Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Sort Of Corner I Hate (AFC Wimbledon 3 Cambridge United 0)

Crack open the champagne, break out the cigars, The Anonymous Don has correctly predicted a Dons line-up; albeit at the nth time of asking. Probability suggests it was bound to happen sooner or later, there are only so many combinations of players to positions. Put it this way, give a thousand monkeys a thousand typewriters and you’ll probably get more of them agreeing with Terry than I do in any given preview. Don’t try this experiment with Bromley supporters though… their closed neandethal fists are unable to produce intelligible responses on a standard qwerty keyboard, and in frustration they’ll just end up hurting themselves or those around them. Having said that – i just had to think twice over the spelling of ‘qwerty’…

Before I get onto the game itself, I signed up for the Minithon before the game. Three miles is just about the shortest distance you can run without prospective sponsorees saying ‘Hang on, thats a piece of piss, I do that every morning/lunch/evening before work/school/pub’, and is yet achievable even by those in the advanced stages of pie addiction like myself. I’ve been looking to shed a few pounds prior to my ‘big event’ next year, maybe this will kick start my fitness push. If not it’ll help raise a few quid for the ground fund at very least. And therein lies the point – I would never, ever have dreamt of signing up for something like this if I wasn’t accutely aware I will no longer be a resident of the United Kingdom in six months, and time is running out to Do My Bit. While my impending emigration weighs heavily on my mind, competing in events such as this means I can be assured that wherever in the world I end up I can kick back with a beer, look at the night sky, and know somewhere in this endless Universe of ours, somewhere out there at this very moment, there will be a Wimbledon supporter moaning that they received an unsolicited email publicising the pre-match carvery…

After a quick pint I headed into the KRE, not quite as full as it was for last Thursdays Crawley game but not exactly deserted either… In fact the attendance stood up pretty well considering the deluge we saw in the hours leading up to kick off. I wonder how many got out of work, saw the state of the skies and though ‘Nah, not tonight…’. Mind you. the crowd was comfortably over 3K on an awful evening weatherwise, especially impressive as Cambridge only brought two-hundred odd with them – decent in terms of the division as a whole, but for a so called big club it was a bit ‘meh…’; you’re York’s and your Grimsby’s would do better given the same circumstances. I can only presume the U’s shocking away form had something to do with it.

Still, forced to bunch together under the small section of the away enclosure in the JSS that actually features a roof, they sounded pretty strong and added to a half decent atmosphere in the ground, especially given the decibels were dampened by the heavy downpour. Either that or I’ll have to redraw the graph I created correlating distance from London with ability to talk proper… ‘Martin Lings Tobleroney’? Is he??? And why do they dislike Barrow so much???

Sadly for the visiting supporters, their team could at best be described as ordinary. They worked hard – but thats the bare minimum you should expect of a Conference side. There was no sign of any quality, man for man they were workmanlike but failed to stand out. Normally you get one or two who show a few decent touches and make you think ‘he looks a bit handy…’, but in this Cambridge side there was no-one. I am reluctant to write off a team based on one viewing, but Cambridge’s performance made them look mere mid-table fodder. Having said that, the slickness of the surface placed a strong demand on technical ability, which on the night put a different bias on the differences between the two sides. Presumably this encoraged the Dons to redouble their efforts when picking out passes, as despite the conditions it was pretty much the first time this season I’ve left a game without thinking ‘They were good, but they gave the ball away too easily…’.

In a first period the Dons dominated (despite what the BBC website will have you believe…), there were minus points. In a way it’s a nice ‘negative’ to have, but you would really expect given the number of chances the Dons created that at least one of them would have been taken. Christian Jolley seemed to be at the centre of the better chances, and boy-oh-boy you Tempest-Enders probably don’t realise what a gilt-edged chance he spurned when one on one he blasted straight at Cambrige keeper Brown. I said it was a nice negative because I have absolute faith that the next time Jolley finds himself in that position he will have learnt from this experience. During a half when Wimbledon did everything but score, the performances of our young wide players was a joy to behold. Jolley, Ryan Jackson and Andre Blackman were destroying Cambridge, who had no answer to the pace and close control that accompanied their rampaging runs foward. All three of them floated around the field, while their opponents struggled simply to stay upright. In fact the most effective manner of stopping them (especially Jackson) seemed to be a series of cynical fouls that the referee was quick to clamp down on – no waiting for the second half to show cards here. The visiting supporters chanted they had ‘another crap ref’, high irony to the Dons fans on the one accasion we seemed to ahve found a decent one…

Probably the best chance of the half fell to Sammy Moore. Ricky Wellard drifted forward into a shooting opportunity, yet spurned the opportunity with a sideways ball into Moore, who looked like he might have been crowded out and the chance gone. Presumably to Wellard great relief, Moore was able to spin a shot that bounced off the inside of the post and away, yet so close the Tempest was in full celebration mode while the KRE wondered what the fuss was all about. So good were the Dons I began to doubt they would be able to produce more of the same in the second period… and my mood wasn’t helped when Cambridge came out and created a few chances of their own. Their best effort owed a great deal to the conditions – a shot the otherwise unflappable Sebb Brown got nearly everything behind, only to see it squirm under his body and thankfully stop short of passing over the line.

The Dons quicky got the measure of this more positive approach from the visitors, by now shorn of Yakubu at the back, Fraser Franks replacing him. Franks would go on to be the two goal hero of the night, of course (and for those who have avoided the result prior to reading this match report, I’m sorry for the spoiler…), yet it was the defensive side of the game that most impressed me. One of the pleasant surprises of the season so far is that Franks is fourth choice centre half behind Johnson, Yakubu and Harris – and I’m not sure there is much doubt about that (that isn’t the pleasant surprise by the way… I’m getting to the point, don’t worry…). Yet Franks would walk in to half of the teams in this division, I would imagine Martin Ling would have been extremely envious that he ended the game blanked out by a side playing their second-string defensive partnership. You wonder why Brentford let him go to start with – given game time and full time training, if he applies himself as he has done in the last few months at Wimbledon he looks nailed on to make a decent career for himself in the professional game – yet hindsight is a wonderful tool, there must be an enormous amount of pressure to release anyone who passes through the youth ranks at lower League clubs such as Brentford that isn’t going to make an immediate impact on the first team. And their loss is very much our gain…

Franks first goal was beautiful, firstly because it came at a point when I started to convince myself that despite the continued chances, Cambridge might just escape for a draw. Secondly, it came from a corner, and we all know how ineffective we have been at this particular set piece over the past few years. Sam Hatton drifted the sort of corner I hate into the near post (I much prefer balls hit at pace inswinging across the six yard box as per his delivery for Yakubu;s effort against Bath, but variety is the spice of life and all that…). Kedwell won his header, flicking back towards Franks, unmarked. At this stage you could have forgiven him for panicking and planting his effort into Brown’s midriff, but Franks has a head on him that keeps ticking in the attacking third as well as his defensive home, guiding beyond the stricken keeper and giving the Dons the lead they more than deserved.

A sigh of relief from The Anonymous Don, and before I even had the chance to develop a complex that Cambridge might come back, it was 2-0 and game over. Jackson delivered the ball to the far post, Kedwell came crashing in to bury the ball across the Cambridge goal and into the net – OR SO I THOUGHT – as it turns out Jolley got a much deserved goal by knocking it over the line, yet I only because aware of this after the game had finished. Still, plenty of praise for Keds, who seems to be doing as good a job of laying on strikes for his team mates as scoring himself. Still I’m sure he’ll make it into double figured before too long. The crowd didn’t have too long to settle down before Cambridge hit the bar, a minor moment of threat when the game was all but won.

Still time yet for Fraser Franks to finish the night with a brace, thanks to a piece of instinctive finishing. Sammy Moore laid the ball across to him, with a little too much weight. Certain unnamed strikers who are yet to get on the scoresheet this term might have panicked and blazed wide/over/into next week, but Franks simply slid it into the corner with little fuss – just a really composed piece of finishing. It was icing on the cake, but it wouldn’t have flattered the Dons, even if Sammy Moore had connected properly with a chance in injury time.

It wasn’t enough to return the Dons to the summit of the Conference, Crawley managed to defeat Tamworth on the night, but the Dons stand just a point adrift… Forest Green to come at the weekend and if any of the lads are reading this – no pressure, but more of the same please!

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Don’t Take Gambling Advice From The Anonymous Don

The Dons get the chance to bounce right back from their third defeat of the season as Cambridge visit Kingsmeadow for a rare Wednesday fixture – not quite as rare as last Thursdays game, but a clash with televised Champions League football means it’s unlikely we will see anywhere near the 4000 that poured through the gates that night. Cambridge supporters travel in decent numbers, have a fair few London based supporters anyway and should bring enough to provide comfortably more than what passes as an average gate at Kingsmeadow these days. Having said that, more than 400 Dons fans witnessed what was perhaps the best advert for staying in and watching Man U on tv up in Kidderminster on Sunday, I can only thank my lucky stars my opinion of the side is still around post-Crawley levels after that brainwashing.

That and the fact that visitors Cambridge status as an ex-League club is starting to fade badly – five years in the Conference is enough to do that to any club, and for all the kind words from Terry Brown on the O/S they don’t seemto be in a position to reclaim their place any time soon. In fact they’re in danger of falling to Kidderminster levels (i.e. spent so long in the division you kind of forget they were ever a League club to start with…). When you see the sort of summer signings Martin Ling made over the summer, well you wonder for all the nice plaudits just how competitive they are going to be this season.

Case study number one – Daryl Clare. Clare, who has now represented every club ever to feature in the Conference, was last seen tripping over the ball with an open goal gaping at his mercy while representing Gateshead on the last day of the season. It’s fair to say Cambridge have made the sort of signing you would have expected Bath or Southport to make… not exactly the sort of move that will see fans up and down the country running to the bookies to get their each-way bet on the U’s this season. You wonder whether this is Lings ‘Grazioli Moment’… picking up a player who ripped this division to shreds five years previously but is now well past his best, more in hope than expectation of a career Indian Summer…

Because of the chronic lack of goal scoring talent in this division, combined with the systematic stockpiling of strikers going on at Luton and (mainly) Crawley, you can’t blame Ling for taking a punt on Clare… but I tell you what, I would much rather have picked up Mark Nwokeji over the summer… (oh look, we did). I get the impression an injury prone Nokkers will play more of a part than a static, slightly confused as to who he’s playing for these days, former danger man who dare I say it is only in it for the pay packet…

Case study number two – Ling signed Danny Naisbitt as his number two goalkeeper. Or as he was known during his days as Dons captain (captain!), Danny Fucking Naisbitt. To be fair to Danny, he did have a sweet left foot on him, which was really useful for hoofing the ball back to the half way line after the latest bunch or Ryman League chancers had breached the  Anderson-era Dons defense once again. And I’m a big fan of DA… but that one had to go down in the ‘mistake’ column. I thought Danny had found his level at Cambridge City, raised an eyebrow when pre-cash crisis Histon employed him as ball launcher extraordinaire … perhaps Ling likes him being on the bench with him, but fails to realize if anything happens to Brown, Naisbitt will be forced to actually keep goal…

Much as we may try and forget Naisbitt’s spell as Dons captain, perhaps Danny doesn’t look back on it with a great deal of pride either. To the point he seems to have negotiated in his contract his spell at the Dons will never be mentioned – his profile on the Cambridge website certainly has an AFC Wimbledon shaped hole in it – it’s like viewing the CV of someone who spent a year in the clink. If you think this might have been an oversight, the Cambridge O/S match preview even goes as far as stressing neither club will feature a player that had previously played for the opposition. Did we just dream it? Was it a collective nightmare that has somehow imprinted itself on the AFC Wimbledon website archive circa 2004?

On to the Dons now, and the website reports that Jolley, Moore (L) and Yakubu have returned to full fitness, so Terry will have a few decisions to make. Perhaps the most nailed on returnee will be Yakubu – I mean Harris and Franks have been superb, and it would be unfair to have to choose between the two. I’m going to anyway, I’m just saying what I’m about to do is unfair… on Fraser Franks. I just think Ed Harris has shown a little bit more in the short while he’s been at the club… enough even to force Brett Johnson into a spell at left back? And where would that leave Andre? What about Chris Bush? I wouldn’t want to guess what Terry Brown is going to do tomorrow – the mythical creature that is the regular reader will know this is where I normally try to do just that…not today however. Well, thinking about it, actually – why not? It’s not as if Im getting marked on this… 4-3-3 usual formation;

Brown

Hatton

Blackman

Harris

Yakubu

Gregory

Moore

Wellard

Jolley

Jackson

Kedwell

The question is, will it be enough to see off Cambridge? My gut tells me a low scoring draw, my positive side says don’t worry about it yet I get the impression we are overdue finding ourselves 0-3 down at home after ten minutes, scratching our heads wondering whether the lads will find a way back into the game,,, the short answer, I suppose, would be don’t take gambling advice from the Anonymous Don…

Learning To Love Mikey T

I didn’t make it to Kidderminster in the end. I was booked on the coach, but my alarm failed me when I needed it most – and why oh why did it wait until a Sunday? What was wrong with all those other days it dutifully woke me in time for work, why wait until a football day? Annoyingly, I woke up naturally at about 9.30, with an hour until the coach left but stuck fifteen miles out in the sticks having missed the bus from Dorking and no alternative trains due to engineering work.

To be fair, this has happened to me before… cast your minds back to New Years Day – but that was mainly down to having arrived in the country on a transatlantic flight at 5AM being too knackered to set the bloody thing. And I vaguely remember missing a train to Portsmouth from Surbiton back in my teenage years, but beyond that if its football I’m getting up for, my body and mind do a pretty good job of combining to raise me in time.

So I was forced to listen to the game on WDON… as I have suggested previously I would rather be anywhere when the Dons are playing than stuck in front of my computer… obviously, the ideal would be whichever ground they happen to be playing in at the time, which is kind of the point. But failing that, the cinema is a good option, shopping, whatever. Regular readers will know, however, that in the near future I won’t have the option of attending games, regardless of how early in the morning I wake up…

This was not intended to be a ‘Woe is me, I’m moving away and won’t be able to watch the Dons’ type article (It was actually intended to be a ‘Woe is me, Wimbledon lost’ one…) but while we here we might as well. I can’t go to the cinema every week, I will have to do what every other far flung Dons does and learn to love Mikey T. I suppose at this point I better clarify, I’m not saying WDON is poor; it’s funny, has a knowledgeable and charismatic  host, and is as biased as any Dons fan could want without the spectacles becoming too blue-tinted. Without doubt, it is the best possible radio service a Dons fan could ask for…What I’m saying is – it’s a poor substitute  to actually being there. Come Darlington away (for at the moment that is my last planned Dons game), I’ll be reliant on the service.

It’s funny… I’ve always considered far-flung Dons the true heroes of the AFC Wimbledon success story. Keeping the love alive, across borders, continents, hundreds, in some cases thousands of miles away. But then I would say that… in a few months time I’ll be one of them.

As for Kidderminster, I should take my personal responsibility for the defeat. If I had managed to get myself out of bed in time… well, I had confidence the team would get a result.  Those of you who know of the Butterfly Effect, or have even seen the much underrated film of the same name featuring the much wooden Ashton Kutcher will know, my presence could have had a huge bearing on Sundays timeline… merely interfering with the ball at the right time when it was kicked into the stand; joining in with a song and thus slightly affecting local weather patterns; even the minor act of buying a pie and adding to the weight on the away terrace sloping it towards us even by a Planck length… the Dons could have won, man… They could have won.

I’ll carry the consequences until my dying day, or at least until we won promotion and a single result didn’t matter anymore. Perhaps your reading this wondering how arrogant an individual I am, that my mere presence at a game would have an effect on the result – well, you may have a point. Maybe we lost because, erm, I don’t know, young players are inconsistent and had difficulty raising themselves for a low key game a few days after one of the biggest performances of their career so far? And that this might be a reason, rather than an excuse? Well, how the hell would I know?… I wasn’t even there…

AFC Wimbledon 2 Crawley Town 1

The two likely outcomes to a much anticipated Dons game;

(i) The Dons huff and puff, have an arguably better opening period but eventually succumb to self inflicted pressure.

(ii) Dons win. It’s the greatest night ever.

We don’t get that many (ii)’s. For much of the second half it looked as though we were heading down a well worn path. Much the better side in the first period, they lost concentration just before half time and found it difficult to regain momentum at the start of the second. Our young side were being asked to dig in, and didn’t look as though they would respond.

To be honest though, I was amazed we got a football match to start with. I turned up, got my free WUP and brown paper bag and prepared myself for an evening of Evans-bashing. I had worried earlier in the day that our fun and games might be ruined by twenty two idiots kicking a ball around and getting in the way. In fact, by the time the teams got onto the pitch the Crawley fraudster was all but forgotten, able to sneak across the field almost unnoticed. And for those who did spot him, well, maybe those brown paper bags didn’t stand out as well as we thought under floodlights…

The larger than normal crowd were supplemented by the expected Crawley contingent of rent-a-fans… it was just like hosting Bromley, without the ‘HIV Wimbledon’ chants, but with plenty of reminders as to who was top of the league (something that came back to haunt them later in the evening…). This type of moneyed trash has followed us up the leagues in various forms, no one incarnation standing the test of time. When the money runs out we will eventually leave them behind, we know it’s going to happen – whether it’s in ten years, two years or tomorrow, the Crawley bubble will burst. When we leave the Non-League scene will we leave clubs like this behind for good, teams elevated above their natural status by large short term cash injections? Either way, it’s never nice to lose to this type of outfit, as we found out in our first season when we lost 0-2 at home to Withdean 2000 (who eventually bypassed their self imposed expiry date a lot sooner than we imagined…).

When the chances fell in the first half, they fell to Ed Harris. Beyond these misses, and a mistake for the Crawley goal, Harris and Franks were immense at the back. Truly beyond what you would expect for a second choice central pairing in this division (especially one so young), although if Johnson and Yakubu aren’t careful they may not be second choice for too much longer after performances like this. To be fair, I missed the Harris mistake because the stanchion in the Kingston Road End goal got in the way…

By the way, the atmosphere in the stadium seemed pretty impressive, although I couldn’t really tell as the noise in the KRE was pretty good in itself… I mean I purposely chose to stand in the noisier part of the terrace so I could join in (I so rarely sing at home these days, but felt it was my duty…), maybe our noise drowned out a louder general atmosphere in a stadium where noise is difficult to generate… the Tempest in full voice normally sounds quite distant from our end, but it must have been an amazing game to play in when all four sides of the ground (well, three and a half…) joined in, something that happened a couple of times on the night – which is normally as rare as finding a four leaf clover. On the moon.

As the second half wore on, hopes of an equalizer began to diminish. Hatton and Jackson were still tearing Crawley apart on the right side when given the opportunity, but it looked as if sheer Crawley stubbornness would see them through. You began to wonder if Crawley might have nicked a second to take the game beyond the Dons. Tubbs had a chance blocked by the legs of Brown, yet although neither Crawley front man really impressed, the threat was still there.

Until fifteen minutes to go. The Dons had created a bit of pressure, and won a corner on the right. Toks whipped in the sort of ball we have sorely missed since the departure of Chris Hussey, a slip in the penalty are gave Sam Hatton a free header, and as you would expect from someone so consistent this season he made no mistake, burying his header into the slick turf and watching is skid up into the roof of the net. Bedlam inside Kingsmeadow, and finally Dons fans saw the tide had turned. There would only be one team that would win this one.

Crawley barely had time to catch breathe before it came. Less than three minutes had passed, a deep cross from Sammy Moore saw Kedwell lurking. With a Crawley man in front and another behind he looked second best to get anything on the ball. To actually guide the ball beyond Jordan in the Crawley goal looks an unlikely finish even watching it back on Youtube… in the flesh it was an almost superhuman piece of finishing. If the celebrations following the equaliser were impressive, these were a return to old fashioned just going mental. Like the good old days, grabbing the person next to you, whether you knew them or not, and ending up ten yards away when it all calmed down a few minutes later. Celebrations like that will probably land you a common assault charge in the street, on the terraces jubilation took hold…

One last big roar, as the final whistle blew. Evans skulked off, apparently storming out of the press conference when someone had the temerity to question his side – although, like his team, you can only presume he had no answers to it. Terry Brown stalked the pitch, beaming smile, showing how much it meant to him personally. The man of the moment, Kedwell, found a yellow shirt bearing his image in the penalty area, put it on, milked the applause, and was the last Dons player to leave the field. If anyone deserves the praise it was him.

We won’t win the League by winning games like these. It helps, and of course it falls under that mathematical conundrum of being a six pointer – Crawley lose the points, we gain them. The league will be won by winning games we should draw, and drawing games we should lose, in bread and butter fixtures like Sundays game at Kidderminster. Terry Brown said a couple of years ago (when referring to the BSS) that if you have twenty points on the board after ten games it’s a great springboard for promotion. Wimbledon currently have twenty-two…

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Anonymous Don WUP 8.2

I’m currently putting together a few thoughts on last nights Crawley game, but in the meantime (and as I broke my promise to post it yesterday) here my article from the last WUP relating to Crawley…

As my old gran once told me before she sadly passed way a few years ago – ‘There’s none more dangerous than a c–t who thinks they’re clever’. Actually, I’m paraphrasing – as a committed God Botherer to the end I can assure you Nan Smith would never have dropped the C-bomb… but having said that she never had the misfortune of meeting Steve Evans…

It’s fair to say Crawley Town are a dislikeable club even without Evans. Their unwelcoming breeze block stadium with one side open to the roaring traffic of the A23, the main entrance leading out to street after street of identikit council stock housing, spaced out amidst uninspired greenery – which seemingly has the single function of giving the local scum’s status dogs somewhere to shit when they tire of the kitchen floor – the place has the feel of a cross between Stalag and Butlins… like New Addington but without the escape route offered by trams…

In this environment, Evans fits like a pair of those six fingered gloves the locals are so keen on. The tragic thing is had Evans not cheated both taxpayer and the game during his time at Boston, and if he could just keep his mouth shut from time to time, he would actually be regarded as one of the better Conference managers. Undoubtedly he had a reduced budget last season, probably not as small as he liked to make out, but compared to some of the big hitters he had a point – I can grudgingly accept that. Ultimately Crawley finished above the Dons, albeit partly thanks to our squad deciding to take their summer break a month early, but still a fantastic achievement. I’m not sure exactly what Evans motivational techniques are, but if I played for him he would get an exponential improvement week on week simply by threatening to bare his expansive arse in the dressing room if performance levels dropped…

Thanks to their somewhat surprising financial good fortune over the summer Evans has taken the best of that squad, strengthened in key areas, as well as identifying the one area that separates champions from also-rans… quality strikers. Consider this; each signing brings its own risks… players could fail to settle, lose that goalscoring touch due to an inability to immediately gel with new team mates, or (as we have found to our cost with Mark Nwokeji) find themselves injured. You’ll go a long way towards winning the Conference if you have at least one striker banging in the goals at any one point, so while signing Matt Tubbs and Ben Wright might seem like overkill to simple clubs like ourselves and the other twenty-two Conference clubs operating within a budget… if money is no object why not splash out several hundred thousand on Richard Brodie? The more quality strikers you have in your squad, the closer you are to guaranteeing at least one of them will be scoring goals for you at any one time. Bear in mind Brodie himself is making the move from a pleasant northern town to a shit-hole two hundred miles south of his family and friends – a culture shock if ever there was one – while outsiders might expect him to hit the ground running for his new team, it’s not as essential he scores goals straight away.

With all this money, you might expect Crawley would have changed their style of play accordingly in order to attract the lost floating support. So is it all sexy football down at Broadfield these days? Here are a selection of quotes from Forest Green manager Dave Hockaday after their Bank Holiday visit, you can make your own minds up… “Total intimidation from start to finish both on and off the field…… a crazy game where the young officials struggled to deal with the provocation…… my players stood up to all the intimidation and kept their discipline under extreme provocation…”. Crawley have been known to attract the odd 4,000 plus crowd in their time, it’s not too much of a surprise that despite the hype, they are struggling to pull in greater than four figure crowds. Of course, more will jump on the bandwagon as the season progresses, presumably the object throwers from the two cup ties last season will be back for the big games (although, to be fair to those Crawley fans, there were more than a handful of Dons fans queuing up to hurl far more dangerous items than plastic coke bottles in James Pullen’s direction at the end of last term…)

Crawley apparently have the money up front for what they are somewhat arrogantly referring to as ‘Project Promotion’ (and think about how badly we would have been hammered if we had marketed ourselves in similar fashion while in the Ryman Premier…), in fact the money is in the bank earning interest for the next two years (or three, depending on who you believe…). The problem is, I just don’t believe it. We’ve seen it all before. Why aren’t Withdean 2000 currently operating in the Ryman League? Fisher should be up with us in the Conference… and surely Hornchurch and Bromley are in the Football League by now, right? No, and the reason they aren’t is because the money men who funded their initial burst up the divisions either ran out of cash or realized the ego-trip of bankrolling a non-league football club through the divisions wasn’t exactly the wank-fantasy they originally thought it would be, and bailed at the first available opportunity. The problem for clubs like Crawley in the current financial climate is there are fewer and fewer white knights ready to ride to their rescue when living the dream turns into a nightmare. Today’s beef and gravy is tomorrows lumpy mid-morning dump, and who really wants to clear up that mess?

Which brings me on to their bid for Danny Kedwell. You have to question how serious it was from the start. I mean if Evans was prepared to go as high as the reported £275,000 to get Brodie, why stop at £60,000 for Keds, in my (very biased) opinion a more complete forward than Brodie? Why not try and tempt us with a serious offer? I’m of the opinion this was another of his sloppy attempts at mind games – but while Evans may think he’s clever, this one has backfired on him. It has galvanised our club. We are stronger now than we would have been if he hadn’t bid to start with. We will probably not win the league this season, we might not even challenge for promotion, but there is one thing that I can guarantee… A certain football club and their loud-mouth manager are due a red hot reception at Kingsmeadow come 23rd September…

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Crawley Preview

As the Crawley game prepares to usurp the Luton game, holder of the ‘Biggest Game Of The Season’ title for all of six days, I have to admit I’ve been completely thrown by playing on a Thursday night. Yes, it’s unusual, but in the same way birds and animals get all confused when there’s an eclipse, I’ve spent the week wondering when to do my laundry and go shopping. While there was no excuse not to do either of those things last night, it just didn’t cross my mind. I’ll do both tonight otherwise I’ll be wearing my pants inside out and scraping mayonnaise on my toast come Friday morning.

It’s the small inconveniences that are the major annoyance of having games moved for tv. Take Sunday for example – I booked for the coach having no idea how I’ll make it to Kingsmeadow for the pick up. There could be engineering works on the train, I could have to get the bus from Dorking… I just have no idea at the moment. Then there’s the small matter of getting up early and home late on a Sunday, before having to get up early in the AM for another week of work… One of the problems with knowing you are leaving a job months in advance is it becomes ten times harder to get up in the morning, you just don’t have the motivation. Under those circumstances a Dons victory becomes all the more important for morale… The other bonus of a Thursday/Sunday combo is it gives us the opportunity for our very own Football League Day – where bored Wombles turn up to assist their local financially struggling League club to sample over priced tickets, poor cuisine and even poorer football.

Before I start to get ahead of myself, first Crawley come to town. I think we are all hoping for a win in front of what will hopefully be a big midweek crowd (which kind of looks like a normal Saturday crowd…). I gave a my thoughts on Crawley and Steve Evans in my WUP column this month – in true O/S style I’ll reproduce it here in full later for those of you who couldn’t pick up a copy. By the way, ensure you pick up your free copy with additional brown paper bag. At least I think it was a bag? Surely it must be an envelope? As I write I have no way of checking which at least allows me to use the joke about it being more suitable if the Crawley manager used to be a corrupt greengrocer.

According to the Surrey Herald (which has overtaken other news sources as the media outlet I bounce off the most) Danny Kedwell has been ‘taunting’ Crawley. Well, not exactly. The paper just got a little excited on their website over Keds reiterating his desire to stay with the Dons. In fact the quotes they use are kind of reminiscent of those he made about two months ago when Crawley first came calling. Far from me to suggest the Herald just rehashed a few quotes from back then in order to fill a bit of space on their website and get a few all important hits from bored Dons fans on their lunch breaks – if so, well done! It worked!

More surprising Kedwell quotes came courtesy of The Daily Mail (yes – THE Daily Mail…)  that Dons fans are good fans because (and get this anyone who has ever stood in the John Smiths Stand…) ‘they always praise, never boo’. I think perhaps Keds still has the image of several hundred Dons fans staying to applaud the team off after the 0-3 defeat at Luton stuck in his head… I can certainly remember the side being booed off on more than one occasion last season! Yet there is a point in there somewhere… if the support at Luton was so impressive, if we can provide a level of noise that even half matches that, then at the very least we will have a cracking atmosphere for tomorrow’s game.

Naturally, a lot of this noise will be aimed at the opposition manager, but rather than worry that this will provide some kind of motivation to the visitors, let’s just enjoy it. We rarely seem to have the inclination to the loud at home, but under lights, against a modern rival, in what counts as a derby in this division… we could be set for a memorable evening if all goes to plan.

On to the team, and I think every Dons fan with an eye on our recent history of injuries breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing Lee Minshull will only miss eight weeks. I’m certainly glad Ill see him in a Dons shirt again before I leave, Lee has added strength to the midfield and will be a big loss. Another absentee is Andre Blackman, sitting out a game suspension for five bookings. Chris Bush comes straight in on loan from Brentford as I reported on Monday, which will be a very big ask of him. I’m not sure how long Bush is here on loan, presumably as long as he keeps his place in the team, but it will certainly give Andre something to think about when he returns on Sunday – if he returns on Sunday.

Finally, my predicted line up –

Brown

Hatton

Bush

Yakubu

Harris

Gregory

Wellard

S. Moore

 Jolley

Kedwell

Jackson

To be honest I think it’s a toss up between Wellard and Toks for the midfield position vacated by Minshull, but apart from that the team picks itself. I did think perhaps Terry might think of adding a bit of experience to the front line alongside Kedwell in the form of the fit again Nwokeji, that would be a real tough call and very unfortunate if either young player misses out. All will be answered tomorrow… and if you enjoyed the experience of being top over the last couple of weeks, just think… beyond being a sweet victory for all sorts of reasons, it could also take us back to the summit, back above Crawley, and just as importantly after Fridays humbling, open up a nice gap between ourselves and Luton once more. Here’s hoping…

Waste Of A Sunday

You may notice there is no Luton report. Sorry about that. I spent a few hours sculpting what was a quite difficult report only for my connection to go just as I tried to publish… losing the entire thing and leaving me banging my head against a wall for not doing what I normally do – write it in Word then copy over…

Naturally I’m too pissed off to write another one, but the time has come for a change as far as this blog is concerned… I’ll be looking to write shorter, punchier articles on a more regular basis, dropping the more traditional match reports for instant reaction to events – or just write whatever I feel like it on slow news days, which is kind of the point of a blog I suppose…

As many of you will now be aware, I will be leaving the country early next year, and it remains to be seen what effect this will have on the blog, just what it is going to mutate into… presumably just me writing ‘What the hells going on over there?’ on a daily basis with the odd Revolution/Phantoms/Bruins/Red Sox report thrown in for good measure.

I’ll be doing a bit of thinking about what form the blog should have in the interim. Until then, some actual football news seems to have broken. The Dons have signed Brentford full-back Chris Bush, who has put in some storming performances on loan at Woking so far this term. The timing could not have been better, with Andre Blackman starting (and finishing) his suspension on Thursday.

 More tomorrow when I can be bothered to get my research proper (and there isn’t a new episode of Spooks on tv…) where undoubtedly I will attempt to write about Bush but end up droning on about Blackman, and the build up to Crawley continues…

AFC Wimbledon 4 Bath City 0

The hardest thing about writing these match reports is coming up with a snappy opening line that really captures the reader’s attention and hooks them into reading the subsequent text… Now we’ve got that out of the way I can get on with telling you all about table topping AFC Wimbledon’s 4-0 victory over plucky Bath City. I was under the impression this could have been a potential banana skin, particularly as I had seen various comments from the fan base along the lines of how many goals we would score. Fortunately once Sammy Moore had opened the scoring on the twenty minute mark in this one, there was only going to be one winner.

In fact today all went off a little too swimmingly for my liking, which makes me suspicious… is this all a dream? Am I about to wake up on Saturday, or even worse, last Monday morning… I mean even the crappy Arriva bus service that takes me to Dorking station turned up on time, and that’s always late (when it turns up at all…). Having said that, I did have one ‘back to reality’ moment when I turned up at the ground and picked up my XXL WUP Danny Kedwell t-shirt. I didn’t want to carry it around with me, so I just put it on. Only for one of my fellow Dons bloggers to comment that it ‘looked a little tight’. I know I’ve piled on a few pounds recently, but that was not what I really wanted to hear… That incident kind of made up my mind that I’ll be running the Dons Minithon (the best way to force yourself into doing things like this is to tell as many people as possible what you are planning to do, so you know how much of a knob you’ll look if you don’t…).

Back to the game, and Moore’s opener came just as the Dons started to stamp their authority on the game. A decent move lead to Steven Gregory teeing up a shot from the edge of the area which was blocked well by a Bath defender, only for the ball to break nicely for Moore to turn and stroke into the bottom left corner. For the remainder of the half, the Dons were at their dangerous best. Both fullbacks were bombing forward causing Bath no end of problems, combining well with Jolley and Jackson who are excelling starting games – no doubt causing the manager a few headaches as they are there on merit ahead of Main, Moore and now Nwokeji. A special mention as well must go to Yakubu and Harris, who kept the door firmly shut at the back as pretty much every other Dons player seemed to having only attacking intent. Yakubu in particular pulled off a brilliant interception at one end before showing his team mates how it’s done at the other.

In fact it was a wonderful goal, if only because we so rarely see the Dons score from corners. If you couldn’t make the game, well what can I say? You missed it. The execution of the goal suggested there may be more to come in the future – Sam Hatton struck the ball into the near post perfectly, Yakubu knew exactly where it was going and timed his run to meet it perfectly. In fact I’m amazed it didn’t break the net with the force he put into it, and for Dons fans, lovely to watch.

Wimbledon could have extended their lead before half time creating more chances, particularly an incisive Andre Blackman run which ended with his curling right footed effort sailing just wide of the right hand post. To be honest though you got the impression the Dons would go on to score as many as they wanted in the second half, as I took the opportunity to take advantage of the soft segregation in place to go and watch the rest of the game from the Tempest…

As is so usually the case, the Dons chose the first fifteen minutes of the second half to have their worst spell of the game, but Bath still couldn’t find a way to even threaten the Dons goal. A Phillips effort that bounced back off the underside… of the roof behind the stand was the closest they came, still the Bath goalkeeper got a moment of excitement out of it. In fact despite the great football they produced it could be argued Wimbledon never really needed to hit top gear, a worry for the visitors with a long season ahead. And they went further behind to the most basic of goals, the sort you really need to defend better if you want to be competitive in this division. Ryan Jackson hoisted a long throw into the Bath box, Danny Kedwell flicked on and Christian Jolley guided the ball back across the goalkeeper into the net.

We hadn’t seen much from Kedwell so far, he had a decent game linking the play, but the man on everyone t-shirt hadn’t threatened to add to his goal tally, mainly down to a decent performance by former Don Danny Webb. The man with a fifty pence piece for a head was last seen by Dons fans flapping about in an ill-fitting goalkeepers shirt as his Salisbury side were destroyed 4-0 early last term, and he was destined to lose by the same result when he and his colleagues left Kedwell all alone in the box to notch his eighth of the season.

In fact Webb’s afternoon could have got a whole lot worse as he appeared to haul back Kedwell after the Dons striker got in front of him and the goal at his mercy. Webb stayed down, perhaps expecting the worst, but the referee (who had a very decent game, by the way) decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. By this stage, Jolley and Jackson had reverted to full backs as Jon Main and debutant Mark Nwokeji were brought into the action. Main worked hard again but it was Nwokeji that impressed during his ten minute cameo. He does look a tidy player, and one that can bring a lot to the side. Jackson is holding that right sided forward position for now, but expect Nwokeji to reclaim that shirt, with Jackson one for the future…

So Wimbledon gained the victory they needed to ensure they would remain top on Friday night regardless of the result against Luton, but the next two games will tell us a whole lot more about their promotion credentials. Terry Brown has said in the past that twenty points from the first ten games is normally regarded as the sort of start you need to challenge for promotion – Wimbledon currently have nineteen… and the luxury of knowing any points against the two big spenders will be a bonus…

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Bath City Preview

After the Newport game, this blog confidently predicted we would not see the Dons on top of the Conference table again this season. I have to say this was one of those statements I come out with from time to time that are made solely in order to tempt fate… and I’m very glad that my fiendish plan worked. For that reason, I would like to state here that there is no chance the Dons will remain top of the table come 4.50pm on Saturday, nor indeed any chance of promotion…

Actually, I was more than pleasantly surprised when the news came through that we had beaten Kettering last week. I always find it quite surreal missing my first game of the season, and have never really got into listening to the game on WDON, excellent service that it is… I’m going to have to get used to it next season, as I won’t be in the country for at least 44 of our 46 games – still, it should make for more accurate match reports…

When I say I didn’t expect us to beat Kettering, what I really mean is I thought Kettering would be the sort of place that this Wimbledon side would come unstuck, which probably wasn’t entirely unreasonable after effectively throwing away two points the Monday before against Newport (and how good would the league table look now if we had held on to those?!). Yet they proved me wrong, and long may they continue to do so. This young squad are playing with no fear at the moment, although you do wonder how they would bounce back from a heavy defeat or morale busting last minute loss. There is a temptation to say Bath City should not prove too much of a threat to the Dons holding onto top spot, but this is football, Bath City are undoubtedly better than their early league position suggests and will ask questions, the Dons need to be focussed to stand any chance of going into next Fridays game at Luton as leaders.

After missing our two league games in Bath during our BSS championship season, I was naturally thrilled that Bath City overcame Woking in the playoffs last year – albeit losing a potential derby with our ‘friends’ a few stops down the South West mainline… then horrified the Conference fixture computer (i.e. bloke with pencil, dice, shaky grasp of geography…) allocated our visit to a Tuesday in January… I still hope to get down there, as I have heard nothing but good reports of our previous trip, but probably won’t get the chance to explore the city as intended… From what I have seen online Bath fans are making all the right noises ahead of their trip, I hope they have a great day out as they seem to have quite an unpretentious fanbase.

Bath are an unknown quantity to me, are missing five players, whether this will have much effect on them remains to be seen. The Dons have no new injury worries apparently, which meant the Surrey Herald (who must have some kind of Dons related quota to meet) were forced to recycle the news that Brett Johnson will miss the game, but stands a chance of being back for the Luton game. Ed Harris has the chance to stamp his claim for regular first team football, alongside the unflappable Ismail Yakubu. Steven Gregory is listed as doubtful, and as we all know Mark Nwokeji is yet to make is debut, will have to wait another week at least.

Now, the moment you have all been waiting for… the Anonymous Don predicted line up;

Brown

Hatton

Blackman

Yakubu

Harris

Moore, S

Minshull

Wellard

Jolley

Kedwell

Moore, L

I have Wellard in for Gregory, and Luke Moore reprising his place with Ryan Jackson making way… which will be extremely unfortunate for the youngster, but I just have this hunch…

WUP is on sale tomorrow which may or may not feature a contribution from The Anonymous Don (they don’t tell me in advance, to ensure I actually buy a copy…). Danny Kedwell t-shirts are available too, for a crisp tenner (including WUP). Further details can be found here – http://www.afcwgb.co.uk/keds_tshirt.html

 #### LATE UPDATE! ####

My brave prediction that Luke Moore would come back into the starting line up only had the effect of giving him a poorly tummy, presumably caused by him reading this and getting a bit over excited. This means Luke will not play any part tomorrow (according to the O/S…).

As one plant is crushed, so another seed germinates, and our boost is that Mark Nwokeji is finally fit enough to join the squad. Heres hoping for a positive debut, I for one wish him all the best and hope he earns his Dons colours with style…

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Kettering Town 1 AFC Wimbledon 2

The first game I miss this season results in the Dons unexpected (by me certainly) return to the summit of non-League football. As well as this I missed out on £10 entry and cheap transport courtesy of a lift I had to turn down… very different to last year when a delayed coach meant I got into the ground five minutes before half-time… Goals from Hatton and Danny Kedwell’s seventh of the season were enough for the win, and the team will be looking to extend their advantage at the top with the visit of Bath City next week…