The Dons fantastic start has increased my expectations to such an extent that coming out of the ground yesterday, I couldn’t help feel slightly disappointed we hadn’t stolen the game in the second half. Yes, at half time I had given up hope of seeing any points, especially when I saw the two substitutions as the players came back out.
But we Dons have been spoilt by our team, as I have said before. And Tamworth really didn’t look anything special, which perhaps sums up our poor first half performance Plus some moronic MK chants from a section of the Tamworth support really made me want the lads to ruin their day with a winner.
It had started off, erm, cold. Tamworth is a grim looking place, with the stadium stuck on what looked like a piece of waste ground. They have done their very best to turn it into a Conference standard stadium though, aside from a horrendous slope from left to right (as seen from the away end). On the whole the locals were friendly (ignoring the MK stuff), yet a piece in their programme bemoaned the lack of locals turning up to watch the team, spending equivalent amounts of money watching games in local pubs.
The addition of a few hundred extra supporters and the money they will bring is probably all Tamworth need to stabilize as a Conference club. Not that they will have many problems staying up this season, especially after the start they have made this term.
The Dons fans travelled in their numbers once more, packing out the admittedly small away section and visitors seats, with a few more in the home section of the stand boosting numbers slightly above the 645 that officially entered. You wonder how Tamworth will cope when Luton arrive, with numbers in four figures rather than the high threes, yet the same could be said of a number of clubs – perhaps ourselves included.
Wimbledon fielded a slightly weakened starting lineup, with Luke Moore at the top of the diamond. No Derek Duncan meant Kenedy Adjei kept his place, moving to the left side of midfield, with Hatton and Gregory completing the quartet. It seems Steven Gregory had suffered a family bereavement during the week, for which the players wore black armbands in respect, and he showed a great deal of bravery stepping out for the team on an occasion when no Dons fans would have begrudged him spending time with his family instead.
Defensively, no Judge or Lorraine meant a first start this season for Alan Inns at centre half. As usual Jamie Pullen took his place between the sticks, yet unbeknown to us supporters was carrying an injury that he picked up during the warm-up, something that may have played a part in his erratic first half performance.
The players took the field to the strains of ‘Let Me Entertain You’, which was cringeworthy enough to provoke groans from Dons fans around me. That, and the overenthusiastic PA man, are a curse seemingly every club in provincial towns up and down the country seems to have fallen for, capped by the local village idiot parading round in full Tamworth kit and a lambs head (and since when have lambs taken to wearing keepers gloves?).
Wimbledon looked uncomfortable right from kickoff. Maybe it had something to do with the slope, or the changes made to the team, either way it didn’t look like it was going to be our day at all. Nick Wright created Tamworth’s first chance for himself on three minutes, cutting inside Alan Inns before guiding a tame effort into Pullens arms. It should have been a wake up call for the Dons, but just lead to more chaotic defending and misplaced passes.
Wright has been called up to the forthcoming England C squad along with team mate Alex Rodman, and it was Rodman that spurned the Lambs next chance, mishitting his right foot effort that still beat a scrambling Pullen, rolling just wide of his left post. I have to say, despite Rodman and Wright causing us problems today, if they are the England C benchmark then the likes of Luke Moore and even Sam Hatton should consider themselves unlucky not to have received a callup.
It seemed only a matter of time before either Wimbledon sorted themselves out defensively or Tamworth took advantage, and sadly it was the latter. A throughball was heading back to Pullen, and although he seemed in control of the situation, Jake Sheridan was chasing up to put pressure on the Dons keeper. Pullen seemed to have made his mind up to pick the ball up, yet at the last moment changed his mind and kicked it.
Maybe if Pullen hadn’t been thinking of his injury he might have realised the ball was on the edge of the area, and if he had just dropped on it and smothered then he could have made the best of a bad job. Instead his kick cannoned off Sheridan and flew in the bottom right corner of the net. On another day it would have flown out for a goalkick, but following our early season good fortune our luck seems to be turning after Oxford somehow escaped Kingsmeadow with the points last week.
Wimbledon finally created a chance on the quarter hour. Some persistent play by Jay Conroy saw him work a shooting opportunity from twenty-five yards, but his firmly hit strike flew straight into Tamworth keeper Danny Alcock’s arms. At the time, Conroy had just resumed full back duties after a spell at centre half after Alan Inns had to leave the field following a nasty gash to his head.
Unfortunately although Inns would gladly stick his head into a cement mixer if it meant there was a chance of defending the Dons goal, he isn’t made of stone (we probably forget that sometimes, and Inns himself definitely does…). A patched up Innsy returned to the field sporting a replacement or his bloodied shirt and a huge head bandage. And it only took one more commanding header to see that bandage slip off.
Really Inns should never have returned to the field. I would imagine his insistence to return was probably the reason he did, although he didn’t give the impression that he really knew where he was. There was always a danger he could have seen Tamworths red shirts, thought he was back playing for Trumpton and started challenging Dons players in the air. Innsy was eventually removed from the action, to a rousing reception from the Dons fans and good appreciation from the Tamworth supporters – despite the chanting later which was only from a minority of fans, it was good to see the majority of them know bravery from a footballer when they see it.
Lewis Taylor replaced him, with Sam Hatton moving back to fullback and Jay Conroy at centre half once more. Conroy really impressed me after the switch. He is a brilliant fullback, but has a defensive brain that he could probably apply to any defensive position. Knowing Jay can play this position must be a huge boost to Terry Brown, who seems to have run out of centre halves after having four at the start of the season.
Despite this setback things started to look up for the Dons, a short spell of pressure followed featuring our best chance of the half, a scuffed Kennedy Adjei strike seemed to be completely misjudged by Alcock who just watch it rebound of his right post and back into open play. Then on the half hour Gregory found space to fire a shot that seemed destined for the bottom left hand corner until Alcocks last minute intervention diverted it round the post.
Both sides played out the remainder of the half with some pretty shocking football. I’m not sure either side had any excuses, the Dons just couldn’t get their passing game going and were relying on long balls to Kedwell which may have been more effective if they were directed anywhere near the frontman. The players must have taken a small amount of hope from the fact their hosts were only slightly better than them, and you got the impression that if they could just get it together there still might be a way back into the game for them.
Not that it looked likely, especially following the use of both remaining substitutes during the interval. Pullen was removed from action having suffered a shocker (including being mocked by the Tamworth goalkeeping coach… obviously big Jamie wasn’t actually there to witness this, the guy being a coward and all…), being replaced by Sebb Brown.
Regular readers will know Browns performances in what should have been his trial period left me with little faith in the kid, and when he signed I promised to back him 100%… well I never expected him to actually get onto the pitch! Fortunately all Sebb had to do was the one thing he appeared quite good at during his trial period – kicking the ball clear.
Steven Gregory was also replaced by Elliott Godfrey. Gregory hadn’t actually had too bad a game. He gave the ball away a couple of times, but there probably wasn’t a Dons player on the pitch who hadn’t also. I can only imagine he had been affected by recent problems more than he thought he would.
Naturally with all the changes I saw the best case scenario as keeping the score down, and maybe notching a consolation goal that kept our hopes up until settling for a battling defeat. Yet, something clicked. Wimbledon immediately started looking dangerous. The ball found its way to Hatton on the right, who somehow worked space for a cross down by the corner flag. It was a delightful ball that found Danny Kedwell in plenty of space to guide his header across Alcock and into the far corner.
It certainly sparked the Dons fans into life (although the support was already pretty impressive, just perhaps a little resigned to our fate). The Dons were looking good but still in danger of being caught on the counter, Michael Blackwood striking straight at Brown. Then Wimbledon levelled the scores thanks to Kedwell again. A brilliant Hussey corner found Kedwell, who had lost his marker and had the easiest job of slamming his header into the back of the net.
I have to say I’m really proud for Danny Kedwell right now. When he joined last year he started with a flood of goals, before finding he was better at creating goals than scoring them. After that he seemed lose his scoring touch a bit, and he was never prolific at this level with Grays, so to see him second in the scoring charts right now is a pleasant surprise to us all. Maybe he won’t bang them away as frequently as he is now for the rest of the campaign, but by then perhaps our midfielders will discover their goalscoring touch…
If either side was going to win this game, Wimbledon now looked the more likely. Kennedy Adjei blazed an effort over seconds later. Then on the hour Sam Hatton found a shooting opportunity from a tight angle on the right, but couldn’t find the target. Elliott Godfrey found Lewis Taylor on the right who cut inside two defenders before lifting over and wide. Of course, perhaps it was better that none of these efforts made their way towards goal for fear a midfielder might actually score this season…
Luke Moore doesn’t count. He may have topped the diamond today, but his two strikes against Salisbury were both notched while supporting Kedwell up front. Today from his midfield position he couldn’t hit a milk producing animal with a medium sized stringed instrument. He lead an incisive break from his own half, and as the Tamworth defence backed away could only drag his shot from twenty yards wide of the left post.
Wimbledon had to stay switched on at the back, particularly to defend their inexperienced keeper. Jay Conroy in particular pulled of a couple of magnificent last gasp challenges to prevent Tamworth players a shot on goal. It was this type of danger that prevented the hosts from really threatening the Dons goal, although they did have a lot of possession as the game wore on.
Mostly it was wasted, the ball returned to a Dons player, and on a couple of occasions we saw a promising Wimbledon break halted early thanks to some quite cynical challenges. These drew yellow cards from the referee, but succeeded in negating the threat of these potential counter attacks.
Wimbledon have been awarded a few penalties already this season. The reason for this has been our speed of movement in the opposition penalty area, and outstanding close control confusing defenders, drawing fouls. While not all of those awarded this season have been clear cut, all of them were earned and deserved.
The problem is I don’t believe referees actually like giving penalties. Even the guy at Grays really didn’t want to give them, we got two because they were so obvious the linesmen were able to confirm what he had seen yet didn’t give the third – the most obvious of the lot. Perhaps the official who took charge of yesterdays games had noticed this statistic? He certainly didn’t seem to want to give us one at Tamworth.
Firstly, Elliott Godfrey burst into the box at pace, only to find himself dumped on the ground thanks to both of his legs being removed from under him. I have to say I wasn’t expecting a penalty to be given, it was borderline whether the offense was inside or outside of the area so thought the referee might give the benefit of the doubt and give a free kick. However he decided on this occasion he had seen a dive, and booked a clearly shocked Godfrey.
The second one was maybe more clear cut. Lewis Taylor weaved his way into the area only to be bundled over. This time the referee allowed play to continue. I’m not sure what he thought he saw, but he can’t have seen this as a Taylor dive as no yellow was forthcoming. So what then? Did Taylor just fall over? Or is body checking an opponent now a legal challenge, even when the ball is nowhere near?
It was around this time we heard those MK chants. As I said previously, not all Tamworth fans were a bad bunch, but still couldn’t they self police? After all, as I have said before if any Dons fan acts like a dick around me I don’t have a problem (kindly) bringing it up with them where necessary. The MK chants signal a lack of class, self respect even. It’s pure jealousy, and the majority of Tamworth fans don’t deserve being tarred with that particular brush.
While we are on the subject of Them by the way, it was great to see they threw away the lead at home to Huddersfield on Saturday. I’ve always liked Huddersfield, even more so as one of their supporters chose to come and support us rather than enter the Winkiedome. That’s another reason why Tamworth were ill advised taking the MK option (after all I’m sure there must be other, more original, chants that might hurt us equally badly…), that is that neutral eyes don’t look kindly on it either…
The game ultimately petered out in a serious of attacks and counter-attacks from both sides that threatened much and delivered little. Wimbledon failed to strike the killer blow when they had the momentum, but its was a fantastic effort to take a point from a game Tamworth didn’t deserve to lose due to their organisation and persistence in the first half.
Wimbledon now head into a free week, undoubtedly we shall drop a few places while the rest of the Conference have a full match week, and return to action against Cambridge next week looking to complete the visit of a trio of big hitters with a win against a side bang on form after destroying Forest Green 7-0 at the weekend.