” The next station is… North Sheen. Please mind the gap between the platform and the train”. A fantastic public announcement, very informative, perhaps a better announcement might have warned that the train will be travelling at 40mph and the doors won’t open… this caught a couple of passengers on my train out as they whizzed past their destination. Fortunately I was heading off towards Clapham, Victoria then Bromley South. I was glad for no further interruptions than necessary.
Bromley… our old friends. As we all know Bromley is full of pikeys, and I have to say the fairground and drive tarmacing industries must be extraordinarily well paid ones to be in judging by the four and five bedroom pads on the road from the station. I did see some chavs though, although perhaps they were on their way to a fancy dress party, so ludicrous were their garments. Two of them had oversized basketball shots on with matching vests and Elizabeth Duke chains, as is de rigueur. Not a good look for pasty white boys, lads.
I felt confident on the walk, or at least I was trying to be, and arrived in good time to soak up the atmosphere. I had the feeling it was going to be our day. Wimbledon looked like they would take it from the start, yet the first half-chance fell Bromley’s way. A long ball was misjudged by Leberl, who slipped allowing Ali Chabaan with a clear run on goal. Fortunately the Bromley man panicked shooting wide from 30 yards when well placed to advance on goal. And it only took a few seconds for the Dons to strike back in style.
Some good pressure lead to a cross from the right bouncing kindly for Elliott Godfrey to volley with his left foot firmly past keeper Gareth Williams despairing dive. A wonderful start that sent the visiting hordes into raptures, Wimbledon spent the remainder of the half on the front foot. When Bromley attempted to go forwards it all went wrong for them. A short backpass from Leberl would have let Chabaan in had he not slipped, allowing the ball to safely run through to James Pullen.
But the Dons were fully in control, with Chris Hussey showing unusual amounts of confidence compared to recent performances, firing just wide from thirty yards, going even closer minutes later when flashing a free kick just over. Just before half time Danny Kedwell was sent clear by Hatton, chipping wide when he should have scored.
There was a sense of frustration among the fans that a second goal hadn’t come, not helped by the news Elliott Godfrey was forced to remain in the dressing room with a shoulder injury. This meant a debut (finally) for Lewis Taylor, a rare moment when one player with reversible names has replaced another. Taylor looked immediately impressive, chasing down balls with a purpose and hunger only a man who has missed nearly all this season could. It was almost as if he was trying to fit as much football as possible into this 45 minute cameo as he could.
Sadly it wasn’t enough for Wimbledon, as the other outfield players came out with the kind of lethargy that suggested they spent the break having a kip. Bromley produced a few shaky moments for the Dons back line before finding an equaliser through Ryan Hall. Despite strling efforts from Danny Kedwell, Wimbledon just couldn’t clear a succession of throws on their left flank, allowing Hall to stab past Pullen at his near post.
Bromley managed another clear cut chance a few minutes later after Leberl again misjudged a long, high through ball allowing Chabaan a clear run on goal. Fortunately Pullen managed to get strong hands on his challenge with the Bromley man, the ball running for a corner. As Wimbledon committed men forwards Bromley looked good on the break, from a Hussey corner straight into Williams arms, the keeper started a lightening breakdown the left before the ball made its way to Hall who could only hit the chance over with Pullen stranded.
It was around this time that Bromley decided to replace Ashley-Paul Robinson, so blown up he resembled an unfit Shane Small-King and apart from a few nice touches showed he definitely wasn’t ‘on dis ting’, in fact the only trial he’ll be getting this year will be for the towns Pie Eating Championship. This time last year he seemed to have a professional career at his mercy, and you had to wonder where it all went wrong (Facebook messages excepting) as top scorer Warren McBean took his place.
In the last twenty minutes it looked like the title or bust for Wimbledon, despite finally creating a chance when Kedwell, with one of his last inputs in the game, winning his header on the edge of the area finding Hatton, who cleverly flicked into Tony Finns path. The tricky forward, brought on after Brown appeared to sacrifice the midfield completely with the removal of Lee, seemed certain to score but just dallied slightly allowing a Bromley man in to block.
Much better from the Dons, but Bromley still looked more likely winners. Pullen had to make a low save from the luckless Chabaan, then beat out a fierce effort from McBean and touching wide when Hall found himself in a good position. And with ten minutes to go strong running from McBean saw his low cross-shot almost turned in at the far past by Hall, the ball just running slightly behind him.
There was no lack of effort by The Dons despite this, they had thrown all their chips on Win, having to defend for their lives and ride their luck slightly at the back. It all paid off in the last minute, when a Hussey corner pinged around the area before being poked in by substitute and debutant Rocky Baptiste, causing unbelievable scenes behind the goal. That it wasn’t to prove the winner is down to the controversy in the last minute. There has been a lot spoken already about the controversy, but here are the facts;
- Dons right back Jay Conroy went down in the box during injury time, subsequently diagnosed as a serious hand injury, not what the Bromley News Shopper (a ‘newspaper’, apparently…) described as ‘…an obvious timewasting tactic…’
- After trying to clear down the right flank, Bromley won the ball back but the move broke down, falling to Main, who could have turned and run at a tired Bromley defence, instead sending the ball out to allow Conroy treatment.
- After several minutes of treatment, with the referee adding on time, a Bromley player threw the ball to Ryan Hall. With Wimbledon players standing hand on hips, Hall shaped to send the ball back to keeper Pullen, instead blasting it mischieviously over Pullen, and seeing the ball bounce into the net off the post. I don’t for one second think Hall meant to do this, however once it went in, and he heard a few ironic cheers from the Bromley fans, and did a silly little dance celebration.
- The Wimbledon fans at this point were bemused rather than angry, and there was talk of who was going to score the walk-in.
- After much discussion between the two benches, it became apparent that Bromley were not going to allow the Dons to walk the ball in the net. It was only then that the mood turned ugly.
The Wimbledon players must be commended. At no point during the delay, when the Dons players would have known exactly what was going on, did any of them react to what most people would have regarded as extreme provocation. Neither did a Wimbledon player throw themselves down in the box when the urge of the referee, already snubbed in his attempt to force a walk-in, would have jumped at the chance to level things up. So who really is to blame?
Ryan Hall – Of course Hall didn’t mean to bang the ball into the top corner, but he could have made sure the ball went well away from the goal, kick it out for a throw, or simply roll it back to Pullen. His actions were childish, as were his half-hearted celebration, and he must accept some responsibility for this, as must partially every Bromley player on the field who knew what had happened was wrong but kept quiet.
Murray Jones – Ultimately Jones could have spared his teams blushes by ordering a walk-in, without the referee even needing to ask him. The Bromley assistant manager decided he wasn’t going to allow Wimbledon to score, as according to Stuart Cash on the Non-League Football Show, Jones had nearly been hit by a water bottle by Tom Davies. The obvious answer, Murray, would have been to have caught it, and got on with things, However Jones decided to take his own agenda from that point on, and as a supposed leader, a grown man, his actions were beyond defence.
Mark Goldberg – The Bromley manager picked up a horrific knee injury in a veterans game last Tuesday night – and for that my best wishes go out to him and I hope he has a speedy recovery – and it was very brave of him to hobble out into the dugout for the first half. When the incident took place, Goldberg was sat in the stand. Apparently he told Ivor Hellor after the game that if he had been on the bench he would have instructed his side to allow Wimbledon to score.
I don’t believe this for one second. I don’t believe the manager of the football club didn’t have any means of getting a message to his assistants; the game was held up for almost ten minutes, even if they had no mobile phone contact, Goldberg could have instructed a runner to tell Jones this. Alternatively, as Dave Anderson pointed out on the Non-League Show, he could have told his players himself simply by shouting at them.
Jerry Dolke/The Bromley FC Directors – Ultimately upholding the reputation of their club in a high profile gamne against a team they supposedly have a good working relationship with despite previous tensions, the Bromley Chairman could have easily moved during the long delay to override their manager and assistant, and if Dolke didn’t, surely one of the directors present must at some stage have thought ‘this isn’t right…’. Bromley are a club with a long history, but reputations are easily lost. Now some 24 hours after the game we have still had no official word from Bromley FC, despite the controversy that has blown up around them.
This doesn’t bode well for Bromley FC. With crowds down and the money running out, they need local fans to turn out. But how can they convince people to turn up when Bromley, on their big day, have shown that they cannot be trusted to play the game in the correct manner? Surely the Chairmen had advised his manager (in turn fed down to his assistants and the players) that the club had a code of conduct which must be respected in these situations? How do they expect to attract new players to bolster the squad against what could be a difficult season for them next term, when they know that its a free-for-all as far as the management are concerned.
Where do Bromley draw the line? Will they put a protective arm around a player who has ended another guys career with a shocking tackle or flying elbow? Will they stand up for players who commit criminal offences, drink-driving, assault, drugs?
There appears to be one of two things wrong in the Bromley boardroom; A lack of proper leadership meaning the club is now effectively a ‘muck-about’ team, or even worse, a great deal of jealousy towards AFC Wimbledon. It would be interesting to know how Bromley would have reacted had this incident happened against any other club. One thing it does point to the observer, neutral or otherwise – Bromley are certainly a club without honour.
Mr T Power (Referee) – While Power did everything by the book in terms of the restart following Conroys injury – adding the appropriate time and ensuring the player left the field of play – his complete lack of leadership once the goal went in showed he was out of his depth. Powers options were more wide ranging than most people think. As soon as the ball went into the net he could have stopped the game, booked Hall for Ungentlemanly Conduct, and restarted with a drop ball where Hall had struck his effort from. Similarly he could have approached Jones in the dugout and instructed him to have allowed a Wimbledon walk-in, or he would disallow the goal and book Hall.
Power had the, erm… power to do any of these things, he even had several minutes thinking time as to how he was going to act, knowing he could reverse his decision right up to the moment he blew for the game to restart. In only asking Jones and his captain to allow the walk-in, and letting them to reject this plea, he virtually admitted he had lost all control of the game, unfortunate for him had an assessor been in the stands.
As well as this, Powers linesmen, recognising their man was floundering, could have approached him to give advice – neither did. The officials have now set a precedent that it is only their responsibility to call fouls, singnal when the ball has gone out and when a player is offside. Surely they hold a moral duty to ansure sporting attitudes are upheld? They had the ability to do so here, and unfortunately for the game as a whole they failed to do so.
There have been a number of unsavoury claims put forward in the last day or so, claiming wrong-doing by Wimbledon players and supporters, all of which I will be answering in a follow up post later in the week. Some elements of the Bromley support are trying desperately to deflect attention from their clubs actions, unbelievable as that may be. I feel I have to pick through these allegations, it is my duty as a Wimbledon supporter to do so.
To finish, I will turn my attention back to the game, and the title we are now so close to. I recieved the match statistics this morning and was very surprised to see both sides had finished with seven scoring chances apiece, with the Dons having four on target to Bromleys three. Its easy to forget just how in charge Wimbledon were before the break, and should rue those missed chances that could have made the game safe. Those suggesting the Dons were lucky to remain on terms until the last minute will do well to remember there was no luck involved; Bromley missed their chances in the second half through poor finishing, as we had ours in the first period. That Wimbledon grabbed what should have been the winner in the last minute shows the fantastic will to win the team has, that they were robbed in such unfortunate circumstances will only make them more determind against Hampton on Saturday.
The title will be won with a point on Saturday, should we lose we have to match Hamptons result in the final game, earning at least a point in doing so (unless Eastleigh lose). The title is close. We can all smell it now. There is no nervousness anymore, just a determination that a wrong-doing needs to be corrected. For me its like a thirst I cannot quench. I want the title now. I wanted it on Monday. I shouldn’t have to wait any longer than Saturday.