Ok, so I’m going to get my excuses in early. In fact I’m going to get them in before I’ve even written the report, but I’ve been feeling a bit unwell, so this match report might read a little, erm, different to my usual efforts. Because of this I will try to keep it short, which will be of no consolation to those of you reading this on Thursday morning. Oh, and sorry about the lack of photos, I left my camera at home…
After seven games unbeaten, it had got to the point where I had forgotten what it feels like to lose a game. Even Oxford was a fairly positive experience – we created a lot of chances, missed a penalty, and were genuinely unlucky. On Saturday we faced a genuine rival for a playoff place (and lets not talk ourselves down here – we are in that race as long as we are among the large group of clubs locked together on a similar amount of points). In the past when I have spoken about our young team having an off day, about experienced Conference sides coming to Kingsmeadow and doing a job on us and going home with the points – this is what happened, and the only surprise was it has taken fourteen games for it to happen.
It was one of those grim miserable autumn days, overcast with a cold wind, the sort of weather I now refer to as ‘Tamworth Weather’. And there really was no reason to doubt the Dons, they started well enough forcing a few corners down the right for Hussey to swing in. I can only imagine Hussey practices taking corners on a pitch that is about ten yards narrower than Kingsmeadow, the ease at which he curls them in at the near post straight to that first defender…
It was the visitors though who had the first shot on goal, Matthew Barnes-Homer picking the ball up twenty five yards out of the left and skidding an effort low into James Pullens arms. Then on fifteen minutes both sides created decent opportunities within a minute. Kidderminster’s John Finnigan found himself with a clear run on goal, but Pullen stood up well to make the save.
The ball was immediately delivered to the other end of the pitch where Montague and Taylor combined on the right for Taylor to play in Hussey, clear on the left. The exciting fullback was quickly closed down, only to cut inside and hit a right foot shot towards the top right corner. The ball took a deflection on its way which slowed the ball enough to allow keeper Dean Coleman to get across and claw it away for a corner.
It took another fifteen minutes for Wimbledon to threaten the Kidderminster goal once more. This time Hussey was the creator, hitting in another corner from the right that swung in, missed the big men at the near post and surprising Sam Hatton hanging around on the six yard line. Hatton had to lean back to guide his header towards goal, unfortunately this had the effect of making it look like he had cushioned it back to the keeper.
Hatton was in the right place at the right time at the other end seconds latter after a Daryl Knights effort was diverted away from goal giving the visitors a corner on the right. It was well struck, Husseyesque almost, and completely caught Jamie Pullen out. As the ball headed towards the net, blown in by the strong wind, Hatton stretched his neck just enough to flick it over his own bar and away for another corner.
The second delivery wasn’t cleared properly by the Don’s defence, falling to an unidentified Harriers player lurking on the edge of the box, who hit a low shot through a crowd of players. Fortunately Jamie Pullen was alert to the danger, getting down well to parry away before Adjei thumped clear. There seemed no clear favourite still as both sides tried to get forward, trading chances in what had become a watchable game.
A sign of things to come came five minutes before the break, when Barnes-Homer sneaked a stride ahead of Inns and hammered in a shot that would have severely tested James Pullen had it not flown straight into his arms. A the home side created another couple of half chances after, a Taylor cross shot from the right that the keeper did well to collect at ground level, and a mishit Luke Moore shot following a Taylor knockdown. Luke Moore has shown more than most creativity-wise this season but hasn’t really got hold of his shots since giving us perhaps too high expectations of him with his thirty yarder against Salisbury.
Half time came with the sort of mass change of ends not seen at Kingsmeadow this season. However several hundred extra fans in the KRE, or half of the KRE to be precise, didn’t have the effect of improving the atmosphere as you may have expected. With 3600-plus in the ground, it didn’t quite work. Plus the huge gaps on the Tempest didn’t seem to be filled by those JS regulars looking to take the opportunity to move there… were stewards still preventing non Tempest ticket holders standing there? If that was the case, something wasn’t quite right there…
The Dons players engaged in a quick warm up drill before the start of the second half, involving step ladders and cones. Sadly Matthew Barnes-Homer had slightly more speed and mobility than they did, so when the game restarted the Don’s defence stood like statues when he received the ball with his back to goal. Despite a clumsy turn, no challenge was forthcoming allowing the striker to slot past Pullen into the bottom right hand corner to give his team the lead.
Wimbledon’s response to this was instant and predictable in the context of the game – a mishit Moore shot straight at the keeper. But five minutes later they created and missed their best chance all afternoon. Some great work by Danny Kedwell saw him play in Lewis Taylor down the right channel. The ball came fast to Taylor, who got the luck of the bounce to take him past his man only to screw his shot well wide of the near post when eight yards out with the goal at him mercy.
I say the previous chance was the closest Wimbledon came to scoring, they did have the ball in the net on fifty-five minutes. Whether this really counted as a chance depended on your view of the event and how much contact Danny Kedwell had made with the goalkeeper, as a high ball in was dropped before being bundled in… Well, I got a little excited about it anyway.
Lewis Taylor had another decent chance at the other end, flicking the ball over the keeper and unfortunately the bar from a Hussey cross, and at the other end Brian Smikle could have doubled Kidderminster’s lead with a tad more composure, but to be honest the game petered out from the last twenty minutes onwards. The introduction of Main didn’t help. I’m not sure whether its fair to say Main was on a different wavelength to anyone else on the pitch, but a neutral viewing may well have wondered whether he was trying to play the same sport as everyone else. As usual he ran, he put in effort, but he’s nothing like the Jon Main of last year. I hope this doesn’t come across as abuse, but like Sanchez lived off past glories right up to the Premier League days, there is a danger that Jon Main could hang around making the odd cameo for months to come.
Hopefully he will put one away, but it seems like we need more than that right now. Just a good performance would do. Replacing Montague with him might have seemed a good idea at the time, but the horror of Main latest effort was just too much to bear. At least we know Monty has goals in him, Main could literally be still out there on the Kingsmeadow turf, on his own, but you’ll guess he probably still wouldn’t have found the net.
Is it time to give one of our younger strikers (i.e. Rapson) a go on the bench, allowing Main to drop down to the Reserves for a couple of weeks. Normally you would say our first teamers wouldn’t learn anything in the Suburban League, but Main needs to go back to basics. He almost needs to remember his entire game once more.
Its one thing having a player on the pitch who may as well not have been there, but towards the end of the game the referee revealed he had a few quid on the outcome himself, refusing to give free kicks to home sides way as well as punishing Dons players for heinous crimes like jumping for the ball, or having their shirts pulled.
It kind of summed up the afternoon though. However, on a day when nothing much went right, at least we made a game of it right to the end. We were never going to score, but Kidderminster were forced to keep it up for the full ninety. I actually stopped taking notes for the last few minutes (not that I missed much) as I felt so disappointed with the performance.
But as Terry said, young players will make mistakes. Whether this dip in performance stretches further depends on our next game at Forest Green, who coincidentally have all of a sudden remembered how to win…