Aldershot Town 1 AFC Wimbledon 1 10/9/11 – A Match Report

This time last week an exasperated Micky Adams was travelling back up to the Potteries, having advised the press post game that AFC Wimbledon had used a bit of luck up and hopefully that will even itself at some point in the future… And lo and behold, seven days after a bit of Jolley magic turned a point into three in stoppage time, the cruel hand of fate (or Gareth Gwillim’s knee…) was there to snatch those two points back from us…

Actually there was a great deal of similarity between last week and this, in that on both occasions we were quite fortunate to come away with the result we did. Are we going to be that side? One that spends most of the game on the back foot, somehow surviving thanks to solid last-ditch defending, just waiting for that spell in the game where we look half decent – which could be five minutes, forty-five, half an hour… or not at all. Is League Two really the sort of division where such a side can finish comfortably in mid-table?

The lowdown, for those of you who weren’t at the Recreation Ground… After a quiet start only memorable for an Aldershot effort that clipped the bar, the Dons took the lead with their first (and only) chance of note… a deep Sam Hatton cross finding Max Porter lurking at the far post, his brilliantly executed header beat the keepers despairing dive and nestled in the far corner. This was on seventeen minutes, and the Dons gradually sat further and further back as the game progressed.

Faced with being allowed to dominate possession, Aldershot proceeded in one of two ways. The first involved hitting a deep cross six yards beyond the far post, allowing Jamie Stuart to flick the ball out for a corner… subsequently hit deep six yards beyond the far post for Jamie Stuart to flick away. On the rare occasions the Dons prevented a cross from coming in, the shots would play the ball into the centre where one of their midfielders would kick the ball onto the East Terrace roof.

There was balance to the contest in a way only League Two games can be, one sides deficiencies were cancelling out the others, and with the Dons having their noses in front the travelling fans became more and more confident… as the clock ticked into injury time it seemed time might run out for the home side. But the problem with allowing sides to take pot shots from twenty-five yards is they can go anywhere… while that normally means the roof or the corner flag, it also includes the top corner…

Dons fans brave the open terrace

You might have seen the goal credited to Danny Hylton, which probably had more to do with the Press Association guy who originally credited him with it suffering a momentary lapse of concentration – either that or Aldershot might want to check the carbon monoxide detector in their press box… But allowing him to get the effort in gave it a chance of slamming into Gareth Gwillim’s legs, wrong footing Seb Brown who was already committed to shepherding it around the post…

After nearly signing him last season, you would have thought Hylton might have been fired up for this one… and he was, but not in the way you would expect. In fact his performance convinced the Dons fans we’d actually had a MASSIVE escape. His arrival would have been on a contract, which meant we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to bomb him out when we realised what we had (like we could with Broughton…). Subsequently, Mo wouldn’t have come to the club, the playoffs would have ended in failure, and we’ll still be playing Conference football…

Yet its likely the Dons fans would never have noticed Hylton had it not been for one outstanding piece of attempted cheating. After tangling himself up with a Dons defender, Hylton strode on a few steps, then upon realising he wasn’t going to reach the ball hurled himself to the ground. The incident also highlighted another villain of the piece – the referee. Now normally I get frustrated with referees, as there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground in this type of incident. It’s a penalty or yellow card for diving, they don’t seem to factor in players just losing balance and falling over. Yet in this instance it was so clear-cut the referee was neglecting his responsibilities not showing him a card, only flashing yellow when Hylton got up to hurl a stream of abuse at him.

The official had already got the Dons fans backs up after a first half incident where Sammy Moore was laid out in an aerial challenge – we’ll never know how the game would have played out had Moore stayed on the field, and it says a lot about his character that he carried on until half time. But the game would have followed a different course had the referee taken a harder line on challenges like this. plus it’s not often you see such a sarcastic response from a set of football fans to that of the Dons fans when he finally blew for a foul our way a few minutes later…

Throwback view from the East Terrace...

Ultimately though, the Dons have only themselves to blame. As previously mentioned, we sat deeper and deeper as they game went on. Plus our substitutions were strange to say the least, Jolley for Djilali was pretty much like for like but the newcomer didn’t see much of the ball… earlier Luke Moore was withdrawn for Ryan Jackson, and I think the idea was we’d hit Aldershot on the break. This might have worked if Sammy Moore had been replaced with Lee Minshull, which would have added a little steel in the heart of the field, but instead he brought on Yussuff.

Now Toks did what Toks does, floated around picking up loose balls and looking to build attacks, but never looking like he wanted to put a challenge in. To be fair Ricky Wellard stepped up to the plate, but Ricky isn’t exactly a midfield enforcer, and his eagerness to put a tackle in only lead to his unfortunate dismissal, but his willingness at least earned him a standing ovation from Dons fans… rare for Ricky, and under the circumstances slightly surreal…

Overall, you can’t find yourself leading going into injury time and not consider this two points lost, regardless of what went on for the ninety minutes before. Going forward, those midfield problems don’t look like resolving themselves any time soon, but at least defensively we looked a bit more solid. The new loanee McNaughton performed well considering he’d only joined the squad the day before, but Jamie Stuart was my Dons man of the match. Ending the game bandaged up, he was willing to put his head in where others fear to put a boot.

Two home games in seven days give the Dons a chance to properly entrench themselves in upper midtable, with a tough looking October coming up you get the impression we’ll do well to get points on the board while we can…

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