Potential Banana Skin (Half An Ebbsfleet Preview…)

FA Cup First Round day looms, an afternoon (well, weekend these days) more exciting than Christmas and birthdays combined, by far the biggest event of the football season. Maybe until the Third Round, but we never get that far in the AFC era… At least we haven’t done yet, we have been handed possibly our best opportunity yet by mercifully not drawing the side running away with the division two above ours for a change. Which doesn’t mean Ebbsfleet shouldn’t be a nerve-wracking afternoon. On the contrary, I think I’ll be more nervous because we are expected to win.

I know some of you share my nerves. Last week I got an email from an intelligent, knowledgeable Dons fan relating to cheap train tickets up to Fleetwood in a few weeks time. Those of you who are one step ahead of the crowd will already have spotted the date clashes with the Second Round date. I have my suspicions this email was sent more with the motive of placating fate, the football gods, whatever you want to call it. Like there is some benign creator looking down thinking ‘Hmmm, these Dons fans are completely non-presumptuous about their First Round tie against a side lower in the league system than themselves, I think I will reward them by gifting them an easy 4-0 win…’. Having said that if we do go through to the second round, and draw Fleetwood away, I’m going to have some apologising to do…

I don’t blame those of you already putting the lucky pants to one side… I’ll be doing the same too. This one has ‘upset’ written all over it, Ebbsfleet have quietly put together an impressive run of form and bring with them not only Lorraine and Duncan, but former trialist Callum Willock, the man who could have been the man who Nathan Elder wasn’t… As well as that Lorraine has apparently been indulging in some good-natured banter with Dons stopper Sebb Brown. Having said that it makes the life of a professional footballer, for all its overwhelming benefits, sound a little tame compared to when I played against friends and ex-team mates in the parks on a Saturday morning… inane breakfast tv catchphrases don’t really compare with receiving text messages telling you you’re a paedo and your mums a slag, before you retaliate by drunk-dialling them repeatedly at 3.30am on the morning of the match…

To be honest I only realised the outside world will be viewing us as overwhelming favourites when I read the profile of Jon Champion on the OS (yes, I actually read the profile of Jon Champion on the OS…) and he was quoted as saying ‘If you hear your fans complaining that they switched on to watch AFC Wimbledon on the highlights and you were only on for ten minutes, that’s a good sign.’… Now at first all I thought was ‘Wow, we’re getting ten minutes of highlights on a major terrestrial tv station hours after the game finishes…’ but then it struck me the only reason ITV seem to be showing up is they are hoping we are going to fall on our arses. Still, ten minutes is pretty good, we rarely got that on Match of the Day back in the 90’s…

Of course, the squad responded to the news three players judged not good enough to play for the Dons are returning by putting in a performance that suggested there might have been at least eleven more that Terry missed. Thats harsh, of course it is, but we can only hope the Darlington performance, coupled with the memory of literally staggering into the next round at Basingstoke, will have focused the players minds a little.

In terms of team news, first off another episode of the unofficial Andre-watch series. The boy Blackman is back in the side tomorrow, however after Bush’s nightmare last week its more important than ever he has a good performance tomorrow. I think after his great start we expected Blackman might receive a bit of unwanted attention from other clubs once we reached the televised stages of this tournament, unfortunately the only unwanted attention he seems to be receiving at the moment relates to his apparently suspect temperament…

Which is a little unwarranted perhaps… one of the reasons Andre appears a little immature at times is because, well, he is still very young. Slamming seats when substituted is just the physical representation of the frustration ALL players feel in those circumstances, he’ll learn how to control it. I think the best reason for wanting Andre to succeed is unlike Bush, he is a contracted Dons player. I’m as much in favour of playing your best eleven as the next man, but when there isn’t much in it can we really be justified in playing a lad for the benefit of another team (i.e. Brentford). I thought Bush was highly regarded there, unless TB knows something we don’t and thinks there might be a chance of signing him in the summer…

Moving on, I’m having a bit of a crisis of confidence (which isn’t all that unusual). As you will remember, a couple of weeks ago I stated my belief that Steven Gregory was as important to the Dons as Danny Kedwell. Since then he has gone off the boil, as have the team. But I’m trying to work out whether Gregory has failed to impress because the team have been poor, or if the teams poor performances have shown Gregory in a negative light?

Perhaps that’s a topic for me to ponder on another occasion (here’s hoping it’s not the match report for this game, as that’ll probably mean we lost…) as the fact it is nearly time for FC United v Rochdale on Friday night more than betrays the fact I’ve effed up the timing of this preview – as it is its highly likely only a few post-pub drunks and early risers will read this anyway…

Predicted Dons line-up – Brown; Hatton, Yakubu, Harris, Blackman; Gregory, Moore S, Yussuff; Kedwell, Jackson, Jolley.

PS Congratulations to the youth who won their 1st Round game at Dartford. Their Second Round tie at home to Aldershot is just asking for a report from this blog…

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