Second Thoughts… Crawley Town

As I mentioned in the main match report, I had two special visitors with me for this game – my dad and my cousin. So what did they think of it all? Well these two veterans of well over a thousand games each really enjoyed themselves. The speed of the game certainly surprised them, although that may have been down to the bench-side position they chose to stand. Normally their trips to Football League games see them situated well away from the playing surface, so ground level must have made a change.

And their thoughts on Wimbledon specifically? Well, of course they had nothing to measure us against (except for Crawley…) yet they were very impressed by the style that Terry has the team playing. I think we have to be realistic that our players cant always get the ball down and play it – there is a time and a place for desperate clearances or measured balls over the top – but the fact that two Dons novices turned up and immediately noticed it says quite a lot about our style. I wonder whether it was more noticable because of previous Dons teams having earned a reputation for direct football, or just because Crawley took every opportunity to knock the ball up field as quick as possible.

So have we found a couple of new supporters? Well, probably not. My cousin will attend a few games but has to juggle being a new dad with following his team, Ipswich Town. My dad is based in Doncaster these days, and will accompany me to a few northern away games, and spoke of perhaps alternating trips to see Rovers play with adopting a Non-League side closer to home, either Brian Little’s Gainsborough or Retford. Neither of whom play the ball about like the Dons do, I would imagine…

More to the point, both will be telling people about their visit on Tuesday night. About how Wimbledon play fast, exciting football, and how good it is for the money. Which perhaps shows the importance of bringing other football fans to our games. It’s not just them, it’s the good reports they will spread after their visit. Let’s remember that this wasn’t exactly a vintage Dons performance either… perhaps the club should introduce a ‘Bring a Mate’ night for an evening game in the future… Grays possibly?

Ultimately, those floaters not impressed by just the football are motivated by results. Which was why we had an impressive attendance (hopefully a benchmark for evening games…), as we have only lost two so far this campaign. However I would imagine Terry would take the view that we should have taken more than four points from these four games.

My view is, although I’m satisfied with the results, I can’t help but think that on the whole we have come closer to losing these games than winning them. Is our league form, specifically the small number in the ‘loss’ column, disguising something? Especially as it would have been more valuable to us to have won two and lost two… Well, again this is my personal opinion, but I find the never-say-die attitude the team showed against Tamworth and Ebbsfleet as a fantastic positive to have. These were two points that had gone at half time and on 90 minutes of the respective games. Yes, they couldn’t use it to turn Tuesday nights game into a win, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying.

So… the players. Well my first reaction to watching the highlights after writing my match report was – ‘Actually that challenge on Chris Hussey really darn looked like a stonewall penalty’. When I first started writing The Anonymous Don it was my intention to describe the games as accurately as possible to those who cannot make it. Now I can imagine some far flung Dons sitting there reading, then watching the highlights and thinking ‘Frickin’ Hull Anony Don, that was a nailed on spotter and make no mistake…’ All I can say is I say it like I see it. If you watch the incident again you can see the exaggeration in his fall, and even if you aren’t buying that I was describing what I saw from my angle, which was not a great deal of contact.

Now I’m a little pissed that I made a big deal of it, yet barely mentioned the two penalties we could have had. Big Fat Tug on Taylor in the box, and Great Big Shove on Gregory. I was half joking when I mentioned a conspiracy as the reason we weren’t awarded those two, which of course means I was half serious as well… I cannot believe we won’t get a penalty for the remainder of the season with the tricky forwards we have, but then again every referee should be aware of the amount of penalties we have received so far. And rightly or wrongly he will consider this when he makes his decision. Not consciously. For all but the strongest willed referee though it will play a part in their thought process.

I haven’t spoken about Sam Hatton’s performance yet. I did mention his switch to right back, and this got me thinking. My theory is this. Playing any other position apart from the centre of the park, you have points of reference. A touch-line to the side of you, a bye-line in front or behind. Strikers can look behind them aware they only need to know where the defender behind them and the goal is. Defenders look forward and see the game play out ahead of them. In theory full-back is one of the simplest positions on the park. You can see everything ahead of you and you always have a touch-line to the side of you to get your bearings.

So of course Sam Hatton is going to find it easy dropping to right back. He isn’t a natural, Conroy is far superior in terms of tackling and using his natural defensive mind to fill gaps in the middle, but Hatton can do a job. He can pass better than Garrard, and he looks much better going forwards (I love Luke Garrard, but I think his days at the club may be numbered… I dearly hope he can prove me wrong…). Compare this with the difficult job a midfielder has.

Even the most perceptive midfielder gets caught in possession occasionally. So a young midfielder will find himself getting robbed more often, right? But Adjei and Gregory don’t get dispossessed that often, and there is a reason for this too, they tend to sit off and pick up loose balls. Put them further upfield, as Stephen Gregory did on many occasion on Tuesday, and all of a sudden they don’t look so impressive.

Not satisfied with that answer? Ok, think about the performance of the Crawley central midfielders on Tuesday (or even better, watch the Histon midfielders tomorrow…). How many times did they receive the ball from a team mate behind them? Most of the time the ball bypassed them on the way forward, they only really got involved trying to win the ball back, or if the ball was won in the middle of the park.

Now think how many central midfielders have gone on to be crowd favourite at AFC Wimbledon. Bolger? A cake walk in a division he was way too good for. Gell? A combative midfielder who won the ball deep, passed easily, and got forward when it suited him. Now think about the likes of Rob Quinn… Jon-Barrie Bates…… Barry Moore……… Nick Roddis…………

All players who came to us with a huge reputation. All played under a manager who liked to see the ball knocked forward quickly (like just about every other sub Conference club), so should have been able to fit in well. Sam Hatton has earned his place in the Wimbledon midfield for over two years now. It would be a disgrace if as just a young player he found himself hounded out of the club by those too ignorant to remember their own playing days… if they actually bothered to step out for a club at all… So imagine how I would feel if that happened and I stood by and said nothing? The kid is only twenty-one years old. Midfielders should start playing their best football between 25-30 years old as an approximation. Hatton has improved year-on-year. There will be a few people eating their words in a couple of years time…

Yet Hatton had a poor game on Tuesday. I was disappointed with him. But thats going to happen, not just with him, but with all our young players. I get back from a game and read some Dons fans opinions, and quite frankly laugh at them. I hear people begging for a ‘big tall centre forward’ when its obvious we just aren’t going to play that way. We have our ball winning forward, and its Kedwell. Then you get so-called experts, people who actually get paid to translate what is going on on the pitch for the layman, claiming that we needed an experienced midfielder. Ignoring the lessons of the past, thats just damned ignorant. If we were looking to win the League this season, perhaps. But if you think this side has no chance of progressing into a title-winning side, after the start they have made…

Yes, one or two of the current side aren’t going to make it. Sam Hatton could be one of them. But he has shown enough promise to deserve to be given a chance. I’m glad we have a strong-willed manager who knows that success this season will be measured on a top half finish. Who will ignore the mindless minority. Terry Brown has a plan, and the vision to make it become a reality.

In reality, I’m less of a Hatton fan than a Terry Brown fan. I trust Brown is right about Sam because all of my instincts tell me he is. I sense that Browns success or failure rides on Hatton more than any other player. I have faith in our manager, perhaps for the first time in the AFC era. Eames sucked up to the right people but was never the right man for the job (and would have won us promotion first time out if he was…). Nicky Whatshisface was in the right place at the right time. I thought DA was great, but only as a figurehead, as a personality, he was right for AFC Wimbledon in all aspects except management of the club. But Brown? He’s a proper manager.

Pullen    6

Garrard    5

Hussey    8

Adjei    6

Lorraine    6

Johnson    7

Hatton    5

Taylor    5

Kedwell    8

Gregory    5

Moore    6

SUBS

Duncan    6

Montague    7

NB – For the two people who used these questions in a search engine to find their way to my blog;

Why Did Danny Kedwell Throw His Boots In The Crowd?

Kedwell has arranged a transfer to Oxford in January, but its a secret for now, don’t tell anyone! Or… maybe his boots had just split.

Why Won’t Terry Brown Pick Jon Main?

(Cough). No goals from open play despite being given plenty of chances…

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