Subconsciously Craving Misery (AFC Wimbledon 1 Forest Green Rovers 1)

Aww crap. That wasn’t much fun, was it? Although we didn’t lose the game, dropping two points was particularly hard to take. Ultimately the visitors lack of ambition and a moment of magic in an otherwise disjointed performance was enough to ensure the Dons took a single point and ensure the unbeaten home record continues into October. Although to be honest that’s ringing pretty hollow right now – this was nothing more than pure frustration in the rain. 

Not that I had any worries we would take anything other than victory from this game after a dominant first five minutes in which the Dons forced five corners and looked to be carrying off from where they left off before the final whistle so rudely interrupted them on Wednesday night. Then something happened that wasn’t in the script, in fact it was so unexpectedly surreal it caused me to laugh out loud. Forest Green scored – and despite the Dons having a couple of chances to clear it will go down as a pretty well taken finish by Ben Watson. Still, with eighty-five minutes of the game remaining, it seemed more likely than not that the Dons would come back and win the game comfortably. 

Yet Wimbledon lost something from that moment on, as if infected by fear, and the younger players in particular suffered greatly because of this. Which for this Dons side is a big, big problem – as even our more experienced players are on the young side, and lead to pretty much half the team having an off day. Whenever they looked like creating danger for their opponents, the move broke down. Ryan Jackson in particular was having a frustrating afternoon, he saw plenty of the ball but his opposing full back was getting the better of him. Jolley was suffering similarly on the other flank, he didn’t seem to be floating past his man like we know he can. Under these circumstances, our midfield needed to stand up and be counted, instead it just sort of vanished. Moore, Wellard (especially Wellard) and even Gregory seemed as if their only purpose in the game was to recycle possession back to Forest Green. The Dons most potent force, Danny Kedwell, was forced to battle for scraps on the half way line, with no option but to win flick ons that ultimately went to no-one. 

Still, surely given a good half time talking to the lads would come back out and take the game? It only took a couple of minutes play in the second half to realise there would be no immediate return to form. Steven Gregory was withdrawn for the more offensive Luke Moore – who was by far the outstanding Dons player despite only being on the field for forty-five minutes. Jon Main replaced the injured Jackson with half an hour to go, and Terry Brown finally tired of Ricky Wellard replacing him with Rashid Yussuff. Yet it still just wasn’t clicking, and ultimately it relied on individual skill rather than an intelligent team performance. With twenty minutes to go, Jolley found some space down the right, and although it looked as if the chance had passed him by as he brought the ball under control he managed to evade two Forest Green players before curling the ball with his left foot beyond keeper James Bittner and into the far corner. 

It seemed as though the goal would give the Dons the momentum to go on and win the game, and while they rode the crest of a wave for five minutes or so after the goal, ultimately they couldn’t keep it going to the final whistle. The best chance fell to Sammy Moore, after a fantastic run from the forward minded Yussuff saw him round several players, before unselfishly knocking the ball towards Moore with only the keeper to beat. It seemed either a powerful finish or guiding the ball either side of the keeper would be enough to give the Dons the points, yet Moore did neither, tamely sidefooting straight at Bittner. 

The Dons didn’t threaten after this. In fact, their performance in the last few minutes was nothing short of appalling. Passes were literally hit to no-one, there wasn’t enough urgency, and how I managed to get through injury time without tearing my hair out I’m not sure. For some reason I decided to stand in the open corner by the Tempest, taking a soaking, as if I was subconsciously craving misery. The Dons have turned on the style at times this season, but here it just wasn’t working. Much as I appreciate the philosophy of playing out from the back, when there are only seconds to go in injury time you have to put that to one side and get the ball forward as soon as possible. If Sebb Brown felt his kicking wasn’t going to be accurate then that’s fair enough, but I would much rather see him heaving one down field only for it to be headed clear than giving it to a full back (unfortunately I need to name and shame Andre here…) just to gift possession away. 

Results elsewhere meant the damage caused by these dropped points wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Second place still with Crawley three points ahead, and while we face an early season six pointer at Mansfield on Tuesday we know Crawley and Luton playing each other means at least one of them will be dropping points. With another tough looking away fixture at Wrexham on the horizon, we might find ourselves looking for gifts from elsewhere to ensure parity with our rivals, while we ride out this period of inconsistency – presuming of course our early season form wasn’t just a flash in the pan…

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