I managed to see Wimbledon win in the Conference Premier! Well, 55 minutes or so of it… and we will win again at some stage. But at least I can say I was there when the final whistle blew on our first victory in this division.
As I said yesterday, when Danny Kedwell put Wimbledon a goal up I was still on the coach, following numbing traffic at Hampton Court and the M25. The whole coach incident will be dealt with in my follow up post tomorrow, but its safe to say I was in a kerfuffle when I managed to gain entry to the ground, my stress levels not helped by watching the Dons play out the last few minutes under pressure…
I don’t know why, but I felt like an interloper, joining my fellow supporters so late. I had no way of knowing what mood to expect, I could never expect to be filled in on what happened to the level of detail I require by questioning a random supporter.
The ground itself looked and felt different to how I expected. For example, even before I managed to get in I could hear the Wimbledon fans vocally dominate (and due to the absence of any stewards we went the wrong way and had to pass behind the home end). For some reason I th9ught any noise we did make would dissipate into the air, but the Dons fans made themselves heard and deserve a lot of credit for that.
I was pleasantly surprised when the second half kicked off (late, thanks to the officials taking their time returning… I think they only did it to experience what it was like to be cheered onto the field… albeit ironically) to see the Dons really going for it, and playing some great football as well that earned them a couple of early corners.
Kettering were restricted to half chances, the best of which saw Patrick Noubissie drill wide of Jamie Pullens left post. In fact by far the most popular activity during the start of the second half involved verbally reminding Lee Harper, the Kettering goalkeeper, of his Franchise links. As for Jon Main, well I have no idea how he played, but he did work very hard for the first quarter hour of the game until he was replaced by Derek Duncan on the hour.
I frequently wonder why Terry makes substitutions like this precisely on the hour… are they pre-planned? Does he tell Main he might need to bring him off on the hour, so the player knows he only has fifteen minutes until his shift finishes. This particular substitution involved tweaking the system slightly, so you have to wonder how Terry Brown would have reacted had Kettering scored at the start of the half?
However it was Wimbledon who increased their lead on 66 minutes. Another really good move down the right lead to Jay Conroy bursting into the box on the right side… conveniently right in front of me… only to be bundled over before he could deliver a ball in. The referee, despite having a great view, still wasn’t prepared to give it. As I prepared to unleash my rage on him, he finally pointed to the spot, but only after being told to do so by his linesman.
Now, Kettering manager Cooper has been moaning to the press that this was a ‘soft’ penalty, that he felt the referee should have made up for later (we’ll get to that in a minute…). I’m sorry, but we saw what appeared to be a pair of soft penalties last week against Luton turn out to be complete stonewallers upon viewing them back. All I can say is perhaps Cooper might want to watch the video back before he moans about this one.
Danny Kedwell stepped up in a manner that suggested he was never going to miss, and indeed he did blast it to the right of Harper, with the rotund shotstopper having guessed the wrong way. The celebrations after showed a team who knew the importance of the second goal… yet perhaps betrayed their belief that it had put them out of sight of Kettering.
Immediately after the restart it could well have been. Duncan and Hussey worked well down the left (and how many times have I written that already this season?), which lead the Hussey cutting inside and trying to stab the ball past Harper with the outside of his left boot, the keeper read his intentions and got down to his left quickly.
Wimbledon let Kettering back in the game with about a quarter hour to go, as a ball knocked into the area seemed destined to be heaved clear by Hatton. He swung his boot on it, certainly got something on the ball, and appeared surprised as anyone to see it bounce off him to Poppies substitute Danny Thomas who stabbed past Pullen.
Thomas had another great chance to level it with less than ten minutes to go (sorry about the approximate timing by the way… my mobile/stopwatch ran out of juice on the way up…), when he got the better of Hussey and drilled just over. By this stage Wimbledon were looking tired in body and mind, Lewis Taylor in particular showing how tiredness affects decent footballers.
Ben Judge had come on for his first appearance of the season in place of Brett Johnson, finding himself up against Kettering giant and Southampton target Exodus Geohaghon, who had predictably been thrown up front (and this is a desperate tactic that almost never works… I mean what was Cooper expecting to happen? If he really thought it was a decent tactic then Geohagheon would be leading the line every week…).
During the last couple of minutes of normal time it was actually Wimbledon who looked more like scoring. Lewis Taylor attacked down the right, saw he had no support, so cut inside and drilled over and wide of the left post. Then following a world class block at one end by Paul Lorraine, the ball found its way to Danny Kedwell to twist and turn his way into the box for a deserved hat trick, taken from him only by a brilliantly timed challenge by Ketterings James Jennings.
Kettering had the desperate look of a side who were about to lose and knew it, yet still managed a couple of unconvincing penalty shouts during the four minutes of stoppages. Led of course by their cheerleader general Mark Cooper, Kettering have obviously been watching too many Manchester United circa 1995 videos judging by their desire to surround the ref for no apparent reason.
Cooper even had the cheek, as previously mentioned, to moan about it afterwards. In fact his comment to the press, something along the lines of ‘you expect to be given penalties at home in that kind of situation’ is laughable to the point you actually understand the only reason he said it was to take a bit of pressure away from himself after a home defeat.
As I mentioned in my pre-match preview (which eventually wasn’t finished, so I admit none of you would have read – it’s been a bad weekend…) Kettering and their supporters seemed a little overconfident coming into this game, with comments along the lines of them needing to beat ‘sides like Wimbledon’.
Eventually the final whistle came, much to the delight of Dons fans who had to endure a final two minutes where Wimbledon refused to leave a man outside the box to take pressure off the constant barage of high balls into the box. In fact we even saw Jamie Pullen punching clear of his opposite number (who was able to stay in our area due to the lack of threat Wimbledon posed at that stage.
The win puts us level on points with the likes of Kettering and our next victims opponents Salisbury City. So all in all, not a bad start. Yet with some tough home games over the next month or so, it was an important three points to pick up.