Daily Archives: January 11, 2011

Different Ninety Minutes

It goes without saying if we don’t win the league this season I hope our visitors tomorrow go on to claim the title ahead of a certain club from Sussex, and in an ideal world we would wish Luton all the best after tomorrow. But as the old proverb reminds us ‘be careful what you wish for…’ as such circumstances would invariably see us paired with Crawley in the playoffs, and I get the impression we would rather prefer tomorrows visitors should it come down to it.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, they are marginally more beatable (although as I mentioned the other day, still insanely difficult). Secondly, if us and Luton end up in Manchester come May, I don’t think I would take defeat half as badly as I would if I had to witness Steve Evans waddling across the pitch in celebration, sweaty pits visible to all as he raises his arms as high as his chubby shoulders allow. In the real world, we can only focus on our own team and worry about winning enough points to take the title or (perhaps more realistically) an advantageous position in the playoffs.

To be honest if you had told me we would still be top of the league and four points ahead of our visitors at this point in the season after we had lost 0-3 on that miserable Friday evening up at Kenilworth Road, I would have had a bit of difficulty taking you seriously. It wasn’t that we were outclassed, just well beaten on the night by a far more professional team, and the journey home was filled with thoughts that Luton would go on and stretch their legs in a two-way battle with Crawley. Yet, here we are, with over half the season played, somehow still involved in the chase. This is testament to how our young squad has grown as a team, and the marked improvement of certain members of the squad as the season has progressed. Throw in the recent reinforcements made by Brown (its been negated to a certain extent by the recent bout of illness ravaging the squad, but I’ll throw it in anyway…), and we are set for a very different ninety minutes of football to that seen back in September. Cue 3-0 Luton win…

There will still be more than a few missing from tomorrows squad, but lets not forget the sorry state we were in when the original fixture was somewhat mercifully postponed. In the days before we realised Lee Minshull could fill in at centre-half (although that’s slightly irrelevant as the original game fell outside the two-week window every three months that Lee manages to find himself fully fit…), Fraser Franks would have been the only player fit enough recognised to play the position. Quite who would have partnered him I know not, although I have a funny feeling it would have been Sam Hatton and he would have had a stormer. Now despite the absence of Johnson and I presume Yakubu, we have Franks, Harris and new signing Stuart available, with Patrick Kanyuka waiting in the wings with his deal presumably reliant on Brett Johnson’s long-term fitness.

While we are on the subject of defenders (and harking back to being careful what you wish for following my comments after the Darlington game), Chris Bush sat on the bench for Brentford tonight, and while he will presumably still be available to us under the terms of his work experience it does make you question his long-term future at the club. To be fair, the Football League allows seven substitutes and it could just have been a case of Brentford needing a body to sit on the bench and naming him for experience, but we can only hope either (i) we sign a new left back, or (b) Andre overcomes whatever ‘fitness’ problems are holding him back. I know some of you have given up on Andre already, but I believe players with the sort of ability he has already shown in his few appearances in a Dons shirt should be given as many chances as are practical to make it work before chopping them.

An example to Blackman in how to overcome both fitness issues and the gossipy nature of the Dons fanbase is Mark Nwokeji. Two months ago he was on the verge of getting shipped out on loan, with question marks raised over his attitude, even whether he could physically cope with being a professional. Football fans are always going to fill in the details themselves in situations such as this, especially in an information vacuum, so we’ll probably never know how true those rumours were. Yet we can consider ourselves fortunate that while Nokkers hasn’t won everybody over just yet, he has played and scored recently, and is the natural choice to partner Kedwell when playing 442. In fact, even if we start in Browns preferred 433 formation, he has a decent chance of filling in for the out of form Ryan Jackson (presuming the returning Hudson will relieve Christian Jolley on the left…).

The Dons have remained top of the table for what has seemed like months (actually I just checked, it has been months…) yet a Luton victory tomorrow would see us drop for the first time in a while. If we are to sacrifice the summit we will find it incredibly difficult to find our way back there. For that reason I want to end on a plea… the laws of football dictate that should at any stage our fans sing any song relating to being ‘top of the league’ at any stage before the final whistle, we WILL lose. Regardless of how much of a lead we hold at the time. Crawley found that out to their cost earlier in the season, and we got lucky when we sung it during the last ten minutes of that game. And the last thing we really want is to hear the visitors singing it come 9.45PM tomorrow…