Kicking off a new feature this summer, there can be only one place to start… a man whose Dons career only came to a close officially mere days ago, but whose arrival was instrumental in kick starting the Dons climb from Ryman League to League Two. In fact, it was apt that when Danny Kedwell blasted home the winning penalty, the first man on the scene was Jon Main…
Its worthwhile remembering that back in November 2007, a year before Kedwell came on the scene, the Dons struggled for goals with a forward line including the likes of Richard Jolley – a striker who has scored for fun at every club he has played at, but didn’t really settle at the Dons – and Danny Webb, the target man that never was… Just hours after Main scored for Tonbridge to kick-start a comeback that saw the hosts overcome a 2-0 Dons lead to take a point, Terry Brown brought him to the club as record signing. I remember seeing the name of this Main guy popping up regularly in the scorers column when I checked the NLP on a Sunday, but the pressure of turning out for the Dons was a different matter altogether.
Just days later, Main made a winning, if not scoring, debut at Hastings, but his first home appearance ended badly, a defeat to Chelmsford that even at that early stage left the Dons facing the playoffs once more. Main found the net for the first time to earn Wimbledon a point at Ramsgate the week before Christmas, and went on to score in his next three games. Yet the Dons never really managed to keep a sustained spell of form going from there until the end of the season, and as Chelmsford strode away with the title the Dons were busying themselves losing at home to the likes of Harlow, Boreham Wood and Horsham. Brown reacted by bringing in proven quality on loan… a risk, but in a way it also took the pressure off Main slightly, who scored the goals that saw off Hornchurch in the semi-final.
I still count his second goal that night as my personal favourite AFC Wimbledon goal, and it pretty much sums up what Main is all about. Check from 0.16 onwards in the video below. After racing into a two goal lead thanks to Cumbers and a Mainy header, the Dons seemed set for the final. Yet Hornchurch scrambled one back during the second half, and as the clock ticked towards ninety minutes were throwing everything at the Dons. In front of a now fever pitch Kingsmeadow crowd, Main picked up a clearance, realised he would have to do it on his own, and simply ran the Hornchurch defence. As he approaches goal John Purdy is doing exactly what you would want your centre half to do, but Main’s change of pace just leaves him for dead… then has the coolness to not simply blast the ball but clip it past the onrushing keeper and wrap up the game.
Upon promotion, Brown had the chance to rebuild his squad, and effectively build a squad around Jon Main. The Dons pacy counter attacking style was ideal for him, and he went on to bag 33 goals as the Dons went up at first attempt. The Dons performance at Newport in the clubs first game at BSS level was a wonderful team performance, capped by a stunning hat trick from the man himself…
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing, and Main made a name for himself scoring late, important goals against the likes of Bognor and Bromley. It seems strange now, but the arrival of Kedwell in September was designed to provide a foil for Main, the target man Brown had been searching for quite some time. True, the man who acknowledges Jon Main as his best friend in football went on to give us so much more, but the partnership these two honorary Kent Wombles struck up went on to fire the Dons to promotion. Of course, this being Wimbledon there had to be a wobble towards the end, as controversy at Eastleigh and Bromley threatened to allow Hampton in.
Plus – and this sounds a little strange for a 33 goal striker – the goals had dried up a little over the last couple of months of the season, and as the Dons travelled to Hampton needing a point in what effectively became the title decider, Main was left on the bench. Of course, this just added to what became a legend… With the Dons 0-1 down and chasing the game, the video below picks up the story from 6.20 onwards. Hussey is stopped by two Hampton defenders, a quick throw, a decent ball into the box… if there was one player you wanted to be on the end of a ball like that, it was Jonny Main. No mistake, he knocked the ball past Lovett, and the Dons were going to the Conference Premier.
At this stage its easy to forget the impact Jon Main had at the start of the Dons maiden Conference campaign. Main grabbed the Dons first goal in the division, his penalty earning a point against Luton, and after a quiet spell grabbed braces against Grays, a memorable away win at Forest Green, at Salisbury and in the home hammering of Hayes. Yet those goals against Hayes proved to be the last Main would score for Wimbledon in the league. The dynamic of the Dons squad had changed, Brown was now building his side around Kedwell, and brought in Nathan Elder in an attempt to take the pressure of his leading scorer. As for Main, fifteen goals was a decent haul, but for a confidence player whose game was based on scoring goals, the writing was on the wall from that point on.
Jon Main was always a great professional, always ran his heart out, always put in a shift for the team, but the start of this season saw him moved to support Kedwell on the left side of a three-pronged attack. I was excited for him in pre-season, I remember commenting on his willingness to track back and help out his full back, I thought this could be a whole new start. But with the power of retrospect, Jon Main’s game was always about hanging off the last man, not stuck out on the left wing. We might have seen a different Jon Main had his penalty on opening day at Southport not been saved, but the odds were always stacked against him in Brown’s preferred formation.
You could probably write a volume about the psychology of goalscorers. Their mental state is so different to any other position on the pitch, perhaps having more in common with the baseball slugger enduring a long hitless streak, or the opening batsmen who try as he might just can’t get out of single figures. Goalscoring is all about timing, when to time your run, whether to shoot early or delay… and there are only two ways to dig yourself out. One is to score goals, which is why news that Mainy had bagged for the reserves, or in the LSC, brought a minor blip of excitement from Dons fans, but the truth was Main was never going to dig himself out of a hole with ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there for the first team. The likes of Christian Jolley and Luke Moore had come in and taken their chance, which left Main with no other alternative but move elsewhere.
Even then, I think a large number of us were hoping he would rip the BSS apart and some back a different player. While he did more than contribute, a goal for Dartford and three for Dover, his return to the club was more for one final swan song, a chance for the fans to sing his name once more. His cameo against Grimsby saw him hang on the final man, coiled like a sprinter just waiting for the right ball to latch onto… in fact the ball only came once, Main was dragged back but no penalty, no chance to sign off with a goal…
What next for Jon Main? Well, now we aren’t in that division anymore, I hope to see him in the BSP next term. If Hayes or Braintree have any sense they’ll snap him up, although I hope he goes to Ebbsfleet, I can see him bagging loads getting on the end of Calum Willock’s flicks. If not, he knows where the goal is in the BSS, a stint at Dover or Woking could see him work his own way back… Either way I hope we see Jon Main back at Kingsmeadow soon, as supporter, if not player. We genuinely wouldn’t be where we are right now without him, and future Dons strikers will have to do a hell of a lot to eclipse his legend status.
I never got the opportunity to really chat to Jon Main (being as I am the sort of person who gives the players their space), so never exchanged more words with him than Good Luck/Thanks… but those people I know that don’t have such hang ups about chatting to the players said he was a smashing guy. The sporting world reacted with awe when Usain Bolt smashed the 100m record then put it down to a meal of fried chicken, but those Dons fans who befriended Main of facebook were always aware of the magical boost of explosive speed a regular dose of Nandos gives a sportsman…
Just harking back to Saturday… Main did play a part in the Dons promotion, and this says an awful lot about Mainy (along with all non-playing squad members) and the team spirit at the club. Main was out warming up on the Eastlands pitch, sampling the atmosphere, cracking a joke here or there, keeping those in the starting XI grounded and calm. There was never any doubt over whether the entire first team squad, rather than just the sixteen men named, would travel to Manchester. And when Kedwells penalty flew in, we celebrated as one. Players, management, fans, Jon Main at the centre of it all, one of us and always will be.