Monthly Archives: November 2009

FA Trophy Draw

The draw for the First Round of the FA Trophy has seen the Dons drawn at home to Boreham Wood. We have lent Luke Garrard to them in a bid to regain some match fitness, although he would be cup-tied for this competition should we progress, and cannot play against us in this tie. Although this looks an easy tie on paper lets not forget we were eliminated by a side two divisions below us last year, albeit on their pond like surface in the pouring rain.

During the notorious pre-Christmas run in the Dons attendances normally shrink slightly, so a cup game against visitors two divisions below us won’t exactly pack out the stands. However lets not forget this is a competition we can win, and the news that there are six all-BSP ties means there can only be a maximum of eighteen BSP sides through to the last 32.

Of the all-Conference ties, Stevenage and Oxford, two sides who could be considered early favourites have been given easy looking ties at home to Ebbsfleet and Hayes respectively. The Cambridge-Luton, Wrexham-Altrincham and Mansfield-Tamworth ties only serve to ensure the strongest of these sides will progress to provide tricky potential opponents in the next round. You would expect Kettering to knock out Barrow but it won’t be easy for them.

As for potential shocks, broke Chester at home to cash-rich Fleetwood looks the tie to put your money on. Bashley beating Crawley would be fantastic if unlikely, as I feel we are destined to meet our friends from Sussex more than once more this season… Woking will feel they have a decent chance hosting Forest Green, and Grays must fear a trip to Worcester, but you would imagine the rest of the teams in our division will be feeling fairly confident, although the Maidstone-Histon tie could be decent.

The ties will be played two weeks this Saturday on 12th December.

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AFC Wimbledon 0 York City 1 – A Match Report

I think we were a little spoiled by our early home form. We got used to certain teams with huge budgets turning up at Kingsmeadow and not walking away with the three expected points. Well, except Oxford, but even they knew they had been in a fight. Then, at the start of October, bigger boys from The North started arriving, rolling up their sleeves and bullying us out of the game.

Yesterdays game drew comparisons with our previous two home games, except this week our potent strike force never even looked like they were going to bail us out of trouble. We only managed one shot on target all afternoon. In fact, I’m starting to get used to getting home on a Saturday evening feeling a bit down.

It seems as though the combination of players we have at the moment we can’t beat teams like York at home at the moment. It will be a different game when we travel up there in March, but right now it seems no matter how much of a fight they put up, our current crop were always going to be hanging on against a powerful side. It’s the difference between us challenging for a playoff place and spending the season in mid-table, which now looks likely.

So what was wrong with our lineup yesterday? Working from back to front, there were two clear weaknesses, our goalkeeper and our midfielder. I always thought Sebb Brown was a strange signing, yet over the course of the season when he was called upon to deputise for James Pullen he seemed to have drummed the simple errors out of his game. As a shot stopper he is competent, yet his distribution left a lot to be desired. Time and again he gave up possession with a series of kicks that found touch. I know conditions were poor, but a degree of concentration would have ensured the ball would arrive somewhere near its target.

Several players, as well as the manager, showed a great deal of frustration at this, and I’m not sure it would have been helped by the requirement of our entire team to pack out the area from corners and set pieces in order to protect his aerial deficiencies. This again gave up possession as it meant Wimbledon either had to hoof the ball clear, giving up the ball yet again, or try to play their way out of danger –  which lead to the only goal of the game.

I have mentioned in the past that we will have the same issues if we draft in young Jack Turner in terms of having to protect him, but honestly, why not? At least he is positive about coming for high balls. Plus he has a kick that would put any in this division to shame. I understand the theory that Sebb is being used to make the mistakes so Jack doesn’t have to at this early stage of his career, a first team start would be invaluable to his progress. Just send him out there, tell him there is no pressure on him and see whether he takes it. If it doesn’t work, bring Sebb back until Pullen recovers. If this really is a season of building experience, now we have a chance to give a start to a player who could well be our number one in a couple of years time.

The visitors physical nature showed up our midfield as the paperweight unit it is. To be fair to them, they didn’t give the ball away very much, but thats mainly down to them failing to win possession back very often. Plus when Sam Hatton turns out to be your midfield enforcer – well absolutely no disrespect to Sam intended, I though apart from the goal he had one of his better games and looked like the only midfielder capable of winning the ball in the air – but when you find yourself relying on him to win the ball back because no-one else will, then your going to have problems in this league.

It seems strange that Terry didn’t go for a tough midfielder, someone who is strong from box to box and isn’t going to lose out very much in a challenge. Someone who can lead the midfield, and who the younger players can play around and learn from. We saw this deficiency yesterday and it was like playing with a man short. While perhaps I have been one of the worst culprits in glossing over our midfield problems, it’s now the elephant in the room that we cannot avoid to ignore if we have any remaining ambition of putting together a run in the New Year.

The question is, will Terry take the opportunity to do this in January or will he allow the current bunch to lay out a season of comparative mediocrity? Although I have to point out, Steven Gregory is a really good player. You can see him playing at a higher level in future, and playing alongside the right mix of team mates he could be one of the men who help us out of the division. But Elliott Godfrey was lightweight. He tried really hard but he never got into the action. And Lewis Taylor just didn’t get into the game, mainly down to some fussy refereeing going against him.

On the subject of the referee, and moving to the game itself, he wasn’t going to let York use their strength to simply steamroller us. York started the better of the two sides without ever creating anything worth noting down, but I do remember Michael Rankine blasting well wide in the opening couple of minutes. Instead it was all about the antics of the York players, mainly their front two, and their baffling efforts to unsettle the Dons back line.

On another day Rankine would have been booked for an ugly early challenge on Lorraine, who seemed to be targeted by the visitors. It seemed a strange decision, as the big Dons defender kept his cool well – initially. It was Richard Brodie’s turn to have a go a few minutes later, where with the ball out of play he rushed towards Lorraine before barging into him, only to collapse onto the ground himself. It was actually one of the funniest comedy falls I’ve seen in a long while, and drew big laughs around the ground. Brodie naturally received a yellow, although the home crowd didn’t forget his intentions, booing him on the few occasions he found the ball at his feet.

Brodie and Rankine certainly look like a couple of beasts, Brodie himself could do with a mask and a chainsaw and I think he would have found his true vocation in the movies, whereas Rankine looks like the sort of person you see on real life documentaries, living on death row in Louisiana for eating babies. And it was Rankine who had the best chance of the first half, meeting a cross from the right only yards out but steering it well over the bar. If anything this outbreak of football was a mere interference to the more entertaining battle that was taking place.

Rankine was next in the book after a ‘collision’ with the unflustered Lorraine, and to the crowd’s delight Danny Parsloe beat him into the book for his excessive protests. The referee counted out the number of fouls Rankine had made, as usual pointing to nowhere near where these fouls took place but making his point. At this point Lorraine had the beating of his two rivals, and could have really pushed the pair of them later in the half had he not snapped himself, after another Rankine foul he pointed out that Rankine was treading a fine line a little too firmly and found himself in the book as well.

Overall an interesting but ultimately fruitless war ended from that point with all parties seeming to accept a draw. The fun and games were put aside as all parties put their minds firmly back on the football. Not that there was much taking place. York had the better of possession but they couldn’t turn it into chances. And in injury time of the first half Danny Kedwell managed what turned out to be Wimbledon’s only effort on target, taking down a ball on the left edge of the area before striking firmly towards the near post but easily smothered by the otherwise untested Michael Ingham.

Half time came as a relief with the hope that Terry might find those few magic words that could spark our misfiring team to life. A swooping flock of parakeets dived down in front of the Tempest and added a bit of colour to the occasion, but before anyone could ask whether they fancied displacing our problem pigeons they were gone. Still, they added a bit of colour to an otherwise drab afternoon…

The teams returned to the field and it quickly became apparent that it was the visitors who were most likely to take the game. Kicking towards their large but relatively quiet contingent of 400 or so in the KRE they seemed a step ahead of Wimbledon. Yet it took them a while to create anything, and the Dons had a couple of half chances. First a deep corner from the left was met by Lorraine, who nodded back into the six yard box. For a moment it seemed as though Brett Johnson was about to apply the finish from yards out but was beaten by a York head to turn it round for another flag kick. This corner was taken short and ultimately cleared, only as far as Steven Gregory, whose low effort was deflected into the air and just past the top left corner.

It must have woken York up for the need to find a goal of their own. A number of corners were cleared in desperation by the Dons defence, which even included Jon Main leaving very little choice but to hand possession back to York. Then a deep cross was met at the far post by Brodie, kept out via a desperate arm of Brown before the crossbar, the ball eventually hooked away to relative safety. I wrote in my notes that Wimbledon would be lucky to survive this spell, and like clockwork the goal came.

A couple of Dons defenders had chances to clear the ball before it fell to Sam Hatton in space on the right side of the Wimbledon box. With nothing ahead of him Hatton tried to dribble clear, only to be easily nudged off the ball for it to be returned at an angle for Rankine to meet with a firm header that gave Brown no chance. It was unfortunate for Hatton, who up to that point had been a man of the match contender thanks to his no-nonsense tackling and aerial ability, but it taught him that there are certain times when you can’t play football, and have to weigh up the percentages and knock it clear. If that means booting it into touch and regrouping then so be it. I get the impression they will have to learn th hard way a few more times this campaign before it finally sinks in…

With their backs against the walls a fight back looked unlikely, even with nearly half an hour of football to play. The referee had helped the Dons in the first half with his no-nonsense approach to infringements, but seemed to have taken a disliking to Lewis Taylor. Playing in his usual free role on the right, Taylor found himself tugged back time and again only to see the award go against him. I can’t be too unfair on the referee here, he did have a decent game when many others would have lost control, and maybe it was down to Taylor’s strange habit of waving his arms around like a man lost at sea whenever he gets involved in a footrace with an opposition player.

Gregory struck wide of the left post from distance with twenty-five minutes to go, yet Wimbledon only looked like they had half a chance of getting back on terms following the introduction of Luke Moore to replace Godfrey. He immediately looked the most impressive player on the pitch, picking up a ball on the left before finding the touch-line and prodding past Ingham across the six yard line, only to see Hatton beaten to the ball by a despairing York challenge.

Moore set about unsuccessfully trying to pick a hole through the York defense, one strong run from his own half was crudely halted by an unidentified York man on the edge of the box. With the ability to get everyone behind the ball it was no surprise that Hattons low free kick failed to beat the wall.

And that was pretty much it. Conroy made way for Montague as Terry Brown switched to 3-4-3 for the remaining few minutes, but this was to little effect. Really you had to question the decision to bring on Montague who never really looked like putting in a challenge capable of winning the ball, especially as Moore’s introduction had suggested perhaps bringing on Cumbers might have produced results while trying to play through York, and created space for Main and Kedwell.

Neither of the front two had a bad game, Kedwell forced back to defend all too often and Main isolated as his team mates dropped further and further. But to get the most of our talented front to we need to start creating chances for them. I think back to the number of chances Main wasted against Luton, Eastbourne and the like, and how he would just gobble up those kind of openings now he is back in form.

Perhaps the chances will come on Tuesday, and the Dons will regain a bit of confidence before a tough trip to Kidderminster next weekend. But before we can think of a comfortable win on Tuesday, we need to think about making sure of the win. Ebbsfleet have had their problems this season and are very much there for the taking, if Wimbledon feel the pressure too much to find a home performance we could find ourselves with all sorts of problems… and would a big win just paper over the cracks?

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Conference Score (Saturday 21st November ’09)

AFC Wimbledon    (0) 0

York City    (0) 1    Rankine (63)

The Dons slipped to yet another home defeat after a Micheal Rankine header secured the points for York who burst back into the playoff places as Wimbledon slip to twelfth. In front of a 4000 crowd, boosted by a fantastic 400 or so travelling supporters from York, the Dons failed to create an effort on target in a game of very few chances.

Elsewhere in the division the game of the day saw Cambridge claw back a two goal deficit at Luton in the last ten minutes. Leaders Oxford won at home to Barrow, second place Stevenage also won at Forest Green as ex-Franchise roly-poly self tan man Lee Harper’s Kettering showed signs of the wheels falling off their promotion hopes beaten 2-0 at home by Kidderminster.

Looking a few weeks ahead, the FA Trophy reached the final round of qualifying, as some old friends battled it out for one last shot at the Dons. Top of the list were Woking, who slaughtered the Stalebuns at Queensfield to give them that half chance of drawing us and playing their Biggest Game Ever. Bromley are out though (well done Maidstone!), yet the prospect of a visit from the villagers from down the river still exists as they beat Concord 3-2. Chelmsford and Hornchurch drew 3-3 and Dover overcame Dartford 3-2.

Match Report tomorrow (I’m not making any promises, but it will definitely be before the Ebbsfleet game…)

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AFC Wimbledon v York City – A Match Preview

Woah, its been a while since I’ve done one of these… I’m feeling a little out of my comfort zone right now and I’m not sure how to begin. What about…. Ireland. Well I have to say I am surprised by the amount of English people furious over Henry’s assist on Wednesday. I thought it was hilarious. Yet while it was great to see the Irish suffer, the last people you would want to see benefit would be the bloody French… still, one of them had to lose I suppose…

A quick search on google reveals 308,000,000 results for ‘York French’ compared to ‘York Irish’, so presumably using that super-scientific method our northern chums with their Francophile links would probably agree with me on this.

York fans have had their own share of owner related embarrassments over the last few years thanks mainly to a certain John Batchelor. The man who seems to have picked up the franchise madness ball that Winkie first punted northwards from Selhurst Park in 2002 and run with it as far as his legs would carry him. Fortunately (unfortunately for York City at the time) the only time he actually got his hands on the reigns was at Bootham Crescent back in 2002. He was eventually ousted a year or so later, but not before he had changed the York badge and kit so as to feature a chequered flag to represent his previous career as a racing driver. Still his tale has been well documented elsewhere, and sorry to bring him up again, but you just know that someone, somewhere will be stupid enough to sell up to him again.

What else of York? Well I once was taken to the railway museum there when I was just a youngster, and the whole experience was enough to leave me with a lifelong warm glow whenever York is mentioned. Roll on March! A quick glance at a map reveals this would defeat Bradford in the ‘Most Northerly Ground I Ever Visited’ stakes. For some reason I thought my trip to Gillette Stadium in freezing cold New England would have sewn that one up, however it turns out it’s the most southerly stadium I have visited for a game. I’ve only just found that the UK is on the same longitude as Newfoundland… thank god for that Gulf Stream, eh?!

Dons news now, and just when it appeared that he had wormed his way into the starting eleven thanks to some selflessly brave performances in the heart of the defence, reports suggest that Alan Inns may have suffered cruciate knee ligament damage, potentially ending his season and (dare I say it?) his Wimbledon career. We have been good to our injured players especially those who suffer serious knee injuries, although we have had more than our fair share of them over the last couple of years. Inns will get the chance to come back and prove himself at the club, but I just get the impression there will be new faces competing for his position when he gets back.

Sebb Browns inclusion still worries me. He did play well against Barrow, allegedly, yet I still feel he has an error or two in him per game. The worry is he could single-handedly destroy our season if he has a real shocker of a month until Jamie Pullen comes back, by the time he does we could find ourselves out of contention in the league and having crashed from the FA Trophy at the first hurdle. Presumably another cruciate victim, Andy Little, will be looking on envious as he would have been given several chances to claim the number one jersey for himself had he been fit.

Top scorer Danny Kedwell is back however, to lead the line at the possible expense of Ross Montague. Did Montague play well after being given his big chance against Barrow? TB seems to think so, but not many of you seem to agree with him… having said that I’m still going to go with Terry’s opinion, I know how some of you lot think! As many long time readers will remember I was really looking forward to the long trek north, until I found out it clashed with my birthday… therefore with a complete lack of video evidence the Barrow game could have taken place in Narnia for all I know. Perhaps Montague has been left there, as Terry Brown has trumpeted the return of Luis Cumbers to the bench this Saturday.

Apparently Luis has had a bad case of the sniffles recently, ruling him out of the first two weeks of his loan spell that alarmingly hasn’t yet been extended beyond that initial month. Not to worry, after all he might end up being rubbish, but one thing is for sure – the boy Cumbers will get one of the best receptions ever seen for a substitute at Kingsmeadow since Steve Gibson replaced Nick Roddis after 58 minutes of the home game against Tooting on 30th October 2004… though to be fair that had little to do with young Gibson…

The club are expecting a big crowd tomorrow, presumably due to post-Millwall euphoria… or just the fact it seems like we have gone a month without a home game. And then we get two games in four days! Woo! They can’t be expecting a massive turnout from York as they are only getting half the KRE, so presumably the lure of an ex-League club is expected to bring out the part-timers. Especially an ex-League club that has put together a decent side this season. Our home form has been rubbish recently, but perhaps the return of a hero from days of yore will be enough to nudge the game in our favour? It’s too close to call, so we can only hope little positives like this work in our favour.

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The General Specific (Tuesday 17th November ’09)

I haven’t written for a while, thanks to the ‘real world’ gate crashing my blogging party last week. Not that I didn’t try, but I will spare the world my car crash effort of a Millwall report. How something so positive could turn into something absolutely depressing is beyond me, and I wrote it…

A few belated thoughts on Millwall. If we put in that sort of performance against Conference opposition week in, week out, we will undoubtedly be up among the playoff contenders at the end of the season. Yet the memories that will last longest in my head will undoubtedly be the fantastic atmosphere in the stands that night (sorry Lewis…). We can only dream of the days we get the chance to repeat that on a regular basis, until then there is a chance we could suffer from post-FA Cup syndrome, not just on the pitch but in the stands as well. Can we not all try our best to recreate that atmosphere at Kingsmeadow?

I know that its tougher as we are more spread around, but the lower roofs can aid us. It shouldn’t just be the handfull in the Tempest who keep the atmosphere going, it should be coming from all sides of the ground. I resolve to sing a bit more from my usual position behind the dugout, rather than just loudly abuse the officials/opposition when things aren’t going our way.

I wasn’t at Barrow on Saturday, it coincided with my birthday, and my wife lined up a day of birthday celebrations. Which ultimately ended in a row at the Indian restaurant we went to eat at. It was a nice meal and all, but the customer service was shocking. If you ever find yourself in Surbiton and fancy a curry, don’t visit Joy in Brighton Road! There are another three you can visit within 100 yards anyway, which means my search for a new curry house will not be a long one…

I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t earn my supporter stripes by joining the longest and most awkward trip of the season… and I still haven’t seen the Dons play north of Bradford. Bring on York and Gateshead thats all I can say! A few comments on the game if I may. I keep hearing reference to a Lewis Taylor dummy in not-so complementary terms, but I can’t look back far enough on the guestbook to find out what happened (well done to the Gimps for keeping the guestbook open, by the way). I’ll leave commentary on that to the 337 travelling Dons…

It seems as though Sebb Browns appearance earned glowing reviews, which is good news considering Jamie Pullen is now out for a month with a cracked ankle bone. I intitially though Jack Turner should be given his League debut, but for Sebb to come along and turn in a decent performance, it really takes the pressure off the manager perhaps being tempted into that. Plus if Jack comes in and has a terrible spell it could damage his confidence and actually hinder his development. Remember, Sebb is expendable in that sense, Jack certainly shouldn’t be.

On the subject of our young goalkeeping prodigy, his performance in the last round of the Youth Cup inspired my early optimism that he may be promoted to the first team. I think I mentioned in my report, he really looked like a man among boys, and is like a twelfth man for the side. He is in action, along with his promising colleagues, in the Second Round tomorrow at Kingsmeadow. I can’t stress enough how important it would be to the lads if a decent crowd turned out for this one. It would be tough to pick out one to look out for, but keep an eye open in particular for the two tricky, pacy forwards Matt Harmsworth and James Cottee, as well as captain Harry Knock.

This is the first time the Under 18’s have played a League sides youth setup in competitive football, mainly due to this being the first time the young Dons have qualified for the tournament proper. Bournemouth may be a league club, but with a decent home crowd firmly behind them, who knows? Perhaps they can teach the First team a thing or two about beating Football League sides, and in the process become the first Dons side in the AFC era to play on a Premier League ground, as a trip to the Reebok awaits the winner of this tie.

As for the first team, well a visit from York is going to be tough, especially with our home record in recent weeks. With a packed fixture list between now and Christmas (especially if we require a replay in our FA Trophy first round game), its time to get some form together. The New year could bring a gentle run towards midtable, or a decent Trophy run coupled with a playoff push, and I have a feeling the next few weeks will determine which we will see…

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Robert Enke

Robert Enke was a goalkeeper with all the world ahead of him. He seemed sure to be selected as the Germany goalkeeper for the World Cup next summer, during which he would have passed into the general conciousness of the football world as Khan and Lehmann did before. Last night Robert Enke drove his car to a level crossing, leaving his car unlocked and a note inside, before walking in front of a train that killed him instantly. This particular crossing was just yards away from the grave of his two-year old daughter Lara, who died of a heart condition in 2006. He leaves behind a wife and eight month old adopted daughter Leila, who he feared would be taken from them if news of his depression became common knowledge.

Look after your friends. Because sometimes they don’t have the strength to look after themselves…

RobertEnke

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The Millwall Match Preview – FA Cup First Round Special

fcum 005With about 24 hours to go until kick-off, I’ve finally got my act together to write a Match Preview. I’ve spent my time since the Crawley replay reading about the game, letting the cup fever get to me. Having said that, despite our presence in the Second Round draw this afternoon, I’m having difficulty looking beyond this tie. Thoughts have tended to sway more towards the nightmare of a heavy defeat than the miracle of victory.

Have the players been thinking too much about this one? The performance at Chester was unfortunate to say the least, and we can consider ourselves lucky that was our only League fixture. It’s a good job we had a great start as are supposedly concentrating on the cups this season…

It seems that over 3000 of us have bought tickets, and belatedly I have to say congratulations to the club for throwing on free coaches. Most Dons fans have a realistic view on the likely reception we will get from the regulars at The Den, but for the elderly or those with kids I sensed a few were thinking of ducking it just in case… Knowing they have travel from the ‘Meadow to the away end gives them a lot of reassurance, which pretty much means anyone who wants to come can come… and even those far-flung overseas types can get a chance to watch, either via their telly or the internet…

And about the 3200 we have already sold… I have heard that a number of people got a bit jumpy when their tickets didn’t arrive in the post as expected and got themselves down to Kingsmeadow to buy themselves a replacement… with only 200 for sale on the gate, perhaps anyone who does receive theirs through the post on Monday could meet at a pre-arranged point at London Bridge to sell them on to non-ticket holders, just to make sure everyone that does turn up on the night will get in?

This week I have personally been reminded just how much Millwall are disliked. I have had Arsenal, Foolham, QPR fans telling me just how much they want us to win tomorrow night. Plus we seem to have been adopted by knobhead local Chelski fans who were probably quite surprised to find the FA Cup doesn’t start at the Third Round stage and there is football below the Prem…

millwallStrangely I feel a tiny bit of sympathy for our hosts, they obviously suffer this every week… although that sounds like the typical hug-a-hoodie style reaction you would expect from the Guardian-reading liberal elite that support Wimbledon. I’m sure I’ll be reminded of various misdemeanours their supporters have got up to in the past in the comments section… It’s just I remember going on a mates stag do in Manchester which just happened to be the night before Millwall’s Cup Semi at Old Trafford, stepping out of a bar at 1am to find locals chasing anyone with a London accent left, right and centre. These weren’t thugs, they were just normal blokes like me, who happened to be earmarked for a kicking thanks to their association with a club with a large hooligan element. Obviously I stood in the corner smoking a cigarette, bricking it while my mates decided to stay for one more…

Yet it doesn’t help when you see photos of Millwall fans in Galatasaray shirts when Leeds came to visit (that reminds me of the ugly cunt on the turnstile at Fisher with the MK scarf on… of course Fisher do have links of sorts with Millwall). Still you would expect Millwall to have a little more class than start resorting to the MK chants you would expect from inbreds such as Kettering and Chester… or maybe not? Either way, the thought that an unlikely victory for us will be held up and hijacked by the more retarded half of South West London (the ones that prefer their blue with white rather than yellow…) is a little unsettling to say the least.

But onto the game itself… Don’t ask me what sort of team Terry will play tomorrow. In fact I don’t think it really matters. The difference in class between our best possible XI and our worst is minimal compared to the gulf in class between the two squads. Terry will be better off picking a side that he is sure won’t bottle it, as shocks are caused in FA Cup ties such as these more because of mental strength than the ability to pass the football around nicely.

For example, last year Brown selected Haswell over Hussey at left back. Ultimately it didn’t work as our midfield collectively suffered an arsehole malfunction when it came to the big occasion, but don’t expect this to have put him off making these sort of decisions in future… The likes of Alan Inns could find himself playing a big part in Brown’s plans, if only because Inns has a bigger heart than most blue whales.

At times like these I always like to think of the 88 Cup Final. Lets face it, ignoring the fact that Wimbledon finished sixth that year, with the experience the Liverpool side had of big occasions, they would have won that game nine times out of ten, and the other one after a replay. The victory came about thanks to a moment of genius by Bobby Gould (not that he really had much of a say in the matter…). Letting the players go down the pub took their minds off the match when otherwise they would have been stuck in a hotel, playing cards and thinking too much about what was to come. As it was they turned up on the day without a care in their heads, they were by far the more relaxed side and went on to a famous victory.

Last year, I always thought the players did a little too much publicity before the game, and were tense on the night because of it. This year it seems the players dealt with the media at training on Thursday; I understand the players are coming in for a light training session on Monday morning but the best thing Brown could do after that is take them to Thorpe Park with their families for the rest of the day…

new denLets face it, there will be no surprises coming Millwall’s way. Kenny Jackett will have watched Wimbledon, seen the DVD’s, noticed how we play, the strengths we have and will probably second guess how Terry Brown is planning on using them. The only way there will be a shock is if our boys play above themselves and a few of the Millwall players let their manager down on the night. As professionals you wouldn’t expect that to happen.

Yet I have just seen a Northwich side (a division below us) upset a Charlton team that are above Millwall in League One. Certain Charlton players looked slightly freaked out by their surroundings, and the Northwich fans seemed to notice and play on that. While Millwall will be on their own soil, they certainly won’t be used to the North Stand being full of away supporters. Lets use this to our advantage. Lets create a wall of noise, get on the back of any player in a blue shirt who looks like he might be having a tough time – right from the start. Lets really turn it into a home game.

If you haven’t got a ticket, get yourself to the ground on the day. Even if you get turned away, get yourself in the Millwall sections (obviously don’t wear your colours – this isn’t Trumpton or Staines…). And to all of you that are going, regardless of where you sit, enjoy the game… these don’t come along very often in the division we are in, they haven’t occurred at all as we rose through the Leagues, but are hopefully a sign of things to come when we eventually make it into League 2. As a club that doesn’t have a great record on beating higher ranked clubs in cup competitions (unless we eventually get kicked out for fielding illegible players…), surely we are due one now???

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AFC Wimbledon U18 2 Sutton United U18 1 (After Extra Time) – A Match Report

The youth team laid down the gauntlet to the senior side by reaching the Second Round of the FA Youth Cup, extending their record of reaching the competition proper for the first time this season. It took a lot of guts to make it through against a strong Sutton team who pushed them all the way, and will certainly be feeling sorry for themselves this morning having had a number of chances to win the game at the end of normal time.

As it was the young Dons did enough in extra time to win the game, a victory they just about deserved. The Dons looked like they would romp to victory following a dominant first half performance. As early as five minutes into the game a free kick out wide on the left was delivered in by skipper Harry Knock towards the far post. Sutton keeper Bettinson looked favourite but flapped at the ball, getting nothing on it to change its trajectory, and Dons forward Matt Harmsworth was perhaps taken by surprise that the ball reached him as he charged in behind the keeper, seeing his header smash against the Sutton bar from only yards out.

On twenty minutes, this time from a free kick wide on the left, and much deeper than the handball offence that it was originally given for occurred, was floated in to find Jordaan Browne with a free header ten yards from goal that he could unfortunately only guide over the bar.

Wimbledon were almost made to pay for a rare lapse in defensive concentration, as a Sutton player made an unopposed run down the left channel. Jack Turner was tempted to his near post only to see him square for the Sutton number nine James Page who had an open net to aim for. He went safety first and perhaps hit it a little too close to the centre of goal, but it would have beaten most young keepers. Turner however was like a man against boys, almost like an extra man advantage, and covered the ground to pull off an amazing save.

Every time I see Jack Turner he gets better and better. Plus its amazing that he still qualifies for this tournament, we forget that despite his contracted status he is still so young. If the club manages to hold onto his services we can expect big things from this boy, and should he decide to go on to bigger and better things (bear in mind he turned down a chance to join Readings youth academy during the summer) the fact he is under contract should see the club rewarded with a Hussey-like fee.

Wimbledon snatched the lead they had threatened on 38 minutes. A corner from the right curled in by Jordan Bird wasn’t cleared, a bit of pinball in the six yard box saw the ball find its way to Matt Harmsworth who guided the ball home. Some of the interplay between Harmsworth and his strike partner James Cottee had really impressed me over the course of the half, and Matt himself is another who has come on over the last six months even since seeing him play in the Suburban Cup Final. He had a run out for the first team in pre-season against Wycombe and should take heart from the impact his strike partner that night at Imber Court, Peter Rapson, has had on the first team (injuries notwithstanding).

Sutton came out the stronger sie in the second half, an early attack down the left seeing the ball bounce away from Turners near post. On the hour mark from a ree kick on the left a Sutton player headed over the bar when completely free, before seconds later Turner was forced to make a brave save with feet. From the corner Turner again made a stunning block, albeit the linesman’s flag had already be raised for a Dons free kick.

Sutton were coming into the game more and more, maybe due to their physical presence – they pretty much towered over the Dons boys from 1-11. Yet you still sensed the Dons would have enough to see the game through, and were desperately unlucky not to make the game safe with a quarter of an hour left. A corner was met by Callum Dunne, whose firm downward header bounced up off the bar.

Of course, as is the nature of  cup ties, the home side were made to rue this missed effort with ten minutes remaining. What looked a fair challenge was punished with a Sutton free kick on the edge of the area, from which Sutton fullback Robbie Drewett’s effort just beat Jack Turner and sneaked in under the bar. Extra time loomed, but it was the visitors who almost stole the tie with five minutes to go, a number of Dons fans somehow keeping the ball from crossing the line, their bench already celebrating as all eyes turned to the linesman on the far side, crouched ready to make a call that never came.

With Cottee replaced by Joe Jackson, Wimbledon were more direct towards the end which can only be put down to tiredness. The fresh Jackson was chasing down every ball, giving Sutton something to think about themselves. Yet it was Dunne who snatched what turned out to be the winner five minutes into extra time, a deep cross from the right saw him sneak in at the far post, his header squirming under Bettinson and into the net.

Later in the period, Jackson played in Harmsworth after a strong run down the left, his shot saved by Bettinson with his leg. Moments later a wonderful piece of close control saw Harmsworth dance round two Sutton players before getting his shot all wrong and slicing over the bar. Sutton appeared to be beaten and failed to test Wimbledon during the remainder of the game, with the Dons looking the more likely to extend their lead before the final whistle brought huge celebrations from the team.

A much tougher task awaits them in the Second Round, with Bournemouth travelling to Kingsmeadow after seeing off Bristol Rovers in their First Round tie. The youngsters are now only one win away from a potential tie on a Premier League or Championship ground, although Bournemouth are a huge test it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they can edge past them. With just over two hundred in attendance we can only hope that a really decent crowd with turn out for their next game in the competition – lets give our young players what they really deserve and show them the support we give to the first team.

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The General Specific (Thursday 5th November ’09)

So Terry Browns idea of reinforcements after a 3-1 defeat at the bottom club in which we saw a disjointed midfield and makeshift back line is to sign a striker? Ah, but this is by no means an ordinary striker… this is Luis Cumbers. The man who changed the course of Womble history by nodding into an open net and level the Ryman Playoff final at Staines, less than two years ago… In fact, I say man, but Luis is still just a boy, albeit a much stronger and physical looking boy than he was when here previously.

Perhaps he will write himself into the history books again at the New Den on Monday night? Indeed, Gillingham have allowed him to feature in the FA Cup this season, meaning the possibility has opened up that the Gills may allow his loan to extend beyond the one month initial period, maybe to the end of the season? Could there really be a possibility he may turn the loan move into a permanent deal? Well, lets not get carried away, Luis has to prove himself again to the Dons fans despite his goal against us in the draw at Ebbsfleet. Plus I’m sure if he impresses it may encorage the Gills to have another close look at him.

It’s likely that if Keds and Main are fit he will start on the bench, but is more likely to get the nod to come on than Monague, who will have to find some form after a promising start at the club and now finds himself slipping down the pecking order. Remember we still have an unfortunately injury hit kid in the reserves that wants to prove himself, and may get that chance at Monty’s expense…

I haven’t talked about Millwall yet, partly through cautiousness really. The news that we have already passed the 2500 mark has stung me into action now we find that there is a cap on ticket sales at 3400. Which seems frustrating with Millwall ensuring the two stands next to it are devoid of Millwall fans in their lower tiers… surely there isnt a safety implication in housing Dons fans there? I would imagine we should be mighty annoyed if the remaining tickets go by the weekend then arrive to see hundreds of empty seats in the visiting section…

There is more to this cup game than I care to write at the moment, in truth I’m saving a lot back for the main preview on Saturday (a bumper Anonymous Don special!) but wanted to have a moan about ticket sales in the mean time. In reality we should be lucky we have got over 3000 tickets, that certainly wouldn’t have been the case if we had visited Barnet or Dagenham, perhaps even somewhere like Brentford too?

Plus there is an important cup tie taking place at Kingsmeadow tonight, as the U18’s play their first ever game in the FA Youth Cup proper, having seen off Kentish Town, Hayes, Thamesmead and Tilford on their passage through the qualifying competition. A fixture at home to Sutton United, fellow Ryman Youth Leaguers, gives them a fantastic chance of progressing to a home Second Round game against Bournemouth. Without wanting to put pressure on the youngsters, it seems they have a better chance of moving to the third round and taking on Premiership Acadamy sides than our First team has! Win, lose or draw this evening, the lads have got further than any Dons side has in the competition so far, and I for one will certainly be hanging around after I collect my tickets for Monday in hope that they can go one step further…

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Chester City 3 AFC Wimbledon 1 – A Match Report

After the drama of the FA Cup it was back to League action on Saturday, and a fantastic away following of around seven-hundred saw the Dons turn in one of their weaker performances of the season. Not that the turnout should make any difference (they should be performing at least at 100% every week – or even those mythical performance figures bandied about in post match interviews… 110%, 150%, 200%, 1000% seems to be the scale that most managers work on depending upon circumstance).

I mean, you follow the Dons on the road and you at least expect them not to lose. Not after our first trip down to the coast, anyway. Even if we don’t win, you expect an epic fight back to steal a point. With our away record standing at won five, drawn two, lost one plus our record of being the divisions highest scorers away from home, our hosts must have at least worried they might be on the wrong end of a thrashing, particularly after their four goal home drubbing by Barrow the previous Tuesday.

Halloween 017Yet this Wimbledon side is full of young players, the inexperience of youth that can lead to inconsistency, as harsh but invaluable lessons are learnt usually in return for a heavy cost in terms of dropped points. But this was what we signed up for, wasn’t it?

What a bad day to turn in that kind of performance, what with the Millwall game looming large. It was almost as if no Dons player dared to make a mistake, which of course led to dozens, all over the pitch. No change there of course, but we want to see possession being given up in the right areas of the pitch, if it has to happen at all. For example, we can play twenty passes around midfield including a couple of cross field balls, and that’s great football. But certain players need to know when the right time to play the incisive ball is, rather than passing the responsibility over to a colleague in a worse position or playing it back and forth amongst themselves until the opposition has packed out their defence and eventually we play one pass too many and find ourselves on the back foot.

But back to the ‘experience’ of the day. Chester’s ground initially looks like a larger version of Kingsmeadow, a typical first generation ‘new’ style non-league ground. Then you remember that this was meant as a replacement for their former ground Sealand Road back in the late eighties, and you wonder how this could ever have been planned as a League ground? Its looking a bit frayed around the edges these days, especially the running track behind the goals and the worn down safety markings on the concrete.

With your average Chester supporter reluctant to enter the ground these days, and even those who do are on the whole openly showing their dissatisfaction with the clubs ownership (with the obvious exception of those that sat in the stand bearing the owner’s name – be that himself, his son, his dog, you never can tell judging by his previous form…). Despite the large away following, and the PA guy openly admitting they had given away 200 tickets to a local youth club, the crowd was announced at under 1700. Perhaps this shows the success of any unofficial boycott, or the damage caused by negative publicity and the effect that had on the towns occasional supporters.

This meant the thousand or so home supporters found themselves stretched around two and a half sides of the ground, creating very little in terms of atmosphere. The Dons fans could almost turn it into a home game (bearing in mind at home they are used to one end giving them full support with the three remaining sides moaning at them…). So it was ironic that Chester managed to ground out what was probably their biggest result of the season.

Halloween 026Straight from the kickoff, Chester showed they were going to be no pushover. As early as the first minute Adam Kay blasted over Pullen’s crossbar when well placed, and moments later Nick Chadwick flicked a free header over the bar as the statuesque Dons defence watched on. Wimbledon tried to battle back, forcing a few corners, generally giving the visiting supporters the feeling the worst of the opening Chester onslaught had been dealt with. Don’t you just hate it when you get it all wrong like that? The next ten minutes were extremely depressing…

First on eleven minutes Micheal Coulson surged down the right channel into the box, as Jamie Pullen came to close down the angle he struck it past him into the six yard box, where Chadwick was on hand to tap home. It wasn’t the cleanest strike in the world, but to be fair all the hard work had been done by Coulson and he probably could have let it hit him and it would have bounced in.

A big shock but nowhere near as bad as what was to follow four minutes later, this time Mark Beesley smashing in a low cross. Unfortunately it was Paul Lorraine who managed to turn the ball home, I had to check that myself as the same ‘it all happened so fast…’ explanation that Lorraine probably trotted out to his team mates referred to me as well, which probably goes a long way towards describing just how unfortunate the goal actually was.

With the lead doubled, it was the Dons turn to go forward, after some good work from Kedwell released Nathan Ashton in space. The Dons debutant full-backs cross deflected off a Chester man, sitting up nicely for Steven Gregory who seemed to slightly miss hit his shot towards Chester keeper John Denby who gathered easily.

Halloween 010Wimbledon failed to turn the screw during the first half, the many forced changes seemed to have a great effect on the side. Especially unfortunate was the debut of Nathan Ashton. He looks a decent player who is suffering from a serious confidence crisis at the moment, which perhaps is to be expected from a player who made an appearance in the Premier League relatively recently and now seems to have plunged five levels and joined a team that is technically part-time. Not only that, but news of his signing didn’t exactly have the fans laying out the red carpet for him. 

It was late into the second half until he realised if he actually knocked the ball past his man he would win a foot race every time. He seemed more surprised than our opponents as the movement and pattern of play of the Dons side seemed to catch him off guard regularly. But if Ashton is going to come good at this level, he could have done no better than join the Dons. He seems to have the building blocks required to fit into the side, given training and match time I’m sure he will fit in just fine.

The Dons took another ten minutes to create another chance, Wellard chipping behind the Chester defence for Main to run onto. Denby managed to close him right down, leaving Main to wave a foot at the ball, only succeeding in lobbing it into the keepers hands. Like clockwork, another Dons chance came on forty minutes, Ashton swinging a high cross in from the left that was knocked down by somebody (don’t blame me, the Chester pitch is huuuuuge and the action was taking place at the opposite end…) for Main on the edge of the six yard box to scuff towards goal, Denby once more easily collecting.

It was only three minutes later when the Dons, gradually edging closer to goal, had a Wellard effort kicked off the line. As the half edged into stoppage time, Wimbledon finally struck to put themselves back in the game. A twice taken Wellard free kick (the first one was on its way to being wasted) was deflected into the path of Paul Lorraine, who partially made up for his o.g. by flicking the ball into the path of Jon Main. This time, last seasons top scorer, who has now truly recovered his goalscoring touch, guided the ball past Denby.

Halloween 005The happy half time Dons fans seemed to sense the goal had turned the game, even in the smokers section (i.e. the car park) where an impromptu game of keepie-ups began involving dozens of Dons thanks to a conveniently liberated football. Of course the Anonymous Don doesn’t get involved in such horseplay, preferring instead to smoke my cigarette and make calls to those fortunate enough not to be there. For some reason I took a few photos (there should be one used in this very article showing the man they call Tintin performing an excellently executed ‘eyes shut’ header…), before I noticed the ball coming my way dropping at head height.

At the last minute I realised I couldn’t simply nut it back, so using the sort of calmness you only really get when you have no time to think, I leant forward, allowed the ball to drop behind me, and flicked it back over my head with my right heel. A couple of Dons fans made the moment complete by chanting ‘sign him up’ – thus the Anonymous Don managed to tick off an unexpected ambition on the ‘Things I Must Do Before I Die’ list. Next up – steal a policeman’s helmet…

Those who merely ‘thought’ that Wimbledon might come back and gain points before half time were presumably trying to get their bookie on the phone ten minutes in, trying to put their house on it. Two minutes in, Chester failed to clear their lines as three players showed how little they wanted the ball before some great hustling by Luke Moore won the ball back for the Dons. Main and Wellard had efforts blocked before a Gregory effort deflected safely back to Denby.

Five minutes into the half, a good Dons break culminated in Main smashing an effort towards the top left corner that produced an improbable looking save from Denby (at least improbable from where I was sitting…). The Chester keeper stretched to his right and just got enough on the ball to divert it over the bar. Looking back, this was probably the moment that won the game for Chester. If Wimbledon had scored at this point, they would undoubtedly gone on to claim the game, perhaps even racking up a Forest Green-esque away scoreline in the process. Denby’s save just cranked the pressure up on the Dons, another good chance passing by.

Halloween 008From the corner conceded, Steven Gregory had another pot shot that was (surprise, surprise) deflected wide for another corner and from this one, the referee gave a Chester man the benefit of the doubt as Lorraine climbed above him to head home. To be fair this was not as game turning as it sounds, as although it was one of those 50/50 Lorraine had his hands on him/their guy was backing in-type incidents, how often do you see the referee give them in the attacking teams favour?

Ten minutes into the half, Danny Kedwell picked up the ball in the right channel and surged into the box. Reaching the bye-line he smashed it across goal, in almost a carbon copy of Chester’s first goal, however this time Luke Moore could not apply the finish. Moments later a Kedwell cross from the left was met in the air by Jon Main (strange things were happening…) who nodded down for Luke Moore to strike over. Still Wimbledon couldn’t find the equalizer.

To cap a crazy five minutes, Kedwell had a shot well saved to Denby’s right, and to prove the world really had gone mad Alan Inns popped up on the left-wing to send over a delightful deep cross that Kedwell met on the volley, his effort smashed towards goal from a tight angle only to shave the top of the bar on its way to the Dons hordes behind the goal. The power of hindsight allows me to reveal now that Wimbledon ran out of steam slightly after this, but at the time the Dons domination showed no signs of slowing.

But slow it did, and perhaps buoyed by reaching this stage of the game and still leading, Chester started to pick the visitors of on the break. With twenty minutes to go, an unidentified Chester player (again – large pitch!) smashed a speculative effort from the left edge of the box across Pullen, who was grateful to see it hit bar then right post before bouncing clear. A minute later Beesley raced clear after an absolutely dire attempt at a back header. Fortunately, Lorraine raced back to hold him up, only to pass to another unidentified colleague, this time said player is probably grateful to me as he dragged a woeful effort past the left post.

Two huge wake up calls for the Dons, who just couldn’t get the momentum to swing back in their favour. And on 77 minutes, substitute Gregg Blundell shot into the bottom right hand corner of the Dons goal, which eventually won the game for Chester. I say eventually, as even then I still held out hope the lads would dig deep for one last onslaught, but it wasn’t to be. A last chance in injury time saw a frustrated Lewis Taylor slip when in a good position to shoot, consigning Wimbledon to their heaviest defeat of the season – the bottom club becoming the first to defeat the Dons by two clear goals this term.

Halloween 012So in the end, can we blame it all on bad luck? Well the side took a while to get going, and we can blame nothing else for Sam Hatton’s illness that prevented him starting. Yet it was still a strong lineup that the Dons named, and lets not forget that they created enough chances to win two games. Not all of those failed to hit the back of the net thanks to misfortune. Ultimately a sorry defeat as it was, what a great time to lose – our last game before Millwall. Win, lose or draw there (and I think we know which is more likely), how many of us will remember Chester come next April?

And lest we forget, our hosts are still in all sorts of problems financially, and this coupled with what seems like criminal mismanagement could cost them their place in the Conference sooner than any of us would like to see. The bitter pill for diehard Chester fans will be a shot in the arm to the Dons playoff hopes, with the likes of Luton and York losing points gained. Although it seems a bit cynical to be talking of it now, perhaps news of Chester’s demise will be keener sought by Dons fans than any of us choose to admit.

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