AFC Wimbledon 3 Port Vale 2 3/9/11 – A Match Report

Sometimes you’re better off not worrying about post-game analysis and just marvel at the game of football you’ve just watched, and yesterdays game falls easily into that category. I’d actually go further and nominate it as one of the best games we’ve seen in the AFC era. We’ve seen some outstanding entertainment over the years, the 5-4 victory over Walton Casuals in the CCL Cup, Horsham in the First Ryman One season, last seasons victory at Eastbourne to name just three – but pound for pound, considering the level of football, yesterday’s game might just trump them all.

As with many high scoring epics, the entertainment levels were partly down to a clash of failings rather than anything… this was the Dons wet tissue defense and frequently absent midfield up against a Port Vale side that started like a train but flagged badly towards the end, whose ability to create chances at will was sadly balanced against their profligacy in front of goal.

We’ve all watched football long enough to know a Dons victory was written in stone as soon as Vale had their umpteenth effort cleared off the line or struck woodwork, we’ve seen it happen to the Dons enough time over the years… And if it wasn’t enough that our debut forward, who wouldn’t have started had Charlie Ademeno not been injured in the warm up, then went on to win the penalty for our opening goal; we then watch as a player who wasn’t even in the squad to start with – who wouldn’t even have been named on the bench had Port Vale not given their approval for the team sheet to be changed – comes off the bench and grabs the winner deep into stoppage time.

After last weeks dire performance at Macclesfield, there was much talk of hard work on the training ground to ensure there wouldn’t be a repeat performance this week, but judging by the first twenty minutes or so you would have thought the squad had taken a week off training altogether… Ok, I know the injury to Ademeno in the warm up meant a slight change in formation, and this probably threw them slightly, but these are still professionals, they should still be capable of adapting at short notice.

The Dons defensive deficiencies detracts slightly from some of Port Vale’s irresistible forward play in the first half, not too many League Two defences would have an answer for some of those moves. In fact our two full backs deserve credit for their heroics on the line, both Hatton and Gwillim preventing certain goals in what was an opening period where last-ditch defending kept Wimbledon in the contest.

I won’t go into detail over what happened… if you didn’t see the Football League Show last night the extended highlights on the BBC website tomorrow should do you, if not the OS report is always more detailed than mine ever are. A few comments thought…

Firstly, our performance yesterday and so far this season, coupled with TB’s post match remarks, reveal our defensive problems won’t be solved overnight, so we’ll have to get used to either winning games 3-2 or losing 0-4 for the next couple of months or so. To be fair, we can’t possibly get much worse than we were yesterday, but I can see the Dons becoming a neutrals favourite this season… there will be goals at either end, and plenty of them.

Under those circumstances it’s fortunate we’re scoring goals, and a great deal of credit must go to Jack Midson for that. After the start he’s had at the club, dare we believe he might actually be better than Kedwell? He’s certainly had a decent start that’s for sure, and is the sort of player who just won’t go wrong as far as either the fans or TB is concerned. His work rate and determination is just unreal, one example of this was seeing him chase down a ball he seemed to have no chance of winning, getting a block in, then getting up and winning a footrace to the loose ball to create an oportunity out of nothing.

On top of this the five goals he’s chipped in almost seems like a bonus. His finish yesterday was an example of his eye for goal, easy in one respect with the keeper getting up following his penalty save, but it bounced awkwardly and Midson had to get over the top of it to avoid ballooning it over. We can only hope he continues both form, you get the impression if he can keep up those levels of work rate the goals will follow naturally.

New signing Kieran Djilali had a decent debut, its good to see someone willing to get the ball down and run at defences. He showed great composure to win the penalty, we’ve seen Dons players get in that sort of position only for them to shoot and either miss or their effort is smothered, Djilali did well to take it round the keeper knowing he was going to bring him down. A little early in the day to tell just how good he’s going to be but so far, so good.

The arrival of Christian Jolley at half time swung the game in our favour. We might be better off telling him he’s not going to play every week, this was probably his best forty-five minutes in a Dons shirt. Again, we expect him to be a little inconsistent as a young player just beginning his League career, but as an impact substitute I don’t think there’ll be a defence in the division that could hold him on his day. He pretty much had the Port Vale left back on a leash as soon as he came on the pitch, could have made the game safe at 2-1 with another mazy run, and showed great composure with his finish – hard to believe it was his first League goal.

Jolley has come so far in such a short space of time it would have been understandable had he needed a little time to come to terms with the higher level, but he seems to have so much confidence in himself you wonder whether League Two will be enough for him… Having come so far in such a short space of time, who’s to say he won’t continue his astounding career progress and leave us behind in the not too distant future?

(Strange that after such a poor defensive display I chose to highlight forwards, but as I said at the start sometimes you’re better off not worrying!)

We saw some memorable scenes at the final whistle… this was the first time many Dons fans had seen their side win in the Football League, remember, and even for those of us who had it’s all a little new… plus you don’t want to start getting deep into September/October without winning at home, it creates unwanted psychological problems that we were all more than aware of.

Ten points in the bag despite still finding ourselves dogged by inconsistency means we probably won’t have any problems this season, and can afford a few defeats while TB searches for the answer to our defensive problems. Yet knowing in advance we’re going to take some hammerings, and actually having to watch them, are two different things. We have a big derby game coming up next week against opponents we have bust a gut to chase up the pyramid, how sickening now we’ve caught them and play them as equals would it be if they thumped us?

Derby games are different animals however, and with TB heading back to his former club for the first time he’ll want to use this free week ahead to ensure we’re at least competitive next week…

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