400 Minutes

Sorry for the delay in writing. The Anonymous Don is technically closed for Christmas, yet as I forgot to post a message advising that plenty of you have been returning waiting for an update, perhaps visualising me dead in a ditch somewhere…

The Christmas close down has come early as I am off to the States for two weeks two days before the Crawley game, and I have to get quite a lot of things done in the meantime. So the blog will return, relaunched in the New Year, in the mean time I will endeavour to keep as up to date as possible with intermediate updates such as this.

Last time I wrote, if you can remember back that far, was a 0-1 home defeat to playoff rivals York, and since Michael Rankine’s sixty-third minute strike in that game young Sebastian Brown has gone approximately four hundred minutes without picking the ball out of his net (including various time added on at half/full-time, for those of you who came up with 387 minutes…).

After York I really felt we had run into just the right opponents at the right time. Ebbsfleet had shown some resilience against us earlier in the season, but any fears Dons fans might have had of an embarrassing home defeat would have been put aside after only minutes. We were never going to have trouble against a side that gifted us possession so freely, even at our worst we don’t give the ball away so easily from start to finish!

Despite this I feel we made the trip to Kidderminster more in hope than expectation, but our hosts seemed to have the sort of bad day we had for their visit a month previously. With Moore and Taylor buzzing around Kedwell, the trio of Hendry, Wellard and Gregory took hold of the midfield and ran the game. Hendry has been an inspired signing, the missing piece of the jigsaw almost, and any possibility of turning this arrangement into something more permanent will only have a positive effect on Wimbledon’s playoff chances.

Although Danny Kedwells expertly taken goal was enough to settle the game, the Dons missed further chances that could have ended the match as a contest much earlier than the final whistle. How Jon Main failed to head home from yards out I don’t know, especially with hundreds of Wimbledon supporters behind the goal trying to suck it in. Either way, Wimbledon played some good football, and it was a real pleasure to make the journey to watch such a performance.

With two wins under our belts, my football (or more accurately Wimbledon) head told me the trick to Salisbury would be a lot harder than the League table suggested. I couldn’t make the game due to work commitments but it seems in tough conditions this really could have been a banana skin. Congratulations to the boys for coming home with the points, and even bigger congratulations to the hundreds of Dons fans who made the trip, despite not being too far away it was just long enough a journey for me to be unable to juggle my own commitments, so well done those of you who did.

Which brings us to Gateshead. This was a side in form against a relatively unknown quantity, and Wimbledon put them away with minimal fuss. Steven Gregory looked as though the last thing he wanted to do was strike left footed as he skipped past two defenders, if anything this probably made him think a little more about how he hit the ball. If it was on his right foot we may have seen it fly over the bar but instead his effort dipped over the keeper, finding the net via the underside of the bar.

Still it wasn’t the most watchable of games, mainly down to the referees ability to blow his whistle whenever there was any danger of some football breaking out. He cancelled out Kedwells strike early in the second half after Kedwell had brushed off an attempted rugby tackle by the last man. Fortunately even he couldn’t miss the challenge that scythed down Elliott Godfrey on the hour, allowing Ricky Wellard to stroke a free kick around the wall into the corner.

An other good day at the office for Wimbledon, but where does this leave us? We have gone from mid-table to just two points off the playoffs and above contenders such as Luton and Kidderminster in little over a week. In these circumstances it’s a shame we have to break for cup games, but thats football I suppose. If we were facing Crawley in Tuesday instead of Ash, I would have felt we would have gone with confidence and taken home the points.

Instead we have a two-week wait, and will perhaps have to regain momentum depending on what sort of side is named for the Boreham Wood game next week. Crawley is a tricky place to go as we found out when we visited for our cup game, yet I think after our ten man victory in the replay we might just have sussed them out. Another clean sheet should mean another victory, as I listen in from afar…

After the York game I think I wasn’t the only one to believe we really needed a Chris Hussey replacement but the back four seems to have gelled. We now have four defenders who could play centre half if required, meaning our full backs aren’t exposed to high balls over the top. Even when Hatton fills in at right back we look solid against an aerial bombardment. Yet this hasn’t had an effect on how we pass the ball around, perhaps fortunate that we have players such as Judge and Johnson who are as comfortable with the ball at their feet as they are attacking it in the air. Sure if a Hussey-clone becomes available in January I say we sign him, but if the right player isn’t available we should stick with what we have – and that includes making more use of Derek Duncan in this position.

It seems like Terry Browns plan is coming together. At the beginning of the season we anticipated encounters with our opponents by highlighting their dangermen, so it is good to know that sides who play us are now looking beyond Kedwell and Main (brilliant though they are!) and highlighting the likes of Gregory, Moore, even Wellard as stand out performers.

Yes, despite our recent run of form we probably won’t have the consistency this year to make the playoffs. If we do we will come unstuck against the experience of a York or Stevenage over two legs, but even missing out completely will be ok so long as the progression and momentum that has been built up continues throughout the campaign.

I remember a few scoffers writing off the likes of Wellard, Gregory and of course Hatton at the start of the season. All of those players have shown a huge improvement. In fact even the more ‘mature’ players have improved their game. Plus as a unit they are coming together all the time, as the side start to exceed the value of its parts as even the best sides should.

Moving onto the two cup games, its good to hear that Terry Brown will be taking a strong side down to Ash on Tuesday. Despite no longer technically being a first team competition, the county cups will be more than useful for giving our fringe players a run-out. With the size of our squad and the poor quality of opposition our reserves face, going all the way in both of these competitions would see two of these fixtures a month until the end of the season.

Plus the Ash assistant manager is Matt Everard. Reason if any to get yourself down there on Tuesday night!

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