This isn’t the Conference. There are no easy games at this level. Anybody can beat anybody else, anywhere. I know that, you know that. And yet, in the back of our minds, we’re looking at Hereford’s League position, the fact they haven’t gained a point, haven’t even managed to trouble the scoresheet, we’re looking at the goals Macclesfield scored on Tuesday night and noting goalkeeper Russell Hoult had the positional sense of a drunk monkey after a ride on the Waltzer and seems to have a glove deal with Utterly Butterly, and we’re thinking ‘How can we not win this?‘
And we’re doing this with a sense of regret, knowing we’re surely building ourselves up for a fall… this is Wimbledon after all, we know Wimbledon, we’ve been following them all our lives. No matter how well we might be playing, if there’s a striker looking to break his duck, he’ll break it against us; if there’s a side stuck rock bottom who are only going to win one game away from home all season, we’ll be the victim. That’s how supporting the Dons works…
On top of this, we’ve been in the division five minutes. It’s the curse of back to back away wins, all of a sudden things seem a lot easier than they seem… Don’t get me wrong, we’re all saying and doing the right things – I haven’t come across a Dons fan suggesting we’ll stride away with a two or three goal victory, but lets face it, if it doesn’t happen I’ll be disappointed, and all but the most pessimistic of us will go home and kick the dog/spouse/children.
Now I could be sitting here on Saturday night/Sunday morning (depending on whether I get a social life in the meantime) writing up a convincing victory, in fact it’s probably the more likely outcome. Just not as likely as our subconscious (the bane of all football fans) is allowing us to believe. Those of us who suggested the Dons might be lucky to get four points out of our opening league fixtures (and I am one) are feeling pretty chuffed right now – we would have taken something from the Bristol Rovers game if we hadn’t been hoist by our own petard, and the aforementioned maximum from our two road games has seen Dons fans focussing on the top, rather than bottom, of the table.
I actually have good memories of Hereford at Kingsmeadow. Back in 1998 I eschewed our opening fixture against Spurs in favour of Kingstonian’s first game in the Conference… In my defence this was during my student days, and I was far more interested in spending time drinking with my friends, and KFC provided a common denominator for a bunch of football loving lads who played for the same club side, followed various teams across London and beyond and who otherwise wouldn’t have seen eye to eye.
The video above documents the day, and will be of interest to Dons fans in just how much Kingsmeadow has changed over the years. Mainly cosmetic, no huge structural alterations, but these were the days when the Main stand barely held 600 and didn’t extend as far as pitchside (you can see supporters standing in the paddock, with the benches on this side of the field), the Tempest didn’t have a terrace, never mind a roof, and there was a strange brick structure right behind the goal at the KRE. And look at the state of the pitch! It might have appeared more like Bournemouth beach in our first couple of seasons, but judging by that video it seems K’s were saving money on a mower by simply setting fire to it…
Interesting days, I remember chatting to a Hereford fan outside the bar at half time, explaining to me how the long journey wasn’t helped by a long trek from the station… Thinking he might have come from Kingston, I pointed out Norbiton station was a few streets away, only to get the confused reply that his party had come via Surbiton – I never got to the bottom of whether this was police advice or an honest mistake… By the way, our current tenants won that one 2-0, it goes without saying a similar scoreline will do very nicely…
A victory will cement the Dons high placing in the early League table, but lets face it, until you get beyond six games its little use beyond a form guide, and three games in its barely that… Hereford might have lost three on the spin, but lets not forget the Dons promotion winning side did that in March last year, and things turned out alright for us. Losing three in a row at the start of the season is panic inducing, but we’ve got a long way to go even before promotion and relegation contenders can be determined… I saw the Hereford-Macclesfield game being described as a ‘relegation clash’ in the media, there’s no guarantee either or both will be struggling in eight months time.
Yet I can see how Hereford supporters might feel a little daunted travelling to a side having scored two goals in each of their four games played. The Dons are slowly but surely getting injured players back… Sammy Moore played a part in the Dagenham and Plymouth games, Fraser Franks is back in training, and I actually saw Mat Mitchel-King for the first time last Saturday (and for a Rio Ferdinand body double, I thought he might look a little more, erm, Rio Ferdinandy?). The Dons have got a few more options, especially in midfield… I kind of expected Max Porter would take the holding role, and in case of injury or loss of form Ricky Wellard would fill in. But now it seems Sammy Moore can do a job there, and thinking about it it makes sense – Moore has both range of passing and tenacious nature to make a success of the position.
When I was a kid playing up front and scoring goals was all the rage, during the late nineties it became fashionable to want to play ‘in the hole’, now it seems every footballer worth their salt wants to be a holding midfielder, even Toks throwing his hat into the ring this week. I’m half expecting to see enterprising coaches stick their most creative player in goal before the decade is out…
I’ve seen a few Dons fans comment that they want to see a settled midfield this season, I can understand why as football logic suggests a regular XI builds continuity, yet I would like to respectfully disagree and suggest our current crop of midfielders, having played together for a while, should be more or less interchangeable. This might not be important right now, but as midweek games and cup ties start piling up, the ability to shuffle his pack with no consequence in terms of strength could prove a real benefit to TB.
Yet this causes a problem for the Anonymous Don in attempting to predict TB’s starting eleven… we now have three players who could potentially play the holding role (Toks is more important causing chaos in the opposition half for the time being…), with question marks also over who is going to get the nod to start up front, and a suggestion Jamie Stuart is struggling with a knock. I’m going to go for the following…
If there is any possibility of Jamie Stuart starting, he’s going to start… I just can’t see TB either throwing Bush in or withdrawing Minshull from a midfield role unless his hand has been forced. If Stuart does break down during the game, TB can shuffle the pack knowing there is no midweek game to worry about, and Franks and Mitchel-King are back in full training so will be available soon.
As Sammy Moore started on Tuesday I’ll back him to go again tomorrow, despite still feeling his way back to full fitness. Charlie Ademeno made way for Christian Jolley at half time on Tuesday, and we don’t really know how Charlie is doing fitness-wise, I’ll still back him to start with Jolley reverting to impact substitute. A relatively ‘safe’ prediction I know, but as those injured squad members return, this game is starting to get more and more difficult…