Man, that was hot. I really wasn’t built for weather like that, and judging by the news that the club have already sold out initial stock of the new shirt in XXXL sizes, I can’t have been the only fatty suffering in those conditions. Fortunately, our all new professional Dons are a super fit group of young men, and put on a fantastic show against… well I don’t want to use the description ‘League One opponents’, as Charlton supplemented their bare bones squad with a number of trialists and young players, and you would hope for their sake that the eleven they finally settle on to start their season show a lot more quality than those on display here, albeit in a glorified training game.
Still, you can only beat whats put in front of you, and the Dons own group of youngsters and trialists put in the sort of performance you just don’t expect to see at this early stage of pre-season, full of energy and understanding that belied the fact they had only been together for a couple of weeks. In fact, the scoreline could have been even more embarrassing for the visitors had the Dons put away a few more of their chances, especially in the first half.
After a slow start the Dons started to show intent, mainly through the front three of new skipper Danny Kedwell flanked by Luke Moore on the right and Main on the left. The new formation asks more questions of players like Jon Main, and it was a (pleasant) surprise to see him back helping out Michael Noone, the first half left back, on a number of occasions. Yet Main was also the Dons prime threat, having a couple of chances breaking down the left channel, the best of which appeared to be heading in despite Charlton keeper Elliot until a desperate goalline clearance from an unidentified Charlton player (I was at the other end of the field – as per usual!) hacked the ball off the line.
The first half was the slower of the two, and Charlton should really have lead going into the interval (although this would have been harsh on the Dons first half XI). Former Reading forward Gunnar Thorvaldsson nodded past Jack Turner, only for his shot to hit Brett Johnson covering on the line with the entire goal to aim at from six yard out.
The Dons really picked up the pace in the second half, helped by the introduction of Andre Blackman and Christian Jolley down the left. Blackman looked very much like the most naturally talented footballer on the field, which isn’t a surprise as if it hadn’t been for his lack of discipline he would still be at Bristol City. Hell, he would probably still be at one of the Premier League clubs that kicked him out instead of preparing for a season in the BSP with the Dons. Jolley, on the other hand, is all about pace and enthusiasm. He may spend a little time on the bench next season, and when he does get on he might well be the poster boy for the phrase ‘the Inconsistency of Youth’, but in the long run he has the building blocks to turn into a real gem for us.
Yet it wasn’t Blackman or Jolley that immediately caught my eye, it was big Lee Minshull in midfield. You sensed most Dons fans are wishing him to do well, he really is the sort of imposing midfielder we so desperately needed last year and I found myself wishing for it to work out for him over the next year. After an unfortunate injury to Mark Nwokeji (which fortunately doesn’t seem to be as bad as first feared while being carted off on a stretcher) Minsull completed the game up front.
Before this, the Dons had taken the lead. A set piece fell to former Barnet captain Ismail Yakubu in the box, who switched sides with some clever footwork only to telegraph his shot a little, allowing Elliot to make a save. Fortunately for the Dons, trialist Javonne Morroy was on hand to tap home and give the home side a richly deserved lead. And it was Minshull who doubled the tally, after some great work on the left by Jolley and Blackman. Jolley set Blackman free, and the full-back blistering pace took him away from his faultering marker. Cutting in from the left it seemed likely Blackman would finish himself, but instead he intelligently squared for Minshull to crash home at the far post and put the game beyond the visitors.
All in, a convincing victory, and a morale booster at this early stage. Next weeks visit of Millwall will be a tougher test, as will the arrival of the Arsenal kids a week before the season starts But you get the impression we will learn more about our rebuilt squad in games such as Maidenhead or Woking (ironically mentioned here as I won’t be able to attend either…), and there is a lot of hard work before Southport. Perhaps all yesterday did was settle the nerves of those who had seen a lot of names they han’t heard before this sumer come in, when other clubs in our division are spending thousands on proven talent. The amount of quality floating round as free agents at the moment suggests this might just be the right time to put together a team on a buget, the quality of some of our triallists yesterday showed that – especially Fraser Franks at centre half.
To sum up – the Dons are back!