Monthly Archives: January 2010

‘We’ll Never Make It Back To Wembley’ Part Three (or Workington Match Preview)

I faced a difficult decision on Tuesday night. One one hand I had every intention of going to watch a mix-strength side take on Camberley in the SSC. On the other, I was freezing on my way home from work, which was a fantastic time for my wife to call and suggest a takeaway, some wine and a movie. So I faced that classic dilemma; AFC or KFC? Dons or a doner? Vino or the team-o??? (Yeah that last one was a bit desperate).

If it had been any other competition, even an FA Youth Cup game I would have been there like a shot. But faced with watching a group of promising youngsters getting kicked around by an experienced Combined Counties side while our senior players looked on and avoided injury left me feeling a little flat. Big props to the 410 who did turn up though, I’m sure the vast majority wished they hadn’t bothered after we squeaked through on penalties.

I’ve always thought the SSC was the sort of unloved competition worthy of experimenting on, i.e. play the early rounds during pre-season, straight to penalties after 90 minutes, turn the whole thing into a 5-aside tournament and play it over a morning at Goals…

Yet now we turn our attention to a rather more prestigious competition, and one that rewards success with a trip to Wembley for the final, with the merchandise windfall that goes with it. Hopefully a place in the quarter finals will be enough to tempt the many that failed to turn up for the Boreham Wood and Altrincham games and ensure at least a half decent atmosphere at the Meadow.

After eliminating Altrincham we now face the other unsuccessful side in the 1977 League election process, Workington. The phrase ‘grudge match’ has been used elsewhere, and if its going to bring the crowds in then why not? As we ourselves now know, League membership should be regarded as a treasured gift – yet it’s only when League status is lost that you really notice how much it means. Having said that I doubt the Workington supporters will be heading down with torches and pitchforks in search or Ron Noades (and if they were, I might join them…).

The Reds come into the game off the back of a nine game unbeaten run in League and Trophy games, including the prized scalp of Rushden. I would imagine the long journey and unfamiliar surroundings of Borough Park played a big part in this, which should underline why a replay on Tuesday night in Cumbria could prove as disastrous as a defeat. However their build up to the game so far seems to have involved quite a lot of hot air, not in a disrespectful way, and manager Darren Edmondson seems confidence that focusing on work rate and battling qualities will be enough to see us off. If indeed he has ‘studied tapes’ of our matches, I can only presume he would have realised by now his side will need a deeper game plan than that – or cross his fingers and hope we have a collective off day…

As for our Dons, I can only presume TB is currently pinning up the press cuttings in the dressing room as we speak (“Wimbledon used to be a team that was feared but that was in the days of Vinnie Jones. He’s not around any more so our lads have nothing to be scared of.”). Our new signing Josh Parker from QPR (why is it that every other teenager around at the moment seems to be called Josh?) is immediately available and with the loss of Ross Montague to what seems like a long-term injury  (just when he seemed to be finding his feet…), it is likely we might see Parker appear at some point. I have to say during his time at the club, Brown has proved an expert in the loan market, from short-term options like his late season five-player shuffle that got us through the Ryman playoffs to long-term signings such as Elder, he always seems to find the right player. Hopefully Parker will reinforce this reputation.

Apart from that he seems to be playing his cards close to his chest at the moment, so I’m not even going to make a fool of myself by predicting the line-up today. Either way, so long as the lads perform as we know they can, it is odds on we will find ourselves one step closer to being the only group of fans to see their side win the FA Amateur Cup, FA Cup and FA Trophy…

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I couldn’t make it to Wrexham in the end, either fortunately or unfortunately depending on which way you want to look at it. And now I’m worried that a pattern seems to be emerging… when I can’t make a game, we seem to lose 0-1. Although according to the BBC North Wales commentary we did sound slightly unlucky to go down in what sounded like  a poor game. Returning Wombles have now assured me I was correct, and I’m looking forward to any video highlights that might become available to see the Wrexham goal – which sounded slightly dodgy to say the least.

The defeat has rocked our play-off hopes, despite remaining in the top five, as sides below us also won. Now I said a couple of weeks ago that I would prefer the points in the bag to games in hand, but the truth is we now don’t have enough of them to hold our position against Luton for example. The Hatters are just three points behind us with four games in hand, and although our superior goal difference could be considered an extra half point in our favour, can we really see them only picking up four points from those games, regardless of the opposition?

No, we are still playing catch-up as far as the playoffs are concerned. By the time we return to league action against Forest Green on February 6th, we could find ourselves well off the pace, as an albeit shaky Kettering side face Gateshead and Crawley, Luton play Histon and Ebbsfleet, and Rushden are up against Wrexham and Hayes – and play again on Tuesday 9th against Eastbourne. So by the time we visit Cambridge, a tricky journey at the best of times, coming back with three points will be essential. With back-to-back Tuesday night visits to Luton and Oxford following, come the end of February our play-off odds will be a lot clearer.

We face two cup games this week. We face Camberley in the SSC on Tuesday and its unlikely we will see a Dons side as strong as the one that overwhelmed Ash in the last round. I will expect a side full of Marcus Gayle’s young Dons should be enough to overcome our CCL opponents despite our opponents currently enjoying second place in their division, and an extended run in this competition would give our youngsters some great experience.

However, Saturdays game with Workington will be the fixture Terry Brown will be focusing on. The FA Trophy has always been our target, and with a place in the quarter finals at stake I think we are all hoping for a professional performance against our Blue Square North opponents. Lets hope more than a couple of thousand can be bothered to turn out this time, as this is a competition we can genuinely win… I’m not sure we can overturn Oxford or Stevenage in the League, but as we have already seen in a one-off game against either of them we have nothing to fear… although a two-legged semi-final could prove more tricky!

The luck of the draw could decide how hard the route to Wembley will be, and lets not assume the Workington game will be a walkover… they are a tough BSN side and Wimbledon will have to be at their brilliant best to overcome them. Anyway, more about both cup games later in the week. All I can suggest is that we don’t look too closely at that League table in the coming weeks, so lets allow ourselves to be distracted by the Trophy!

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Wimbledon 3 Altrincham 1 – Match Report 19/1/10

A much changed Dons line-up went through to the Third Round of the FA Trophy after a disjointed performance that was just about good enough to see off a battling Altrincham side. Lining up in a formation that owed more to ensuring as experienced a side as possible took the field, and with a non-existant bench, it could be argued this Wimbledon side just don’t know how to lose at the moment, despite making things hard for themselves at times played in front of a disappointing crowd of just 1450.

In fact it was Altrincham who had the first real effort of the game after two minutes, an outswinging corner firmly headed towards the left side of Sebb Brown’s goal, fortunately Jay Conroy had taken up a position on the post and was able to nod clear. Conroy found himself caught out of position frequently later in the game, but the tie would have followed a different course had he allowed this effort to creep past him. It was also pretty much the only effort Alty managed on goal before the break.

Not that Wimbledon dominated, at least not to start with. It took a while for the game to settle into any kind of pattern, as players fought to cut a niche for themselves while occupying slightly unfamiliar positions. For Danny Kedwell this seemed more of a problem than most, trying to play the Moore/Hendry role he constantly found himself sucked back deeper into midfield to win the ball, to the extent it almost seemed as if he was trying to play the holding role rather than the point of a diamond. Whatever his tactical instructions may have been, it left him far less effective than normal.

His battling qualities were still there, and he drew the foul that led to the Dons first chance just after the ten minute mark. Just right of centre, it seemed ideally positioned for Ricky Wellard’s left foot, but instead Hatton tried to whip it over right footed, the ball clearing the bar with ease. Next up Kedwell almost got on the end of a Main pullback after he had been set free down the left by a Hatton flick, sadly he was just beaten to the ball by a defender and the chance was gone.

Still the Dons now had Alty on the back foot. Despite not yet creating anything, and giving the ball away with worrying ease, the home side were getting the ball back thanks to some increasingly panicky clearances that allowed the Dons to build from the back once more. All of a sudden Wimbledon started to test Altrincham keeper Saunders. First, a Johnson cross found Kedwell whose looping header caused Saunders to stretch in order to collect. Then a Sam Hatton volley from the right edge of the penalty area caused the visitors custodian to drop smartly to his right to gather.

Finally, with five minutes of the half remaining Wimbledon found the breakthrough. Kennedy Adjei was given time to compose himself on the half way line before launching a rampaging surge into the visitors half, leaving two opponents for dead in the process. The ball found its way to Ricky Wellard loitering on the right edge of the area, a drop of the shoulder saw him past the opponent that blocked his path as he cut back inside, and rifled a left foot effort into the bottom right corner of the goal.

There then followed a bizarre piece of refereeing that infuriated the Dons fans and left both sides feeling a little hard done by. A through ball found Altrincham’s Chris Senior through on goal, and despite being a clear two yards offside the linesman’s flag stayed down. This threw Sebb Brown’s concentration, and he spied the danger too late before rushing out to clear. Senior’s balance had gone by the time the two came together, and after prodding the ball past the keeper the Alty man decided to take the easy option and tumble over the goalkeepers leg. Finally a whistle came, too late for Dons fans liking, awarding the free kick in Altrincham’s direction. A yellow card for Brown, but no more on account that Senior’s trajectory was sending him closer to the corner flag than the Dons goal, and at least two covering players were protecting the goal.

Not that the Altrincham bench were happy with the free kick, and kicked off into one of the biggest strops seen at Kingsmeadow this season, which included an always enjoyable spot of crowd interaction. Perhaps Alty manager Graham Heathcote should have read Terry Brown’s Mansfield programme notes, as there was little Respect shown by him towards the match officials. Ultimately you could say the men in black came up with the correct result, the referee seemed to notice something was up and took leniency on young Brown when I suppose a red card was a possibility – we have seen those given in the past. But ultimately the only losers in the incident were the Dons… if the referee had managed to make the correct decision to start with, I wouldn’t be writing this now!

[Edit – I’ve actually seen the video now and in particular the image reproduced here, and I’m ready to accept that it might have been a closer offside call than I suggested – which of course doesn’t excuse Senior’s extravagant tumble, which you don’t quite get the full benefit of on the video. For the avoidance of any doubt though, you can see the direction he was heading (Berrylands) and the number of covering players (plenty)]

Presumably Heathcote used this mock sense of injustice to his advantage during the half time break, not that it did him much good as his side found themselves two goals down less than five minutes into the second period. Adjei controlled a fierce low clearance, and slid the ball into Ross Montague, who had his back to goal on the edge of the area. Montague quickly laid off to Jon Main, who took a touch before drilling the ball into the bottom right hand corner.

For the next few minutes it looked as though the Dons would put the game well beyond their visitors. Main forced a corner on the right, and Wellard’s delivery was flicked on at the near post by Brett Johnson, only to be deflected behind. Wimbledon then threatened though a number of succesive corners, ended when Jon Main found himself brushed off the ball in the area, with the referee and his assistants being in no place to make a decision.

It was a that point that Heathcote decided to make changes, bringing on the more offensively minded Clee and Little. The switch had an immediate effect, with Altrincham now able to hold the ball in the Dons half more effectively and build attacks. Minutes later they forced the first real moment of danger in the Dons box, with Shaun Densmore’s precise volleyed cross from the right finding Senior in space, only for the Alty man to rush his headed finish when he could have taken the ball down. It was only a short respite for Wimbledon, as the visitors pulled themselves right back into the game.

As another Alty forage forward looked to have been repelled, a half-clearance found Anthony Danylyk in space twenty-five yards out, and he took his chance really well, returning the ball into the bottom left corner of Sebb Brown’s goal at such pace it gave the young keeper no chance.

Adjei immediately picked up a head injury that required a BIG bandage, however it was just coincidence that following this the Dons overworked midfield seemed to break down temporarily. Unable to pass the half way line, their balls forward were either over hit and poorly placed, or didn’t make it past the first man. Fortunately the back line was battling bravely against a barrage of crosses during a spell when it seemed a matter of when Altrincham would equalise rather than if.

But the storm had been weathered, and the Dons finally found their feet again in midfield. This culminated in a gradual spell of pressure that saw the hosts extend their lead and put the game beyond doubt. Following a bit of head tennis in the area a Ricky Wellard shotwas deflected into the air, looping perfectly for Jon Main to bury his header… Instead he just about did enough despite putting the ball too close to a defender for anyones liking. It seemed to have crossed the line before said unidentified Alty player fisted it away from goal, but Ben Judge was on hand to blast into the roof of the net and end the arguments.

Except the arguments between Main and Judge of course! To be honest it all happened to quickly to tell whether the linesman was flagging for Judge or for Main’s original effort, the two of them still trying to work it out long after the final whistle [Late edit – you can’t tell from the video either!]. To be fair Main gets more than his fair share, and Judge is a warhorse, reliable and loyal with it… Judge deserves the goal. If Jon Main has a problem with that, my only advice to him would be to make sure the ball hits the net in future – then no-one can take it away from you!

Five minutes later Altrincham had the ball in the net once more, this time ruled out due to a rather obvious handball by Colin Little, still it ensured a few Dons hearts leapt into mouths at a key moment. Despite the shaky performances from both sides, or rather because of the shaky performances, the game was reasonably exciting throughout. Although the Dons created more chances, including a self-made chance from a surprisingly lively Ross Montague that ended with a twenty yard shot that was slightly scuffed and comfortably saved by Saunders, it would have been slightly rough on Altrincham who deserve credit for their gutsy performance.

And those stay-away supporters ultimately missed out. Wimbledon now face the other unfortunate team that lost out to the 1977 Dons 4 Div 4 campaign – Workington of the Blue Square North. Without wanting to tempt fate, the Third Round draw has presented a series of fixtures that mean a winnable quarter-final would be just as likely as a difficult one – should we get that far… And to paraphrase Sam Allardyce (sort of…), those that weren’t there last night will be the first ones to complain when they can’t get tickets for the later rounds…

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‘We’ll Never Make It Back To Wembley’, Part Two (or Altrincham Match Preview 19.1.10)

After our return to League action, we immediately switch our attention to the Trophy and welcome Altrincham down to the ‘Meadow. While not exactly the Magic of the Cup, the Temptation of the Trophy will be enough to drag 1732 hardy souls down to Kingsmeadow to see this vital Second Round tie. In fact I’d almost rather have half of those there than the bland atmosphere we witnessed for most of Saturday, when my concentration had been broken on several occasions by the dropping of knitting needles in the Strank Stand…

I love midweek cup action at Kingsmeadow; that it’s normally just the hardcore who turn out for this type of game means perversely there is more concrete and steel for the atmosphere to bounce off, and not absorbed into static flesh like it was on Saturday. Plus where do these extra supporters disappear to for these midweek cup ties? We are always going to lose a few due to kids not coming, distant Dons being unable to travel, late shift workers not being able to get there in time… but that can’t account for half our regular fanbase, surely?

I think its down to our modern Sky-assisted idea (yup, it’s always Sky’s fault…) that there is nothing like the League, and all other tournaments are little more than a meaningless distraction… which as we all know is horsecrap of the highest order. The cup is where it’s at, and if you think back to some of the greatest games you’ve seen, I guarantee at least half of them would be cup ties – which those of you working out the ratio of League games played to Cup games would already have worked out, doesn’t quite add up…

To borrow a Football Managers Cliche, ‘The League is our bread and butter’… which probably explains why managers are more likely to suffer heart problems. Stop moaning about stress, try using low-fat spread for a while, that’ll sort it out. Plus you can’t eat bread and butter all the time, which is effectively what these stay-away fans are doing… How do they avoid the boredom of Conference fixture after Conference fixture? You need the curry of an FA Cup run, or the microwave Spag Bol of the Trophy from time to time… even the Curly Wurly of the Surrey Senior Cup is enough to sort me out good and proper…

As for the game itself, lets not kid ourselves that we are going to overwhelm Altrincham. If they won their three games in hand they would only be a win away from us (not that they will necessarily win those games, it’s just a way of saying ‘careful now..’), and have shown some pretty decent form away from home. Their supporters are confident – not just for this tie but for them to go on and win the thing – which is a great attitude to have (and I mean that not in a patronising way, football gods…).

Having said that, I think we would have been more likely to throw this one away if we’d played the game on its original date. Ever since we lost 1-5 at home to Southall in the Combined Counties Premier Challenge Cup we have looked shaky at the ‘Meadow in cup competitions played on a Saturday. I’m still waking up in the middle of the night sweating while having nightmares about Walton & Hersham. Even right up to Boreham Wood, when we could easily have ended by shuffling out of the ground wondering what just happened.

Team news now, and as the O/S conveniently managed to point out just before I had the chance to, John McAliskey is Cup Tied and won’t be featuring for the visitors. There, thats it, my one and only insight into the Altrincham lineup and they go and ruin it… ahem, although my sources close to the Moss Lane outfit suggest apart from that the lineup will be pretty similar to the side that picked up three points at Ebbsfleet on Saturday (which is more than we did…).

Dons news, and the list of those available would probably be easier to write than those that are out, but as far as I’m aware those Cup Tied are Hendry, Poole and Garrard, with the beast that is Elder unavailable due to not being signed in time for the original tie (one of those weird rules that you only find out about when it affects you…). With Saturday’s Man of the Match out, we will have to make do with top scorer Danny Kedwell starting, and with a point to prove.

In reality our best forward line will probably turn out to be Kedwell alongside Elder, despite Jon Main’s best attempts to put himself about Keds style on Saturday. Main can put an end to that type of talk tomorrow however, and I’m sure he’ll be desperate to avoid slipping out of the starting XI altogether no matter how effective most of us think he can be as an impact substitute.

So in my opinion, we will line up something like this;












Ricky Wellard’s fifteen minutes against Mansfield has shown his desire is there, even if we may have to make do with the negatives as well as the positives he brings to the side – although like Sam Hatton I’m one of those who firmly believes those positives far outweigh any mistakes he might make. Plus he seems to have discovered his eye for goal, so keep an eye out for any screamers he might let loose from distance… one day one of them is going to end up in the top corner and we’ll be talking about it for months…

Apart from that, the side pretty much picks itself at the moment, mainly due to those unavailable. With Lorraine out the centre half pairing looks assured, I think if Blanchett can walk he’ll be asked to play over a virus-ridden Derek Duncan, and continuity will be good enough reason to keep Sebb Brown between the sticks despite what must be a strong urge to give returning senior goalkeeper Jamie Pullen a Cup run-out. The only thing I’m not quite sure of is formation, so we could see something interesting happen involving Ross Montague should Terry decide to leave a midfielder on what I would imagine could be a fairly lightweight bench.

I spent most of today thinking about this game; I’ve been looking forward to it since the draw was made. We could be in for a difficult but watchable game, I would expect the home team to have 60-70% of possession, but it certainly won’t be enough to make sure of a victory on its own – its making use of the ball that is going to ensure whether we win through, or watch Altrincham continue on their way and wonder what might have been.

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Wimbledon 2 Mansfield Town 0 – Match Report 16/1/10

Before the action, Wimbledon said goodbye to one of the men that made us. Allen Batsford, the man who initially took Wimbledon into the Football League in 1977, sadly passed away after collapsing at Wimbledon Broadway tube station following the Chelsea-Fulham game just after Christmas. It was time for those who knew Allen to say goodbye, and those who didn’t but still recognise the great debt this club owed him for his fantastic work almost three decades ago. The programme carried his photo on the front cover, his former players spoke before the teams emerged and a perfectly observed minutes silence preceded kick off.

But life goes on, as does football, and the clubs playing staff had to stay focused on the task in hand. Terry Brown, the man tasked with replicating Batsford’s achievements in the seventies, has played his transfer hand this window and brought in three newcomers to the squad; Chris Hussey replacement Danny Blanchett, plus the ex-Brentford pair Glenn Poole and Nathan Elder. Perhaps with one eye on Tuesday nights crucial FA Trophy tie with Altrincham, and aware that neither Poole nor Elder can play a part in that game, Brown took the risk of naming all three in his starting line-up. In fact including Sebb Brown and Brett Johnson the Dons started with four ex-Brentford players, with Ross Montague also waiting on the bench.

It should be regarded as a good sign that we featured so many players that were part of a promotion winning side last season in the division above, but many Dons fans wondered whether this was too much of a risk against a side one place and one point ahead of them before kickoff – especially considering Wimbledon have failed to beat a side that started the match above them in the table all season.

Any butterflies were eliminated moments after the first whistle. Before the game had even had a chance to settle, Will Hendry picked up the ball in the visitors half. With Nathan Elder the obvious target, Hendry’s job was made a whole lot easier by the big forward intelligently dropping off his man. Hendry floated an inch perfect ball to Elder, who floated his header back across Mansfield goalkeeper Marriott and into the net.

All thoughts that top scorer Danny Kedwell (who has interestingly been linked with a six figure move to St Mirren very recently) was on the bench taking a rest, Elder became an instant hero and a contender for earliest goal on début in Dons history, having netted after only 117 seconds. And Wimbledon weren’t ready to take their foot off the gas just yet…

Five minutes in, and Jon Main found himself free on the right linking with Elder to send his new strike partner free. Mains ball bobbled around and never quite sat right for Elder, who sensibly decided to square for Lewis Taylor. Taylor was well placed, but seemed to rush his finish, seeing the ball deflected away and eventually scrambled clear. Wimbledon had started the way we have come to expect of them, passing the ball around nicely, always looking forward, positive and expansive in their play.

Not that Mansfield were going to sit back and take this. The visitors looked like a team lacking confidence despite their position, seemed unable to string together more than a couple of passes and were over-reliant on their albeit admirable battling qualities. Wimbledon were as solid when faced with this type of aerial onslaught as they have been all season, yet a reshuffled Dons midfield were sloppy at times, gifting the ball to their opponents on far too many occasions. A team firing on all cylinders could have punished them, yet Mansfield seemed rusty, the weather enforced mid-season break seemingly having done them no favours today.

They created chances though, the first on twelve minutes when Gary Silk wriggled free on the right side of the Dons box only to be closed down by Sebb Brown, the Dons keeper deflecting the ball wide for a corner on the right. A deep corner travelled all the way to big forward Rob Duffy at the far post, who could only direct his header tamely wide of goal. The unfortunate Duffy showed no confidence moments later when he found himself in the clear with only Brown to beat, but could only side-foot tamely into the Dons keepers arms.

Now all too aware they couldn’t simply stroll through this game, Wimbledon stepped up a gear. They thought they had doubled the lead on twenty minutes, Lewis Taylor was brought down as the ball ran on to Elder, whose expert finish was ruled out by the referees whistle. Not for a Dons free kick as most presumed, the referee refusing to bring back play even though the Dons had gained no advantage, and presumably wouldn’t have anyway had Elder been offside. Terry Brown aimed his programme notes at fellow managers who had criticised referees of late, but even he must have had to bite his tounge after some inconsistent decision-making from the man in black.

The Dons weren’t to be denied though, and they added a second goal in fantastic fashion in their next attack. Blanchett fed the ball from the left flank to Hatton on the right via Kennedy Adjei, and Hatton delivered a great ball to Elder. Wimbledon’s new hitman this time cushioned a header into the path of Lewis Taylor who swept his shot into the bottom left hand corner of the Mansfield goal giving Marriott no chance.

While Mansfield’s workmanlike forays forward were ultimately proving fruitless, the Dons went on to go close on a couple of occasions during the remainder of the half. Perhaps the best saw Jon Main flick a ball in Glenn Poole’s direction leaving him in possession on the left side of the area with his back to goal. Expertly spinning his man he whipped a shot across the face of goal, just dropping wide of the right hand post.

The second half took a little bit longer to get going than the first, mainly down to a nasty clash of heads that saw Elder receive his second off pitch treatment of the game. The frontman was rightly named the Dons man of the match by the sponsors, combining the battling qualities you would expect from a man of his physique with some intelligent forward play and, as you would expect from a Terry Brown signing, some nifty footwork too that consistently drew fouls from the bamboozled Mansfield back line (even if the referee didn’t always elect to blow his whistle for them…). Then, with the Dons first real chance of the half just after the hour, he could have grabbed his second after being played in by Will Hendry only for a fantastic challenge from Michael Brough to deny him.

The Dons had to stay alert defensively, a fantastic stretching challenge by Sam Hatton saw off a three on three Mansfield break. The visitors just weren’t troubling the Dons goal, their game plan was direct but their play was directionless. Their best player – by some way – was substitute Jake Speight, the only Mansfield player who seemed to show any inclination or ability to take the ball and run at Wimbledon. The difference between the two teams was the home side had players like this all over the pitch, and while the Dons could just about handle Speight, with the likes of Taylor, Hendry and Main among others bombing forward, Mansfield couldn’t really cope.

Hendry was withdrawn for Ricky Wellard with fifteen minutes to go, after proving what a fantastic signing he has been. Hendry seems to have almost single-handedly made the Dons midfield a more offensive unit, he slipped straight into the squad as if he had always been there at just the right time. I still think the Dons squad is poorer without Luke Moore, but Hendry is a more than worthy replacement for him.

Elder made way for Montague with seven minutes remaining, to huge applause from the home fans. Yet it was a fifteen minute cameo from Ricky Wellard that almost stole the show and gave Wimbledon breathing space. First, Montague chased down a through ball that Marriott was clear favourite for, but the Mansfield goalkeeper seemed to be distracted by one of his own defenders and mishit the ball to Wellard just inside the visitors half. As Marriott retreated, Wellard rounded an opponent, and urged on by the crowd struck a perfect dipping effort that the goalkeeper somehow managed to tip over the bar.

Then two minutes later he picked up the ball wide right, cut inside leaving two Mansfield men for dead, and smashed a left footed effort towards the top left corner. Marriott was once again equal to it, just, flying across goal and getting enough on the ball to divert it over for a corner. Marriott won this personal battle, but Wellard showed just how much more confident he has become of late. Not long ago it seemed in the balance whether he would make it at Wimbledon at all, but ever since he turned down the chance to move on loan he seems to have really come on. Yes, he will still suffer from the inconsistency of youth from time to time, but he has shown he has the ability to blossom into a Football League midfielder if he applies himself further.

In between Wellard’s attempts to steal the show, Mansfield managed to get the ball past Sebb Brown only for the effort to be ruled out for offside. Some suggested after the game that an extra goal for each side would have been a more accurate reflection of the game, this would have been at the expense of yet another clean sheet for Sebb Brown and the back four. The Dons have now only conceded once in the last eight league games, and Decembers Conference Player of the Month winner Brown has kept eight clean sheets in his eleven full games for the club.

Adjei and Conroy had twenty-five yard efforts that just cleared the bar in stoppage time, but the points were Wimbledon’s by this stage. The victory moved the Dons up to fourth, which perhaps disguises that there is still plenty of work to do – the Dons find could drop as low as seventh if sides below them (including Mansfield) win their games in hand, and until a few of those games have been played, and points are dropped by promotion rivals, Wimbledon really need to be aware that they haven’t really broken into the playoff places just yet. Stretching the gap between the clubs below them should be their first priority.

If anything the Dons playoff ambitions could be decided between now and the end of February, with winnable home games combined with some very tricky road trips, and if Terry Brown can ensure his newly reinforced squad can remain in the top five by the time March rolls around, we will know whether this is a serious promotion push or not. While Batsford loomed large on the front of the programme, the rear cover featured an advert for our sponsors new game, urging you to ‘Make History’, like Allen did, and Terry is trying to. If Brown can guide us from the Ryman League to the Football League in three consecutive seasons, well, that would be an achievement that would even eclipse the achievements of the great man himself in the seventies. And should it happen, I’m sure there would have been no prouder man than Allen Batsford himself.

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Conference Score – Saturday 16th January ’10

AFC Wimbledon    2 (2)    Elder (2), Taylor (22)

Mansfield    0 (0)

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Nathan Elder grabbed a debut goal after only 117 seconds against playoff rivals Mansfield, as the Dons took the points on a day when most other contenders took another weather break. Elder also had a strike ruled out later in the half before laying on an assist for Lewis Taylor to grab a second, and Wimbledon could have had more in the second half against a disjointed looking Mansfield side.

Elsewhere in the division, the wheels haven’t quite fallen of at Oxford, but they certainly don’t seem to be the dominant force they appeared earlier in the year, slipping to a 0-1 home defeat at the hands of Tamworth. York predictably overcame Hayes 4-1 in the only other game that affected the promotion contenders that didn’t fall foul of the weather.

At the bottom, Ebbsfleet are now in real trouble slipping to a 1-2 home defeat against our gritty Trophy opponents Altrincham, the Fleet have now played more games than anyone at the bottom. Forest Green leapt a couple of places beating Gateshead 1-0 at The New Lawn, leaving their opponents in the bottom four. Eastbourne Borough pulled away slightly after coming away from Cambridge with the points.

Dons match report to follow shortly…

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Oh, By The Way…

A few things that aren’t directly related to the Mansfield game…

Not signed the anti-MK World Cup petition yet? Well why not? There’s no reason not to – every extra signature cranks up the embarrasment factor at the Wankiedome, on the WC organising committee (who will find a way to screw the whole bid up anyway…), and indirectly the government – whoevers in charge by then, they’re both as bad as each other – who have stood by and allowed our national game to be dominated by money, only electing to step in whenever there is some chance for some reflected glory…

Click here to get on it…

Also, while your in the mood for clicking links and signing up for stuff, become a fan of the Anonymous Don on Facebook by clicking the correct button here ( and receive news of updates in your news feed. Or alternatively add me on Twitter (if your not bored of it yet, to do pretty much the same. Of course, you could always sign up for both and make me look popular…

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Mansfield (H) – A Match Preview

Yesterday I was unfortunate enough to be confined to my house thanks to the freak snow we received preventing me from reaching work (actually my boss called me and told me not to bother as the office would be closed – it wasn’t – which made me look a bit of a tit when I spoke to my colleagues this morning who HAD battled their way in). I blame South West Trains and the dodgy wiring at Surbiton station… exactly how many times can they claim to have no information due to ‘power failure’ before the public realise they just flicked the light switch to the off position?

Fortunately, I spent my time constructively. I wrote an article for this here blog entitled ‘Bonus’, yet perhaps due to recent inactivity I somehow forgot to post it. Never mind. You didn’t miss much. Plus I’ll probably recycle most of it in this little preview – of a game that may or may not take place…

As many of you will notice, there was an appeal on the website requesting supporters arrive this morning to clear the pitch of snow, to allow the frozen surface underneath the best chance to recover. I have noticed a few people pondering why we don’t have a pitch cover when extreme weather is expected. I vaguely remember that these type of things cost tens of thousands of pounds, so I wonder whether it would be worthwhile making our own? All we would need are a few hundred old duvets and a load of Tesco Value binbags to line it… I’m sure we have a few thrifty supporters who wouldn’t mind devoting some time to knit it all together… then bingo! No more postponements!

For those of you wondering why Danny Webb’s old training kit couldn’t be used for this job, it’s currently on its way to Haiti to be erected as a tent and used as a field hospital…

I suppose clearing the pitch has become a bit of a race against time, with rain forecast for tomorrow and Saturday allowing the snow to melt and saturate the playing surface probably isn’t an option. Yet it must be a careful procedure… after all the pitch itself has cost a fortune to get into its present state, and the investment in playing staff on it means the last thing we need is Danny Kedwell turning his ankle on a pothole created by a well-meaning volunteer rushing to remove a pile of snow and ice…

Not that I’m slagging off those who rushed to the ground this morning – all I’m saying is Saturday will be a big, big game for us, and I don’t want any of them coming away thinking ‘I wish I hadn’t bothered now’… Some of the other ‘big’ ex-League clubs have looked ordinary so far… Hello, Cambridge and Wrexham by the way… and those who are the real deal are starting to rise to the top. Stevenage, Oxford, York, all unbeaten at home this season. And lying just below them, a point ahead of us and with a game in hand, are Mansfield. Luton may have three games in hand on us, and are only three games behind, but they actually have to win those games. At this stage of the season I would prefer to have the points in the bag.

Now I haven’t seen much of Mansfield this season, and its fair to say their away form has been indifferent, but they have picked up wins rather than splitting points – winning six and losing six of their road games this term. Last time out on the road they lost 0-3 to York (and we know all about York…) yet followed it up with a morale boosting win against Cambridge before the big freeze set in. The question is, does this form make any difference after a two-week break? Perhaps there is a Mansfield blogger sitting there now, drawing strength from our defeat at Hayes on New Years Day.

In reality our lacklustre performance was more down to the players that weren’t on the pitch than those who were. With two signings that could potentially start on Saturday (Blanchett and Poole), and another signing apparently on the way, it could be said Wimbledon are a team in transition at the moment. Not pre-season style transition – it won’t take weeks for the new boys to settle, and they could always click straight away. But perhaps enough of a reshuffle for Mansfield to catch us cold?

The flip side of the coin is that we now have the strength in depth that we have been crying out for. As I said last time out, genuine contenders are looking to strengthen now and not release players (Hello, once again, Luton Town…), so to see Terry so active in the market is encouraging. The lack of news about the striker we have been promised doesn’t seem so much of a problem knowing we have a fully fit Danny Kedwell and Jon Main, the most potent strike force in the division with 28 between them, and if anything service should be improved now we have the likes of Will Hendry and Glenn  Poole to add to the likes of Lewis Taylor and the much-missed Luke Moore. (The one thing I do wonder about is where this leaves Elliott Godfrey, such a hard-working but desperately unlucky player, once Moore returns from injury…).

So should we put more pressure on our young team by expecting a win on Saturday? Hmmm, I think some of us would just feel quite privileged to see a game of football again…

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Belated Happy New Year

So I’m back in the country… or to be more accurate I’ve been back in the country for ten days, I’ve only just gotten around to writing something, but for the purposes of this post… I’ve just arrived back. So what did I miss?

Well a lot of inclement weather apparently (although Xmas in New Hampshire meant I was in the midst of PLENTY of inclement weather…) which has caused the cancellation of Crawley (a), Tooting (a), Hayes (a), Wrecsam (h), Altrincham (h). Oh, and Tooting (a)… again. Hang on, did I say Hayes away? We wish… I wasn’t even able to attend (thanks to a young ‘un screaming his head off for most of my seven hour flight, or more accurately the young ‘un’s parents complete lack of control of their child, causing me to collapse into sleep on arrival back at Anonymous Mansions), which is probably a bonus, but great way to start the year, eh?

I’m not going to write any more about the negatives. I’m already having panic attacks having completed my annual New Year audit of finances, the result of which was ohmygodImfuckedImfuckedImgoingtojailImfucked not pleasing… Precisely how many away games I can get to this year remains to be seen, I may have to sell that pristine 1993 FA Cup Final Replay programme to finance my way through February’s away games…

So you may have to put up with reduced content from AFC Wimbledon’s Premier blog (no change there then) unless someone wants to sponsor me? For the small sum of, say £50 a month you could take advantage of The Anonymous Don Brought To You By [YOUR COMPANY NAME HERE]’s literally* hundreds of visitors a day… just throwing it out there…

(*  read ‘imaginary’…)

While the weather has been rough of late (still not rough enough for your Anonymous Don to bag any time off work… grrr….), its showing some signs of improvement, perhaps just in time for Tuesdays FA Trophy game with Altrincham to go ahead. While I’m not confident enough to go ahead and write a match preview just yet, perhaps if we all cross our fingers and wish hard enough we might just see some football in a couple of days!

The Dons have leapt into the transfer market and snaffled Peterborough fullback Danny Blanchett on loan until the end of the season. This is the sort of signing we’ve been waiting for since Chris Hussey left, he sounds like a proper replacement and although he hasn’t quite made it at Peterborough he seems to have had a decent spell on loan to Hereford in League Two, and his non-League upbringing is impressive. Plus that trial he had at Liverpool where apparently he made a real impression on their coaching staff. The fact that he can play as a centre half always makes me feel quite comfortable… we know Jay Conroy can do it and when we had Brett Johnson lining up on the other side we seemed a lot more comfortable at the defending side of things, hopefully Danny will be able to add the offensive aspect of the job more than Brett could, for all his efforts.

And will we add another newcomer shortly? My only hope is yes, as although the whole goalscoring midfielder problem seems to have been solved by the arrival of Will Hendry, we still need someone who can put the ball in the box accurately on a regular basis. For all I know they could have shown signs of doing this in recent weeks, it seems like years since that Boreham Wood game in December, the last time I saw any live football. I mean seriously, its been like those few weeks before pre-season… what was that famous quote again? Oh yeah, I just want to watch football…

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