It’s too much, sometimes, to expect a game to live up to the expectations you place on it beforehand. I was torn beforehand between this turning out that the Dons turned up focused and romped to victory (baiting the Football Gods albeit) or a pulsating cup tie where the Dons ran out victors by the odd goal in plenty. In truth, it was neither, in fact it barely qualified as a football match… but still Wimbledon won. We now go through to the First Round Propa, with all the excitement and nervousness that brings.
Not that I wasn’t nervous or excited before this one, I was. But that pretty much evaporated within the first quarter-hour or so, as neither side showed they possessed the ability to take charge of the game, or even string more than a couple of passes together before tamely returning the ball to their opponents, or simply knocking it out of play. Perhaps that is unfair, the Dons did create a couple of openings in the first half, a Kedwell shot that might have been goal-bound had it not struck a Basingstoke mans arm on the way through (the myopic linesman on the dugout side was having none of it…), and Ricky Wellard wriggled through before slipping when well positioned… In fact a few slipped over on a pitch that seemed neither one thing or another – it was slick and relatively short, but seemed pretty thick and held the ball up on occasions.
Not that either side had much of an excuse, this was dire stuff. You know its a poor game when the off-field conversation turns away from the match and on to ever more random topics. In fact it was a strange atmosphere really, the Dons fans were strung around three sides of the pitch and there was no one area that focussed on getting chants and songs started, if it hadn’t been so cold it could have passed for a pre-season game. The Magic of the FA Cup is still alive and kicking, but I’m not sure which courier the FA use but The Magic failed to make it to this match.
Enough Dons players were switched on enough to ensure Basingstoke’s threat remained a remote one, and poor finishing let the hosts down badly, although to be fair the Dons restricted them to efforts from range. Going forward it wasn’t quite happening for Christian Jolley down the left, Ryan Jackson was having more luck on his flank. To the point that at one point an esteemed fellow blogger voiced his concern that we overuse him. I thought about that a bit, and although that might seem so on days like today we do like to use both flanks and you can’t expect both young players to deliver every time. There have been occasions when Jolley has looked the bigger threat, and you have to remember Ryan is fortunate to have the impeccable Sam Hatton backing him up.
Jolley had Andre Blackman behind him, and did Andre take his opportunity with both hands? Erm… Actually ‘Erm…’ is probably an acceptable answer under these circumstances, Basingstoke didn’t overly test him this afternoon but he put in a couple of solid challenges, one of which saw him pick up a minor knock. He didn’t pick up a booking, nor looked like getting one (although you never know with Andre…), and showed no sign before that of the red mist descending. Yet because of the knock he was withdrawn late in the second half, much to his great annoyance. Yes, he took his frustrations out on the bench (that is the physical bench rather than those sitting on it…), but that because he knows he probably didn’t do enough to guarantee himself a start against Darlington next Saturday. He’ll get another chance in R1 though…
One performance I do need to pick out is that of Sebb Brown. On a day when he wasn’t really tested he showed excellent concentration and alertness on the occasions he was called into action, and his decision-making on high balls is coming into its own. Sticking high balls into the box has been the undoing of many a young keeper (including the Anonymous Don…), Sebb knows he can’t come for everything, and he can’t catch every ball he does come for. Last season, without the confidence that comes from being Number One for club and country, he may have flapped at a few of those balls, but today we saw a couple of well-timed punches, the ball ending up far from the danger area.
A less limited team would have caused us problems today, we could have had it a lot tougher undoubtedly, but we should be grateful for our victory. In effect it’s all we can ask for from our side in cup competition – especially the most important of them all. It won’t be a game that will live long in the memory, it didn’t need to be, but it gives us the opportunity of games that certainly will…