Monthly Archives: July 2011

New Poll: Where Will The Dons Finish Next Season

With less than a week to go before the Dons kick off a new campaign in League Two. it’s time for a new poll to kickstart a week of buildup…

Closing date on Friday, its pretty self-explanatory… results will be announced/discussed in Friday’s match preview.

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Crawley Town 3 AFC Wimbledon 2 29/7/11 – A Match Report

So the Dons find themselves in the rare position of being eliminated from a Cup competition before the season has even begun, before its even August… I suppose we were more than half expecting the result, in my preview I mentioned I would be happy with a battling performance in defeat, and I was more than impressed with the Dons last night.

Yet I was expecting us to be a bit stronger defensively, and still finding our feet going forward… if anything the reverse looked true. While brave and determined at the back individually, we seemed to lack organisation… less a defensive line than a defensive squiggle. This was probably the consequence of a lack of preparation caused by our truncated preseason, I’m prepared to accept we will improve defensively.

What was a bonus was how dangerous we looked going forward, especially on the break. We came up against a team who will be challenging for promotion, the bookmakers preseason favourites for the title, and at times we caused them all sorts of problems. Yes, this was one performance, and we will have to put in the same high work rate we did last night in each and every one of the forty-six league fixtures ahead of us. But if we do, and we put right some of the defensive problems we saw last night, we might find the Dons will exceed the expectations of all but the wildest of optimists among us.

But, for those of you who weren’t there, what of the game? Well it had everything you would ask of a cup tie… goals, a sending off, a comedy villain… It was nice to see a huge contingent of Dons fans, presumably starved of competitive football despite the short summer break, making up around a third of the total attendance and making a lot of noise. It’s fair to say the Dons were particularly shaky to begin with, although both sides looked seriously rusty… passes were going astray left, right and centre; shots found the car park…

Dons fans, half an hour before kick off

The Dons took the lead out of nothing, and I literally mean out of nothing. When Luke Moore received the ball just inside the Crawley half, the hope was this could kickstart a Wimbledon move, but there didn’t seem to be any immediate danger. However, after beating a couple of men and heading diagonally across the Crawley half, a shooting opportunity opened and Moore made no mistake with a fierce drive across Kuipers into the bottom left corner.

As far as season opening goals go, they don’t come much better than this, and I can’t remember a better one. Someone is going to have to do something outrageous to top that this season… I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll go into more detail more when I get to my squad preview of the strikers, but if really feel Luke Moore could take a step up this season, he really could turn out to be an important player for us next term if he keeps clear of injury and gets the sort of run in the side he had at the end of our last campaign.

Toks went close to giving us a 2-0 lead shortly after, although being situated at the opposite end of the ground I won’t know how good a chance it was until (if?) I see the video. Crawley were doing a good job of stopping the Dons playing football from the back, Sam Hatton in particular suffering, a red shirt closing him down almost as soon as he received the ball, although to be fair he could have been a bit quicker releasing on a couple of occasions. The problem for Sam, and the back four in general, is there is no secret that we like to play out from the back, so every manager in the division will assign someone to chase the Dons down, our first few games could be a tricky transition phase for a few of our younger players.

You knew the hosts would come again, and come again strong, and it took some serious defending to keep them out, to the point I started to feel if Wimbledon could hold the lead going into half time we might stand a chance. The problem was, due to a combination of commitment to playing football and sheer desperate defending, Wimbledon kept handing the ball back to Crawley still deep within our own half. Eventually an error would come, and when it did it proved very costly. A cross form the left evaded a clutch of players and fell to Hope Akdan, all alone at the far post, who dug the ball out from under his feet and gave Seb Brown no chance.

In fact Crawley should have had the lead before the break, only a bit of miraculous defending (and to be honest, some not exactly positive forward play from Crawley)keeping the ball out of the Dons goal. Half time came with the scores level, Dons fans a little frustrated the game had swung against us during the last ten minutes of the half.

The Dons line up for another season

It took less than thirty seconds for the Dons to regain the lead, much to the surprise of those returning from epic queues for toilets and snacks. While we are on the subject of the snack bar – and this is an unusual criticism not normally levelled at football clubs – but Crawley sell bottles of drink in 600ml bottles, then confiscate the cap, meaning you have no option but to down over a pint of cold fizzy drink, in confined quarters… But back to the goal. It was all down to Christian Jolley, closing down Crawley defender McFadzean, forcing him into a slip, then nipping in to pick up the pieces and lay the ball perfectly for Midson to tap home from close range.

My first thought was how long we could hold the lead this time, and the answer was… not very long. Crawleys equalise five minutes later came in slightly similar circumstances to their first, this time Torres left all alone beyond the far post, slotting across Seb Brown into the right corner. The hosts really stepped up the pressure from that point on, and it was no surprise they finally sneaked ahead just after the hour mark.

Although he scores so many goals, Matt Tubbs is a danger to anyone thanks to the nine other guys in red shirts supplying him the ball in the box. When several other guys in blue shirts give him the space to do as he wish, there’s only going to be one outcome. I thought we stood a chance of at least forcing extra time as long as we didn’t go behind, but if anything the Dons had their best spell of the game during the final quarter-hour.

Neither Dons fullback had really crossed the half way line, but that all changed when Gareth Gwillim made way for Chris Bush, who immediately played a big attacking role. Christian Jolley was also sacrificed for Charlie Ademeno, who had been promised a poor reception from his old club… there were a few boos but it was all pretty muted, you got the impression the vast majority of home fans didn’t have a clue who he was.

One person obviously not happy with Ademeno’s arrival was the referee, who immediately resolved to blow his whistle whenever the ball went anywhere near him. We had some shocking referees in the Conference and below, some ridiculously weighted decisions in favour of either ourselves (if we were lucky) or our opponents… it seems Football League referees consider they have had a good game not if they get the majority of decisions correct, but if both sides are equally unhappy with their performance. Ademeno’s crime was, not being the biggest guy on the planet, he needs to get his body between the ball and man, and was therefore consistently penalised for ‘backing in’, an offense only called when a smaller guy outmuscles a bigger guy…

To be fair, Crawley were equally miffed, it seemed, although after a couple of early dramatic falls in the penalty area the referee had obviously decided to avoid all incidents in the penalty area. These were accompanied by more and more exaggerated shocked actions from Steve Evans on the side of the pitch… at one stage I really thought he was going to throw himself to the ground and start kicking his legs about like a toddler. All of this just drew the attention of Dons fans, who by the end of the game had a repertoire of half a dozen or so chants and songs to aim at him… including one previously only reserved for Charles Koppell.

You get the impression League Two fans are going to have fun coming to Crawley, even though the majority of them are going to lose there you always find yourself leaving with that sense of superiority. Evans (and from speaking to a couple of Crawley fans, who seemed normal enough, it seems the majority of them actually believe most of what he says, which reduces the sympathy you may feel for them subjected to his management), the guy with the bell (!), images in the programme of kids at the training ground wearing Chelsea shirts, with no sign of any Crawley merchandise… it all gives the impression you’re at the sort of place that might melt if left out in the hot sun. There truly is no substance here, maybe there never will be… when times go bad just how many of them will still bother turning up? Its less than two years since they had a crowd of less than 700 for Wrexham. I see whats happened to Rushden this summer and can’t help but see parallels…

It might sound snobbish, but we really aren’t like them… we might have a few regulars who actually support other clubs, maybe because the circumstances surrounding our ownership, maybe because we are cheap and convenient and play some decent football, and very welcome they are too – but either way if football ever gets its house in order and these people can go back and support their own clubs on a regular basis, we’re going to lose what? 100, 150 off our average? A small minority, as opposed to the vast overnight fanbase that will abandon Crawley, which is why I don’t think any of us of us are that bothered about Crawley’s sudden wealth driven rise.

I mentioned comedy villains earlier, and it was Kuipers, a goalkeeper who could well prove to be Crawley’s Achilles heel, who provoked the ire of Dons fans. Although not the referee confusingly, as Ademeno chased down a long ball, the Crawley goalkeeper seemed to delay his clearance in order to catch the Dons frontman. Ademeno wasn’t hurt, he got up pretty much straight away, and if Kuipers intention was to draw the freekick it worked, and somehow managed to earn Ademeno a yellow card as well. The Dons fans were close enough to the referee to notice the look of impatience that ran over his face, as he realised he might just have made a mistake. To be fair, he did make a point of adding on every minute the Crawley keeper spent on the floor,as eventually the goalkeeper made a miraculous recovery.

As for the sending off, well it came shortly after, as holding on became the name of the game for the home team. It was one of those brain-dead moments you see sometimes from so-called professionals, Akpan already being on a yellow when he decided to blast the ball into orbit after the Dons were awarded a freekick. It could have been costly had the Dons forced extra time, but to be honest they had already spurned their two best opportunities, Ademeno getting the ball caught under his feet six yards out scrambled clear by the hosts, and a Chris Bush volleyed cross that hit Toks in front of goal and could have gone anywhere… but went wide.

That extra long period of stoppages was supplemented by an additional two minutes when Evans decided to make his three substitutions separately after ninety minutes were up, but the Dons were getting desperate by then, and I think every Dons fan knew when Seb Brown rushed to take a free kick by his own corner flag it was going to end up in the stand.

So no Carling Cup run for the Dons this season, but no huge loss. Judging by that performance you wonder just what the Dons would be capable of if Brown can get one of the experienced strikers he is chasing… although all three starters and Ademeno impressed me, you can’t beat a bit of experience, as well as depth. We should find out who that will be early next week, as we start to build up to Bristol Rovers, and on last nights performance there is no reason why we shouldn’t at very least add another year to our long opening day unbeaten record.

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Crawley Town v AFC Wimbledon – A Match Preview

Football is back. In July. On a Friday night. Has the world gone mad? It feels like we should be preparing ourselves for a home friendly against a Premier League clubs youth team or something, instead we head off to Crawley for proper action…

Firstly, lets not kid ourselves this is the first game of our season. It isn’t. Our first game is next week, at home to Bristol Rovers. This is a cup game that we just happen to be playing in the summer. Important it may be, and its nice to watch a meaningful game of football, but I think both sides are aware the real action kicks off next week. Maybe the occasion would have felt bigger had we not found ourselves playing each other… seven meetings within the space of twenty-two months, and our fourth trip to Broadfield, the novelty factor wore off pretty quickly…

I remember our first trip for the FA Cup tie, a short journey, plenty of Dons fans, a decent pub across from the ground… I remember thinking regular trips to Broadfield wouldn’t be so bad… Fast forward a couple of years, and we find ourselves repulsed at having to visit the Crawley we know and don’t love, all concrete and dog shit and overgrown grass verges.

The fact we never win there probably doesn’t help… Terry Brown probably summed our expectations for the game up best during his interview after the Watford friendly, telling Dons fans his side would be looking to cause a shock on Friday night. Despite finishing one place below Crawley last year, victory at Broadfield would be a more than impressive start…

Crawley have done nothing but strengthen over the summer, and lets face it, a weaker Wimbledon side than finished the season will be travelling down to Sussex. Thats probably an unfair way of putting it, perhaps rebuilding would be a better term… but it’s true. We might have stood a chance of staying with Crawley for six months of last season, what with all our games in hand, but this time around they are favourites for League Two for a reason, that being piles and piles of cash.

Money the Dons can’t possibly compete with over forty-six games, but Friday night is a cup tie, ninety minutes (plus potential extra time and penalties…), we might not be exactly where TB wants us at the moment but our squad are no mugs. You don’t expect either side to be at 100% at this time of year, and magnificent victory or crushing defeat could depend on variations in either sides preseason.

Which might worry a few of you. I think everyone accepts this preseason hasn’t entirely gone to plan, and certainly hasn’t been long enough, and I wonder whether TB considers they have fitted enough in to the time they did have together. He certainly wouldn’t say as much in the press, so this is pure conjecture, but if Crawley are well ahead of us in terms of fitness we could have real problems tomorrow night. They already have a huge advantage in terms of depth and experience… if they are even a few days ahead of us in terms of fitness, this tie could turn out to be a bit of a drubbing.

So far in this preview I’ve talked myself out of believing we have any chance of facing Palace next month, where are the positives? Taking fifteen players from last season points to our main strength… continuity. This is still the same young squad that dragged us out of the Conference last season, who will go out and play their football without fear. Our back four and midfield are just as strong as they were last season, and while we might not have that twenty goal a season striker just yet, we have forwards who possess the ability to unlock most defences.

With no form to go on beyond largely meaningless preseason results, our first competitive game will always be tough to call – whatever happens in twenty-four hours time will dictate our mood going into the Bristol Rovers game, but defeat won’t necessarily be the end of the world… a decent performance in a battling defeat will suit me. And if I find myself heading back up the M23 dreaming of Selhurst Park, well that would be a nice little bonus…

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The Dons In The League Cup – A Short History

My attendance at Friday nights game will mean I will have seen the Dons play in every round of the League Cup with the exception of the Final and, bizarrely, the First Round (although that’s going to come sooner or later…). Ok, maybe it isn’t as fantastic a claim as that held by myself and many other Wimbledon fans to have seen our side play in every round of the FA Cup from Preliminary to Final, but it is another consequence of our, erm, strange history.

The League Cup might not inspire the same sort of passion as its FA equivalent… it’s rare to find even one Premier League manager coming out telling the press this is a competition they want to win. Championship clubs don’t seem to care unless they somehow find their way through to the quarter finals, and the competition is normally over well before the end of September as far as clubs in the bottom two divisions are concerned. Attendances, even in the later rounds, are pitiful.

And yet… every football fan who follows their club regularly has a League Cup story or two, a dramatic giant killing or unexpected classic, perhaps helped by the fact the majority of games are played of an evening under floodlights – I’ve always considered night games to have that little extra atmosphere, as if someone plonked a roof over the ground, and can more than make up for any lack of bodies in the stands.

This season, due to the unusual circumstances surrounding Birmingham qualifying for Europe and getting themselves relegated in the same year, the Dons and Crawley face off in the preliminary round before our League campaign has even started. Yet as those with longer memories than my own will attest (although I do have the excuse of not being born for another three months), in a curious case of history repeating our first games as a Football League club were in this very competition.

The Dons played a two-legged first round tie with Gillingham, winning 4-2 with both games taking place before the Dons kicked off as a Division Four club for the first time against Halifax, our reward for progression being a 0-4 defeat at Tottenham (it will take three wins for us to stand any chance of a return to White Hart Lane in this years competition…). A victory twelve months later against Southend only ensured another heavy Second Round defeat, this time 0-8 at Everton.

The Dons first real run in the competition came as Aldershot, Orient and Plymouth were dispatched prior to a 1-2 defeat to Swindon in the Fourth Round (this was also the first of three seasons in a row where Wimbledon and Aldershot were paired in the First Round). The 83/84 season was the first the Dons really caused an upset, defeating Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest 2-0 at Plough Lane, holding on for a 1-1 draw at the City Ground.

As the Dons rose themselves to ‘giant’ status, the likes of Cambridge, Plymouth and Peterborough were on hand to dump us out of the competition over two legs, the Dons struggling to make in impact on the later rounds despite memorable wins against Newcastle and Manchester United at Plough Lane.

By the time the nineties began, and Plough Lane was sold out from under us in exchange for the joys of Selhurst Park, a League Cup encounter in our second season drew a sub- 2,000 crowd on a Tuesday night to witness a 0-1 defeat to then Third Division Bolton… Fortunately Wimbledon progressed thanks to a 3-1 first leg lead against opponents who would go on to usurp Aldershot as the Dons most frequent League Cup opponents.

I actually have pretty good memories of that night, as it was the first time I was allowed to travel across to Selhurst Park on my own… I say ‘allowed’, my mum decided I wouldn’t be able to go to evening games unless I travelled with friends, With none of my mates willing to go out on a cold October night, I simply made up a name and told my mum I was going with them (looking back I can see where a lot of those jokes about our poor attendances came from, when as a Dons fan I literally resorted to travelling to games with imaginary friends…). Anyway, I couldn’t believe I’d seemingly got away with it, only to find a literally deserted Thornton Heath was not the sort of place a not so street smart 14-year-old kid really wanted to hang out after dark… every staggering drunk became a potential murderer, every shop doorway hid a mugger…

It took twelve months before I was brave enough to repeat the trick, just in time for the first of a number of seasons in the nineties where I became convinced the Dons would go on to win the trophy. Victories over Hereford and Newcastle set up maybe the most memorable League Cup ties the club were involved in, at home to Liverpool (although those who witnessed the 6-4 win at Southend may disagree, and the 4-5 defeat to Charlton was memorable for all the wrong reasons).

The Dons seemed to have the game won leading 2-1 with the clock ticking well beyond ninety minutes, before a freak own goal from Hans Segers took the game to extra time. Segers redeemed himself by saving a penalty in the first period, before the Dons finally got the win after a shootout, the airplane celebration that followed being one of the few truly iconic images of the Dons stay at Selhurst Park.

That year’s quarter final was a huge let down, a 2-1 defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday in a game the Dons didn’t get going in until it was too late. Even more frustratingly we then beat the same side in the League just days later… Not as frustrating as the 0-1 ‘home’ exit to Crystal Palace a year later, my vote for the worst League Cup tie I ever saw. The crazy 8-7 aggregate defeat to Charlton followed twelve months later, and the Dons looked as though they would continue their ongoing poor form in the competition.

Yet a year down the line, Wimbledon made it to the semi-final of the competition after defeating Portsmouth, Luton, Aston Villa and Bolton. I remember watching the first leg of the Leicester tie in a pub in Kingston that no longer exists called the White Horse, the first and last time I entered the place before it was demolished. It seemed to be the only pub in town showing the game, and me and a friend watched  in nervous silence as the Dons ground out a 0-0 draw.

What happened before the second leg at Selhurst Park will always be controversial in my mind… the club decided to hand out leaflets telling fans how they could go about buying tickets for the final if we won. Planning for every eventuality maybe, but in my eyes this was a sign of chickens being counted, a terrible omen. Yet the Dons took the lead in the first half, Marcus Gayle scoring a similar effort to the one that defeated Villa earlier in the competition, spotting the keeper out of position and drilling past him at the near post from a tight angle.

However Wimbledon couldn’t build on it and put the game to bed, and when Leicester scrambled an equalizer via a looping header, they repeated the Dons defensive trick until ninety minutes, then extra time, were all but up. We had turned up late on the night, and consequently found ourselves stuck at the back of the upper tier of the Holmesdale Stand, and I found myself having to explain the Away Goals rule to a gentleman sitting behind me confused as to why Neil Sullivan was coming up for corners so close to what he presumed would be penalties…

Bolton finally got one over on us by knocking us out a season later, now a Premier League club themselves, but we took revenge a year later, as the Dons stormed to the semi finals once more. This was a weird year for me, I spent the majority of it working at the airport on a social life murdering Tuesday-Saturday 1-10pm shift pattern, which also meant I didn’t see much of the Dons… that season would have passed me by completely if it hadn’t been for this run.

We found ourselves up against Tottenham, sick to the back teeth of each other with the two-legged semi forming part of five games against them in the space of a few weeks. With no chance of getting the night off work, I decided to tape the game and watch it when I got in, but a chance encounter with an empty staff room complete with TV saw me watch much of the second half. With the Dons trailing 0-1, I decided to turn the TV off and go back to work, for no other reason than I wanted to hold onto the dream for as long as possible… the depression when I got home and finally caught the end of the game was as bad as it had been two years earlier…

The 1999/2000 season would end badly (very badly…) but in retrospect was probably the closest we ever got to winning the League Cup. Cardiff, Sunderland and Huddersfield were dispatched before our obligatory trip to Bolton saw us take an early lead thanks to a Carl Cort goal. Yet Bolton came back to win it 2-1, galling as Tranmere shocked Middlesbrough… while there is no guarantee the Dons would have gone on to beat Tranmere (after all, Bolton were beaten by them pretty convincingly, even less they could have taken some revenge on Leicester, this was the ultimate ‘what if?’ season, and you wonder how a trip to Wembley might have positively affected league form during the run in…

Wimbledon weren’t completely done with the League Cup… a season later we shocked Middlesbrough at Selhurst Park before defeat in the fourth round at Manchester City, but the following years 2-1 loss at the Withdean to Brighton proved to be our last as a fanbase… at least until Friday night…

Of course non-league footballs plethora of knockout competitions provided us with a new meaning to the phrase ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’… Cherry Red Books Trophy anyone? The Bryco Cup??? Which means our trip to Crawley, for me at least, is a meaningful experience. A trip to Crystal Palace might even jog a few happy memories of League Cup encounters past…


News Round-Up 26/7/11

With three days to go until our first competitive fixture of the season, the build up on this blog is in full swing. The Crawley Town League Two Files was published yesterday, with a new occasional feature (yes, another one…) due for publication (i.e. half finished) within the next 24 hours relating to the Dons history in the League Cup, keep ’em peeled.

In the mean time, news keeps happening, so I’ll keep reporting on it. Or rather commenting, reporting suggests this will be the first time you’ve heard this information… First up, the Dons actually have a game tonight, with those squad members who didn’t get the majority of the game on Saturday getting a start as the Dons take on Tooting for the Lanes Cup. I get the impression this fixture might have had a higher profile had we not found ourselves in League Cup action sevety-two hours later (at least enough to tempt me along…), and I feel for Tooting and the inevitable knock on effect on the attendance – This game should really be a Saturday fixture, with a four figure crowd present… As I won’t be there, you won’t see a match report on this blog, unless a couple of you fancy dropping me a paragraph or two to the usual email address about the game which I can use to cobble something together? I’m all up for collaborations at the moment, don’t be a stranger, get in touch…

News of sorts on the striker front… Jason Euell confirmed what we all suspected, that there has been some form of contact between himself and the Dons, yet with Charlton possibly about to offer him a deal and Doncaster still sniffing about in the background it doesn’t seem likely we’ll be seeing him come home this summer. Signing Euell would be a fantastic signing, from accounts received from Doncaster fans he was fit and hungry last term, and I get the impression he would rip League Two to shreds – if only for one season. Terry Brown can’t afford to hang around though, and has highlighted a couple of potential signings, younger professionals a little closer to Brown’s MO than the likes of Euell. 

It doesn’t look as though he will bring someone in before Friday, and with the players in question still in need of game time this preseason to reach match fitness, it’s likely whoever does come in won’t be troubling the starting XI for the Bristol Rovers game a week on Saturday. Our opening league fixture will receive a build up equal to or larger than Crawley (which is more like playing a cup tie in preseason than a season opener in its own right…), that will kick off after I finish the Crawley match report at the weekend.

I’m as excited as I can ever remember about a season starting, as are most of you Dons fans, snapping up the few remaining tickets for the Bristol Rovers game overnight… eleven days and counting…

The League Two Files – Crawley Town

The temptation in writing this is to just republish the ‘Conference File’ I wrote about Crawley two years ago, but to be honest the club have changed so much in the last two years I’m almost tempted to start again completely from scratch. Last time I wrote this article all talk was of ongoing financial problems of a club with a track record of receiving point deductions, this time round their situation has completely reversed.

If anything, the club now have too much money, at least as far as keeping within the 55% wage expediture to turnover cap. As you would imagine among clubs still unable to forget Steve Evans antics with Boston, Crawley’s new found financial might wasn’t exactly popular news. They achieved the rare feat of ensuring Manchester United went into a cup tie as popular peoples favourites, eased to the title with plenty to spare, and now head into League Two as hot favourites to claim back to back titles…

Of course, the fun for Crawley will begin when their financial assistance dries up, whenever that may be, will growth off the field be sufficient to prevent the club slipping into financial meltdown and back down the pyramid? You get the impression that next season will be as important off the field as progression on it…


Crawley Town were formed way back in the nineteenth century, and like many clubs they pottered about in county football remaining amateur until the professional revolution that took place in the sixties saw them start paying their players and joining the Southern League back in 1962, the year a still amateur Wimbledon side were beginning a campaign that resulted in our only FA Amateur Cup triumph.

After a brief sojourn into the Premier Division in the late sixties, which lasted all of a year, Crawley remained at the lower level until they were promoted again in 1984. This time they stayed there, right up until Francis Vines guided them to promotion in 2004 (I remember Vines as a prolific goalscorer at Kingstonian during his playing days). No one can claim Crawley’s progress was spectacular, but it was at least steady to the point they slowly progressed to the Conference, mirroring the growth of Crawley as a town. Population in the 1961 census stood at approximately 25,000, growing to just shy of 100,000 at the 2001 census, meaning Crawley is a large enough town to support league football, providing the residents continue to turn out in numbers.


For all the criticism you can throw at Crawley and Steve Evans (and there is plenty), you cannot deny they spent their money very well. The rumoured large fee paid out for Richard Brodie would have been a huge blow at any other club in the division if it failed to work out, but Crawley had the power to splash out on Matt Tubbs as well, who was able to take the goal burden. As well as this, with the scarcity of goalscorers in the division, Crawley’s stockpiling of forwards had the added benefit of ensuring even if they were sat in the stands, it would be preferable to them going out and scoring for rival clubs (this was why it was so vital for the Dons to hold onto Kedwell, and why doing so provoked such joyous celebrations… how different would our season have turned had he been sold and stuck on the bench at Crawley?).

The truth is, they repeated the trick in just about every position on the field, ensuring by the time their long cup run ended it was just a matter of moping up the required points in the run in. Fortunately it had an effect on the Dons season, by pacing us to March the Dons racked up enough points to ensure an all important second place finish, which set up the playoff campaign that followed…


Broadfield features a large, slightly raised, main stand that seems to dominate the ground, and two fairly spacious end terraces which hold 1600 (one of which is given over to away supporters), Coupled with a small terrace on the remaining side is stands as a better than decent non- league ground.

However, with promotion and ambitions beyond simply standing still, the club are planning on adding a new stand to the current open terrace on the east side of the ground. This is planned to be a prefabricated structure that will literally drop onto the existing terrace, ensuring construction time should only last six days. The club currently plans to have this structure open around Christmas, ensuring there should be plenty of room for Dons fans come our second visit on 14th April.


Entry for Friday nights League Cup preliminary round, with Dons prices in brackets for reference. Dons fans will be located in the North Terrace, and a small section of seats in the West Stand.

Terrace – Adults £16 (£15), Concessions (Over 65s only for Crawley) £13 (£9), U16s (U19s for Crawley) £7 (£2)

Seats – Adults £19 (£19/£17), Concessions (Over 65s only for Crawley) £15 (£11/£10), U16s (U19s for Crawley) £10 (£7/£6)


AFCW Era – The Dons and Crawley have now met six times over the past two seasons, Crawley edging it by two wins to one with one draw in the league, with Wimbledon winning the FA Cup tie two seasons back 3-1 after a replay at Kingsmeadow.

All Time


Official Website

Football Ground Guide


AFC Wimbledon 2 Watford 1 23/7/11 Match Report

Firstly, this match report will be published two hours later than I previously expected, this is partly… no, wait, this is entirely because I picked up my season ticket today, and the normal procedure is for me to then sit there flicking the pages like a flip book and smelling that new season ticket smell. I’ve held a season ticket for twenty years now, yet the excitement of receiving my book, if anything, gets bigger every year.

Jamie Stuart organises the back four

But moving onto the game… I really think we needed this win, Watford brought a big, strong side and for the first ten minutes or so I really feared they would give us a bit of a demoralising spanking. Yet the Dons managed to battle their way into the game and played some really good football in the quarter-hour before half time and for half an hour in the second, and deserved the win. Preseason games are largely meaningless, but this was an important performance, that will give squad and supporters hope going into next weeks Carling Cup opener with Crawley.

As I mentioned, Watford looked good in the opening exchanges, and with plenty of talk over the Dons striking options of late we could only look on in envy as Chris Iwelumo dominated up top for the visitors. The game only balanced out as a contest when Iwelumo was withdrawn, but before that poor Jamie Stuart had all sorts of problems trying to deal with him. It didn’t matter whether he tried to go over, around, or through the big Watford frontman, Iwelumo wasn’t budging.

By the time Iwelumo hobbled off clutching his hamstring, Watford had the lead. Seb Brown was forced to turn a bouncing effort over his crossbar at the near post, and from the resultant half-cleared corner John Eustace volleyed from the edge of the area into a crowd of players, a deflection giving Seb Brown no chance with the ball nestling in the bottom right corner of his goal.

Jack Midson

All over the pitch Dons players were having to feel their way into the game. We mentioned Watford’s front man, but Jack Midson was anonymous early on, finding himself dropping deeper and deeper to get involved – much as Kedwell had to last season when isolated, although we forget our former skipper was as much of a passenger as Midson was early in this encounter on many occasions. Eventually Midson’s hard work started to pay off, and he almost got himself on the scoresheet with a fierce drive palmed wide by Watford keeper Gilmartin.

The Watford keeper wasn’t so fortunate a few minutes later, Luke Moore cut in from the left and fired into the right corner, Gilmartin getting a hand to it but the fierceness of the strike proving too much. The Dons were back level and taking the upper hand, playing some decent football… the commitment to passing the ball taken to the extreme of their own penalty area, even six yard box on one occasion that would have been nerve shredding had this been a competitive occasion.

The Dons now had a handle on Watford defensively, although this was mainly thanks to some committed defending from new skipper Stuart, putting his head in against opposition boots on more than one occasion. In midfield Max Porter was performing the Steven Gregory role with a little more fan-pleasing steel in the challenge, and just in front of him Yussuff and Wellard were both on top of their game.

The start of the second half continued as the first finished, Wimbledon looking impressive, and scoring a second goal from a move of the highest quality. Sam Hatton picked out Christian Jolley down the right, who flicked the ball inside and played a ball towards Midson. The Dons new forward intelligently left the ball to Lee Minshull, bombing forward from midfield, who in turn had Luke Moore haring up on the left of him. Minshull found Moore, whose effort had too much pace for Gilmartin and found the bottom right corner.

Watford did come back into the game after the Dons had made a few substitutions, the most interesting of which saw Charlie Ademeno come on. It would have been nice to have seen Charlie start and see what sort of impact he would have made, but by all accounts he’s got a bit of a problem with his ankle that needs to settle down. He impressed me with his cameo, immediately taking the role down the centre, with Midson moving to the left to accommodate him. Unlike Midson, he held his position and provided an outlet, not being the tallest he isn’t a traditional target man, but is strong and aggressive, and once he got himself between the ball and a Watford defender he gave them real problems.

This victory won’t provide any tangible value come next May, but the victory, and more importantly the performance, have given us a springboard to attack the opening few weeks of the season. Its going to be tough, a cup tie at the favourites for the title, followed by three games against sides playing their football in League One last season… and only one of them at home…. If we find ourselves with four points in the bag going into the Hereford game I’ll be more than happy.

This week on the blog I’ll be building up to the first game of the season. Now some of you will consider the Bristol Rovers game the ‘true’ first game so I’ll be giving that an equal, if not bigger build up the week after – in other words I’ll be keeping myself busy over the next couple of weeks!


Bedfont Town 1 AFC Wimbledon 1 22/7/11 Match Report (And Watford Mini Preview…)

I’m going to get all talk of planes out of my system early in this match report. Although I worked at the airport some ten years ago, and am fully aware just how big and how loud they can be, a trip to Bedfont is always a bit of an eye opener. As I mentioned in my news article, the planes themselves are nothing new to me, but standing in a football ground, trying to concentrate on whats going on in front of me while they are taking off in the very near vicinity is a weird experience.

As I had my back to the airport in the first half, it was just noise, yet I still found myself craning my neck to look when a big one took off… and those big ones need to use all the runway to get off the ground, so were barely off the ground by the time they passed us. The second half on the pitch was nothing worth writing home about, and as I now found myself facing the runway it turned into a full on forty-five minute planespotting session.

As for the game, the Dons took the lead in the seventeenth minute, Chris Bush firing a shot from fifteen yards that the Bedfont keeper got a palm to but couldn’t stop it nestling in the bottom left corner. Bedfont were level ten minutes later when the Dons suffered a disjointed moment, gifting possession in a dangerous area of the field and allowing Bedfont to work a two on one, before the ball found its way into the net under Jack Turner.

I have to write briefly about Jack Turner, as it doesn’t look as though he will be going out on loan after all, which is a real disappointment. You never know, a Conference side could lose their keeper early on and Jack might find himself sent on loan to cover, but playing out the whole season elsewhere would have been invaluable, letting him make his mistakes and learn his lessons.

He only made one last night, missing a corner which lead to Bedfont turning the ball into the net, but fortunately via one of the opposition players showing off his handling skills. That was the last meaningful action in the half, in fact of the game (although I vaguely recall a Bedfont player shooting into the side netting deep into the second period).

The young Dons performed well technically, lots of nice passing moves and possession football, but much like the first team at times there was no real sign that anyone wanted to take responsibility for finishing in dangerous situations. It was almost as though in the absence of any desire to shoot, their prefered method of scoring was to pass the ball into the net.

This is all well and good in preseason as a training exercise, but as they seemed proficient at keeping the ball already, it would have been nice to see someone take responsibility in the box rather than knock the ball around until someone decided to let fly under pressure, losing the ball over the low terrace in doing so. This is probably clutching at straws, the young players will hopefully learn in the development squad next term and those getting the chance to step up will be better players for it.

With the game finishing level, there needed to be some way of deciding who lifted the John Morris Memorial Trophy, and in time-honoured pre-season fashion that was via a half-hearted penalty shootout. It was almost surreal watching a Dons side step up post-Eastlands for penalties in such relaxed circumstances – no clenching required here, I doubt many Dons fans cared either way.

The shootout was initially interesting in a Womens World Cup Final kind of way, in that it didn’t look like either side were capable of scoring, the Dons leading 1-0 after two penalties each thanks to two good Jack Turner saves – the second coming from Bedfont manager and Dons record scorer Kevin Cooper. Turner showed the way himself with a calm third penalty to put Wimbledon in the driving seat, before Chris Bush finally finished what he started with the winning final kick to give the Dons a 3-2 victory.

Not much learned as far as the first team is concerned, for what its worth we remain unbeaten in this shortest and simplest of pre-season campaigns, with Crawley just seven days away as I type. I think we are all hoping the stiff test of a full strength Watford side will tell us more about our team, and TB has announced a starting lineup that is probably 80% strength.

Brown seems to be in discussions with a couple of strikers with League experience, yet it doesn’t sound as though a deal will be struck until later next week. Presumably whoever he brings in won’t be a season changer, more adding to our strength in-depth and providing a different option to Midson and Ademeno, who will presumably join Luke Moore in a front three. If it is a major signing, for selfish reasons I kind of hope the news comes through very late next week, as I just finished a season preview for a national Football League blog and don’t want to have to rewrite it…

As for our visitors Watford, well I’m sure their supporters are quite happy to see us back in the League as well, especially the manner we clinched promotion at Eastlands. I’m planning on heading to the bar early, not only to pick up my season ticket, but to see if any Watford fans are interested in showing their gratitude in the form of beer…

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News Round-Up 20/7/11 – Beckenham, Bedfont

It wouldn’t be pre-season without split squads against sides lower down the pyramid, although you can take it too far… I noticed Crawley played two games on the same night yesterday, which must have been slightly frustrating for Crawley fans deciding which to attend. Fortunately the Dons trips to Beckenham and Bedfont are separated by 48 hours, allowing those of us hardcore enough to not worry about missing a minute of our preparations.

Thats a group I very much don’t belong to, having given up the opportunity to travel across South London for a rare opportunity to earn myself a bit of overtime at work… those who did attend were rewarded with six unreplied Dons goals from to Luke Moore, a Jack Midson hat trick, Toks and Sammy Hatton. Guaranteed Bedfont Town tomorrow won’t be anywhere near as goalsome, despite the rumoured appearance of Dons record scorer in the AFC era and Bedfont manager Kevin Cooper…

There are some managers under these circumstances who would shy away from the limelight, allow their team to do the talking… Kevin Cooper is not one of those managers. Maybe he has the right idea after all, by hogging the Dons fans attention he might relax his own players and allow them to concentrate on preparing for the season. Aww, who am I kidding, this is his last chance to bask in playing in front of Dons fans, even if just a handful turn up, and regardless of the level we were playing at the time, players who bang in a century of goals over two seasons don’t come along very often. Besides, with Kedwells departure showing any player getting in the twenty goal bracket will swiftly move on to bigger and better things, Cooper could hold that goal record for many years to come.

The Dons lineup against Beckenham gives a strong hint as to who will appear against Bedfont, meaning we should see the likes of Brett Johnson, James Mulley, Max Porter and Christian Jolley in action. Of course the only reason I’m really going is to sample the famous football/plane combo I’ve heard so much about. I’ve seen big jets up close before (I used to work not far from The Orchard), and of course I’ve seen football matches before, but the juxtapose of the two  is always a bit weird. As you can tell I’ve never been to a game at any of the Bedfonts before, but I’m imagining it’s going to be Feltham times a million (minus the decaying stadium and threadbare pitch…).

After this, only Saturday stands in the way of the Dons and the season proper. I’ll probably not have the opportunity to preview the Watford game – or at very least it’ll be a combined Bedfont match report and preview of Saturdays game, which is the downside of watching and blogging on two games within 48 hours. Presumably the Tooting game will be a chance for the majority of the side to get a bit of game time as well, but with Crawley three days away we’ll have to be a little careful (and I never did find out why its being played on a Friday night… presumably they just don’t want a big crowd to attend?).

On the subject of Tooting, they provide the Dons opposition in the Surrey Senior Cup second round next season. Now presumably the Dons side will be pretty much the Development squad, or maybe a hybrid including squad members needing game time (the closest you’ll see to a genuine Dons reserve team), the majority of Dons fans have never considered it worthy of their time, but there are a significant number of you out there who will be considering the County Cups as more important than the JPT, for example. They probably have a point, anything that helps bring the youth on is worthwhile, so for those of you interested, here is how our route to the final will shape up…

Second Round – Away (Tooting)

Third Round – Away (Molesey or Corinthian-Casuals)

Quarter Final – Away (Redhill, Croydon, Lingfield, Horley, Camberley, Walton & Hersham)

Semi Final – Home (Loads, including Sutton, Leatherhead and Kingstonian)

Final – Somewhere Else (Work it out yourself…)

Naturally, the likelihood is regardless of their talent, the young players will be hard pushed to make it past Tooting, but I thought I’d take a couple of minutes to work it out all the same…

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The Anonymous Don’s Summer Squad Review Part II – Defence

Continuing my look at the current Dons squad, Terry Brown has built his Dons sides from the solid base of an experienced central defensive partnership, with youthful promise waiting in the wings…


Coming in on loan last season to cover the failed experiment that was Andre Blackman, Bush reminded us what a promising full back should be all about. Obviously raw, bursting with potential, showing no signs of being overawed by playing first team football… the only problem being he wasn’t actually ours. Fortunately we were able to work out a deal with Brentford to secure his services, over joining their development squad, this sort of deal just outlines the way forward for our club over the short and medium term.

Signings such as Bush point the way forward for the club in the short and medium term, unable to fill our squad with a balance of experience, we have to rely on guys just starting their careers. There are obvious negatives in relying on youth, but the benefit is we can at least attract the very best of those who feel they won’t find regular football at bigger clubs.

From Bush’s point of view, immediate first team opportunities are available either battling it out with Gareth Gwillim for the left back slot or providing cover in his prefered position in the centre. Bush will presumably have ambitions to play at a higher level at some point in his career, but for now the competition for places will do him no harm…


Given the opportunity, TB admitted he would happily have kept both Fraser and Ed Harris, but finances dictated it was always going to be one or the other. The shootout between the pair actually began in pre-season, where it looked as though it was a case only one would be offered a deal, though fortunately both were kept on at the time. The problem we had having two young defensive prospects was I found myself judging them against each other, rather on their own merits to the team.

Ultimately when Ed Harris found himself shipped out on loan the writing was on the wall, regardless of Fraser’s unfortunate injury towards the end of the season which will curtail his involvement in the early stages of this season, particularly when promotion was achieved. In Fraser we have not just another decent prospect but a player that shows intelligence on the field that belies his age.

No better example was shown when the Dons found themselves without a left back for the rearranged home game with Luton. I doubt Fraser had much experience of playing in this position (although he can and has filled in on the right), yet faced with one of the strongest and most experienced attacking forces in the division he held up extremely well.

Going into the new season, and once he gets his fitness back, Fraser will find himself behind the three more experienced centre halves in the squad, yet with a 46 game season approaching, injuries and suspensions will play a part in gaining plenty of experience. Come the end of the Dons first season back in the League, providing he progresses, he might even find himself challenging for a starting place on merit.


Joining in January last year to provide cover for the left back role following the departure of Chris Bush. That we now have both of them at the club is a massive bonus in what was something of a problem position last term. As you would expect from a fullback who has spent the majority of his career in non-league football, Gwillim is a tough tackling, solid defender, something the Dons needed as they pushed towards the finish line.

On arrival some supporters, used to left backs such as Bush and Hussey before him, questioned whether he supported us enough going forward, but what we lost going forward Gwillim more than made up for defensively. Perhaps the best example of the battling qualities that will serve us well in League Two next year were shown by battling through the pain barrier against Fleetwood and in the final at Eastlands, after picking up a nasty knock in the first leg at Highbury.

Given a second chance at League football, you would expect Gwillim will find himself given more opportunities than with Dagenham in League One last term. Even more unusually, he held the distinction of being one of the few full-time footballers to hold down a job outside football, working as a contractor for London Underground overnight. This is a different solution to the problem that TB has mentioned that senior players have difficulty supporting a family on the money we pay, but probably not an example I would expect to see too many players follow…


Now the Dons longest-serving player, its easy to forget Sam is still so young. Originally arriving at the club as a midfielder, his switch to fullback was a bonus, and from Sam’s perspective has allowed him to go on and rack up more appearances in a Dons shirt than anyone else in the AFC era. Sam probably would have gone on to have a decent career in midfield outside the Football League, perhaps suffering the same problem Ricky Wellard had in stamping his influence on the team.

Yet a full back he now is, and a very good one at that. Drawing comparisons with Chris Hussey is how all AFCW fullbacks will be rated for the foreseeable future, and Sam is a slightly different sort of player. Still as keen to get forward but without the lightning pace, yet probably a better defender, either way he could go on to set the standard himself… now Kedwell and Gregory have departed, given a decent first season at this level we might find clubs in the higher division knocking our door down for Sam’s signature.


Having said Sam Hatton might be a top transfer target for clubs next summer, I have to admit I have no idea what Brett Johnson was doing playing in the Conference for two seasons for us. By reaching the Football League he is back in what should be his natural environment, and he probably would have led the exodus of player such as Hatton and Brown along with the two that did leave us should we not have managed to win promotion this year.

Brett was probably the best defender outside the Football League last year, his calm, experienced performances at the back alongside Yakubu were the foundations on which our promotion campaign were built. Yet Brett is so accomplished you can often forget he’s there – as I did when compiling my captaincy poll. With Brett subsequently named vice captain for the season, there is a fair chance we could see him lead the side in Jamie Stuart’s absence. Captain or not, Brett is a key player and our performance next season could well depend on his form.


I’ll keep it short as far as Mat is concerned as he is a player we know little of. The fact he contracted glandular fever so shortly after joining the club, coupled with his unfortunate injury record, suggest he’s not the luckiest guy in the world, but TB must rate him quite highly… I initially questioned the decision to sign him over Yakubu for next season, but with Brown confirming Yak couldn’t keep up with the training schedule a replacement was required. Here’s hoping mat is back training asap so we can see what he’s made of.


The signing of Jamie during the January window was inspired. When battling for promotion, you can’t get enough leaders on the field, and Jamie Stuart is the sort of character who would at least attempt to run through a wall if asked. Not really too many surprises over the decision to name him as captain. His arrival gave us real strength in-depth defensively; yet this means Jamie will have a fight on his hands for the shirt.

Mat Mitchel-Kings unfortunate illness means he should start the season, but our defensive partnership will be aware any lapse in form could see them sitting on the sidelines. Yet Brown’s decision to name him as captain will probably put any short-term doubts over his first team place to rest for now.



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