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.
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 The game only balanced out as a contest when Iwelumo was withdrawn, but before that poor Jamie Stuart had all sorts of problems trying to deal with him.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.
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!