Monthly Archives: March 2011

Afternoon Delight

Lets get to the point straight away, partly because my recent inactivity has left me seemingly unable to come up with a snappy opening. A win is a win, and three points at this stage of the season are massive however they come, but the performance reminded me of the Kettering game (without all the goals, of course…). A good first half performance wasn’t built upon, with the Dons ending up desperately holding out at the end.

Yet after three defeats on the spin, I’ll take it. I read my WUP contribution before the game (which was initially written ages ago, before the Kidderminster and Crawley defeats) and was struck by how positive it was. I’ve been in a different frame of mind over the last couple of weeks, seriously considering whether the squad even had it in them to squeak into the playoffs, so we really needed any kind of result in the hope it will instigate a spell of good form going into the playoffs.

And I don’t think the football gods will be too bothered by that statement – we might not be able to hold off Luton for second (despite their defeat at Southport), but with the fixtures we have remaining I’ll be very surprised if we don’t find our season extended into May.

As for yesterday? Although its fair to say if the game had gone on for another five or ten minutes we would have conceded, we probably did enough to deserve our win. Seb made a couple of great saves towards the end, and the visitors probably went away feeling a little sorry for themselves… but to be honest with you, victory in such circumstances feels all the more sweeter.

I would class Rushden among the more unlikable clubs we have come across on our journey, they seem to have the full set; cynical gamesmanship on the pitch, jealousy in the boardroom, brain-dead supporting-by-numbers style support. Their combined attempts to get Steven Gregory booked in the first half for a nothing challenge were outrageous, but fortunately too obvious for the referee to fall for on that occasion – but it was going on all over the pitch, so-called men in yellow collapsing in the vague vicinity of a Dons player, suckering the poor official into awarding them a free-kick time and again – especially during the last ten minutes or so…

I got the impression the visitors went away from the game largely blaming the performance of the referee for defeat rather than their own teams deficiencies, a less kind commentator might suggest this was down to bitterness but I’ll put it down to the poor view you get stuck in the corner of the John Smiths. In fact the referee did everything our opponents would have expected of him – including giving a free kick against Danny Kedwell for a challenge that resulted in a broken nose for… Danny Kedwell, as well as his interesting interpretation of Law 12 which resulted in Sam Hatton giving away a free kick for handball in a dangerous position on the edge of the box despite not really knowing where the ball was and gaining no advantage from it.

Fortunately, the official wasn’t corrupt or favouring towards our opponents – he just had a very low tolerance against any challenge which could be regarded as foul play. Which ultimately worked in the Dons favour when Corcoran bundled over Kaid Mohamed in the box, elevating the challenge from ‘being worth a shout’ to ‘nailed on spot-kick’. Kedwells blasted effort from the spot bulged the net to the point it almost struck those standing in the front row of the KRE, and won the Dons the game.

That Mohamed picked up the sponsors man of the match award suggests they actually made the decision half an hour into the game… the man who wants to be known as ‘Mo’ had a really positive start but didn’t see much of the ball in the second half, understandable really considering the Dons found themselves pushed further and further back into their own half as the game progressed. The argument that you can’t give an MOM award to someone for half a performance rules Seb Brown out, despite his vital saves at the end he barely touched the ball in the first half. My choice would have been Gwillim, who had his best performance so far in a Dons shirt – like one or two others in the squad, now would be a really good time for Gwillim to put in displays like that on a regular basis.

Looking forward the Dons have a great chance to put together something of a run over the remaining half-dozen league games. There is an element of trickiness about all of them, but they are all very winnable, the sort of fixtures a side looking for promotion should be picking up the points from. I’m not expecting us to win all of them, and I have a very bad feeling about the Grimsby game for some reason(especially if we need the points), but there is no reason to go into April (and – touch wood – May) with any fear, there is nothing to be lost from being positive right now… of course our team might give us cause to worry after the Barrow game,or at Cambridge or Histon, but I’m going to do myself a favour and worry about that if it happens…

One final thought… We all love Depeche Mode, but their music has no place on a football terrace. Lets just all have a little think about that…

Panic

It’s frustrating, even when you expect a defeat, when said defeat eventually comes its ten times harder to take. If I had been at Crawley tonight, I’m not sure how I would have coped, presumably found a rock next to the A23 to crawl under. I’m trying to take some solace from the words I wrote yesterday, but right now all I can do is think ‘4 points from 18’, and ‘three straight defeats’, and more worrying ‘Wimbledon couldn’t string three passes together after the third goal went in’…

We might be second in the table right now, we might stay second for at least another week, but it’s looking very likely we will drop below Luton unless their Trophy run inspires a league collapse of Wimbledon proportions. Wrexham will go above us if they win their games in hand. York are starting to look threatening. Hell, even Rushden will start to fancy their chances of overhauling us if they beat us next week…

You almost wish we had a league game on Tuesday night, just to give the squad a chance of bouncing back, not allowing the defeat to dwell on people’s minds… I’m not really worried about the players, its us supporters who will end up tearing ourselves apart.

I’m not entirely sure what the difference is between now and earlier in the campaign. I was sitting watching the game, and even when we were a goal down and looking like we were getting on top, I was just thinking how tired some of our players looked. Not physically tired of course, I know there have been a few raised eyebrows (and not just among Wimbledon fans) regarding TB’s constant references to how tired his squad are. Maybe I’m seeing something that isn’t really there, but the benefit of TV close-ups was seeing some of our players looking like the season has taken its toll mentally.

We know these young players have talent, we know if they get some form together they will be a side that no-one wants to face in the playoffs. Thats a given, they proved that during the first half of the season. But right now the opposite is true. Ask a Luton or Wrexham fan and I guarantee you’ll have difficulty finding one fearing us.

These are tough times for Wimbledon fans. I find myself trying to stay positive despite the circumstances, yet we have no form to speak of at the moment, our only hope is we string a few results together and build a bit of confidence going into when it really matters. And yet… TB is going to have to find an answer to a question that has nagged during his Wimbledon career, even during the success of his first two seasons, in that in terms of form we seem to end on more of a whimper than a bang. If he can’t we may find ourselves falling away once again.

Find Some Form, Dons

Bearing in mind I’m suffering a chronic lack of internet availability at the moment, I thought it best if I didn’t waste any of my precious time online writing about the chronic disappointment that was the Kidderminster game. The problem is I would’ve had to write during my lunch break at work – my employment involves working in the technical department for a shower manufacturer, I spend the majority of my day writing to people explaining why their expensively assembled product is not performing as expected, I had no inclination to repeat the exercise here during the one hour of free time I get during daylight hours… 

Instead I’ll turn my attentions to Friday… A friend recently asked me whether I was going to watch the comedy on the telly on Friday, I replied I was actually planning on watching the Dons on Premier Sport – but it turned out that’s what he actually meant… Having said that there will be one fat clown with a red nose appearing on my screen on Friday night, and he has been busy bigging up the ‘potential title deciding clash’ with all the intensity of someone who has just been told by the marketing team the game hasn’t sold out yet.

If you can’t be bothered to click on the link you’ll be relieved to hear its the usual Steve Evans rubbish, two weeks after we officially took our ball and went home. Presumably after explaining exactly why defeat on Friday will kill our ‘title hopes’ he went on to explain to the reporter which religion the Pope observes and where exactly your average grizzly goes when it needs to take a dump. Unless I’m being too precious, Evans behaves like this before every game, and I only notice when he mentions the Dons – presumably he used his Monday press interview to inform Garry Haylock that Hayes had no chance of catching his side, and couldn’t cope with the strength in-depth of his Crawley squad (presumably their recent large increase in attendances are partly due to all those non suited players sitting in the stands every week?).

Terry Brown isn’t being fooled though, although I would pull him up on his comment that ‘anywhere between 2nd and 5th will do…’. I wouldn’t want a two leg playoff against Luton… If we failed to achieve a 13 point haul from here on in we wouldn’t deserve to contest the playoffs, but while we look at our own problems we fail to notice what is happening at the clubs around us. Fair enough, Kidderminster have been on a hot streak over the last couple of months but can they really sustain it until the last week of April and beyond into the playoffs? How many of the playoff chasers will stay consistent from now until the end of the season? Two, maybe three, but certainly not all of them. They will suffer patchy form, right now we can find some consolation in the fact that’s what is happening to us right now, which might, might, just allow us to find some form in time for when it really matters.

Considering this, you have to question exactly how important tomorrow night is for us. I think my judgement has been clouded by knowing for quite a long time I won’t be going, but nothing will be decided by this fixture. Don’t get me wrong, visiting the leaders in a sold out game (sort of…) on tv (erm…) is always going to be one of the biggest games of the year… and a victory could be huge for us. It could reignite our season. But a defeat won’t be the end of the world and won’t be the end of our promotion chances either. Three defeats in a row won’t make for pretty reading, but you get the impression that whatever happens now will pale into insignificance compared to the events of April onwards…

 PS – my new phone line is supposed to be installed on Saturday, so hopefully normal blog service will be resumed very shortly…

The Greatest Trick The Devil Ever Pulled Was Convincing Wimbledon They Had A Chance Of Winning The Title

Lets face it, if we weren’t going to win the league, the slow realisation from January to early March that it’s not going to happen beats the gut wrenching final day disappointment every time. We still face the prospect of gut wrenching disappointment in the playoffs, so all you masochists won’t go unsatisfied. Unless we actually go on and win the playoffs, in which case I recommend self-flagellation whilst repeatedly watching the DVD of our 2008 home defeat to Boreham Wood.

Yes, it is highly likely Crawley will have overhauled us in the table by the time I’ve finished picking bits of pancake off the ceiling, and with a mere five games still in hand over us… you would have to be an optimist of the highest order to believe the Dons can pull this one back, that or Nurse is currently on hand to administer the smelling salts. The exception would be if you happened to be a Dons player, stand up Seb Brown. Quite right too, while we can draw a line under the title race as fans – partly to avoid additional pain and loss of face in what appears to be a lost battle.

Yet there’s still a little voice in the back of my mind telling me ‘hang on, if they lose tonight and on Saturday, then we beat Kidderminster, then Hayes do us a favour on Tuesday and we go there on the Friday night and win we’ll be seven points clear and they’ll only have four games in hand…’. Even now, while writing that in an effort to illustrate how ludicrous it would sound, the irrational football supporter side of my brain is finding that a likely scenario. Someone strap me down…

If we do drop to second place I’m hoping to see a big reaction from our players… Yes, at the start of the season, we would all have been delighted with a top five finish, but the form we have shown so far means I can’t possibly see a situation where limping into the playoffs and crashing out in the semi-final would lead to supporters slapping players backs and saying ‘never mind, at least you tried…’. The bar has been raised. We aren’t going to win the title, and I’m not expecting us to win every game, but we do have a favourable schedule from now until the end of the season. With Luton’s fixtures all over the place thanks to their progress in the Trophy, I expect us to battle them all the way for second…

Next Friday is still a massive game, illustrated by the speed at which tickets sold out earlier today. In situations like this we normally find enough people give up without trying to ensure everybody who really wants a ticket will get one, but not today. You get the impression even if we had been given a ‘normal’ allocation tickets would have shifted pretty quickly. I don’t blame Crawley for ensuring as many of their own fans make it to the game as possible, it’s what we would have done. Plus they have given Luton the same allocation, this isn’t an anti-Dons thing, and I doubt any other sides in their run in will come close to taking up that allocation.

Yet I wouldn’t be doing this blog its dues if I didn’t get a sly dig in… the 4000 crowds who turned up to see Crawley pip Weymouth to the Southern League title seemed to forget their town had a football team for five years until they conveniently drew Manchester United in the Cup. Plus they seem to have already lost a thousand off the gate over the course of a week or so…

Before then Saturday gives us an equally tough encounter against a Kidderminster side currently occupying the final playoff place. They could show us exactly how tough they are by making a mockery of this post and beating Crawley this evening. Even with a free week injuries look like taking their toll, and if we are going to finish strongly and give ourselves the best possible chance of winning promotion through the playoffs a couple of the new arrivals need to find some form and start contributing. 

Things aren’t quite as bad as last year. Mulley has come in and been a huge positive, especially in the absence of Sammy Moore, and Jamie Stuart has been immense. Yet if Kirk Hudson is the answer, I don’t want to know what the question was. And no-one is expecting Gareth Gwillim to be the new Chris Hussey but it’ll be nice if he could put a decent cross in now and again without pausing for an eternity to weigh up all options. And as for Drewe Broughton, I thought he was being brought in to take the pressure of Kedwell, not partner him? Questions remain over those three, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – chances are a couple of them will come good for us over the next seven weeks or so… or is that wishful thinking? We’ll find out the answer to that question and a whole lot more by the last weekend in April…

WUP 8.7

This article was originally published in WUP 8.7, March ’11. With the Dons title chances disappearing over the hill fast, we turn our attention to the playoffs…

By the time you read this, there is a very good chance we will no longer be top of the league. Even if the team that have become not-so-affectionately known by Dons fans as the Gatwick Globetrotters (I love that nickname) managed to slip up during the week, they will surely take enough points from their remaining four hundred games in hand to overcome our slim advantage. Of course my presumption is you will be reading this before, after, or quite probably during the Kidderminster game so apologies if this issue was put back a couple of weeks – I wasn’t actually planning on writing anything this month, but I got a text message from everyone’s favourite Polish blogger telling me WUP were a few articles short of a full issue… I took this as meaning WUP were desperate for articles but it could equally be a comment on the WUP team themselves – Maliniok is a relatively recent addition to the fanbase so could it be it just took a little while before the penny dropped?…

Over the course of the last week, as I write, the opinion of the average Dons fan has gone from ‘Crawley have all those games in hand but stranger things have happened, you never know…’ after Altrincham, to ‘Oh well, playoffs it is…’ within the space of seven days. As everyone who has ever watched the Tour de France will testify, once a long time leader is caught and sucked back into the pack the danger is they could end up nowhere, and Wimbledon now desperately need a character-defining finish. And preferably we need second place. On current form a quick glance at the table suggests depending on our position the playoffs will pan out as follows;

2nd – Second leg at home to A.N. Other

3rd – Second leg at home to Wrexham

4th – Second leg away to Wrexham

5th – Second leg away to Luton

Which emphasises the importance of at very least a top three finish. If we are on our game I fancy us to turn over anyone at home so long as we haven’t given ourselves no chance with a heavy first leg defeat. Our away form hasn’t been as great and finishing outside the top three and having to build up a lead at home could be too much pressure on what is, despite recent additions, still a young squad with a good few years learning ahead of them. Yet if we do make it to Manchester, regardless of who we play, all bets are off, it’s a ninety minute cup tie, anything can happen, and other such clichés…

Last season must have come as a bit of a culture shock to some of our younger supporters. There wasn’t a dramatic and/or triumphant finish, for the first time since the ‘glory’ days of the mid-table Premier League finishes of the nineties. You get the impression that defeat in the playoff this time around is going to be a lot harder to take than Fisher or even Bromley were, the flip side of the coin is success will top anything that happened at Staines or Hampton. I’m reminded of the later every day now I actually live in Hampton, just a few minutes walk from the Beaverdome. My journey home from work every day mirrors our walk back to the station on that magnificent afternoon. If I close my eyes I can still see the throng of Dons flooding the streets… every time I pass St Johns convenience store I remember being caught behind someone trying to pay for a couple of bottles of champagne and a fistful of cigars by credit card, causing me to leave a two pound coin on the counter to pay for my celebratory can of lager and I’m half tempted to pop in to see if I could reclaim my change.

Sometimes I allow myself to imagine what could have been if that game hadn’t gone in our favour (and I’m sure we all remember how nerve-racking it actually was). We might have gone on to claim promotion anyway, but then we might not. I believe we would have gone up the next season anyway, but that would have put us a year behind where we are at the moment. You can take those kind of ‘what if…’ questions to the extreme – after all we could have found ourselves in the BSS as early as our third season had we won the CCL first time out, then made it up through the complicated playoff system that was in place in the Ryman League the following year (as Yeading eventually did). On one hand that could have been too much too soon, but on the other we could already be a Football League club had we not had to compete against a ridiculously cash rich short-term vanity project… plus ca change, as I’m sure the more pretentious of us are currently thinking…

Naturally I hope we don’t find ourselves spending the summer wondering what could have been, but if we don’t go up, how will history judge our season? Without a doubt, I would have taken a place in the playoffs back in August, the vast majority of us would. Yet recent results have left me feeling flat, genuinely disappointed. My reaction to the Wrexham defeat, of example, was similar to the sort of behaviour you would see from your average seven-year old at Christmas upon being presented a new bike when he wanted a Playstation… The dog that I don’t have was feeling pretty relieved his non-existence cause him to avoid a kicking that evening…

But we are still in it. Our fate will now be decided by three games in May, possibly even ninety minutes in Manchester. One can only speculate as to how many supporters will make the journey? 8,000? 10,000? How many neutral supporters will turn up, knowing our story and how we were so badly screwed over (and I don’t just mean FCUM…). It’s like Millwall, like Hampton before, and Staines before that. Another step forward for our football club. We can ask for no more than improvement, year on year, yet we still have a chance of taking the giant leap we all want. For the last few months this season, now unrealistic dreams of actually winning the title have died and the pressure is off, let’s see what our team are really capable of.

Further WUP articles can be found in the Features Index

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Very Quickly…

Just a few short comments about recent events…

  • My enforced blogging absence is frustrating, my inability to make away games even more so. Having said that I am glad that I couldn’t make Hayes on Tuesday, as by all accounts I missed very little…
  • On hearing we are only getting 600 tickets for Crawley I’m seriously debating not even trying to get one of our tickets. The Kingsmeadow bar is looking a decent option…
  • He kicked an owl? Seriously?
  • Relaunch date for this blog is 1st April. No, seriously… I wont get my broadband back until then…