Monthly Archives: December 2010

Finally… We Saw Some Football

Congratulations to all of you who made it down to the ground early, shovels in hand, ensuring this game went ahead. I would have joined you but I was otherwise engaged, travelling back down on the morning of the game from visiting family in the north. It wasn’t the worst journey in the world, the service between Doncaster and Kings Cross is pretty good, the only problem being for the third time in a row on that particular service I had to explain to someone who boarded the train earlier exactly how the seat numbering system works…

It may be worth my while in future to produce an explanatory pamphlet and have it posted to all residents of Wakefield and Leeds to ensure I don’t have that sinking feeling of seeing someone in my seat followed by five minutes of arguing before I can finally sit down and enjoy the journey, except even that might not help… the last guy I ‘helped out’ had found himself in the correct seat – sadly in the wrong carriage…

The final ten miles of the journey proved more problematic than the previous 180, upon realising at Vauxhall that South West Trains will not be providing anything resembling a service, and it was a frazzled Anonymous Don who arrived at Kingsmeadow with a new-found respect for far-flung Dons who make such journeys on a regular basis… frazzled and confused to be more precise, as to why the programme sellers all appeared to be on strike?

Fortunately the full story was explained to me later (for those of you who don’t know the Conference have decided to withdraw punishment for not producing a programme as too many clubs are losing way too much money on unsold copies after recent postponements). And the lack of an official programme can only be seen as a Good Thing from an Anonymous Don perspective, as it was my turn to offer the editorial for the Xmas edition of the WUP, and thus my offering was in a more prominent position than it normally is. How great it was to see those of you who normally stuff the WUP in your back pocket for use later as toilet paper/reading, actually reading it in the stadium… if I had known that I would have written it a little differently i.e. good. Two years ago the WUP produced a substitute programme for a South London club who could not produce their own due to financial problems… plus ca change, as the Romans would have said…

More evidence that we had somehow overnight turned into a Sunday morning pub side was provided upon hearing the team lineups… only one centre half and three on the bench, on of whom was Jack Turner. Apparently a virus has struck down the squad, leading to six members of the side to phone in sick with a couple of those who actually made it onto the field showing symptoms… at least that was their excuse.

Then finally… we saw some football, the first time a Don had kicked a ball in anger in a Conference game for over a month – and yet we were still top of the league prior to kick off despite Newports earlier victory… weird. Naturally there was some rustiness, and although the Dons looked on top they didn’t quite threaten the visitors goal with the frequency we would expect given the amount possession was dominated. In fact it was Frazer Franks who struck the bar with the home teams best effort in the first half hour, with Jamie Taylor threatening for the visitors with a floated effort that struck the top of Sebb Browns crossbar. 

The Dons were playing more of an orthodox 442 with Nwokeji up front alongside Kedwell and Jackson and Yusseff patrolling right and left wings respectively, Jackson more out-and-out winger with Toks willing to come inside and allow Chris Bush to bomb past him and get the crosses in. The switch to 442 was probably dictated by who wasn’t available than a definite change in tactics from Brown. The fact we can play either will help mix things up a bit going into a heavy January, Danny Kedwell has seemed a little isolated chasing lost causes of late, and it helped knowing Nwokeji was there to provide an outlet.

And it was Nokkers who had the Dons next best chance, put through by a well weighted Wellard through ball, he was either cynically hacked down for a penalty or just fell over depending on your view of it. I was looking side on so couldn’t really tell, which must have been a similar position to the referee who failed to point to the spot or sho Nwokeji a yellow card. Of course if Nokkers had kept his feet he could have scored, why would he go down in that position? But then footballers do the strangest things some times, particularly those who are yet to find the net in the league (as of that moment…).

I have always regarded Eastbourne as likeable if combative opponents, with the obvious exception of their pantomime villain ex-franchise striker Richard Pacquette, who was receiving the sort of stick you would expect of someone who had taken Their coin. More experienced players than Pacquette have fallen victim to the antics of the Tempest (hello Frank Sinclair!), yet few have resorted to the sort of studs up outrage that poor Sebb Brown was victim to.

Pacquette, with blood visibly rushing to his head, raced on to a through ball a bit too soon and was caught offside. With the whistle already gone and the ball safely back in Browns hands, Pacquette took four or five steps before launching himself at the defenceless goalkeepers head. The red card was immediate, although amazingly Eastbourne manager Wilson thought it acceptable to defend his player. His precise quote was ‘he just tried to win the ball and there was no intent to hurt the goalkeeper’. Really? I can only presume he was looking the other way when the incident happened, the ball was in Browns hands so how exactly was he planning on winning the ball?

Unfortunately the only conclusion that can be drawn was Pacquette had every intention of taking the Dons goalkeeper out of the game. Under these circumstances it might be wise for Wilson to sit down and watch the incident again (he might want to pour himself a stiff drink first…), and reconsider his comments. Under the circumstances an apology to the young Dons keeper might be in order, but I doubt he’ll see one, but Wilson might want to refrain from idiotic comments in future, especially if he is still interested in taking a certain clubs talented fringe players on loan…

Sebb Brown showed great bravery in continuing, particularly considering the blood he shed leading to stitches being required for a punctured cheek as well as an eye wound. Fortunately the Dons did their best to ensure the stopper had a quiet afternoon from that point on, with much of the game except for a ten minute spell in the second half taking place in the Eastbourne half. Yet it took until the last-minute of the half for the home side to break the deadlock.

A short corner routine almost broke down after Sam Hattons low cross was blocked by an Eastbourne defender, but the ball simply bounced off him and rolled invitingly across the six yard line for Nwokeji to slam home. Yusseff had another chance to extend the lead in injury time but blazed over when well placed, and the Dons had to accept a single goal lead going into the break.

Steven Gregory seemed to pick up a knock earlier in the half, and was obviously unable to run it off as he was withdrawn at half time replaced by Reece Jones (Jon Main being the other outfield substitute). The only previous league appearance I remember Jones making was at Rushden, when bought on to change the game only for it to pass him by a little. Yet here Jones really excelled, presumably the spell on loan at Lewes had given him the taste for first team football, he moved the ball around nicely and was willing to get himself forward wherever possible – in fact he came very close to extending the Dons lead twice in quick succession, denied on both occasions by the quick reactions of Eastbourne keeper Rikki Banks.

With certain Dons players starting to tire, presumably due to the twin effects of virus and lack of recent match action, Jon Main was brought on to give Ryan Jackson a rest, with Nwokeji moving out to the right to accommodate him. To be fair Main wasn’t fortunate enough to get the sort of chance Nwokeji had earlier in the game, and will have to accept he is further down the pecking order now Nokkers is fit and scoring goals. You still get the impression if he gets a few starts he will score goals, he did look hesitant when in possession but that’s only to be expected. I still believe Jon Main will have a big role to play later in the season if he can grab a few goals from the bench, but he was to be frustrated once more during this cameo.

In fact the Dons had to wait until ten minutes from time before doubling their advantage, Wellard found all alone in the penalty area as the Eastbourne defence pushed out too late and stood static waiting for a flag that was never going to come. Wellard shrugged his shoulders, scratched his arse, adjusted his shinpads before finally deciding to slide the ball into the bottom corner.

The aforementioned Main was involved in the third, unable to get his shot away, the ball broke nicely for Toks who did what he failed to do at the end of the first half, curling the ball into the top left corner of the net beyond a helpless Banks. The late goals gave a pleasant gloss to the scoreline and was no less than the Dons deserved, although the score and performance in general was probably as good as the Dons could have expected given the circumstances.

So the Dons end the year top of the division, an immense achievement. With so many games to follow in January logic suggests our monied rivals will have the edge, but if Brown can reinforce in the right areas, who knows? While we remain top of the league the dream continues, and long may it do so…

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Xmas Eve Eve

Hands up if you’re pissed off with snow and would happily go a lifetime without seeing another flake? Yeah, me too. Snow used to be our friend. It used to let us behave like children for a couple of days, engaging in post-pub snowball fights and even occasionally gifting us a free day off work – before our employers wised up in January, forcing us to accept ‘snow days’ as unpaid holiday or trek through the deep drifts (or even worse, the three-inch slush which has already sent me sliding down the street a couple of times in a manner that suggests the Holidays could be spent in traction if I’m no careful). Even then, it was hard not to break into a grin two weeks ago when we flung open our curtains to find a blanket of white stuff welcoming us.

But now snow has gone too far – snow has fucked with football. And, indirectly, my blog. Plus to a lesser extent, Christmas. Now that’s just not on. Two weeks ago we lost the Luton game and we celebrated (well, some of us did). York was a bit more of a bummer as more of us had train tickets that subsequently went to waste. But then Saturday came and went with no football possible, and we find ourselves in the strange situation of going into Christmas without playing a league fixture for well over a month… Yet somehow we are still top of the League!

The impending fixture backlog is a worry, but slightly soothed by the fact none of our rivals could fit in a fixture either. The problem as I see it rescheduled games in a short space of time will only be a benefit to those clubs who can boast great strength in-depth i.e. Luton, i.e. Crawley, i.e. not AFC Wimbledon. Can anyone see us reaching the end of January still top of the league? Apart from via the likely scenario of every league game until then being postponed?

One person who is having great difficulty seeing the Dons top the table is, you’ve guessed it, Steve Evans. Despite predictions that Crawley’s financial might would see them eventually overhaul the Dons and run out of sight with Luton, that hasn’t happened yet. Despite this, Evans still feels the need to broadcast his opinions on a regular basis, and his latest utterings have outlined his radical opinion that he feels, erm, Luton and Crawley would run away with it. Far from causing the Dons any problems, by telling people exactly what they think is going to happen will happen, surely he’s just piling the pressure on his own side?

As it goes the Dons have a winnable Christmas period, and could at least make it to the New Year still in pole position. I’m not suggesting either Hayes or Eastbourne are mugs, Eastbourne gave us a game back in August and we all know how difficult a place Hayes is for visiting Dons sides. But these are games sides with ambitions of promotion will win. A seven point haul is a conservative ambition under the circumstances.

As for coverage from this here blog, well I’m away over Xmas – not the States this time, but glamorous Doncaster for holidays with family which will curtail both my enjoyment of Hayes away (i.e. I won’t be there) and the subsequent match report (there won’t be one). I’ll be back in time for Eastbourne though, so until then have a great Xmas, heres hoping we’re all celebrating with three points come Boxing Day.

Catchup

Its been a busy week for the Dons, and pre-Xmas duties mean I’m not as up to date as I’d like, so before I kick on with the Wrexham preview, lets go over a few events of the week… Firstly, the Trophy draw. A local derby against a team from the division below us should be a cause for excitement, especially against a side we haven’t actually played a competitive game against for a good few decades. Woking will be fancying their chances too, coming as it does in the midst of the month from hell as far as fixtures are concerned.

Yet… it is winnable. We could have had much worse. Away a team in our division that has serious ambitions to win the thing for one, particularly if injuries and suspensions kick in. The Trophy is a target this year, and if we have ambitions to go all the way we can’t be afraid of losing to Woking. We have some decent fringe players, perhaps not the strength in depth of Luton or Crawley, but enough to provide relief for tired and unavailable players in games such as this. As I’ve said before, a good run in the Trophy should be no barrier to clinching a playoff place (or even, lets dream, a title challenge…). The only problem is we can’t choose when the rounds are scheduled.

We do however, presumably have some kind of input as to when rearranged league games are played, which just makes the announcement we will play Luton at Kingsmeadow on January 11th seem all the more bizaare. Presumably thats when Luton wanted it, the Conference agreed, and that was us over a barrel… Still, we have to get on with it. But it won’t be easy, long trips have a habit of catching up with tired young players, the only benefit being that once we get the York game out of the way, thats the worst of it done and dusted.

A very young Dons side (and Jon Main) overcame Dulwich Hamlet in the LSC on Tuesday, thanks to a late goal from the aforementioned Main. Am I the only person who considers this (and the SSC) quite an important tournament for our younger players in terms of gaining experience. The LSC is especially winnable, Dulwich providing the stiffest opposition the competition has to offer… Unfortunately a longer match report is not possible as I couldn’t get to the game. I haven’t been feeling too well this week, and lets just say I didn’t want to put myself in a situation where I couldn’t guarantee a high quality of bathroom facilities… I’ve had a couple of photo finishes just getting too and from work…

Which brings us round to Wrexham. Last seasons home tie provided one of the more exciting finishes seen in recent years, partially thanks to an extraordinary performance by Dons fans favourite Frank Sinclair which involved him completing the unwanted hat trick of own goal, conceded penalty and red card. Well, unwanted by Fat Frank, anyway… We’ll certainly be hoping for a repeat performance, yet the pre-match build up has taken an annoyingly weather related turn. The pitch is covered, but those (like me) who had the pleasant experience of an icy sleet-filled wind in their face on the journey home from work will know, that might not be enough.

For that reason, the match preview will be curtailed. That and I have some present wrapping to do. Heres hoping we get a chance to play our first league game in nearly a month come Saturday… And now its snowing…

WUP 8.5

This article was first published in the December ’10 (Christmas) edition of WUP…

Ah, Xmas!  A time of drinking and eating excessively and football. Memorable Dons matches on Boxing Day include… uhm… ahh… erm… well off the top of my head recent Dons Xmas games haven’t entirely been memorable, so I initially presumed my lack of recollection has been affected by the ‘drinking’ element of Xmas excess… But no! After conducting something the book ‘Writing Fanzine Articles For Dummies’ refers to as ‘research’, I can confirm Dons Xmas games down the years seem to have been far from memorable. On the whole we seem to have a pretty good record in our first game after Xmas Day, after all it was only fifteen years ago that we defeated both Chelsea and Arsenal between Xmas day and New Year, it seems precious few Xmases have been ruined by poor Dons showings. The only potentially traumatic experience we had was back in 1992, a 0-2 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace, a defeat I have no memory of largely because there are no memories to have… I turned up at Kingston station only to find it locked up, no trains running on the holiday back in those days. My teenage knowledge of bus routes not being as honed as it is these days, and with no tfl website at my fingertips, I just gave up and went home to stuff myself with boiled ham, mashed potato and leftover turkey.

There are bound to be those who have particularly fond memories of games down the years however, and as my memories only stretch as far as the late 80’s I am perhaps ignorant to any particularly satisfying drubbings we might have dished out in the pre-Anonymous Don era. Also, there will be those of you who harbour memories of games that might not have stood out in the mind of everybody in attendance, but have particular relevance to you based on your activities before, during, or after the game. I for example will never forget our game at Dorking a few years back, not because it was a particularly fine performance – it was a functional result on a surface that would have reduced any passing Health and Safety official to a gibbering wreck. No, my memories of this game are largely tinged by the recollection of the finest Lamb Madras I’ve ever sampled, to the point I’m slightly shocked at occasionally coming across folk who found the afternoon ‘cold and a bit miserable’…

And you have to ask, what classifies as an Xmas game? Does the last Saturday game before Xmas count? Is Wrexham an Xmas game, for example? Or should it just be any game where the date begins with a 2 (i.e. Wrexham 18th December 2010 NO Newport County 20th December 2008 YES? I have to say the Newport game didn’t feel like an Xmas game, the reason being I hadn’t actually started my work Xmas holiday at that point. Yet if that was a reason not to class it as a festive fixture, then what about all those people, myself included back in the day, who have to work on Xmas/Boxing day? Under those rules there would be no Xmas games, as the prime movers in these occasions, the players and management, are all technically working on those days (just as an aside – do you reckon they get double-time? Perhaps an extra special Xmas win bonus??? And not of the Steve Evans variety either…). I don’t consider New Years games as being part of the festive package, they should be considered separately (I’ll come back to the New Year later…).

No, the festive fixtures are really the modern equivalents of the Christmas Day/Boxing Day fixtures of days gone by. By the late 50’s these two fixtures, normally relatively local games, had shuffled back a day to the 26th and 27th, throwing up ‘interesting’ combinations of results… I’m sure Fulham fans are still wondering how in 1963 they could have beaten Ipswich 10-1 one day, then lost 2-4 the next… Eventually, common sense and presumably security dictated that the two rounds of games tended to fall on the 26th and 28th, against different sides. Down in the Conference, things are done differently and most clubs are handed fixtures against their closest opponents on Boxing Day and New Years Day. That means we end up coupled with Hayes and Yeading, who although are very close but not exactly mouth-watering, and like last year the potential for massive victory exists in equal probability to embarrassing defeats.

As for the New Year (and ultimately moving to the point of the article) here are the hopes and fears of The Anonymous Don, 2011… Firstly, because I don’t want to leave on a negative note (especially not on Xmas), here are my fears… Now beyond unrealistic paranoia such as the stadium falling down , my first instinct would be to suggest dropping out of the promotion picture, however things are a little different this time around, and only a dunce of the highest order would compare a slide down the table this time around to last year, no matter how disappointing that would be. Perhaps a bigger problem could be when we start to realise that Their forum ‘Concrete Roundabout’ is actually entirely populated by Us pretending to be Them in order to strike discord, and online debate about precisely how shit they are spills into the real world, causing a split in the fanbase between those of us who hate them and want them to die, and those who want them to go out of business and dislike them immensely.

No, my biggest fear is we receive an offer that’s too good to refuse for one of our young players. Interest in Danny Kedwell has caused us all a few tense moments over the last year or so, but there must be a few moneyed league sides eyeing our players potential and thinking the likes of Jolley or Harris could be worth the risk, maybe not in January, but in the summer. Of course when moves like this come about there is normally a period of rumour beforehand that is easy to dismiss, indeed it is difficult at this stage to separate the real rumours from the rumour rumours. But then they don’t go away, and the rumour moves on to its second stage, where someone ‘in the know’ posts on a guestbook that representatives of club X have been spotted emerging from a recent game/the boardroom/Elys. Again, these are indistinguishable from your random wind up merchants and wannabes, so its only when a deal has been struck it really hit home. I’ll never forget when the news appeared on the O/S about Chris Hussey, I cried for days… Seriously though, we haven’t been a ‘selling club’ since the 90’s when a big name left every summer to balance up the books, and losing a player to ambition is almost as hard to take as losing them for financial reasons…

The problem might not be losing one, or maybe two, but if we start losing more we will end up next summer in a similar position to this year, i.e. having to source more young players, disrupting the balance of the squad, etc. And lets face it, even in our own division there are clubs who can offer our players a lot more than we can. While some of these lads might love playing for the club right now, as TB has mentioned in the past some of our lads are mixing with players at other clubs on international duty, thus finding out how much their clubs are paying… In the past we have been in divisions where we might offer slightly less than rivals and it wouldn’t matter too much because of our size, now if one of our young players becomes aware a Cambridge or a Rushden will add a couple of hundred to their weekly wage, and that’s a different matter altogether. I mean you must have a real love and absolute faith in the project we have here to stay under those circumstances…

Before I worry any of you too much, on to hopes. Well, obviously winning the league would be nice, maybe taking the Trophy… Hell, let’s be greedy. I want the double, and I want it this season. Before all our players bugger off to big spending rivals. And that’s normal, every football fan at every club wants to win the league, wants promotion, wouldn’t say no to a cup or two either… But at our club its slightly different. Yes we are demanding, and yes we do want a return to what we consider our rightful place, the Football League. But on the whole, we do seem to be aware that if it doesn’t happen this year it will happen soon. As far as individual games go we get frustrated, yes, we don’t like it when our players give up possession cheaply or we perceive they aren’t putting the effort in, and that’s normal. But compared to some other clubs, we have patience, and that’s a virtue rare in the game.

My big hope is, with rumours swirling around the club may have identified a site for a new stadium, that we receive positive news on that front this term. And by positive I mean a site that the vast majority of Dons fans will find acceptable as our long-term home. That might be akin to asking for the moon on a stick, but the right site in the right place will be a catapult for our club. A lot of us consider regaining our league status will be enough to bring what we consider to be a large dormant support that normally only turn out for our largest games to come back on a regular basis, but an iconic home is what the club has been crying out for the past twenty years while we have been playing in ‘someone elses ground’. I’m sure that’s an Xmas wish we can all agree on.

Further WUP articles can be found in the Features Index

The Road To The Massive Arch Part One

There are cup ties against lower division opponents that will live long in the memory, such as the Ebbsfleet replay for example. Then there are games like yesterdays… The 3-0 scoreline might have given the impression to the many that took the opportunity to do some Xmas shopping that it was a comfortable victory, and yes it should have been a comfortable win against ten men, but didn’t quite pan out that way thanks to a disjointed midfield display. And yes, you can be kind to the boys and say it was their first game in a couple of weeks and there was bound to be some rustiness after training on Astroturf for two weeks, you can also make excuses and say against a better side they would have applied themselves a little better concentration-wise and perhaps there were an extra couple of gears they could have gone through if they needed to, but ultimately the small crowd left a little disappointed with the performance, and rightly so.

Braintree were a solid enough side, they worked hard, but the quality gap was evident when the Dons got the ball down and played it around as evident in the opening goal, and when they went down to ten men the Dons should really have run away with the contest. That it needed a couple of late goals to wrap things up probably summed up the performance, chances were missed earlier in the game that if taken perhaps would have glossed over the performance, as it was it was almost as if the Dons players considered the game wrapped up at 1-0… very much in the same manner we ended up being eliminated from the tournament last year at the hands of Workington. It could have happened yesterday – undoubtedly few would have shed too many tears if we had gone out, only 1201 bothering to turn up for a competition that at least during the early stages fails to capture the imagination of Dons fans.

The Dons had a few more breaks than said Workington game, and were assisted by a particularly toothless Braintree front line. Although I have to say the Dons back four were pretty faultless throughout in restricting the opposition, somewhat overworked thanks to the midfields insistence on turning the ball over to their opponents at every available opportunity, particularly in the second half. It was rather frustrating to watch, although its slightly easier to take when you’re winning football matches, you do wonder what Wrexham will do to us if we continue in the same fashion next week. And the really annoying thing was it came after such a promising opening period for the home team, capped off by an impressively worked goal after eight minutes. Some great interplay on the edge of the area saw the ball fed to Chris Bush, bursting through down the left channel. While he had a shooting opportunity he intelligently squared for Christian Jolley to firmly place the ball into the bottom left hand corner.

The visitors best chance of the game came later in the half, Sebb Brown deciding to come for a high ball into the box but beaten to the ball by Braintree striker Marks. His looping header was goalbound, but hooked away from under the bar by Yakubu, who had taken a position in the line to protect his goalkeeper. And the game seemed to be up for Braintree minutes later when a long clearance was chased down by Danny Kedwell, who positioned himself between ball and man, yet as he prepared to apply the finish he was crudely bundled over by Micheal Alaile. The referee had the red card out immediately, much to the frustration of some of the kids in attendance who were looking forward to their moment of pantomime chanting ‘Off! Off! Off!’ (I have to say I never thought the day would come where I’d get to criticise a referee for lack of showmanship…).

Naturally the Dons went on to dominate the remainder of the half, failing to extend their lead despite a couple of decent efforts falling to Sam Hatton, first he was played in by a clever ball by (I think) Luke Moore, only to see his firmly struck right foot effort across the keeper creep narrowly wide of the left post, then a fierce strike from twenty yards out in the right channel that appeared to bounce off the outside of the near post. You got the impression if one of those had gone in, the Dons would go on to run up a big score, but the small crowd were otherwise satisfied with the first half display.

I’m not sure what went wrong in the second half. The game was pretty much in the home teams pocket, but at least for the first half hour of the second period was characterised by some really sloppy play, the ball being given straight back to the opposition two, sometimes even three times in quick succession. As I’ve already said, the back four were doing a pretty good job of taking the ball back from Braintree, only to see their colleagues further up the field waste their efforts. To be fair, Braintree didn’t look like doing anything with it, but it would only have taken a fluke or a mishit to sail in, and the Dons could have been looking at the possibility of an unwanted replay on Tuesday night.

Eventually Terry Brown lost patience, putting Mark Nwokeji on up front with Danny Kedwell, Jolley and Jackson (who had replaced Luke Moore earlier in the half) ‘dropping back’ although in practice this meant a front four pushing on to Braintree’s tiring back line. As the visitors pushed forward, Wimbledon finally looked like they might put them out of their misery. The goal eventually came only four minutes from the end of normal time. The Dons won a free kick on the edge of the Braintree area, and as the visitors stood either arguing with the referee or pulling their statue impression, the home side were getting on with it, Sammy Hattons clever ball put Nwokeji through, as he took it round the keeper you wondered whether he had taken it too far wide, but he expertly converted from a tight angle to win the game. Two minutes later Kedwell gave the scoreline at least a satisfying gloss, a quick interchange saw him blast the ball into the bottom corner, the keeper getting a hand to it but the ball having far too much pace on it to keep it from bouncing off the upright and into the net. In fact there could have been further goals, as Nwokeji saw an effort clip the outside of the post.

Ultimately, despite the poor performance, a win is a win, and a place in the next round is all you can ask for. We were perhaps fortunate that no matter how bad we were, Braintree were a lot worse, as shown by their inability to create a goalscoring effort in the second half despite being gift-wrapped possession on a regular basis. Tomorrows draw will give us a game slap bang in the middle of January, a month that will go a long way towards revealing just how serious our promotion challenge is. With trips to Newport, Darlington, Fleetwood, Bath and Gateshead, as well as the 1st February York game, sods law suggests the draw will give us another long away trip. While picking our strongest eleven was a given on Saturday, by the time the Second Round rolls round and injuries and suspensions take their toll, we might not have that luxury.

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Braintree Preview

We’ve all had a rest from football, or at least the Dons (surely the only football worth bothering with…), for the best part of two weeks. This blog certainly went into slumberland, I did attempt to start writing a post I entitled Nothing Much Is Going On, but by the time I had commented on the weather and thrown in a few lame jokes, I realised there was genuinely nothing going on, and abandoned the project. Ironically I could have been working on my Xmas WUP article, but as I completely forgot it’ll have to wait until I’ve written this, and as I haven’t even got an angle on it yet I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for a quality effort…

Putting that minor insight into the writing of TAD and associated projects to one side for a moment, we finally have a game to get excited about. Braintree at home in the Trophy wouldn’t normally get the heart pumping, but they are after all top of the division below us in a competition that can provide us with our only hope of playing at Wembley this year. Plus you should all have got the Xmas shopping done last week, no excuses, I want to see at least 2,000 of you in TCRRFSKM come 3pm Saturday. Hopefully still remaining in the ground at 4.45…

In my Luton preview I mentioned how the game being postponed should be regarded as a Good Thing, yet the York postponement placed a slightly different angle on it. Having two games to catch up on might make you start to think that losing on Saturday will be no bad thing. I on the other hand disagree, in fact I disagree greatly. Theres no substitute in the game to winning football matches, and you have to ask the question that if the squad aren’t capable of playing an extra 6-8 games between now and May without dropping out of the promotion picture, then perhaps they don’t deserve to be in the race to start with. Maybe the young boys will get tired, maybe they’ll lose it mentally, but either way it’ll be experience earned. We’ll begin again next season and be stronger for it.

In the mean time, theres no value in wrapping the players in cotton wool. I hope, as he has suggested, Brown will put out a strong side for this, win it, and go on to have a solid run in the tournament, maybe even win the whole thing? Why not? Theres no-one in this division we should be afraid of in a one-off encounter, and our Cup no-shows against higher ranked teams won’t affect us as, well, for the time being there isn’t a club in the competition above us. Name your strongest side as promised, Terry, let’s have a decent performance and see us through to the next round (for which we already have a free weekend lined up), and we’ll see where we go from there. Cue TAD advising everyone ‘this is a blessing in disguise’ in my match report after we get turned over on Saturday.

Having said that, Braintree obviously aren’t going to stand to one side and say ‘There you go chaps. Easy passage to the next round this way…’. As our games against Ebbsfleet showed, the quality in the division is there, especially when they are right up for the game. And just as I write this – well, several hours earlier actually. I wrote the first few paragraphs at lunchtime and resumed this evening from ‘And just as I write this…’ (see if you can spot the join…). Anyway, as I wrote this, Terry Brown has popped up in the Surrey Herald warning us all not to underestimate Braintree. He also mentions on the O/S how the plan is to get to Wembley, as ‘the play-off final is in Manchester this year’… kind of giving away the belief I think we all share that Crawley or Luton or both will end up running away from us at some stage soon.

Anyway, in terms of a potential Dons lineup, its pretty much full strength with the exception of Ed Harris finally getting to serve his suspension, Brett Johnson still injured but looking, like Jesus, at a Christmas comeback. Oh fuck, hang on, Jesus was Easter, wasn’t he? Ok, Johnson is planning a Jesus like comeback, but at Christmas, not Easter. And to round-up more recent team news, Sammy Moore has twinged his groin, while Lee Minshull has recovered from his broken toe only to cry off with a note from his mom or something. His punishment is featuring in next weeks 0-1 reverse at Dulwich in the LSC. Punishment indeed, for I have every intention of being at Dulwich on Wednesday night. No excuses here. It is Wednesday, right???

TADs predicted lineup – Brown; Hatton, Blackman, Yakubu, Franks; Gregory, Yussuff, Moore (either, depending on who is fit); Jolley, Kedwell, Jackson

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2018 And All That

I’m not having much luck trying to watch my team play at York. Last year I was within a mile of the ground before a waterlogged pitch forced me to turn back, overshooting TAD’s Northern Away Headquarters (in Doncaster) and spending a freezing afternoon watching Gainsborough tear Redditch a new one. This time around I might not even get the chance to even use the (admittedly not that expensive) train tickets thanks to the cold snap, so no visiting the family for at least two weeks (I’m back up there at Christmas…).

What seemed like a piece of good fortune, even acknowledged by Terry Brown as such, has now become slightly more of a head scratcher. However, important players could be back from injury when we next play, and hopefully Ed Harris will get a chance to serve his suspension against Braintree now. While the scourge of fixture congestion has ruined many a promotion bid in years gone by, its my opinion its only something we will actually regret if we end up losing an FA Trophy semi final and have to play ten games in three weeks… until then, and with plenty of free midweek evenings to spare, we needn’t lose too much sleep…

Instead we’ve all had the rather surreal experience of the World Cup bid to deflect our attention. And can I be the first to say…. lets breathe a big sigh of relief. Don’t get me wrong, like everybody else I grew up dreaming of scoring the winner in the World Cup Final at Wembley (shortly after captaining the Dons to the European Cup…). Not when I was a kid, this was just a few happy months ago. And then, a certain town in the South Midlands wormed their way into the bid, and all of a sudden hosting the World Cup didn’t seem such a great idea…

I think if the worst had happened, and MK ended up hosting a World Cup game, that would have killed football for me, at least non-Dons related football. The problem was, my non-Dons supporting friends at best found MK being part of the ticket as a minor quibble, at worst they saw nothing wrong with it… If I had a penny for every time I was told not to worry, that their stadium would be dropped later in the process… the problem being FIFA themselves would have chosen the stadium – as well as pie-in-the-sky efforts like Bristol and Plymouth possibly falling off the radar, you could just see the rather bendy FIFA Executives falling for Winkie’s Special Brown Envelope And Magic Friendship Powder parties.

Fortunately, the nightmare of watching Paraguay v Togo in front of 17,000 in a huge white elephant has ended (unless you live in Qatar, of course), and we can go back to forgetting about them until they get relegated/go bust/turn into a rugby club. The problem now seems to be with no prospect of a game against them to concern us in the near future, and no MK World Cup to keep us awake, and with the Dons top of the table, playing good football with a young side that could form the foundations of a decade of success, there really isn’t anything for us Wombles to worry about. A strange and unnatural situation indeed… what was that again about fixture congestion???

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