Big Three Points (AFC Wimbledon 1 Gateshead 0)

I’ve just finished the Minithon… well, I finished about three hours ago, but I’ve finally regained enough mobility to pick up the laptop in order to write this. Congratulations to everybody else who ran, as well as all those helpers who ensured the event was a success. Although none of them went to the lengths of massaging my aching feet, or indeed aching ego, as the majority of the field finished several minutes before me…

The Dons victory the day before probably helped too, in its own small way. The Gateshead game was the epitome of hard-fought, determined opponents who pretty much ran themselves into the ground and very nearly succeeded in dragging ourselves down with them. The situation wasn’t helped by Wellard and Kedwell just not being in the game for long periods; Wellard was hindered by an injury, did his best, but ultimately probably only remained on the pitch thanks to a more serious knock picked up by Steven Gregory… which actually turned out to be quite fortunate for the Dons.

When I say Kedwell wasn’t in the game, I don’t mean he had a bad game as such, although he did frustrate on a couple of occasions by dropping deep to pick the ball up then promptly losing it. Further down the pitch the Gateshead back line were doing a pretty decent job of nullifying his impact… Just a bad day at the office, though it wasn’t for lack of effort. On his day no side in this division could stop him, and he’s had enough of those type of games for us to forgive a months worth of quiet games.

Ricky Wellard on the other hand, hasn’t exactly reached that level of untouchability yet, which you would expect as he is a young player. Wellard normally contributes way more positives than negatives, yet as we now know he was carrying a knock at the time. Even a minor niggle would be enough to play on his mind, which might explain away his distracted performance. On a couple of occasions he frustrated when finding in space to fire a shot in from the edge of the box but instead passing the opportunity to a team-mate leading to the move breaking down, especially discouraging as time began to run out. Yet he almost gave the Dons the lead, ghosting into the box to get on the end of a perfect Hatton cross only to see his header bounce off the post with the Gateshead keeper well beaten (ironically this came seconds after Gateshead also struck the woodwork from a diving header…)

Yet it was to be Wellard who delivered the ball that finally unlocked the Gateshead back line, and they hadn’t learnt to pick players up. Yakubu’s well-timed run was picked out by Ricky, and made it look easy guiding the ball into the right corner. This proved enough to see off an impressive Gateshead team, I have no doubt they will make things as hard for our promotion rivals as they have already proven by being a minute or so from taking a point from Crawley. Hell, they could even find themselves an outside bet for the playoffs if they keep up that kind of performance level…

Elsewhere, the loss of Gregory could have been more serious had the fixtures given us Tuesday/Saturday for the next couple of weeks. Sammy Moore did a great job of filling in, but we missed his darting little runs in and around the oppositions box, and he did get caught out a couple of times, Terry screaming at him to hold his position after the Dons were almost caught by a three on three break. I rate Gregory so highly I would go so far as to say I don’t think we have another midfielder who can play his role anywhere near as effectively. In that respect he is like Kedwell – if he’s not there, even if he’s not on form, we miss him.

Ultimately the Dons were worthy of their victory, only just. The differences between the two sides was in the detail, this was a big three points to pick up. A win that has taken us back to the top of the table, a win that keeps us there for at least the next fortnight… Now the distraction of the FA Cup, albeit a tricky trip to Basingstoke, more on that later in the week…

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