Thirteen games without victory, then three wins on the spin. Football is a bonkers game, scarcely believable at times… Do other clubs supporters consistently experience such dramatic swings from high to low and back to high again? Maybe in the short-term, over a couple of years, but with the exception of a few drab years in the Premier League my entire supporting life has seen the sort of drama that wouldn’t be out-of-place in a work of fiction. In fact sub-Hollyoaks former Sky shitefest Dream Team used to regularly steal real life scenarios from the Dons, managing to make them seem even less convincing on the small screen than they had been in reality.
In fact I have a theory that what we refer to as reality is really some weird physical manifestation of a long running work of fiction based around the crazy and somewhat unrealistic tale of a football club. Which would make a lot of sense to me…. Far from being important and unique my entire presence boils down to being a simple bystander in someone else’s story. My faith in a more traditional view of existence is being eroded all the quicker with every unlikely dramatic last-minute win, of which last nights was just the latest.
Whatever your personal meaning of life, you can’t deny the Dons have spoilt us on the entertainment front this season – even if for three months that ‘entertainment’ involved Seb Brown picking the ball out of the net quite a lot). After convincing even glass-half-full types like myself there might be a danger they could get sucked into the relegation picture, three wins on the bounce and a dollop of guts, bottle, spirit, and other ingredients otherwise missing from the mix from October onwards has seen us shoot up the table into the comfort zone.
Such is the competitive nature of this division, our nine-point haul has left many dreaming of pulling off a Stevenage style rise up the table to gate-crash the playoff picture. I think the current squad, even if the parent clubs of recent reinforcements allow them to see out the season with us, will probably be found wanting in that respect. Even in victory last night, there were enough negatives to worry about, you got the impression on another day Macclesfield would have taken something from the game… the squad still show a willingness to play themselves into trouble more frequently than we could get away with against genuine promotion contenders.
The old problem of gifting possession in our own third reared its head on several occasions, as the back four caused alarm for those watching from the stands. The knee-jerk reaction was to urge the side to launch the ball forward, which on the occasions where the team obliged only resulted in a gargantuan Macclesfield player propelling the ball back deep into our half twice as quickly. We need to be a little more clever with our distribution from the back, so many times we see Seb Brown rushing to the right side of his six yard box to look for Sam Hatton, already shadowed by an opposition forward wise to the fact he’s our primary outlet.This would be a problem even if Hatton was on his game, as it was on the night he sent every other pass to someone who wasn’t there or worse, straight to the feet of a grateful opponent.
On the other side of the pitch, and more reliable on the night with his distribution (partly because whenever he got the ball he invariably gave it straight to Billy Knott…), Gareth Gwillim seemed to have acres of space. Now there were only so many bodies Macclesfield could commit to closing us down, we were always going to have the numbers to easily transit the ball into the middle third, especially as there are four competent footballers there (even if occasionally – promising talent that he is – C-Mac does resemble Bambi on ice when he has the ball at his feet…). There really is no need for them to make such a meal of it.
Defensive issues were merely a mild tarnish on an otherwise glowing performance. The Dons suggested they would dominate the game after a very bright opening, my first chance to get a view of three of the new signings and I wasn’t disappointed. George Moncur and Billy Knott looked completely at home and along with Sammy Moore were running the game for Wimbledon, hard to believe the two loanees were making only their third Football League appearances each. Absolutely no sign of nerves, that heavy touch you occasionally see when a player is thinking a little too much about what they are doing, they both looked completely at home on the Kingsmeadow pitch. In fact, I’d go further, they looked as though this was merely a stepping stone on their way to bigger and better things. Those guys signing ‘You’re just too good for us’? Couldn’t put it better, to be honest…
Byron Harrison also impressed. Like any new striker he needs a goal, you couldn’t fault any part of his game on the night – strong, holds the ball up well, will only get better when he gets used to his new team mates – the only thing missing was a finish. Admittedly, hitting the net is what goal scorers are judged on, but he’s getting himself in the right areas… only to snatch at the ball and shank it wide, or find that perfect cross bouncing back off his face. The arrival of Jason Prior may sharpen Harrison up, or provide an alternative should he need an extended period to find his feet. I have to admit knowing little of Prior beyond him being at Newcastle on trial and scoring an amazing amount of goals for Bognor… he does have a ‘footballers’ name though, so based on that alone I predict he’ll do well…
This is less of a rebuild and more of a reshaping exercise. Brown is no doubt aware once our loan players return (and I’m kind of hoping we’ve passed the 50 point barrier by that stage – even if it will take some kind of turn around for two of the bottom three to get anywhere near that target), he faces the challenge of effectively rebuilding the midfield in the summer. Sammy Moore is probably the only one safe in the knowledge he’ll still be here next season, but along with Jack Midson and his eye-catching goal tally he’s probably the most likely candidate to find himself poached by a bigger club come August.
Saturday brings with it the chance to extend our winning record to an unlikely four games. The odds seemed stacked in our favour, a mini run of nine points out of nine, Aldershot not exactly pulling up trees, unbeaten against sides managed by Dirty Deano…. away win it is then?!