Strange as it may sound, I left the stadium ever so slightly disappointed this evening… I wanted to hear Hawaii 5-0 over the tannoy! Although the habit of playing music after goals shouldn’t be encouraged I suppose… Not when we now seem to have kicked that one…
5-0 would have been hugely unfair on a spirited Salisbury team who made life difficult for Wimbledon despite the disadvantage of being down to ten men, and were only killed off by a couple of Dons goals in a mad final minute of normal time, when tiredness lead to a couple of individual errors.
On a lovely evening for watching football, Dons fans turned up in their droves for our first night game, and return after two tough games on the road. Again I missed kickoff, this time standing in a vast queue for season ticket holders, before realising that one of our group needed to pay cash and heading for the much shorter normal turnstiles. I only missed a couple of minutes and to be fair the game was just bedding in (so there are no excuses for a poor report today!).
And some people were still entering the stadium eleven minutes in, thankfully not missing a moment of brilliance by Luke Moore. He picked up the ball just inside the Salisbury half, ran towards goal, and as the Salisbury defence backed off let fly with a right foot shot from fully thirty yards out that curled away from the keeper and into the top right hand corner of the goal.
Now Luke Moore has been threatening to do something like that since he first pulled on a Wimbledon shirt, but this superb strike was just the beginning of as fine an individual performance as I can remember seeing over the past few years. Going forward, especially on the break, everything seemed to go through Moore. Moore however, was simply the cherry on the cake of a magnificent team performance.
Salisbury didn’t manage an effort on target all evening, their first chance falling on the quarter hour was blazed well over. The ball was immediately sent down field and some poor defensive positioning led to Jon Main finding the ball at his feet running through the left channel and into the box. Unfortunately Main hesitated when he could have shot immediately, and the chance was spurned.
Salisbury may have had problems at the back, but they still caused the Dons some problems going forwards, Matt Tubbs failing to finish a well worked move on the right with a clean strike, instead screwing wide of the near post from the edge of the penalty are on twenty minutes. This was the last shaky moment the Dons defence had in the first half, the remainder belonging almost completely to Wimbledon.
Luke Moore showed how he can create a chance from nearly nothing midway through the half, taking a ball out of the sky onto his chest before whipping a lovely ball across the face of the Salisbury goal. I can only imagine neither Main or Kedwell really expected to see such a quality ball arrive as neither of them were in a position to attack the ball. Once again it shouldn’t take long for either of them to click on to the way Moore plays, and sensing a low ball rather than hanging back to attack a high cross would have resulted in a tap in for either frontmen.
Ricky Wellard had been given the chance of a first start, and played well enough. The game seemed to pass him by at some points, yet he worked hard, once he gets up to speed in this division he could prove a great signing. On one occasion he did chose the wrong option, on 27 minutes when he found the ball at his feet thirty yards out and tried a Luke Moore type effort of his own. This sadly flew high and wide, when he could have taken an easier option by playing in Hussey down the left, who had been beating his man for fun. I don’t begrudge him choosing to strike at goal, the fact he felt the confidence to do so will benefit him the day he hits one and it does fly in.
In fact the only real weak link (and its arguable that we even had one) was turning out to be Jon Main. He doesn’t seem to be working on instincts at the moment. Whether it is the higher standard of defending, or he is just getting use to new team mates, I don’t know. But he seems to be short of confidence right now, shown earlier in the half and on the half hour mark when he was sent clear by a flick down the left. Held up by his man, he delayed playing the obvious ball to Moore, who was free inside him. This threw Moore slightly, to the point that when the ball arrived to him he seemed to have got there before it, causing him to stumble on striking and seeing the ball bobble wide of the left post.
Main was to curse his ponderous nature in the penalty area once more five minutes before half time. Moore slipped him in and clear on goal, yet once more he failed to pull the trigger early and found himself robbed of the ball by a fantastic last ditch challenge. Fortunately for the Dons, Sam Hatton was on hand to pick up the pieces, but he too elected not to hit it first time. Instead he cut back inside, taking the last defender out of play completely but also knocking the ball away from goal slightly, meaning when he reached the ball and shot with his left foot, keeper Bittner had closed him down, getting enough on the shot for it to loop up and bounce just wide of the left post.
If the Dons fans thought they saw entertainment in the first half, well they were in for a treat during the second… although not always for the purest of football reasons… The fun began in the 47th minute, well the fun began for everyone except Sean Clohessy – he had to be substituted with a rather nasty head injury. His replacement was every-ones favourite former Dons target man Danny Webb, now reborn as a defender at Salisbury (mind you, Danny did do a fantastic job of keeping the ball out of the net during his Wimbledon days….).
No sooner had Webb made his entrance than Jon Main almost made his exit prematurely. Picking the ball up on the half way line, perhaps a bit of his frustration came to a head as he overhit the ball and flew in over the top with both feet raised. Perhaps realising Main, as a forward, has absolutely no idea how to tackle, the referee showed leniency and only showed a yellow card. If the official had seen any kind of malice in the frontmans challenge however, the second half could have turned out a whole lot differently for Wimbledon.
One thing I have said recently about Main is at least he is finding himself on the end of goalscoring opportunities. A player who is perhaps unfairly cited as doing nothing for 89 minutes then scoring will find himself criticised for not hitting the back of the net. Yet if you watch him closely he does buzz around the oppositions back four, perhaps not winning possession himself too often but certainly pressuring defenders enough to hustle them into allowing our midfield to pick the ball up easier.
Yet like Kedwell, this is just the bare minimum we should expect from Main. Unlike Kedwell he doesn’t bring other players into the game and create chances almost out of nothing by sheer willpower alone. He showed these qualities to create Mains last contribution to the evening, picking up the ball wide right before beating his man, using his strength to hold him off before whipping in a decent cross. Main, just inside the area, could only direct it wide of the near post having throwing himself at the ball and perhaps getting a little too much on it.
As soon as was practically possible after the hour mark, Terry Brown made his usual change. Main found himself hauled off once more, and it is perhaps telling that the only time a substitution has worked in his favour was when he was brought on to change the game against Luton. Ricky Wellard was also sacrificed after an important hour of experience gained, replaced by Derek Duncan and Lewis Taylor to exploit the wide areas.
The changes seemed to spark Salisbury into life, and they spurned their best effort of the night. A free kick given following an immaculate Sam Hatton challenge was drilled just wide of the top right corner by an unidentified Salisbury man (hey… at least I’m honest about it…). Then came, from another freekick – this time from deep, a chance for Danny Webb, attacking the ball from the left side of the area and knocking a looping header just wide of the right post.
Just as it seemed Salisbury were about to gain a foothold on the game, they fell apart in the 70th minute. As their defence pushed forward, a Derek Duncan through ball saw Luke Moore rush clear, round Bittnerbefore being cut down by the goalkeeper. A penalty, but maybe worse for the visitors was the referee chose not to ignore this particular red card offence. Salisbury are running with a very small squad at the moment, so a substitute goalkeeper wasn’t an option.
Instead, to the delight of the vast midweek crowd, Danny Webb took the gloves and jersey (slightly too small jersey) and stood up to Danny Kedwell. The Dons hitman hit a penalty way too good for Webb, who perhaps found himself a little dazzled by the situation, watching the ball fly low and hard to his right. 2-0 Wimbledon, and at that stage it seemed as though a Luke Moore driven Dons could get any number of goals in the last twenty minutes.
Instead Salisbury regrouped, and were professional about the task in hand. In fact they looked the better side for periods in the last twenty. Wimbledon grew frustrated, chasing shadows, Lewis Taylor needlessly booked for a late challenge, and Derek Duncan was penalised for a strong challenge with his elbow raised to the opponents head – once more if the referee had seen this from a different angle he may have chosen to punish Duncan slightly more than just issuing a free kick against him.
Webb’s big moment came on 82 minutes. Another Kedwell run down the right lead to him knocking a tantalising cross low across the six yard box. Taylor missed it at the near, but it looked odds on Hatton would slam it home at the far a la his Wycombe Cup goal last season. However Webb got over brilliantly to keep out his left foot effort, as Wimbledon fans started to feel perhaps they wouldn’t be seeing any more goals on this occasion.
After a period of further frustration, which saw Ben Judge flash an effort from 30 yards low across the face of goal and just wide of the left post, Wimbledon added to their tally in the last minute of normal time. A hopeful Duncan ball over the top found Kedwell, who spun past his man perhaps a little too easily. Against a regular goalkeeper his heavy second touch would have been picked up, but Webb looked like a small animal caught in the headlights of a juggernaut, too late moving forward and allowing Kedwell to stab across him into the far corner for his fourth of the season.
Almost from the restart, and as the fourth official was preparing to show stoppage time on the board, Moore robbed a Salisbury man, ran on and tucked the ball seemingly through Webb and into the back of the net. Finally Wimbledon had made the most of their man advantage, and lack of experience between the sticks.
There was time for another scare to the Salisbury goal as a Ben Judge up and under spilled out of Webb’s hands and onto his head, somehow remaining there for what seemed like several seconds as he spun on the spot trying to locate it. He finished this circus trick by recovering and gratefully clutching the ball. It almost finished on a huge downer for the Dons, as Kedwell pulled up in the corner as if he had strained something – he managed to walk off albeit gingerly, raising hopes that perhaps all was not as bad as Wimbledon heads may fear.
Positive thinking may be what is required from Dons fans – 24 hours later there is no news on the injury (although I have heard that’s supposed to be good news…). Yet losing Kedwell will be like playing with ten men at the moment. While Moore and Taylor are equally strong at holding the ball up and bringing others into play, neither has the extra dimension of being an aerial outlet. Plus with or without Kedwell, Saturdays trip to Altrincham will be tough. We must see three points from places like this as a bonus rather than an expectation, which brings home the importance of decent home form.
Wimbledon added to their tally tonight, and did so in style. If clubs like Salisbury can be dispatched with such minimal fuss, we aren’t going to have any worries. In fact, some people have already started to talk of the playoffs – a little too early perhaps, but as I have said previously, we do not need to fear failure… or ambition. In fact, a little bit of expectation may not be a bad thing for our young side to experience right now…