After yesterdays victory at Cambridge, the Dons now need only a win at Histon to guarantee not just a playoff place, but that all important top three finish. For eighty minutes this was a clinical display from Wimbledon, who could and should have added more goals to their tally in a display of dominant possession football. To be fair, Cambridge couldn’t have been more accommodating, the game was virtually non-contact as our opponents stood off and watched the Dons pass the ball around at will.
This was my first away game since Darlington (even missing the geek-fest that was Beckenham…), and will probably be my last, at least until the playoffs. I actually had the choice of Cambridge or Histon next week, I haven’t been to Histon before but I chose this week as it seemed the more saliva inducing of the two… plus my last visit to the Abbey was over twenty years ago for a non-Dons game when we happened to be in the area visiting family, being so young at the time meant it was pretty much a new ground for me.
Many Dons fans would have ticked that box last year, which perhaps explained why we took less supporters than we did last term despite being in the playoff picture this time around. Still 609 is an impressive turnout, only Luton have bettered it at Cambridge this year, and I get the impression a lot of people are having to pick and choose their games at the moment, personally I’m saving a bit of money back for the playoffs. Cambridge’s decision to only allocate 200 terrace tickets raised a few eyebrows, especially when those who had left the pub at 3pm filed to their seats only to witness a half empty terrace to their left.
Not being in such a hard-core mood (and looking to save a couple of quid…) I found myself on the terrace forty minutes before kick-off, and upon entering the ground a steward informed me the limit was to avoid employing extra stewards to patrol the neutral zone between home and away fans on the Habbin terrace… the conspiracist in me can’t help but wonder whether Cambridge realised if, say, 400 Dons fans were allowed to buy £14 terrace tickets they would be losing out on £600 in revenue… but then surely if they were that interested in screwing us over they would have put us all into the South Stand?
Either way I couldn’t help think we would have been more vocal had we been all together, the vocal battle between the two sets of fans might have been amusing but didn’t encourage the sort of solid vocal support you would expect away from home… I have no idea how it came across on the other side of the ground, but would expect the sum of two halves to have been less than a whole. The home supporters were pretty quiet until the last ten minutes, yet as a Wimbledon supporter I offer that as merely an observation , we’ve hardly been creating an atmosphere ourselves at Kingsmeadow of late, and we don’t even have the excuse of poor form to explain away how subdued we have been.
A top three finish has been all but secured, the only outstanding issue is whether we can pip Luton for second, beyond the obvious satisfaction that will bring there’s probably not an enormous amount of value in that, as the outstanding places look like going down to the wire with two from Wrexham, Fleetwood, Kidderminster and York joining us in the post season and providing possible semi-final opponents.
I said earlier I thought Cambridge were poor, I think they will probably have enough to escape the relegation battle they find themselves in – just – but Wimbledon could only beat the opponents put in front of them, and were doing so until those nervy last few moments. I don’t really want to dwell on that too much, but the side lost a bit of focus when Kedwell and Wellard were withdrawn, and I think subconsciously had settled for two goals by that stage. Plus despite the goal and the series of corners the hosts won, the Dons coped with the pressure pretty well.
Before that it had been complete control, especially in the first period. Mo grabbed one, but on another day would have grabbed himself a hat trick. It probably says a lot about the pressure on strikers to score goals immediately upon arriving at a new club, and its telling that Mo missed a couple of chances where he had a bit of thinking time, whereas his goal was a purely instinctive effort. If your forwards aren’t hitting the target, it helps if those in other areas of the pitch can chip in… normally TB would be looking towards his midfield, so it’s a bonus that Brett Johnson has notched three in four games.
As for the midfield, I wouldn’t want to second guess how Brown is going to line up against Histon. James Mulley’s pointless late foul at Crawley has turned out to be an expensive red card for him, he seems set for the bench next week. Of course if he hadn’t been suspended, a rejuvenated Ricky Wellard would probably have played out the season at Cambridge. As it was, we witnessed the rare phenomenon of a substituted player receiving a standing ovation from both sets of supporters following Wellards 71st minute withdrawal, and surely Ricky will keep the shirt and continue his improvement.
Similarly, Rashid Yussuff has been on fire of late but must be cursing his luck not recovering from tonsilitis, as Lee Minshull had a storming game. Ok, maybe not quite good enough to justify holding his place in favour of Toks next week, but his added steel could come in very handy during the playoffs. We have become adapt at putting away sides in the lower half of the table – a sign of a good side of course, but by design the playoffs will pit us against teams who finish a little higher than 13th..
Brown might have plenty of choice in his squad, but whether we are succesful or not will depend largely on the decisions he makes. Yes, we will need some luck, especially if we face Luton (regardless of recent problems they are still the number one obstacle between us and the Football League). But we head towards the Conference’s very own Final Four not just making up the numbers… we have real and genuine hopes of making it to the Football League.