I made the mistake of reading the report Sam Elliott wrote in todays NLP before writing this. I normally avoid all reports of the game until I have completed mine, but as the NLP has a wider audience it has to cater for I thought, what the heck! And it was a good job I did, as it appears Sam had read my mind and gone for the ‘Two Leading Scorers Involved In Goalless Draw Shocker’ angle. So I best steer clear of that…
The other angle I was looking at that does deserve comment in this little introduction is the performance of our rookie backup keeper Sebb Brown. As those of you who stuck with me through pre-season will know, I had little faith in Brown during his trial period, and was amazed Terry signed him on a contract. Yet despite having three excellent goalkeepers at the club we did need someone to act as cover, as big Andy Little won’t be fit until December at the earliest and Brown T has made it clear that our promising reserve keeper Jack Turner needs another season or two in the reserves until he gets thrown in at the deep end.
Naturally I was worried about Brown S being trusted with his first start, although there was little choice in the decision. Turner really doesn’t have the experience, and Sebb was presumably signed on a short term contract until Little is back. I would imagine that Brown T saw him as the best available with the money he had left in the budget, after all there were much better keepers who would have been prepared to sit on our bench, albeit for a price…
So how did young Sebb get on? He must have done ok, as he kept a clean sheet right? I will answer this question at the end of this match report, which is coming up… well, now.
The visitors created the first opportunity of the game as Robbie Willmott found space in the left channel and fired over from twenty yards. The Dons responded with some crisp passing football which lead to Chris Hussey finding Ricky Wellard in space, and once the promising midfielder had got the ball from under his feet he blasted just over the top corner.
The game was only four minutes old at this stage, and seemed likely to pan out as the script had suggested. Yet an example of the brilliant defending that kept the Dons clean sheet in tact was about to occur. A Cambridge forward to a shot that was blocked, however Brown had reacted to the shot and found himself lying helpless on the floor. Another (unidentified) Cambridge player found the ball at his feet with the whole of the near post to aim at on the right side of the area, yet delayed slightly. As supporters in the John Smiths stand prepared to take a sharp intake of breathe as the ball hit the Dons net, Brett Johnson came out of nowhere to divert the effort away for a corner.
Johnson went on to claim the sponsors Man of the Match award, and rightly so despite some stiff competition from the rest of the back line. I have been very impressed with Johnson since his summer move from Brentford. He complements Paul Lorraine well, and although Lorraine may take the plaudits for being pretty much unbeatable both in the air and on the ground, Johnson is also a rock at the back yet combines this with an excellent football brain that puts him almost in optimum position to clear any danger with minimal fuss time and again.
Cambridge obviously came with a game plan that involved putting pressure on the young keeper, especially at set plays. Unfortunately this also involved a number of occasions when free-kicks were, erm, ‘earned’ by the visitors who had a number of players displaying great fondness for the Kingsmeadow turf. While these came in dangerous positions they were expertly dealt with by a Dons back line intent on protecting their vulnerable custodian.
There was nothing the Dons defence could do seventeen minutes into the half, however, as Brown attacked an overhit long ball before realising it would sail over his head. Danny Crow had the jump on both the retreating Brown and Paul Lorraine, yet after deciding to control the ball before slotting home from an angle he somehow contrived to allow Lorraine back in to challenge, not even winning a corner for his troubles.
For the second time in the game the Dons were able to breathe a sigh of relief after Cambridge fluffed their lines, yet both chances came with an element of luck rather than intensive Cambridge pressure (professionally won free kicks disregarded). The Dons showed they wouldn’t be allowing their playoff rivals the run of the game (lets face it, Oxford should ease away with their headstart…) with some consistent pressure for the remainder of the half.
Hussey in particular was causing Cambridge some concern down the left. Yet it was fellow survivor of the Ryman days Sam Hatton who created the next opportunity from this flank, whipping over a deep ball from a freekick that found Kedwell at the far post. Yet the Dons top scorer was given too much to do with a defender in close attendance and could only guide his header over the bar.
A moment later Luke Moore floated a dangerous looking ball towards Derek Duncan that was well intercepted by a Cambridge man and sent out for a corner. The eventual flag kick was part cleared only as far as Wellard, who scuffed a shot that trundled through a crowd of players before bobbling wide of the right post.
The Dons were really turning the screw on the visitors as just seconds later Luke Moore brilliantly blocked an attempted clearance allowing him a run on goal from the left touchline. Moore squared for Hatton waiting at the far post for a simple finish, yet somehow a Cambridge defender was on hand to turn the ball away.
Sam Hatton drifted a freekick right-of-centre wide of the left post later in the half, but it was still the diving ways of certain Cambridge players that was upsetting Terry Brown the most, at one point during injury time he yelled ‘Your just giving them the game!’ towards the official after yet another tame freekick was given the visitors way.
At half time we were treated to the spectacle of a Womble and a Moose firing penalties at each other. I couldn’t tell if it was a European Moose or one of the Eastern Moose that I’m used to seeing on my regular trips to New Hampshire, but either way I didn’t realise they were also natives of Cambridgeshire… I’ll be sure to check out the ‘Brake For Moose’ signs that undoubtedly surround the roads heading towards the Abbey Stadium. Having said that, back in June I wrote this…
As well as this they have something called Marvin The Moose as their mascot, who according to their website wears ‘oversized antlers and preposterously large boots’ – make sure they bring him to Kingsmeadow then as it sounds as though he could be someone Haydon could actually beat in a penalty shootout!
Whether Haydon did in fact win the shootout I don’t know, largely because, for the second game running, the John Smith Stand regulars were treated to a shower as the pitch watering hose thingy came off its attachment and sprayed water over a large group, shooting upwards like a geyser. Still, it washed away the lingering smell of piss… and its been a while since I had a shower myself…
Back on the pitch, Martin Ling must have emphasised the need to keep the pressure on young Brown. Whether the Cambridge players took this a little too literally or the instruction came from the manager himself we will never know, yet directly from kickoff the ball was rolled to Danny Crow who fired an effort that dropped out of the sky towards te top corner. Sebb looked like a small animal in the glare of a trucks headlights as he positioned himself under it, requiring a last minute lung to the right to tip it over, colliding with the post as he did so.
My first comment about this is why Crow required a rolling ball to strike rather than just hitting it from a dead position. Its been a few years since the rules have changed and I can’t think of anyone who as scored direct from a restart since then, so you would think Crow might have tried his luck at that record while trying. Surely its easier to hit a dead ball anyway?
Secondly it led to a spell of pressure by Cambridge straight from the off. A couple of corners had to be cleared before the Dons could get in the game. Perhaps if you had a couple of players who could consistently hit a ball on or around the crossbar it might not ba a bad way of starting a half. It certainly beats whacking the ball out for a throw as far into opposition territory as you can…
Wimbledon struck back as a Sam Hatton flick-on sent Jay Conroy behind on the right flank. Conroy laid an intelligent ball across the six yard box which was just missed by a sliding Luke Moore, who could only get his studs on the ball and divert it wide.
It took another ten minutes or so until we saw the games next chance as the chance ratio went quiet for a little while. It took Cambridge centre-half Wayne Hatswell to shake the game from its slumbers, as he moved forward and hit one from distance. Unfortunately for the visitors the ball ended up high in the Tempest, but it did spur the visitors into action to actually get the ball in the net a couple of minutes later.
Well, I say put the ball in the net, but the effort barely deserved the tag ‘disallowed goal’ as the linesman had his flag up well in advance, and the Dons defence seemed to have stopped such was the extent of the offside. Still, the referee seemed to run towards the half way line vaguely pointing towards the centre circle (or was it for a free kick to the Dons). Eventually he ran to his assistant, strangely doing so backwards and not looking at his colleague until he was next to him.
It was at this stage that experienced Dons watchers such as myself started to worry. Despite the obvious illegitimacy of the effort, it wouldn’t have been beyond belief that this particular refereewould award the goal. He eventually signalled for a free kick in a manner that suggested he was trying to let us know the delay wasn’t caused by him losing the plot, he just did things like this sloooowwwwwlyyyyyy.
He was back up to speed before too long, and the Dons management team were getting frustrated by Danny Kedwell. They were under the belief that the official would start giving fouls the Dons way sooner rather than later to redress the balance. The problem was the big forward wasn’t getting into positions to receive the ball in order to be fouled. It was a different Kedwell we saw in the second half, making us wonder whether someone had dropped something into his tea during the break.
It could have been substitute Ross Montgomery, the most likely player to replace Kedwell. Either way Terry Browns regular sixtieth minute substitution involved Wellard being removed for Lewis Taylor to add some width down the right. In the sixty-seventh minute came the dons hallelujah moment, a free-kick awarded in a good position on the right flank.
Hussey delivered an inswinger deep towards the far post. U’s keeper Danny Potter strayed towards the ball before deciding against it, and found himself out of position as Lorraine got round the back and nodded the ball over him. With no keeper between the sticks Johnson got up to meet the ball from six yards out but under pressure, and with players on the line, could only direct it over the bar.
It probably counted as Wimbledon’s best chance of the game so far, but more chances were to follow. Another Hussey free-kick found its way to Johnson who could only flick well over the bar. Yet Cambridge were creating as well, a U’s forward seemingly having a clear shot on goal until the King of Blocks himself, Jay Conroy, threw himself in front of the ball.
This lead to a bit of a scramble during which Cambridge’s Jai Reason did himself no favours, firstly by throwing himself unconvincingly to the floor, then chasing Derek Duncan after the Dons forward had tried to help him up (admittedly by yanking him by his shirt until it got stuck over Reasons head…) and pushing him with some force. Of course the referee had apparently seen none of this, despite cautioning Johnson and Moore early on for nothing challenges, this assault proved unworthy of the referee’s attention.
Brown T had finally seen enough on seventy-three minutes and decided to introduce Ross Montague. It was Danny Kedwell who found himself withdrawn after seeing himself increasingly cast as an onlooker as the game had progressed. Montague looks a similar type of target man to Kedwell, despite not looking as though he is as good in the air as the Dons top scorer he still gave the impression of being the sort of player who doesn’t mind receiving the ball with his back to goal, feeding team-mates.
He was in the action straight away launching a break, and while his shot was blocked the ball fell nicely for Lewis Taylor on the right, who could only drag his shot across goal and wide of the left post. Luke Moore was the next to come close, as he found space in the left side of the area but could only drill low straight at Potter.
Browns last throw of the dice saw Derek Duncan replaced by Jon Main, looking to exploit the tiring Cambridge defence. With five minutes to go Mains persistance won a corner on the right. Hussey hit his usual inswinger, met at the near post by Sam Hatton whose flicked header flew across the goal and drifted wide of the far post, with no Dons forward on hand to turn the ball in.
Then with about ten minutes to go Montague fed a well weighted ball into the path of Luke Moore, setting him free down the left. Moore’s first touch was heavy, giving Potter the chance to close him down, and in the end Moore had to stretch to reach the ball first, seeing it bobble off the keeper and roll away with Moore still on the deck following his effort.
The Dons final chance came after a scare in their own box, with Hatswell firing over. A free-kick was awarded on the left in prime Sam Hatton territory. Hatton had been the victim of some abuse from a guy standing near me who I identified early on. He had a cap on which I think was hiding ginger hair, a wispy beard and… looked like he had never kicked a ball in his life. So I was all ready to get right up in his face when the ball flew into the top corner (as has previously been discussed on a certain guest book, he pays his money to spout this crap, therefore I have the right as a paying customer to lay into him if I chose to…).
Unfortunately Sam blazed over. Which kind of summed the game up. And in the very unlikely event that Sam reads this, I can’t really stand up for you when you have had a poor game. However, and bringing the report back to Sebb Brown who I thought looked out of his depth, while critical of the decision to sign him, at no stage did it strike me that it would be a good idea to shout abuse at him. I wasn’t screaming for Terry to haul him off and bring Turner on, as this would have obviously been the wrong decision to make regarding both players.
And thats my opinion. Sebb isn’t a Conference keeper at the moment. Not that it’s really relevant, as Jamie Pullen should be back for the Ebbsfleet game, and with Andy Little returning it could have been his last game for the club. But as for his performance yesterday… ignoring the error, which wasn’t punished, he did as well as he could have been expected to. He made a couple of routine saves, and despite not seeming confident enough to catch the ball he did come and punch a couple of crosses clear. In other words, behind our admittedly strong defence, he didn’t concede for a game and a half. And that if nothing else deserves at least a little credit.