Daily Archives: December 12, 2010

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.

Tagged ,