AFC Wimbledon 1 Kettering Town 2 – A Match Report

If you were frustrated about the Kidderminster game, you would have been pulling your hair out over this one. However thinking back (not that far) to the reverse fixture, despite the euphoria over a memorable performance we were quite lucky to get away with the points in the end… and this game was a mirror of it. Perhaps in my mind, being as it is drenched in blue and yellow blood, we made a better fist of our attempted comeback than they did in the corresponding fixture? Either way, a win and a loss is better than two draws in terms of points gained…

That doesn’t mean I’ve come to terms with this defeat. Hell, I haven’t got round Eastbourne beating us in our second game. Thankfully defeats have been as rare this season as they were last, yet despite the end-to-end excitement and proper sense that any game we play could go either way I still find myself begrudging our victors. Especially as their goalkeeper was a former franchise cuntbag. I don’t think I even mentioned it the first time around, yet yesterday it seemed to rub salt into the wound.

Those that bleat on about how we should have ‘got over it’ by now clearly have no idea what its like to be a Wimbledon supporter. No matter how good things are going at Kingsmeadow (or fingers crossed any future Dons stadium…) we are always going to be reminded of that betrayal. Presumably those big brave Kettering supporters who were chanting ‘MK Dons’ at us after the final whistle where aware of this, as they went strangely quiet when forced to mix with 3500 Dons fans in Jack Goodchild Way.

The match sponsors were Kick It Out, a worthy organisation, and you wonder whether they actually paid for the privilege or we gave it up for free. I would hope the latter, as it is their One Game, One Community initiative I gather they are sponsoring a number of games over two weekends. After the ‘misunderstanding’ against Lincoln in the cup last season I would have thought the message would have been better aimed at the visitors, but that would be to ignore the fact the Dons named a side whiter than a BNP wives coffee morning thanks to the absence of Derek Duncan (missing-presumed-injured) and Kennedy Adjei (unused substitute despite his flag flying in the Tempest).

Chris Hussey took the field before the game to a warm applause to thank us all following his move to Coventry. Think we might have laid it on a little thick with all the future England international talk, but the good news is the fee appears to justify his potential. Numbers in the high five figures have been bandied about by those who would know better than exaggerate, with the potential fee possibly worth six figures to the club. This is good news when it has been reported that Sven Goran Eriksson is lining up a move for Danny Kedwell… I have to say I haven’t seen Sven at the Meadow this season (not our Meadow anyway) although needless to say we would require six figures up front from that particular club for that particular player…

But back to Hussey. He must have noticed, as presumably we all did, how much he is going to be missed on the field. As Duncan was absent, Johnson took over at left back with Inns filling in at centre half. Brett Johnson is more of an out and out defender however, and a lack of support on the left side was obvious from the start. Luke more frequently found himself short of options when attacking that flank, almost as if he was still expecting Hussey to come bombing past him to send over that killer ball. I think it mattered enough that we would have won this game had we still had Hussey, so getting Duncan playing regularly and/or having a decent backup on the left side of midfield must be a priority.

Did Hussey’s absence have an impact on the result? At first you may think thats clutching at straws, but as a Don’s blogger I have to at least examine the claims… The start of the match certainly showed we weren’t creating as many chances as the visitors despite having the same amount of territory and possession, yet when the ball found its way to Luke Moore on the left he looked short of options, almost as if he was waiting for a blue shirted number 3 to bomb past him (if not to pass the ball to then at least to create some space for himself).

Big Exodus Geoghaghon was playing just in front of the Kettering back four allowing him the freedom to roam the midfield and pick up the aerial balls dropping in the midfield area, and he created the games first chance. His header was picked up by Francis Green who struck a woeful effort well wide from 25 yards. Moments later it was Moses Ashekodis turn, finding space while running at Inns to screw wide of the left post. Neither chance threatened the Don’s goal, but it was a sign of the dangers to come for Wimbledon.

Ashekodis came a lot closer moments later, his fierce effort palmed upwards by Pullen who then collected the loose ball. Hopes were briefly raised when Wimbledon put together a decent move at last, and it was no surprise that it came down the right (which looks as though it could be the new left since Hussey’s departure…). Kedwell and Taylor combined well on the flank, the ball being fed through to Hatton, who could have shot but obviously didn’t trust his left foot enough and instead rolled in Luke Moore. The angle was against Moore, who tried to pull the ball back only to see it bounce off a defender and land fortunately in the Kettering goalkeepers arms.

Sadly this didn’t start a new wave of Dons pressure, Kettering instead winning a throw on the left. Geoghaghon launched a huge throw towards the six yard box which led to a mass outbreak of sheer panic among the Wimbledon men, the ball eventually being tucked into the bottom left corner past a helpless Pullen and gift the visitors the lead. The home fans barely had time to take this in before Danny Thomas picked up the ball twenty five yards out. Boosted by the confidence of having just taken the lead he smashed a superb dipping effort over the helpless Pullen, the Don’s net bulging for the second time in ninety seconds and the Wimbledon fans facing up to the fact the game could already have slipped away as those occupying the away section erupted.

Just moments after that Wimbledon won a corner. Played short to Hatton, the Don’s midfielder hit a deep cross that confused Harper into believing the ball was about to safely drift out for a goal kick. He didn’t realise Kedwell had other ideas, floating a header back over the keeper who had wandered out of position, for Jon Main to have the easiest job of grabbing his third goal from open play in two games, and his sixth overall this season.

With three quarters of the game still to play, Wimbledon fans could have been forgiven for thinking their side would come back to claim a point, maybe all three. They could have been right in doing so as their side blew a fantastic chance to level the scores on the half hour. Kedwell picked up the ball on the left side of goal and attacked the penalty area with wonderful directness, dancing round a defender before squaring for Main at the near post. The man of the moment seemed certain to score with any kind of contact, yet his stabbed effort just floated into the air before caressing the crossbar on the opposite side of goal and being thumped clear by a grateful Kettering man.

The Dons looked fired up, but they had to ride out the rest of the half, Kettering forcing a number of throws and corners. Their best chance to extend the lead came just before half time, Askekodis combining with Thomas for the latter to drag a shot across the face of goal. Half time came, and a familiar face appeared next to me having experienced the Tempest End for the first time. While he enjoyed the experience, he moved partly down to the unnecessary swearing all around him – yet perhaps standing next to me was a mistake, as the Anonymous Don spent much of the half having a Tourettes-like fit due to shear frustration.

It all started well enough, a Hatton corner on the right drilled low towards Alan Inns, who managed to get under the ball and float it well over the bar. The visitors held out well for the next ten minutes or so, in fact creating a chance themselves for Thomas who got free in the right side of the area only for Pullen to make a solid upright save. The hour mark saw the now traditional Terry Brown substitution – you wonder whether Brown is actually being controlled by a bored fourteen year old in another dimension who always makes his first sub at this point… This time around the fourteen year old must have been drunk, as I’m not sure why anyone would choose to remove the solid Conroy for Ricky Wellard, seeing the youngster fit into midfield and the veteran (by comparison) Hatton drop back to Conroy’s position.

Actually, thats unfair. I knew what Brown was trying to do, he wanted a more attacking fullback to pick up the pace down the right, with someone hungry to liven the midfield up Wellard moved to the left yet even without the wonderful power of hindsight you maybe would have expected the more confident Kennedy Adjei would have been more at home in this position. Wellard needed a chance in the first team however, and very nearly found an equalizer with virtually his first touch. Hatton got forward down the right as expected and stood a wonderful ball just begging to be buried by Wellard, whose downward header gave Harper no chance but somehow sneaked past the right post (well, there was a little licence used there. I was right behind the header so sadly knew it was destined to drift wide as soon as it left his head… there was no ‘somehow’ about it!).

A minute or so later Hatton created another chance, this time sliding the ball behind the back four for Jon Main to use his pace and get clear. Last seasons top scorer hit a fierce shot that was too close to the keeper, who touched it over for a corner. Then it was Luke Moore’s chance to shine. Receiving the ball with time about twenty yards out, Moore could have picked either side to place his effort but managed to guide his effort towards the portly Kettering custodian. Harper, perhaps down to the level of abuse he was receiving from the Tempest, still managed not to gather it cleanly and for a split second it looked as though he was going to fall over and allow it to trickle over the line. Yet, and further proof if it was required that billions of Christians are wasting their lives and there is no God, he actually managed to gather it quite easily in the end.

While it looked like any shot on target that wasn’t a yard either side of Harper might find the net, the Dons chances were becoming more and more rare – hence my frustration, triggered by a number of free kicks given the visitor’s way with little contact being made by the likes of renowned football hard men such as Wellard and Moore. Don’t I remember this happened a couple of weeks ago? Is it only when we are chasing the game that referees turn against us? I know, I’ve been watching the game way too long to pretend I don’t know the answer to that…

With twenty minutes of the game to play, Kedwell picked up the ball in the box on the right, outmuscled his marker despite being pulled all over the place (and perhaps would have been better off letting himself be tugged to the ground) and smashed an effort across the face of goal and wide. I found my anger rising as the final whistle approached, and the time flew by. The home sides last chance came with two minutes remaining, and just about summed up the day. A Moore cross was just missed by Lewis Taylor, striking the unfortunate Wellard before bouncing wide of the right post, away for a goal kick.

The frustration was caused mostly by the knowledge that we could and should have taken at least a point from a side that are up there in the table, yet didn’t look as though they were any better than us. Two months into the season we are still losing games thanks to the experience of our opponents. Kettering had a years head start on us – it didn’t show in August, but it has now.

Heading into a big FA Cup game this coming Saturday, that is a lesson we could do well to learn, and fast. If we are to do well in the Cups this year (and bear in mind there are only two of them this season) we obviously cannot let Crawley take the sort of advantage they did at Kingsmeadow last month. Don’t get me wrong, Crawley are an inferior side to Kettering, and it may be easy to imagine that they have had their chance against us for the season. That old cliche of the Cup being a great leveller only applies if the superior side allows complacency to get in the way…

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