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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