingsmeadow are quick to prevent opponents playing, allowing them to dominate aerially, using set pieces to great advantage. Former Chelmsford striker Bertie Brayley recently took a few weeks holiday down by the south coast, but judging by the speed he returned to the Clarets he probably won’t be remembering the time with great fondness.

They reminded me very much of Wimbledon during the 90’s when they visited Kingsmeadow. And on Saturday they will experience what those Dons teams used to absolutely relish, the league leaders bringing loads of fans with them, and a chance to knock them down a peg. Eastleigh will have reasons of their own for wanting three points on Saturday. Currently ten points behind, a win on Saturday followed by three points against St Albans will put them four points behind the Dons, and right back in the title race.

AWAY

The big news is the possible absence of influential hitman Danny Kedwell, who is struggling with an ankle injury. Expect Kezie Ibe to make a first start in a blue shirt (or yellow…), and for the sake of everyones blood pressure hope his partnership with Jon Main clicks immediately. Judging by comments earlier in the week Kedwell may be fit enough for a place on the bench (and if you were TB would you really want to be the person to tell him he isn’t?!). Even if we can get 20 minutes out of him it could be vital, especially if we find ourselves chasing the game.

The choice of which midfield starts could decide the game. Terry has spoken earlier in the week of making more use of Saunders, so perhaps he could find himself in the role Kennedy played in the first hour against Welling. Hopefully Lee will have benefited from a week of uninterrupted training, and I expect him to retain his place on Saturday ahead of Kennedy Adjei or Jake Leberl, the latter could conceivably be selected ahead of Lee for his battling ball winning qualities alone, however Brown has already stated his desire to stick with this seasons philosophy of working the ball rather than panicking and trying to beat the Spitfires at their own game.

In defence the reassuring figure of Ben Judge returns from suspension, we can all be delighted to know should all else fail he has a great rugby tackle in his locker… and James Pullen comes up against his old side, and judging by their supporters forum are looking forward to seeing his solid distribution from the other side of the fence…

THE FANS

Them – Naturally very excited that our visit coincides with the run in to what has already been one of their most successful seasons to date, as well as having an excellent chance of taking the game. Have apparently sold 1400 tickets (not sure if that includes our sales too) as of yesterday, and could be looking at a crowd close to 3000 depending what the walk up is like on the day.

Us – Battling through rail replacement buses and confusion regarding the best route to the ground. Eastleigh recommend disembarking from Eastleigh station, a couple of miles from the ground, then bussing it the rest of the way but they would do wouldn’t they? They aren’t going to put the backs up of current and potential sponsors based closer to the town centre by advising the largest travelling support they’ve had for ages to bypass the pubs and shops altogether are they?

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Southampton Airport Parkway is the closest station as the crow flies but the route that looks most direct seems to feature a trip down the M27 slip road, following a tumble down an embankment. I’ve already done that once this season, at Thurrock, where a wrong turn found me sixty feet above the road I was supposed to be on. I had to jump over a bridge fence and wobble down to the road below, almost falling when a fat Essex boy in a van decided to shout ‘OI!’ at me when I was half way down. It was an act of desperation caused by my realisation I’d left the wife at Lakeside with the bank cards…

Anyway, earlier this week a kindly Eastleigh fan posted directions on Old Centrals for a safer walking route, I hope I followed them correctly on the wiggly green line above. If anyone spots an error there, please leave a comment and let us all know! Me, I’ll be following any Dons fans that look like they know what they are doing, assuming they had experience of the Trophy game a couple of years ago.

Numbers? There are Dons fans who would walk it if they had to, combined with knowing once you get out of London the disruption won’t be too bad, and the large numbers travelling by road, and I’ll guess around one thousand of us.

BLUE SQUARE

Eastleigh    15/8

Draw    12/5

Dons    11/2

Are they really giving 15/2 for a goalless draw? I may even take that myself, despite my terrible record betting on my own team. That 6-0 win we are all secretly expecting is 125/1 by the way…

THE ANONYMOUS OPINION

Dons fans aren’t universally confident of coming away with a result from this one. In my heart, if we show any kind of weakness we are there for the taking. We have to hope Terry sets the team up perfectly, and the players are up for a battle, I mean really up for a battle, because they’re going to get it from the start. No score prediction today, just a message to the players. You want to win the league this year? Go prove it.

Mind Of A Moaner

I wrote something for WUP Blog last night, you can see it here.

http://wup.me.uk/blog/

Remember to fill in the Fans Survey as well!

Regular posts continue tomorrow with the lunchtime match preview…

Them

The Anonymous Don is not my first effort at writing a blog. Around 3-4 years ago I had a a piss take MySpace page dedicated to MK Dons. I grew bored of it very quickly, but it certainly threw up a few surprises. For those of you not In The Know about MySpace it was pretty much a Facebook for strangers, which meant many weirdos, and plenty of mercenaries like myself picking up semi successful dates off the back of a photo taken when I was 21.

The other thing MySpace was really good for was keeping tabs on your favourite bands. One click, and you had their friendship for as long as you wanted. It wasn’t a one way street either, on MySpace you knew before anyone when tour dates were announced, or new albums available. So for example if you wanted to psych yourself up for a big game and needed to hear ‘Take Me Home’ By Everstrong but were too darn lazy to go to HMV Wimbledon, the only place you could buy it over the counter, you simply clicked your way towards Everstrongs page and hey ho! There it was, ready to play in the media player.

Naturally football fans saw a bandwagon and decided to jump on it, and before too long  every club had at least one profile dedicated to their club, each becoming friends with other clubs, posting each other messages and the like. Except MK. So I thought it would be a great idea to set one up for them, under the name MK ARMY!!!! (note exclamation marks) written by a Dongs fan called Frannie. I went to all the trouble of finding pictures and video of Dongs games, even learning a few names of their players (ugh…).

I started writing match reports, where Frannie showed his lack of knowledge about the game in general (for example, Frannie reveals his excitement about MK possibly reaching the Premier and getting to play Harchester United. Or Frannie takes directions from a Luton supporting neighbour for how to get to Walsall and ends up getting lost on the M6 toll). In other words it was stupid and childish. I got some supportive messages from fans of other clubs who got it. The thing was I also received a lot of messages from people who thought it was genuine…

Looking back the years before the move seemed such a muddled time, not just for the club but for me personally. Relegation had been a huge blow to Wimbledon as a club, the only benefit being it reignited my love for them. During my teenage years I barely missed a home game, and took every opportunity to travel away, especially the London games and the occasional treat of a match further afield. When I returned from University in Plymouth after two years away, a failed effort due to lack of finance and effort, I had lost the bug. The humbling at Fulham in the FA Cup was the last straw for me. I spent my Saturdays either playing or watching Kingstonian in the Conference.

But when the team started to fall down the table I was back at Selhurst, as well as making the trip to Bradford. The Aston Villa game was amazing, despite what happened afterwards a lot of Dons fans still rate it as among their favourite moments. Relegation made me more determined to follow my team. I had a season ticket for our first go at the Championship (or was it still called Division 1 then?), and attended most games the season after, the Protest Season. MK’s victory at the three man commission has been covered in great depth elsewhere, and the launch of AFC Wimbledon was so soon after I spent the three days in shock rather than anger.

It was like getting mugged then winning the lottery. AFCW are life changing, football for me has never been the same again. This was a real opportunity for us to take our own team as far as we could with the shared talents of our fan base. I remember being so excited waiting for the first friendly, which didn’t disappoint. There was one small cloud on the horizon however.

At the time any thought or mention of MK filled me with impotent rage, this after all being a football club seventy miles north of where I lived, and several divisions above us. This anger had no outlet, and was finally quelled when I started receiving those MySpace messages, some abusive, some curious. I realised that despite creating this exaggeration of a character, whose catchphrase ‘I love the banter!’ was blatantly stolen from Rob Brydon, normal football fans had no difficulties believing they were looking at a bone fide MK Dons page. Normal football fans just assumed that MK fans are desperately sad individuals, as we did. And this made me feel great.

These days I’m still happy to see them throw away two goal leads at home to Crewe. I never thought I’d see the day Millwall fans showed solidarity by chanting our name at the Winkiedome. I’m glad most football fans respect us for taking a stand. Occasionally I meet people who dismiss us, who claim the true history of Wimbledon football has left and gone to MK, and you try to argue, you try to get your point across, but its like talking to a fax machine. You can never make yourself heard above the whine coming back at you.

Fortunately I’ve never had the misfortune of bumping into a real life franchiser. I have no idea how I’ll react. I’m pretty laid back, so I’d probably just ignore them but be secretly pissed off for the rest of the day. And what if some day we have to play them. The irrational part of my brain can see the positives of playing, and beating them. Secretly its what we all want to happen. The consequences of defeat aren’t worth thinking about.

I was on a train back from Weston Super Mare with dozens of other Dons, as the train pulled in to Swindon station the Dons fans heads started poking up from behind seats one by one like meercats. MK had played Swindon that day, and even though logic would suggest any Dong in attendance would be back home in bed by then, we were on the look out for stragglers. People were up at the doors peering up and down the platform in case they were hiding, but the only people there were a bunch of confused Oxford fans on their way back from Forest Green, wondering what they had done to deserve such attention.

Playing MK would attract the media’s attention, and in true tabloid fashion there will be a few articles looking to stoke up the tension before the big game. Angry Dons fans will boycott any away or cup fixture, but Dons fans looking for personal revenge and a bit of trouble won’t think twice about it. Its absolutely inevitable there will be problems at any fixture we play against them because of this. Fans who would normally go out of their way to avoid trouble will find themselves caught up in the hatred.

For now I don’t even want to think about them. There’s no place in my heart for hatred right now. I’m too busy watching my football club to care. We will have to play them at some point in the future, but lets worry about that when it happens. Right now we have a couple of promotions before it happens, so lets just enjoy the football.

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Seven Days – The Dons Week In Review (w/c 16th March)

Last week seemed to be all about the buildup to the Welling game. There seemed to be no other news worth talking about, so speculation took its place, which mainly came in the form of Wimbledon fans (myself included) trying to work out after which game we would clinch the title. But pride comes before a fall, and we were as guilty of that as Chelmsford were before Christmas. Unlike Chelmsford we haven’t spiralled down the table, not yet anyway. Plus we still hold a six point advantage over the villagers. Yet perhaps because of their intimidating victory over Chelmsford we are overlooking the fact that Trumpton haven’t really been on a hot run of form. They can quite easily have more performances like Welling and Newport between now and the end of the season. Results like Saturdays and the Eastleigh game just go to show how far they’ve upped their game in the big matches, and how much it has taken out of them by doing so in more winnable matches. It just goes to show just how hard it is to win a title, at any level. The closer you get to the finish line, the harder those three points are to pick up regularly.

As for Saturday itself, I don’t think there is too much to add that I hadn’t mentioned in the match report itself. Please excuse me for the contradiction over whether fans can make a positive difference to their team. What I meant to say was… While supporters can make a positive difference to the outcome of a match, its far easier for them to have a negative effect especially when the abuse is aimed at an individual. Basically, just support the team in their hour of need! Its not hard. Even I can manage it. There are circumstances when the team have to be told to buck its ideas up. When a team of championship winners find themselves around the relegation zone for example. Wimbledon, on the other hand, are six points clear at the top. Some players like Dwayne and Kennedy were coming back from injury, and Terry made the decision to play them ahead of Rob Saunders for continuity reasons, with Saunders only being in the squad for a week or so.

As for other club related news, ticket sales for the three upcoming away games seem to be progressing as well as possible. I managed to get my Eastleigh ticket before the game, and got reasonably close to the front of the queue for Bromley so couldn’t tell how far down the back of the Main Stand the queue went. As for Trumpton, well its looking like being a huge game. Tickets for that are on general sale after the Team Bath game, not being a season ticket holder myself (and I won’t be making that mistake again next year…). And thanks to sheer bad luck that turns out to be the game I miss due to being in the States for a week. Fortunately the three Mothers Day gifts I got my old mum has worked a treat, and she has volunteered to walk down to the ground and pick one up for me. Failing that I’d have to pay a friend to do it, or just write a begging letter to the club…

Hopefully there will be another post or two here before the Eastleigh Match Preview on Friday, and can I say thanks to all of you who have submitted positive comments about the blog here and on Old Central Repository. It really makes it worthwhile doing something I love anyway, knowing that its appreciated by other Dons fans.

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AFC Wimbledon 0 Welling United 1 – A Match Report

As I walked home from the ground, or more accurately trudged home, a gentlemen of my age approached, smiling, and asked me what the score was. Before I had a chance to answer he unwisely added ‘They won, didn’t they?’. ‘No. Wimbledon lost 1-0 today’ I stammered. The guy looked momentarily confused, then looked at me with a combination of pity and guilt before we each headed in our respective direction. Pity, as his question had reopened a whole can of pain for me. Guilt, that he had asked the question to begin with.

The hazy Meadow

And it had started so well. I had a nice lunch, then headed off to the ground early to pick up my Eastleigh ticket. Such a mild spring day allowed me to leave the coat at home, and bring my sunglasses along with me. Not because the sun was particularly strong, more that at the first sign of warm weather most Cambridge Estate residents try to leave as much exposed skin as possible to attempt to improve their tone from alabaster to something slightly healthier, intensifying the suns rays as it bounces off them into my eyes. Ironically this only has a negative effect, their skin coloured pinky red until the end of August when it conveniently burns off, revealing a brand new milky layer just in time for Autumn.

Despite that, Dons fans walking down Kingston Road were bubbling. Little groups in animated conversation. Boisterous youths bouncing off each other, just waiting for an excuse to break into song. The sun was shining. Hundreds were milling around outside the bars just soaking up the day. Its at this point I’d like to make my bid for at least a nomination in the Understatement of the Week in a Blog, Fanzine, Newsletter or Other Body of Writing Produced in a Non-Professional Capacity Award by saying things went a little downhill from here.

And I think it might be all my fault. I spent the hour before I left at a family lunch telling my uncle that if we won and Hampton lost then in all probability the 12 point gap produced would be too much for the Trumptonites to overcome. I made a token effort to apease the Football Gods. I littered my opinions with plenty of ‘if’s ‘maybe’s and ‘providing Hampton don’t win their game in hand’s. But what really screwed me was when I told my wife I would ‘bring home a bottle of champagne if we won’. From that moment the Best Case Scenario wasn’t going to be an option, and the scenario that played out come three o’clock came with a big sticker on it marked ‘Worst Case’.

My first fears were when I got to my place, which today was in the John Smith Stand. What I’d previously experienced as a happy excited feeling (not THAT kind of happy excited feeling though…) had suddenly transformed itself into a nervous rumbling in my stomach. My mouth felt suddenly dry. As the game kicked off I suddenly remembered the consequences of what would happen if we didn’t win today.

Cash and Brown

If the players felt this same sense of panic it didn’t show initialy. Great work by Danny Kedwell won Wimbledon a thrown down the right, quickly taken to Sam Hatton whose whipped cross was punched away under pressure by Wings keeper Charlie Mitten. Hatton was involved again when Chris Husseys deep cross found him completely unmarked, failing to find the far corner or better positioned team mates and floating harmlessly over. But yet the game remained very open, with James Baker proving a handful for the Dons defence largely due to his skillful, strong and very persistant running with the ball. On a couple of occasions he danced into the Dons box, of which one was somehow not turned in by two colleagues, the other drawing a superb save from eventual man of the match James Pullen.

Wimbledon then sparked into life again, as Main showed unexpected strength when latching onto a through ball despite being held back, getting away a powerful volley that Mitten failed to hold. At one point it looked as though Mitten may have mimicked predecesor Taylors gift of a goal to Main in the corresponding fixture, however the ball squirmed straight upwards and back into the keepers grateful arms.

The two teams had enough time to trade chances before the break, as Baker once more broke into the Wimbledon area before squaring to strike partner Moses Ademola who failed to find the net. Another Pullen save lead to Hatton being forced off the ball unfairly just outside the box. Hatton and Hussey lined up the angles but it was Dwayne Lee who drilled past the wall sadly too close to Mitton. It was a rare positive for Lee, who looked to be lacking fitness and not at all up to speed with the pace of the game. Lee’s afternoon was to get worse in the second half as the Dons left the field for the break to muted applause.

A quiet start to the second half was only enlivened by a couple of corners forced by Dons, and an inswinging low Hussey free kick that had to be pushed wide by a scrambling Mitton. Yet it seemed there was serious problems with the Dons midfield. A solid Welling midfield led by former Don Rob Quinn lorded it over Wimbledon at times. They seemed to have so much time and space to craft chances, whereas Mertons Finest barely had time to get the ball down before finding their offensive decisions rapidly reduced by a fast approaching red shirt. The unfortunate Lee suffered more than most, being exposed in front of the back four.

Of course the Negative Brigade in the John Smiths now had all the ammunition they required to slaughter the laid back number four, and he found himself hauled off by Brown on the hour. Not before a few Dons fans had let themselves down by abusing their own player. One guy behind me shouted ‘Get Lee Off’ repeatedly for a good two minutes, and even mild mannered me got sick of its childish manner, until one straw too many landed and I decided to confront him. Sadly this coincided with Lee finaly being hooked. In retrospect this was a good thing for me, as if I’d asked him to cut it out he would have immediately missed the point and asked me to defend Lees performance, which in all honestly I can’t. But it riles me that certain supporters in this section of the ground show complete naivety and lack of knowledge in situations like this. Lee hadn’t acted unprofessionaly at any point, he just played his normal game and it didn’t come off for him today. When he started to make errors our response, in fact our duty, as supporters should have been to pick him up again. No matter how many games you go to, or how much you donate financially you cannot in all seriousness call yourself a Wimbledon supporter if at this point you think its a good idea to abuse one of your own players. If by some stroke of luck one of the offenders happens to read this report, can I just say please, please can you take in what I have written above. Because when title races go down to the wire, minor problems like these snowball and all of a sudden become very very important. If you think as a supporter there is little you can do to help the lads once they cross the white line then in a way you would be correct, yes. But you sure as hell can cause some damage if your not careful. Rant over.

img_0362Lees replacement was the more attacking option of Saunders, with Adjei moving in front of the back four. For some reason this caused the Dons midfield to seemingly evaporate completely. Welling had the ball over the line soon after but the effort was crossed off due to an offside flag. And Welling got their reward for a brave attacking performance after Sam Hurrell found some space in the left channel, powered towards goal before driving a shot off the post. Several blue shirts were reduced to statues as the ball rebounded to Sanchez Ming to put the Wings ahead.

This isn’t a criticism of the clubs organisation, yet a relatively large away following of around 150 self-segregated themselves into a small section of the Tempest End during the second half, where the acoustics allowed their superb support to dominate vocally during the second half. If full segregation had been in place those Wings supporters would have been back in to corner of Kingston Road and John Smiths, barely heard by most of the stadium. Instead they were given the opportunity to keep their players motivated. And it was Wimbledon that looked demoralised as defensive mistakes lead to two one-on-ones that Pullen brilliantly kept out.

Then the icing on the cake. A Dons corner fell to the reliable Kedwell, lurking yards out at the far post. As the ground rose as one, Kedwells header flew off his head and over. With mere minutes remaining some Dons fans (like me) saw this as an opportunity to watch the last few minutes closer to the exits in order to stand a better chance of being near the front of the queue for Bromley tickets. The Welling fans celebrated enthusiastically at the end, causing a few Dons fans near me to mutter about Cup Finals, which probably wasn’t fair to Welling, who came to The Meadow and were exceptional, played open football restricting the Dons chances and creating enough of their own to justify victory. I was perhaps a bit unfair about Wellings promotion hopes in my Match Preview on Friday, I still think they won’t catch the pack occupying the play off places at the moment, but the honesty and hard work of their players means it won’t be for lack of trying.

As for Wimbledon, it just wasn’t going to be our day today. Too many players suffered an off day and with Trumpton destroying Chelmsford 4-1, the title is effectively in their own hands too, even if it would mean them scoring a few goals. Theres now too much loaded on next weeks tricky away trip to Eastleigh, and we will do well to keep our six point gap intact over the next few games before we visit the Beveree next month. The momentum has swung in Trumptons favour this week, as it did for us last Saturday. If anyone was in doubt that there are still plenty of twists and turns left in this title race they would do well to look at the last couple of weeks in the Blue Square South, notice a pattern, and expect it to repeat itself right up to April 23rd.

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The Welling United Match Preview Afternoon Update

So TB obviously read my lunchtime preview, and decided to disagree with my opinion that Wellings playoff hopes are slim… has he looked at a league table recently? http://www.afcwimbledon.co.uk/news.php?Psection_id=2&Psub_section_id=1&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=xml&Open=4050#tar4050.

Also a reminder to listen to the Friday Night Show on WDON tonight (http://www.wimbledonstadium.com/ and click WDON), which I can heartily recommend for those of you like me who stopped going out on Fridays years ago…

The Welling United Match Preview

Overview

There’s a football match on at The Cherry Red Records Fans Stadium on Saturday. Wimbledon v Welling. Wimbledon are doing quite well this year apparently. Everyone’s invited, but only the first 4700 are guaranteed entry. Tell all your mates. Go on. Get yourself down the ground on Saturday. You know you want to.

Home

Planet Of The Apes extra James Pullen remains our only recognised goalkeeper as Little begins his year on the sidelines following his bizarre knee injury, loanee Gindre is apparently on trial in South Africa presumably for gun smuggling or something like that, so young Jack Turner should deputise as long as he feels no ill effects after his morning game at Little League. As for outfield players, before TB speaks later its pretty much guesswork and paper talk as to who is fit for tomorrow. With quality signings providing cover and competition in pretty much all areas of the squad (although we can be pretty sure Conroy will start tomorrow…) I’m wondering whether its worth bothering to worry that much about it. Although we should get more of an idea of the starting lineup later in the day when TBs Friday update appears on the Official Site, one player definitely not featuring tomorrow as confirmed by the FAs Suspended Player List is one ‘Benjamin Judge’ due to him taking justice into his own hands at Weston. One bonus on the list (which can be found here http://www.thefa.com/TheFA/Disciplinary/SuspensionLists/PendingPlayers.htm) is that Trumpton late goal specialist Francis Quarm won’t be ruining my day when I check the Blue Square Updates on my phone at approximately 5pm. I had nightmares about ‘Hampton Quarm 90’ for a long time… Incidentally Trumpton are building a new stand to enable them to compete in the playoffs, so on our visit there next month we’ll be able to see exactly what you can make from scaffolding, Meccano and a few dozen remoulded buckets.

Away

Technically still in the playoff chase, yet fourteen points behind as I write albeit with a game in hand on the trio stuck on 64 points except for Hayes who they have two games in hand over. Even if they manage to repeat their 4-0 demolition tomorrow and win the games in hand, I still see an eight point gap being too much for the Wings to overturn, despite an easy run-in after tomorrow. Welling have shown a huge amount of promise this season and if they keep hold of top scorer Charlie Sheringham should be in a better position to challenge next season. Sheringham netted twice against the Dons at Park View Road in November although was dropped to the bench for last weeks game. Its at this point I am legally obliged to remind everyone that Charlies dad is the famous Teddy Sheringham, however I would add the only similarity so far between them is the high turnover of clubs, with Charlie spending his youth career hopping between Championship clubs before finding his was to Park View Road. Dons fans hoping to see more comedy from keeper Taylor after his gift in the corresponding fixture probably won’t be surprised to hear it was his last game for the club. This Welling team will certainly not be in the mood to give anything away so cheaply this time.

The Fans

Them – looking forward to it but being realistic in their expectations for travelling support, with figures of around a hundred being offered on their fans forum. You won’t be seeing them big up their support either like most other clubs at this level, neither will there be a strangely high turnout of Welling fans that most Welling regulars couldn’t recognise (pay attention Trumpton…). If they do manage three figures then that’s highly impressive for a club at this level as nearby Hayes only managed a third of that. Only Newport, Chelmsford and Bath have really impressed me with their support this season, though having said that we still haven’t had the pleasure of a visit from Team Tax, so beware the invasion come early April…

Us – 3500 minimum tomorrow, and that’s being conservative. The pull of a team looking to extend their lead at the top to twelve points, as well as the fear that it could be reduced to six and back into Trumptons hands, will hopefully be enough to tempt the ‘Pick & Choose’ brigade to turn up for the remaining four home games, and we could go close to capacity for Basingstoke and St Albans. Get there early tomorrow. Just in case.

Blue Square

Dons 1/2

Draw 11/4

Welling 9/2

As usual nothing for Dons fans to get excited over. The most promising price seems to be on the HT/FT market, with the very likely Draw/AFC Wimbledon currently 16/5. The Correct Score market seems to favour Dons winning 1-0 or 2-0 with 11/2 offered. Optimistic bet of the week is the 400/1 quoted for Welling to win 5-2, 6-0, or 6-1… so get your 20p’s on them as you’ll need cheering up if a disaster like that happens…

The Anonymous Opinion

For some reason I haven’t been worried about this one at all. I have it down as a nailed on home win. Perhaps its something to do with our home form being so good, we just don’t expect to drop points at TCRRFS. Perhaps the pre-match nerves will kick in come the morning, or on my way to the game? Dropping any kind of points tomorrow could be potentially disastrous depending how Trumpton get on against Chelmsford. We’ve seen in recent weeks how determined TB has been not to let this slip now, and the squad is too professional to allow this to happen. Newly added strength in depth will be more than enough to get us over the line, and an important step will be taken tomorrow. I’m going for 2-0 Dons, and after cursing poor Chris Hussey last week I’m playing it safe this time with both goals coming from Jon Main.

Come On You Dons.

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The Final Seven (The Run-In Previewed…)

Last summer, following the euphoria surrounding our dramatic playoff victory at Staines, opinion seemed to be pretty universal on how competitive we were expected to be this term. The word ‘consolidation’ was being bandied around more often than a lunchtime advert on Living TV. And consolidate we did, ensuring our league survival by Christmas. By then we had allowed our heads to be turned by a much bigger prize.

Promotion to the Conference National is so close I now can’t see us not playing there next season. Failure now could be our most painful experience as football fans. While the odds seem overwhelming, I always seem drawn to Hugh Everitt IIIsMany-worlds theory, which as a master wordsmith I could obviously explain to you simply myself, yet why should I bother when someone has already written on on Wikipedia for the layman. And as I am wearing the Wikipedia t-shirt I got for Xmas, I may as well just cut and paste that for you. It is defined as “there is a very large, perhaps infinite, number of universes and that everything that could possibly happen, or could possibly have happened, in our universe (but doesn’t) does happen in some other universe(s).”

Considering this, you can perhaps see why my bedroom ceiling has been examined at great detail as I lie awake at night pondering the implications. From the position we are in now, we should win the league in the majority of outcomes (assuming that Welling winning 13-4 or something ridiculous on Saturday is an outcome that could not possibly happen). I’ve always thought there was something a little funny about the world we exist in. For all we know we could be about to witness something unlikely. Something weird, like Chelmsford managing to clinch the title after appearing to throw it all away in February. If the unlikely happens, we will be picking up the pieces well into next season. Perhaps. Maybe I should stop being such a doom monger and just preview the games?

WELLING (HOME) 21st MARCH

The slayers of Trumpton head to The Meadow on Saturday looking for another scalp to reinvigorate their playoff hopes. I’ll be giving a comprehensive preview on Friday (just like last weeks comprehensive ‘effort’, haha!), but for now I predict a similar game to Hayes or Worcester. Tight, and 2-0

EASTLEIGH (AWAY) 28th MARCH

They’ve come a long way since their early season blips in August, getting tonked in consecutive away games at Bromley (1-5!) and St Albans (0-5!!!), and had really turned things around by the time they became the first and to date only team to win at TCRRFS in the league this season. Despite their easy looking run in they will probably fall well short of the title. May clinch second with a good run, but at the moment can relax slightly as they are pretty much nailed on to feature in the playoffs. A draw will be a fantastic result for both teams, so Ill go for 1-1, but expect Our Dons to be hanging on come the final whistle as Eastleigh press in an effort for the extra points from a win that will make them the only team to do the double over us this season.

TEAM BATH (HOME) 4th APRIL

Team Tax have been inconsistent recently, and appalling in their last few fixtures including crashing 0-3 at revival team Bognor. With results like that they could be effectively be playing out the season as their hopes at the moment are as small as their fanbase (whatever happened to the five thousand screaming knob-heads that turned up to that FA Cup game a few years ago? They should give every student a free season ticket, as not only would they get some kind of atmosphere but if they work out their attendance like we do they could get some cracking ‘crowds’ down there). TTwere something of an unknown quantity this season, and after shocking everyone withtheir start, slipped down the table as winter kicked in. While possessing some obviously talented players, you have to question whether Tax will ever have the strengthin depth to challenge for promotion from this league, and perhaps they have found their level. Yet one thing we have found out during our six year AFC adventure is there is nothing a player that normally plays in front of 200 likes better than having a good game against a club that pulls in 3000 every week. For that reason we must fear Tax turn up on a bad day for us and turn us over, as they have the potential to do so. However I have been impressed by the professionalism and battling qualities of our Dons this year, even during our recent poor form. This is the earliest we can win the league, and as I’ll be across the pond that day I suggest the likelihood of us winning it after this one as quite high, unless a few other Dons have booked holidays across the playoffs, in which case we won’t win it at all. My prediction… 1-0.

BASINGSTOKE TOWN (HOME) 10th APRIL

How long ago does it seem since our August trip down the mainline to the Town of Many Malls? Our fourth game and our fourth win was easier than the 1-0 scoreline suggested, it wasn’t hard then to see ‘Stokes season was going to be a struggle. Relegation seems to have been staved off by a run of decent results, leaving them clear and the survival hopes of the bottom three seem to have less life in them than Natasha Richardson at the moment. Either way a home game against a team at the bottom should never be a problem for a team gunning for the title, and I’m going for a 3-0 Dons win.

BROMLEY (AWAY) 13th APRIL

Ah! Our old friends Bromley! You remember them, from Ryman One, and that playoff semi-final two years ago? Whatever happened to them? They rolled up at TCRRFS on Bank Holiday Monday back in August as genuine rivals, boasting the likes of Nic McDonnell and Danny ‘You can’t afford me!’ Hockton. The large posteriored hit man Hocktonfound himself back at The Meadow on the end of a thumping with Braintree, with Hocktonmore interested on telling the John SmithStand what he’s been spending his extra £50 a week on. And with McDonnell taking a break from football its been down to ex-Sutton striker Warren McBean to bang the goals in, currently well behind in second place in the scoring charts to our own Jon Main. Inconsistency has been Bromleys problem this year, just not showing enough form for a play-off push, however they are going to pull out all the stops for the visit of their larger and more illustrious near neighbours (that’s us by the way). As its such an awkward place to go I’m sure of a high scoring draw, 2-2.

TRUMPTON NOT RICHMOND (AWAY) 18th APRIL

It could be all over by now, but if there’s anything left to play for Trumpton are going to give it their agricultural best when the Big Boys make the long three mile journey from the Metropolis to the village, almost doubling the population in the space of a few hours. Trumptons super-skinny squad should be absolutely knackered by this time, and I think it won’t be the close encounter many are suggesting. If the titles still on for them and they decide to play a more open game Trumptoncould seriously get stuffed if Wimbledon are in the mood. I’m going for 3-0 and the title if the villagers are still in contention, with a 1-0 Dons win should we have won it already.

ST ALBANS CITY (HOME) 25th APRIL

Its very likely that we will know our destiny by now, and our final game of the season could be a farewell to the Blue Square South, hopefully forever. If we need any kind of result the complexion changes and it becomes brown trousers time. Imagine if we need a draw to be certain and it was still 0-0 with ten minutes to go? It’ll be the longest ten minutes of our lives. Comfortable in mid table, the Stalebunscan play withno pressure, and could cause problems up against a nervy defence. If the league has been won by now it’ll be even worse, an end of season game played at zero pace, with the crowd tiring towards the end spending their time waiting for the trophy to be presented and the players running around in Blue Square We Are Going Up t-shirts. I won’t make any predictions on this one except whatever happens, we can guarantee the crowd is going to be over 4000. Then have to worry about crowds like that being the norm rather than exceptions for our first season back in a national league.

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