Monthly Archives: February 2010


Crap, crap, crap. Not the Dons last night, but me sitting here on my sofa, watching Sky Sports News and writing this. It means I’ve blown my perfect sickness record for the year (and its only February!) after contracting what I believe might be the only genuine case of football-related sickness ever recorded… or it could just have been the dodgy egg and bacon sandwich I picked up from Twickenham railway station yesterday afternoon… either way I’ve always felt that spending a morning retching into the toilet bowl is a little bit unfair when you haven’t had the night of heavy drinking beforehand that normally makes it in some way worthwhile…

What? No drinking? I hear you say… well to be honest I would have had a couple of beers except for heavy traffic on the Oxford Ring Road putting a stop to all that. Then a fifteen minute wait to actually park up, in the overflow section behind Frankie & Bennies. It was probably a good thing too in the circumstances. But I’m sure your delighted to be reading this earlier than expected. In fact I know most of you are chuffed to be reading the blog at all – after a few weeks of poor service I’ve been inundated with emails from you offering genuine Rolex watches, sex drugs and the like… all at knockdown prices. Plus I never realised we had so many supporters in Africa, all wishing the Anonymous Don to join their adventure in laundering millions of pounds of cash into the UK. You crazy Africans! I wish I had time to reply to all of you…

Inside the ground, and my trusty travelling partner Maliniok was marvelling at the stadium, telling me that even Polish top flight clubs would be jealous of the facilities (which doesn’t bode well for the Euro 2012 tournament!). And while we marvel at the facilities compared to our Kingsmeadow home, you have to say it certainly isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Take the stand we were sitting in, shorten it slightly and plonk it behind the goal and you could be forgiven for thinking you were at Mansfield. When looking around (avoiding the open end), squinting the eyes slightly and adding a bit more blue and a bit less yellow, you could have found yourself viewing a future Dons stadium.

Which got me thinking… how would we go about distancing any potential new stadium of our own from the crowd? Even in theory it’s quite difficult… my best idea yet has involved taking a notch of seating out of the stand closest to the touchline and having a statue of Allen Batsford, facing the pitch. So many clubs erect statues of legends outside the ground, facing away, even at Wembley poor old Bobby Moore faces an eternity of watching the fans come down Wembley Way then return home again, destined never to view the action or be part of the atmosphere… Perhaps behind him could be a restoration or replica of the Womble Till I Die gates at Plough Lane, little things like this that would stamp our ownership of the stadium. Even have an area of standing pods, in a corner or above existing seating areas where supporters could gather to eat food and stand together, not for the prawn sandwich brigade but first come, first served. Then if they wish to return to their seats others could take their place, one in, one out. I know it would be expensive, but why not? Anything to break the monotony of plastic seats.

On and off the pitch, Oxford have got it all sorted. They stand head and shoulders above any of their rivals. Wimbledon weren’t great on the night, the lads worked hard and caused one or two problems to their hosts, but you always had the impression they had an extra gear they could step up to if required. And for the second time in four days a Constable ruined my match experience, this time it was Oxford’s James nabbing both the goals. The first was pretty preventable as the Dons defence ended a period of twenty minutes of Jamie Pullen shot stopping practice by finally conceding. It was sloppy stuff but nothing that our hosts hadn’t deserved, although it seemed to be the wake up call the Dons needed. Wimbledon mounted a series of attacks, never really threatening except for a hopeful Nathan Elder header that bounced off the top of the bar. To be honest, despite the high work rate from the likes of Poole and Hatton, and particularly the exceptional Hendry, unfortunately none of them had their shooting boots with them – which was a problem as all the chances fell to our midfielders. It was more like toblerone boots as shots flew high and wide, threatening those Oxford fans sitting in the corners more than the net.

A lively Lewis Taylor was forced off in the first half, replaced by Jay Conroy who found himself involved in the main talking point of the second half. An attempted clearance was charged down by an Oxford man, seemingly with his arms and sending him clean through on goal. With no angle to narrow Jamie Pullen was left exposed in goal, and Conroy selflessly pulled back his man, a clear sending off but leaving the Dons with half a chance of getting back into the game. Conroy seems to be rivalling Elliott Godfrey as the unluckiest player in the squad, for every time Godfrey found himself in the way of a goal-bound Dons shot I can think of a moment where Conroy slipped over leaving his man a clear run; and for all the time Godfrey has spent on the sidelines with niggling injuries Conroy has found himself losing his place due to unfortunate suspension.

Wimbledon brought on Jon Main for a labouring Nathan Elder (presumably his ankle wasn’t quite 100%?), which added genuine pace to the firing line, unfortunately with little time to measure balls over the top the Dons midfield saw the Oxford back line easily batter away. Either that or balls that did put the hosts defense on the back foot ended up being chased down by the not-quite-as-pacy Kedwell, still a better option than watching Jon Main trying flick a ball on though…

Constable grabbed his second to end the game with around ten minutes to go, but credit to the Dons fans, most stayed to applaud the lads off at the end, despite what must have been a very strong desire to beat the traffic. At most other grounds you would say that beating everyone else out of the car park is a shameful reason to leave a game early, yet we deeply regretted not leaving early ourselves as we found ourselves stuck for half an hour without moving! Love the Dons fans reaction after, loudly wondering why there wasn’t another way out of the car park, as if Oxford would suddenly realise ‘Hey! We didn’t think of that! What a great idea!’ after several years of stadium usage…

A free Saturday follows, as the little man at Conference HQ with a pencil and eraser couldn’t work out how to produce the fixtures without leaving clubs with blank Saturdays – maybe the Conference will at least catch up with the 20th century shortly, never mind the 21st. Which probably helps the manager more than we could imagine. Potentially nine home games of our remaining fourteen remain – and I would say all of them are potentially winnable, even the visits of Rushden and Stevenage. The playoffs remain within reach, but by the time we face Altrincham, certain sides will have pulled ahead of us in terms of games played, which could leave us playing catchup for most of our remaining campaign.

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Toilet Town

No, I’m not dead. I did say I had to cut back on the reporting (but to be honest even I was quite surprised to hear I hadn’t written anything since the Forest Green build up…). But I still intend to pop up in Kedwell style when the big moment calls for it.

And it was a big moment. Feedback from other supporters suggest Luton fans thought it ‘was our Cup Final’… well yes of course it was. It was one of them at least. It doesn’t matter how big a club you are, if you win at one of your main promotion rivals, you celebrate. Perhaps the fear of looking over excited about promotion from the BSP to the Football League could explain why we didn’t hear a peep from the Luton fans all day. And if that’s the attitude in the stands, you have to wonder whether it’s the same attitude in the boardroom, hell even the dressing room? Theres something familiar about Luton at the moment, something we’ve seen before elsewhere. At Oxford for the past couple of years. At Leeds before this season in League 1. At our friends from down the South West Mainline as they contemplated their first season down in the BSS (0-5 at home to Welling? Haha!). The assumption that simply being too big for a division would be enough to take you out of it. As soon as Luton start to realise that and start playing with a bit more direction, the quicker they can get back into the League. It might have to come from a better vocal performance from their supporters to kickstart it. But I don’t see that happening any time soon…

Wimbledon were far from at their best today. If Richard Money believes Luton were ‘simply brilliant from start to finish’, yet still managed to lose to an underpar Dons side that couldn’t hold on to possession longer than a couple of passes, I’d hate to see what they are like on a bad day. Furthermore, (and I appreciate I’ve been talking mainly about our opponents thus far) what Luton need is a leader to stand up and say ‘we weren’t good enough, here’s why and here’s what we are going to do about it’. Which is a shame, because Luton’s anti-MK cheerleading in the first half shows exactly why they deserve to recover their Football League status. But, maybe not at the expense of the Dons, eh?

As for his comment that ‘Hopefully (Wimbledon) understand that they were second best today’; well that’s just a downright insult. No prizes for guessing whats going to be pinned on the dressing room wall if we come up against Luton in the playoffs. To be honest, as I said before, Wimbledon were average in terms of the amount of times they simply gave the ball away. Perhaps they were fortunate that their hosts seemed in way too much of a rush to get anything done, and returned possession frequently. You would expect in these circumstances that a great amount of chances would have been produced, but no. I can only remember three occasions apart from the goals where either goal looked particularly in danger, all of them off target. An early Luton chance saw a looping header bounce off the top of Pullens bar, Elder headed into the side netting when free later in the half, and Kedwell stabbed inches wide from a tight angle in stoppage time.

As for the goals themselves, well the first two barely minutes apart were both entirely preventable. Elders effort somehow evaded Tyler before creeping over the line, producing the ultimate in delayed reactions from the Dons fans at the opposite end. Then a mishit shot heading nowhere deflected back into the path of Craddock to sweep home and tie things up. The game seemed to die a death early in the second half, with neither side able to fashion a decent chance until Kedwell provided the games only real moment of quality.

Elder picked up the ball on half way and switched to Kedwell on the right before being taken out of the game by a late challenge. On the break, all Kedwell seemed able to do was hold the ball up and wait for reinforcements. Instead he carried the ball to the touchline, before rounding the Luton left back with ease. Eight yards away from goal, but only a yard from the touchline, Kedwells route to goal seemed blocked by the figure of goalkeeper Tyler. But as the Luton stopper went to ground, Kedwell guided it high over him and into the top right corner of the goal. A stunning individual effort and one worthy of winning any game.

Not that, in my head, I really believed it would be the winner. Despite the lack of chances, Wimbledon repeatedly failed to clear their lines, Luton frequently regaining possession not just in the Dons half, but on more than one occasion in very dangerous areas on their left flank. Luton looked really disjointed going forward, and to the Dons relief time ran out before they could get themselves together. There was no big chance for Luton fans to look back on and think, ‘if only’. No heart attacks for Dons fans, just celebrations that the promotion push is back on track.

What now for the Dons? Well it seems likely that in the next couple of weeks we will see the end of Chester as we know them. Recent reports regarding a mysterious Danish ‘MyFC’ style operation have only muddied the waters, and seem to lack a great deal of substance. After all, why would anyone want to buy a club hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt with no supporters left? Add in the fact the Vaughans are now reportedly advising they would waive the hundreds of thousands they are somehow owed by the club in order for a buyer to come in and the short-term situation is even more muddled. It seems clear the only reason the Vaughans are doing this, knowing they stand no chance of making any money from the club, is down to sheer spite. Hopefully a breakaway fans club will start next season at the Diva, regardless of whether Chester City still exists in one form or another.

Regardless of whether the Conference clubs vote to expel them it seems the most likely outcome would be that the club are wound up in court thanks to those huge HMRC debts. Whether their records are expunged or not is vital to the top of the table, for example of Chester were removed today the Dons would be solidly entrenched in the play off places. Even if they aren’t removed, we would face them in our last home fixture, playing a severely weakened side with pretty much three points in the bag and a hefty addition to our goal difference. This would still give us an advantage over Luton for example, by a point and every goal over a two goal margin we score in that fixture.

Immediately, we face Oxford. I don’t think for one moment anyone expects a victory there, although we take a great deal of momentum with us Tuesday. Anything is a bonus, be it a point or even a single goal defeat keeping the goal difference intact. Beyond that, and with our blank weekend scheduled for next Saturday, the sides around us who have enjoyed games in hand recently will now get the chance to move ahead of us. You would prefer points in the bag at any stage of the season, but this gives a chance for some of our promotion rivals to throw points away. With our rescheduled fixtures against the likes of Grays and Barrow, we can quite rightly expect to take the majority of points from them.

So if we find ourselves ending the month down in eighth, there is no need to panic. With nine home games remaining this season, we can turn our attention to turning Kingsmeadow into a fortress, as points dropped at home could prove the difference between heading towards the playoffs or taking an early summer break.

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Green Army

I’m starting to feel the hangover from our defeat to Workington is wearing off. I had no intention of going to Tooting on Monday after that (a good job really), in fact I found myself getting hooked on Football Manager 2010, something I’m sure the sponsors would love to hear as I now give them invaluable free advertising telling you about it. Not that its ridiculously better than any of the previous versions, but I have just downloaded a file some guy made using the editor, which extends the game down to level ten; including the Vase, SSC, etc… Naturally as a football geek, this has reignited my love of the game as I prepare to guide Cobham from CCL1 to Premier League glory…

Unfortunately it means I have little spare time for anything else. Including the blog, but to give it some balance, also including my wife… plus I have difficulty getting up in the morning meaning I roll in about fifteen minutes late every day, with the messages piling up for me and my boss steaming out of his ears and giving me the ‘no more Mr Nice Guy’ talk.

So for the sake of my career, as well as my reputation as AFC Wimbledon’s Premier Blog Writer, its time to take a step back and welcome our visitors for Saturday, Forest Green Rovers. Not much time seems to have passed since we pitched up in Nailsworth and came home with the points. On that day after a ridiculously exciting first half, the Dons stretched their legs in the second and our hosts couldn’t live with us, finishing with our biggest away win of the season.

For our visitors, I suppose their biggest away win go down as one of the two they have managed to win, and they now sit just inside the relegation zone fighting for their Conference survival. They seem to have turned a corner of late, working their way back into the scrap around the drop zone, and will be keen to keep their run of form going – as when you find yourself down at the bottom its hard to recover from a knock like this. Still, not a game you would expect us to lose, or one that we should drop points in at all if we hold any hopes of working our way into the playoff picture. Yet there seems to be a nasty lack of confidence developing in the squad at the moment, which could evolve into a rather nastier run of poor form. What should have been a routine home win has now turned into a potentially nervy encounter.

Fortunately we have some quality returning. I expect an overhaul of the midfield with Gregory, Poole and Hendry returning, and although its hard to call exactly who is going to miss out I feel we could have seen the last of Adjei for a few weeks.  Although our bag four looked paperweight last week that was largely down to our midfield not working hard enough, having said that I would expect Lorraine to come back into the starting line-up. Plus there is a strong possibly Jamie Pullen back in place of Sebb Brown to give them further confidence behind them.

Whatever team takes the field tomorrow, a victory is needed – the squad, in fact the whole club needs a lift right now after a tough couple of weeks. With some massive games on the horizon, including trips to Luton and Oxford within four days of each other, those extra three points will make the difference between going to these places looking for points or turning up with no pressure, playing good football and seeing what happens.

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Bitter? Me? Of course, which explains why there was no Workington report!

Not towards our conquerors of course, I wish Workington all the best in the next round and to be honest if I had to choose a club that would knock us out, I would have chosen a side like them. No, it was our own players who stoked my ire, to the point that I wanted nothing to do with the game for the rest of the weekend! Perhaps better that I sit down now and analyse, although I have just deleted a thousand words of text that turned into a semi-rant at everything I perceive at being wrong with the squad at the moment. I won’t insult the intelligence of my readership by dictating that to you, after all I’m sure you have been able to formulate your own thoughts on it by now, maybe different and contrary to my own?! Instead, just a few thoughts…

Firstly, my anger at the performance has taken me by surprise, certainly we have seen what appeared to be far more incompetent performances in the past, although maybe not this season. It took me a while to realise it was because we have such a talented squad, the drop off in performance was so extreme it can’t simply be explained away by the inconsistency of youth, or the settling in of new players. This involved under par performances from a good half a dozen or so players, and very poor performances by at least three players in key positions. In a game of such importance, how could this have happened?

Of the players I want to single out, by far the worst was Kennedy Adjei. We have seen signs of complacency creeping into his game over the last few weeks, especially as since Steven Gregory picked up his injury Kennedy has had no competition for his place. Judging by Adjei’s performance on Saturday, I don’t think the vastly superior Gregory will have much competition for his place when he returns either! You have to wonder just how motivated Adjei is when, a week away from his competitor for a first team place regains fitness, he puts in a performance like that. He must have been told about the importance of retaining possession in training a million times judging by his managers reaction every time he gives the ball away. Yet even though there is no-one else who really fits in that holding position, Terry Brown still removed him with an hour to go.

The annoying thing is we know on his day he has the talent to do a job. Quite why he can’t produce this every week is his business, it will be the difference between him staying or going in the summer, but you have to say its worrying that he could not perform against a side from the division below when we needed him most. Adjei also wasn’t on the field when we blew it in the last five minutes, the blame he has to accept comes as part of the fact the game really should have been under control by
that point.

Blanchett and Taylor, two other players whose performances were questionable to say the least, had no such excuse. Blanchett could have got away with a defence that he is still settling in at the club, but he is an experienced player and must have known that the last ten minutes are a time for concentration, not to lose the plot. And when Lewis Taylor plays well, he can be the best player on the pitch. On Saturday he was more of a liability than anything, constantly giving possession away, running into blind alleys, seemingly nowhere near on the wavelength of his team mates.

In fact Johnson, Hatton or Brown, despite not performing quite as badly, should still be looking in the mirror this morning. Johnson thought he had forever to distribute the ball from the back and frequently came unstuck. Such a lack of concentration from a player who has experience higher up the pyramid is unforgivable.  Hatton was patchy, summed up by one brilliant run into the Workington half, before laying the ball off to a dark-shirted player to his left… only to see he had actually passed to the referee, no Dons player was within twenty yards and a grateful Workington man was making his way forward on the counter attack. Hatton has what it takes to be a great Conference/League 2 midfielder in future, but after two and a half years in the side he really needs the chance to step back, play a bit of reserve football, and learn to get his head up and pick a pass. Maybe he could go on loan to a friendly BSS club? Either that or the reserves, for a good half-dozen games, and I guarantee he will come back a more determined and confident player.

I’m starting to think I was correct all along about Sebb Brown, but now I know more about him I wish I wasn’t. We all want the kid who grew up wanting to play in goal for Wimbledon to be our number one, but the truth is had James Pullen played on Saturday we might be looking forward to a trip to Stevenage after a lucky escape. While there was little he could do about the freak second goal, a decent punch would have cleared the danger for the first, and I really need to see the video to work out how the third squeezed through him.

In fact looking at the lineup for tonight’s game against Tooting, it seems only Blanchett, Adjei and Judge are being punished by being forced to play. All I can say is I bet there are a couple of lads feeling lucky they picked up a minor knock. And Judge can consider himself quite unlucky, it was only his attitude at being subbed that got him the gig tonight. I just wish he had shown such passion when he was on the field! Still, heres a man in his mid-thirties still behaving like a spoilt kid – he probably feels a fool and hopefully will come back stronger next time.

As for where this leaves our season… Well we are still in sixth place. The playoffs would be a big ask, but if the lads get their heads down and work, nothing is impossible for them. It would really make up for the disappointment of missing out on the trophy!If they really apply themselves, well I wouldn’t like to be FGR next weekend thats for sure. And if they don’t make it, but they have gone down in a blaze of glory and entertained us all the way only to be beaten by better teams? Well thats fine in my book. We could easily fall to pieces and end up finishing eleventh, but what if we did make it into the playoffs? What if the lads took us to Wembley? What if they went on and won the thing???

Well, there would still be miserablists like myself bemoaning the fact we never won the Trophy on our way…