Its quite difficult to find an angle for this match report. On one hand, the Dons were persistent, frequently tore Histon to shreds and could have had a hatfull by half time had they been a bit more collectively focused in the attacking third. Some of the football they produced was breathtaking at times, and they really deserved to have won the game by several more.
On the other hand, well, they didn’t score earlier, nor did they win by more. This can be considered a fault, a trouble, a worry that needs to be discussed. The opposition were limited, and right from the off a big win seemed to be the order of the night… but it didn’t materialise.
The third and final hand (this report is already turning out to be a bit of a monster…), were Histon really that bad? With hindsight, I’m not even sure they were that negative? We’ve seen a lot worse during our battle through the feeder leagues, and judging by last nights performance their organisational qualities alone will give the likes of Southport a run for their money. For all the talk of Histon having no cash, of being the whipping boys this season, it looks as though they might just be a bit more competitive than many of us thought….
Histon shouldn’t really have been given the opportunity to hold on to what they had in the second half. Wimbledon tore them to shreds in the first period with some wonderful passing football, although for all their possession they produced few clear goalscoring opportunities.
Something strange was happening in the Dons midfield. Ricky Wellard was using his left foot for purposes other than simply passing the ball sideways… or occasionally passing the ball forward… or very occasionally passing forward and finding a team-mate. In fact he seemed to have adopted a shoot on sight policy. Hindsight has shown this was probably due to a quite word in the ear from the manager asking him to weigh in with a few more goals, although by the time this reached the press it mutated into BROWN THUNDERING that Wellard would FACE THE AXE if he failed to find the net.
Actually the start of that previous paragraph was pretty unfair on Ricky. He would have been regarded as our most consistent midfielder last term had it not been for Steven Gregory, and I have no doubt that should he continue at his current rate of learning at this level, he will be the sort of player that strikes fear into even the strongest opposition in six months time… and the sort of player opposition fans identify on web forums as one to watch…
No wonder he looked so happy when he finally put one away. During the first half however, while it was great to see a Dons player shooting when given the opportunity, and even better not to see the ball hit a passing 131 on the Kingston Road, Wellard needed to calibrate his x-axis with a little more precision – his efforts too close to Histon keeper Welch, but still drawing excellent saves from the stopper who also came up big when required from an Ismail Yakubu header from six yards…
When half time came, the team left the field to applause, it seemed not to matter the scores were still level – the Dons were playing some awesome football, and goals were coming… As you would expect, football is a bit more complicated than that, and AFC Wimbledon more complicated still, and as the second half wore on without a Dons chance forthcoming Histon began to fancy their chances of an unlikely reward.
I don’t blame Histon for the way they went about defending their point, although it isn’t great to watch. Especially as a frustrated home supporter willing them to get on with it… although I did notice keeper Welch ALWAYS took his goal kicks on the right hand side of the six yard box, and I was willing the Tempest end to throw the ball back to him on that side to see if he would take it back to the left… but they never did, allowing him to trudge back over to his favourite kicking spot, find a good bit of turf, rotate the ball a few times to make sure he’s kicking the valve… this probably only killed a few seconds each time, but Dons fans lived a lifetime each time he did it.
The delays were strangling the Dons performance. All of a sudden things seemed a bit more urgent, passes were becoming more forced and the natural football we saw in the First had been replaced by a team now desperate for the breakthrough. The closest they came was a reaction header from Sammy Moore that drifted wide of the right post… it might have gone miles wide, but from my view down by the corner flag it was agonizing… and it wasn’t in the net…
Brown saw Main and Moore were becoming less and less effective and made the same change he had on Saturday, bringing Jackson and Jolley on to replace them. This was a different challenge for the youngsters, with a massed defence ahead of them and little chance to get behind and use their pace, but presented a different challenge to Histon than Main and Moore had (again, neither had a bad game, but a change was required…).
Then the Dons were handed a massive lifeline… midfielder Oluwafemi Ilesamni, who had been deservedly booked in the first half, for no reason slammed the ball against the wall behind the goal. That it ended up only yards from where it started mattered little to the referee, Ilesamni can probably consider himself a little unlucky… but cards get given for that these days, especially as he hit it with a little anger and directly at the Dons fans behind the goal (if he’d got under it a little and the ball had struck a supporter there would’ve been REAL trouble…).
The game had actually restarted by the time the Histon midfielder had reached the tunnel, but it seemed the Dons had blown their chance before Histon’s lack of experience got to them once more in the second minute of stoppage time. Danny Kedwell burst into the box, turning his man who left half an arm and half a leg out… not much, not enough to stop a rampaging Danny Kedwell in full flow under normal circumstances… but he saw it, and said ‘I’m having that’…
The referee was definitely having it too, and Kedwell was given the opportunity to make the most of the opportunity he earned. Unlike Mains effort on Saturday there was no uncertain sidefooted effort from the skipper, rammed home with such pace this writer can’t remember a Dons penalty despatched with such intent since a certain V. Jones bashed one in during injury time against Sheffield Wednesday in the mid 90’s. Same corner too.
This certainly knocked the stuffing out of Histon, and Rashid Yussuff capped an impressive cameo by picking up a rebound off the referee, skipping past a couple of challenges before feeding Danny Kedwell on the right. The captains measured ball was begging to be put away, and Ricky Wellard bounced it into the far corner, grabbing the goal he richly deserved for his own Man of the Match performance (well, in my eyes anyway…). Wellard can stick one in the top corner from thirty yards every game, but this type of goal will please his manager most – this is the type of goal Brown wants to see from his midfield, actually attacking balls into the box and getting their reward.
Was this a lucky Wimbledon victory? Well, you could look at the clock when the ball went in the net, and you can question whether on another day a different referee would have given the penalty, and I would still deny luck played any part. Wimbledon got their reward for persistence, and after their first half performance went unrewarded could easily have let their heads drop and stop fighting. That they didn’t is a great credit to them.
Are their still questions over whether this squad can mount a title challenge? Well, yes. There are at least forty-four of them I can think of. While we have every reason to get excited going into the Tamworth game on Saturday, it’s still early days.