Category Archives: Dons

Mid-Season Break

Its been a bit of a stop-start season for me supporter-wise… A lack of away games has given my football diary a distinctly fractured look, I find myself coping with increasingly long gaps without a Dons fix. Having to find something else to do with my time made me question whether I really need football in my life. Surely a handsome, intelligent guy such as myself could find alternative Saturday entertainment?

The answer was a resounding ‘Fuck no’… I could have spent the last two Saturdays doing something productive, starting a new hobby, reading, going to the cinema – the opportunity was there for me to find something stimulating, an activity that could have advanced my knowledge and improved me as a human being, but what I actually spent those two Saturdays doing was sitting on the sofa in my pants playing video games and eating Yum Yums.

The recent cold weather has given even those who never miss away games a glimpse into my current alternate-Saturday problem. It amuses me that this sort of interruption to the schedule always inspires one or two to raise that old winter break chestnut. The fact is last year we had games postponed in December, this year its February… in a temperate climate you can expect postponements at virtually any time of the season (even a pre-season game at Brentford fell foul of summer thunderstorms a few years ago). A mid-season break for climate reasons would actually increase end of season fixture congestion, as clubs spend weeks in the dead of winter kicking their heels.

In this instance we’ve had such a break forced on us, much to the annoyance of the management team who have to come up with all sorts of alternatives to training that doesn’t simply consist of just running, and end up with a schedule that looks more like a seven-year olds dream half-term – outings to the local swimming pool, something called a spinning session… if the weather had turned a few weeks later they might even have been lucky enough to get a trip to Thorpe Park thrown in.
The weather break came at the most annoying time possible for the Dons… a reshaped squad bolstered with loanees saw a mini winning run brought to a halt by a frustrating performance against Aldershot, and the only benefit going into tonight’s trip to Northampton is that game has now passed out of the majority of Dons fans minds, while still providing some kind of incentive for the squad to ‘bounce back’.

With a handful of wins required to guarantee League Two football again next season, the majority of the season will be played out for pride alone – in an ideal world this should be reason enough for professional players to go out and want to win a game, the fact that a few of them are clearly on a knife-edge as far as their futures at the club are concerned should ensure we see dedicated performances at the very least.

The Bradford cancellation was disappointment enough, but equally frustrating as Saturday was due to see the introduction of not just a new Dons fanzine in Wise Men Say, but a head to head with existing publication WUP. Now you might ask yourself why a club like Wimbledon needs two fanzines, the real question is ‘Does a club like Wimbledon need a fanzine at all?’, and that was answered fairly conclusively nine years ago with the introduction of WUP – for various reasons, the most valid of which is ‘because people will buy it’. Once you’ve justified one fanzine, you’ve justified not just a second but as many rival publications as is practical to produce. There should be no decrease in quality across the board, Wise Men Say appears to be heading in a slightly different direction to WUP, including contributions from individuals who choose not to write for the existing publication; and will hopefully inspire those writing for WUP to set the bar a little higher – I’ve written for WUP in the past, will do in future and will take the quality of writing across both fanzines into consideration when I sit down to compose my next effort.

By now you’re probably guessing I’m the sort that harkens back to the golden age of fanzine production that was the mid-nineties. At the time I was living with my dad and my cousin, a very football oriented house that saw no televised game ignored, and a decent supply of fanzines from clubs up and down the country thanks to my cousins regular trips to Sportspages in Charing Cross Road – some of which were exceptional, some of which seemed to be produced entirely for the benefit of the editor and his small clique of friends, yet somehow remained entertaining all the same.

Ultimately the expectation was online media would kill off the printed fanzine, but that hasn’t quite happened. In fact I have to say I’m surprised there aren’t a lot more Dons bloggers out there keen to give their personal view. The fact there seems to be so many Dons fans prepared to read my inconsistent ramblings suggests there are a great deal of people unsatisfied with the Dons offerings in mainstream media, and there is still a great void that can be filled by alternative websites and blogs, be they occasional or prolific.

The same applies to fanzines. The matchday programme is the only regular publication you can buy in and around the ground – there is a lot of sniping and criticism of the programme, while there is undoubtedly room for improvement and innovation I actually think it’s a more than acceptable offering when you consider its produced to a tight budget and deadline (no saving it for next week until a few more articles come in!) – and yet I’ve normally finished reading it by the time the teams are out for kick off. I’ve always looked forward to WUP weeks in the knowledge I’ll have something to flick through at half time, or read on the train home, and the introduction of a second publication will ensure that fanzine-free weeks will hopefully become the minority.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

The Cull

Right, lets have a bit of blog update. It’s been a little while, I’ve written before about the frustration of not being able to write regularly – it seems at Christmas I had plenty of excuses not to write, visiting family, rushing to buy or receive presents, general laziness… all that guff. I suppose the overwhelming reason would have been sitting down in front of the laptop and thinking ‘Oh god, this feels too much like actual work…’. The Dons form of late has been dire, so in the same way I don’t really want to sit down and write emails to people telling them how to fix their showers, neither do I want to dissect the Dons defensive failings over and over again – the difference being I get paid for the former, why should I subject myself to the latter in what is supposed to be my leisure time

It’s a little ironic, as for the last nine years I found myself yearning for the days when victories were celebrated rather than expected. The Anonymous Don was born amidst a blip in our BSS promotion year and my desire to have my say… I’ve waited years for an actual crisis to come along, and a twelve game winless streak probably counts. Is this an actual bona fide crisis though? In terms of averages, your typical Football League club probably suffers a double digit winless run every five years or so, we’ve struck it lucky in a way that not only did we have a great start, keeping our head above water, but as veterans of the last such run of form (the one that ended in relegation…) will attest, at least this one is from October to January, not February to May – giving us time to remedy the slump. The only problem is our form hasn’t yet turned… I mention it lasting from October to January, but there’s no guarantee we will pick up a win before the month is out. When will it come? February? March???

The fact remains, despite what has happened of late, we still don’t find ourselves in a relegation fight (yet). Putting our neutral hats on and looking at the table, seventeenth place and eight points clear of the drop zone looks pretty comfortable… in fact its pretty much where I and probably most of you thought we would be at this stage. We have time to address the situation, a side that needs to remember how to win and certainly knows where the goal is should turn things around soon. You look at how predictable we’ve been of late, wonder where the change is going to come from, then remember how the pace of Jolley and Djilali so terrified defences in this division – getting those two back on a regular basis might be enough on its own. Considering those two, and the introduction to the line up of the impressive looking Mat Mitchel-King (quite literally like having a new signing…), we aren’t going to be in trouble this season, surely?

Yet looking at things in a positive light only works if you don’t simultaneously have your head stuck in the sand. We have real and immediate problems that we cannot wait until the summer to resolve. Terry Brown has admirably stuck by those players who won us promotion last term, probably fully aware that one or two might not make the grade at this level but willing to give them a chance to prove themselves. The problem is you look all over the field and find players struggling… supporters not normally known for doom-mongering are looking around and wondering where the leadership is going to come from, who is going to stand up and say ‘this run ends now’. In short people are panicking because there is reason to panic – the prize we fought so hard for in May could easily still be surrendered tamely between now and the end of the season.

We’ve probably overused phrases along the lines of ‘This is the most important x months in our history’ during the last nine years but there’s no point in denying this transfer window is massive for the club. Brown is aware he needs to bring in experienced reinforcements, and if there’s one area of management that I even mildly doubt TB it’s his mid-season acquisitions – especially in the all important loan market.

We should be encouraged that Brown is not prepared to sit around and watch us slide into trouble without putting up a fight, his previous comments relating to new arrivals reinforced yesterday by the news not only are signings expected next week, he has already named the five players who could leave the club to make room for them.

Of the five I think the only shocker is James Mulley. His injury in pre-season didn’t help, neither did inconsistent performances when he did get game time, but to be fair he has been shuffled around a bit and played out of position. The problem was Mulley was originally brought to the club as he was something of a utility man… Brown cannot justify keeping him on knowing he’s only really effective at this level in certain midfield roles, especially if he is planning on bringing in someone who can. Still Mulley remains a personal favourite of mine, he never stopped trying – still nipping around the pitch in injury time when we’re getting stuffed, trying to make something happen and at least take something from the game.

I’m also a little disappointed Charlie Ademeno is on his way, but his fitness issues were always going to be an issue… presumably Brown has his eye on someone who will hold the ball up and take the pressure off Midson. Mishull and Porter always put a great deal of effort in but were hugely inconsistent. I’m not sure we’ve seen the best of Porter, and Minshull always had the air of a particularly talented Ryman midfielder who had somehow risen above his level but found his fitness and technical ability wasn’t quite up to scratch. Ryan Jackson has the pace to hurt League Two defences but lacks the end product vital at this level.

Which leaves us eagerly awaiting news of replacements next week. We can count ourselves very lucky we have a free weekend to sort ourselves out. With three games away from home I don’t think many rational supporters will expect overnight miracles, but a couple of points here and there will go a long way to settling the nerves.

Half Term Poll

Ok, there was little chance of me writing in detail about the Accrington game. I had to endure nintey minutes of it on Saturday, no chance of dissecting the gory details in my own time – especially, as you might have gathered from the recent lack of blog updates, I haven’t exactly had time on my hands of late.

The build up to Xmas means we approach the half way point of our first season back in the League, and while I ponder a longer review, but first heres a chance for you to have your say with a new poll…

The Dangers Of The FA Cup First Round Draw

Still chipper following an unexpected point ground out at Shrewsbury the day before, Dons fans settled down on Sunday lunchtime for the FA Cup First Round draw. Thanks to years of slogging our way through qualifying rounds the draw still has an element of novelty about it, despite this being the first time in many a year we actually find ourselves entering at this stage of the competition. League Two clubs seldom have runs as such… the most any of us could hope for is a couple of easy ties against plucky non-leaguers at home, before a money spinning trip to one of the big boys in the Third Round.

And yet the sheer nature of the draw means that despite the presence of your Redbridge’s and your AFC Totten’s, it was just as likely we’ll pull out a decent League One club away from home – with Terry Brown’s Dons team not exactly famed for being cup battlers, this could have seen us mentally eliminate ourselves two weeks before we’ve even played (kind of like how I’m feeling right now about the JPT…). Plus there’s always the danger of a repeat performance of last years Second Round draw…

What you sometimes forget is just how long it takes for two former players or occasional minor celebrities to pull eighty balls from a clear plastic container – and I’m not just talking about the preamble here. The physical act of putting ones hand in, swirling it around, before removing a ball before holding it up for the world to see takes long enough as it is, add in Jim Rosenthal’s occasional dramatic pause after losing track of his notes, on top of knowing balls three and twenty-six are still in the hat… the process is agonizing.

And all the while those potential deal breakers are waiting for you. After our bizarre League Cup encounter back in July I’m sure I wasn’t alone in breathing a sigh of relief when Crawley came out early. After that, every home team drawn resulted in me loudly expressing to my bemused wife whether or not I desired a trip there… Luton (No), Cambridge (Yes), Morecambe (No), Swindon (No), Redbridge (Yes! Yes! Yes!… Awww…..).

It took approximately five minutes of this until the Buckinghamshire Supermarket Enabling Development came out of the hat, a moment of sheer panic as Matt Hanlon groped around before bringing out a ball, holding it up to the camera… blinking through the sweat I couldn’t see the number at first, but there it was, the one we all hoped it would be – anyone but our ball…

Which meant we could relax for the remainder of the draw, ball three eventually being drawn at home (thanks Keith Houchin) to…. Scunthorpe United. It could be worse, it’s by no means glamorous (and to be fair there were probably only three teams in the draw that could have inspired such a description) but it certainly will be interesting, and isn’t completely unwinnable.

In fact it should be a decent game. Scunthorpe have had a little difficulty finding their feet back in League One in only winning three games to date, but have also secured a point against promotion favourites such as Charlton, Sheffield United and Huddersfield along the way. A decent challenge for the Dons, who after halting our three game, twelve goal losing streak will be looking to take a bit of form into the game.

The bigger problem the board might have is tempting a decent crowd along. The modern phenomenon of treating even FA Cup ties as second class fixtures means a slashing of ticket prices might be required to even come close to filling the ground. I know the Dons aren’t the only club to suffer from reduced attendance for cup ties, but with the fixture sandwiched by important league games here’s hoping the powers that be can come up with a way of ensuring the fixture is played out in front of a good crowd and decent atmosphere.

By the way, if we do somehow pull of a shock, it’ll be balls twenty-eight and thirty-three you’ll be praying are kept apart in two weeks time…

Tagged ,

Creepy Crawley And The Nature Of Rivalry

One of the side effects of writing a blog that’s read by slightly more people than my wife and mum (my dad reads too…) is that every so often someone gets in touch and asks for a contribution to their own site. Often the questions asked come from a different angle and make me consider the club in a manner I wouldn’t normally, and one of those came last month in a piece I did for a website called Best of the Bets.

The question referred to our return to the Football League, and whether we’d be looking forward to renewing any old rivalries. Of course, no one really leapt out as a rival on promotion to League Two, I wrote a few lines about looking forward to finally facing Aldershot, some short-term excitement at reprising a couple of Premier League fixtures at Bradford and Swindon, two new London derbies (albeit ones that don’t exactly get the heart pumping).

Yet no one that really makes you sit up and relish facing off against hated local scum. Maybe one day that void will be filled by Aldershot once we’ve got a few years of mutual back slapping out of the way they’ll tire of being reminded certain clubs only took nine years to navigate their way through the non-league pyramid. Perhaps a club currently higher in the pecking order will drop down (or we’ll move up?) and fill that void… a Brentford, maybe even a Millwall (and I’m convinced when Fulham’s bubble eventually bursts they’ll end up making Bradford look a financial success story…).

The problem being that our rise, fall, and second coming has seen us never end up in the same division long enough to develop significant rivalries with clubs of equivalent size… Which has led to a series of almost manufactured rivalries developed almost to fill a void. The first was the almost comical Merton derbies with Raynes Park Vale, laughable in that as far as I can make Dons fans seem to make up the majority of Vale’s home crowds anyway.

Moving up the divisions, we missed out on a few local clubs such as Kingstonian and Sutton, long memories saw us briefly face off against historical rivals, the likes of Dulwich and Tooting, but mostly the keenest of contests came against those sides who somehow found an extra few hundred thousand pounds down the back of the sofa (or by not paying their tax bill for a few years), or welcomed in a rich benefactor for a few years until they eventually got bored and wandered off. Yet while the likes of Withdean and Bromley have now been left long behind, we do still have one thorn left sticking in our sides after scrabbling out of the non-league game, the team that came up with us last year…

Its unlikely Dons fans would be giving Crawley a second thought right now if it hadn’t been for a combination of two factors… their convicted criminal manager, and one of the few people in a game that tends to close its eyes and pull the blanket over its head when faced with potential scandal who has actually managed to have been conclusively proved to be a cheat. Then of course are the huge piles of cash that allowed themselves to buy their way into the League to begin with.

That Crawley are disliked by Dons fans is no great surprise… they didn’t exactly romp to victory in the popularity stakes last year in the Conference, and their presence in League Two has already ensured they aren’t exactly being welcomed with open arms up and down the country – hell, they even managed to turn Manchester United into popular favourites for a game last year…

The Dons selling out our allocation for Saturdays game probably isn’t too much of a surprise, what with the size of Kingsmeadow meaning pretty much every game has been a full house so far, what did surprise me was Crawley selling out their section, meaning they’ll actually have more in the ground than they did at their own stadium for an evening game against Wrexham a couple of years ago.

It seems this game has been elevated to rivalry status by the sheer number of times the two sides have faced off over the past couple of years, this being the eighth meeting in that time, and its no surprise the two sets of supporters are getting sick of each other… I’m not exactly salivating at the prospect of Saturdays game, it’s one to get out of the way more than anything, yet victory will be celebrated by all of us in the same manner last seasons comeback win was (Kedwell free this time).

And as for defeat… well it’s not exactly going to be like last week where the result was pretty much forgotten about five minutes after final whistle – it has the potential to be an evening-wrecker, much as losing to Hampton or Bromley was. You see, knowing we’ll probably have left Crawley spluttering in our dusty trail in two or three years time counts for nothing right now, especially if a large group of noisy visitors are left celebrating in the corner as we file away into the evening.

Lets face it, Crawley have done nothing wrong in spunking vast amounts of dubiously acquired cash at quick-fire promotions, they haven’t broken any wage caps, they are paying their bills up front, and as long as the Fat Eyelinered one hasn’t been up to his old manila envelope tricks they deserve to be where they are on merit (unlike certain other new towns we could mention). And yet the nation still seems to be captivated with the side that went up with them via the playoffs… Crawley were almost the forgotten champions.

Football fans love a good news story, and the Dons progress with Brown assembling a young talented side within budget, playing good football, will ensure Crawley remain in our shadow for a while yet. And that must really stick in their throats, you’ll hear it in the songs they sing, the desperation… they know what’s coming in the years to follow and are looking for cheap victories while they can, like Withdean, like Bromley, like Hampton… hate us now, so you’ll remember us when we’re gone…

Tagged , ,

AFC Wimbledon 2 Stevenage 2 (4-3 pens) – A Match Report

I’m going to do the match report a little differently today, which will probably end up with it being longer than recent efforts… all in the name of experimentation… I’m finding the O/S report is far in advance of anything I have the time to put together, so I’ve decided to look for a new angle (match reports won’t always be like this from now on by the way, just trying something different…). So from front to back, our entire line up, plus subs and a quick word on the opposition…

JACK TURNER – I was delighted Jack was getting a start, but his night didn’t exactly begin as we would have hoped… He probably knew he didn’t need to come for the ball that lead to the first goal as soon as he moved, and ended up caught out of position. Still, you would expect to get away with it 99% of the time with your defender favourite to pick up the pieces, extremely hard luck that it ended up cannoning of the forward and dribbling in.

His head could have gone down after this, and if he was the sort of talented keeper many clubs tend to produce who go on to do nothing in the game it probably would. Instead he showed an admirable amount of mental strength to keep not only his concentration, but the Dons in the tie with a number of excellent saves in the first half.

Beyond his impressive (although sometimes a little over eager) distribution, he barely touched the ball in the second half, and could consider himself a little unfortunate to find himself picking Roberts sweet strike out of the net in stoppage time. Still, it gave him the opportunity to be the hero in the shootout, with a couple of great stops. One of the benefits of our involvement in the JPT is extra game time for Jack.

I hope he is an automatic pick for our next JPT game, and fingers crossed later stages of the competition – he deserves it, it can’t be fun and must be extremely frustrating not getting to go out on loan, but he seems to be pretty grounded about it, accepting Seb is the number one for now… Experience such as last night will hopefully ensure if anything happens to Seb in the short to medium term he can step in for him, and he will hopefully develop into his ultimate replacement should our number one go on to bigger and better things.

SAM HATTON – You would expect on occasions such as this your more experienced players would hold things together early on while the squad players feel their way into the game, but the reverse was true as Sam uncharacteristically gifted possession away on two or three occasions during the first half, but as the Dons turned on the gas in the second Hatton was back to his best – solid defensively, and driving forward to assist Jackson down the right.

He dispatched his penalties in an ice cool manner (despite some rather obvious attempts at delaying from the Stevenage keeper Julian for the first), and as Midson was on the field when the first was given, the question must be asked… is he our new penalty taker, or was this just to get him off the mark? If it’s the former, we probably couldn’t ask for a more reliable taker.

CHRIS BUSH – You get the impression Bush was going to play anyway, but his appearance held added importance as it looks like he’ll be filling in for Gwillim for a little while yet. Like Hatton very solid defensively, unlike Hatton he has a bit of pace about him when he gets forward, even if the final ball isn’t always there just yet. A run of starts is just what he needs at the moment, and who knows, if it goes well he might not just be filling in for Gwillim after all…

SAMMY MOORE – A forty-five minute cameo from Mr Consistency Moore, who held things together in midfield, wasn’t afraid to put in a few crunching challenges, and was generally neat in everything he did. His half time withdrawal was more than likely preplanned, and testament to the amount of work he’s put in that he was given a rest.

BRETT JOHNSON – Extremely unfortunate that his attempts at intervention lead to the opening goal, Johnson dealt with a very direct opposition very well. Dominant in the air, calm and in control with ball at feet, a return to form will be very welcome should Brown elect not to extend McNaughton’s loan spell.

CALLUM MCNAUGHTON – Very much a player in the mould Terry Brown is looking for, McNaughton put in the sort of performance that makes you wish we could hold onto him for a little longer, at least until Mitchel-King resumes fitness (cue the more cynical readers out there assuming I’m calling for him to stay all season…). Another that made way at half time but was this for fitness reasons or an experiment to see how our next player fared at centre half?…

LEE MINSHULL – A game of two halves for Lee, equalled an impressive performance all round. Solid in midfield and always looking to drive forward, looking more and more comfortable both in possession and distributing the ball. While his immediate future probably lies in midfield after recent stellar performances, it was great to see him step back into the defensive line and perform as well, if not better than during the first half. Plus the cherry on the cake… the guy can take a penalty! Probably way down the pecking order for League games, but progress in this tournament could come down to more shootouts, so nice to see he’s another we can rely on.

RAHID YUSSUFF – Sometimes Toks puts in a performance thats so tidy, amid his neat link play you barely notice he’s there. Last night I can’t remember him giving the ball away, and his night should be remembered for his neat finish for what should have been the winner rather than his Kaid Mohamed impression in the shoot out.

JACK MIDSON – Worked hard once more holding together an untried forward line, exemplified by teeing up Yussuff for the second. While some of our squad looked a little rusty to begin with, Midson started the season strongly and has kept his performance level high ever since.

JAMES MULLEY – Another player badly in need of ninety minutes, and Mulley didn’t disappoint with a performance that suggests there is plenty more to come from him. Playing the link role that Luke Moore has filled recently, Mulley looked especially impressive in the second half, holding the ball with ease and looking strong against a tiring opposition.

RYAN JACKSON – Perhaps the player who had the most question marks hanging over him prior to kick off, Jackson only had an erratic cameo at Aldershot under his belt so far this season. The Dons game plan in the first half involved hitting big cross field passes over the Stevenage left backs head for Ryan to run onto, with varying degrees of success. Still, fairly stop-start until the second half, when he started combining with Hatton down the right flank, and running at defenders with the ball at his feet.

His persistence won the penalty that tied the scores early in the second half, and was one of a few players guilty of missing decent chances to wrap up the tie in the second period… the only issue being rather than his well saved drive he would probably have been better off cutting back for Ademeno in a better position. Still, hindsight is a wonderful tool, and one Dons fans put into use approximately one minute later when the ball found its way into our own net…

MAX PORTER – On at half time, his introduction changed the game. An energetic performance saw him popping up all over the field winning possession, the difference between struggling to find a foothold in the first half and dominating the second. After a shaky start, Porter is starting to find his feet back in League Two at a time when pretty much all the Dons midfield are in form, unfortunate, but his time will come.

RICKY WELLARD – Again, just what the Dons needed in the second half, providing an outlet and moving the ball on sensibly. Another Wimbledon midfielder probably unfortunate not to be commanding a starting spot in the League at the moment, but what a great problem to have.

CHARLIE ADEMENO – For a smaller player, Ademeno constantly amazes me with his ability to hold the ball up. Frequently got the better of a much taller defender purely down to his ability to get himself between him and a dropping ball… and once in possession Stevenage found it difficult to get the ball off him. The guy is an absolute bull, just pure muscle, and it was great to see him get some game time. Obviously his injury history makes you wonder whether we’ll ever see the best of him, but if he even gets close we’ll have some player on our hands.

OVERALL – Decent first half showing perhaps lacking in the final third, the Dons turned things around in the second, giving a strong Stevenage side the run around. Missed chances meant the scoreline could, and probably should, have been convincing at the end, but holding a single goal lead is always dangerous no matter how dominant you’ve been. Having said that, no harm done, the victory was ultimately earned thanks to some cool penalties.

Stevenage didn’t disappoint, very well organised to start with, but this being lower league football they lost a little shape as the game went on and the Dons were able to exploit that. They obviously set out to unsettle the Dons by putting in a few questionable challenges early on, and when the referee somehow failed to show any cards just continued in the same vein.

As for our progression in the JPT, well we won through with an experimental side, but as to how seriously we’ll be taking the area quarter-final, it depends on the draw and the injury situation at the time. Progression in this tournament seems to hang on that element of luck, yet regardless of selection if we perform like we did last night we’ll have a chance of doing quite well…

Tagged

Stevenage JPT Second Round Preview

I remember the days when these minor cup competitions held a strange attraction to the young Anonymous Don. Way back when a trip to watch Wimbledon actually meant crossing the A3 and heading into the town that bears our name, I was reliant on my dad to take me to games. I’d heard of the Full Members Cup, that went on to become the Simod Cup, that went on to become something called the Zenith Data Systems Trophy… in fact I’d been to Wembley to see the Chelsea-Man City final a few years previously (which my juvenile mind seems to remember finished 5-4 to someone…).

Yet despite seeing the Dons in FA Cup and League Cup action, friendly and West London Cup games against Fulham (which might have been one and the same thing…), even a weird mid-season fixture against HJK Helsinki which we won 3-0 (again, this seems extremely unlikely, I wouldn’t believe it myself if I didn’t have the programme). But I’d yet to see us feature in this strange tournament – not surprising seeing as though we rarely troubled the later rounds.

And therefore I yearned to tick that box. One night, I got my chance. The visit of Ipswich brought with it a visit from one or both of my Town supporting cousins (again – bit hazy on the detail), and we attended more as a family meet up than anything else. Naturally the Dons lost, which was the way whenever we played them, but the cold evening air, the floodlights, the empty terraces… I was hooked.

Since then I’ve got them all under my belt… From the Intertoto Cup to the Cherry Red Books Trophy, I (and presumably most, or at least some, of you) have seen them all. With the obvious exception of one – which explains my current excitement at the visit of Stevenage. The Dons have history of sorts in this tournament, in fact we made it to one of the first finals – sadly not played at the national stadium, instead at the home of our opponents was chosen, and a trip to Grimsby saw the Dons fall to defeat. The Dons history in various minor cups would probably be worth a  ‘Short History’ article, if I had the time to prepare and write it (if we stay in the competition beyond tonight I’ll resurrect that for the next round…).

Tonight we welcome Stevenage, slightly unfortunate that we find ourselves up against semi-regular opponents over the last couple of years, a chance for us to avenge our FA Cup defeat last year or very least actually score a goal against them for a change. Stevenage have a pretty poor rep among some lower division fans and Dons fans in particular… without wanting to offend anyone who might be harbouring dislike of them, I’ve always presumed this was mere jealousy of seeing a smaller club doing well. My article on them during the summer outlined my personal view but if you can’t be bothered to read all that, basically good luck to them. They’ve got a decent enough manager, play to their strengths but nowhere near as crudely as some, but above all else are probably operating slightly above their natural level at the moment. So no need for Dons fans to demonize them (especially when they did us a pretty huge favour last season in their FA Cup first round game…), in ten years time we’ll more than likely find ourselves at the same level or possibly even  above them…

With Brown having named his side in advance, no need for me to guess his starting lineup this time around. Instead I’ll try guessing the crowd. Not naming you all, that’s probably taking it too far, but in terms of numbers I’ll stick my neck out with 1611…

Tagged ,

AFC Wimbledon 3 Gillingham 1 – A Match Report

He scores with his left. He scores with his right. That boy Jack Midson makes Kedwell check his bank balance and at least be assured he can pay off his mortgage. It wasn’t our former skipper, or his team mates day, kept very quite by the Dons defense. Although to be honest this was more a case of the Dons having a particularly good day while catching the visitors on a bad one… we’re fourth at the moment, and loving it, but an ordinary looking Gills side still had enough about them to cause us a few problems in the second half, albeit at 0-3 down.

Had it not been for that clinical early spell this could have been a much harder game than it turned out to be – seasoned Dons fans were left biting their fingernails after a well taken Lee goal half way through the second period threatened a Gills comeback. But as the Dons were forced further and further back, that goal proved mere consolation as the at times desperately defending Dons held on. In fact the home side could have extended their lead on a couple of occasions, Jolley leading pacy counter attacks looking for either the repeat performance of his Port Vale goal (which you would guess is going to work for him sometime or another), or someone to get on the end of one of his crosses (again, were hit into decent areas, but his fellow forwards have great difficulty catching him when he’s in full flight…).

Actually it was a bit of a surreal day all round. This hot spell we’re having made it seem more like I was heading off to a pre-season game… only the full house when I got there convinced me otherwise. It was a little hot and sticky in the terraces to say the least, not that I’m moaning about that – we’ll be shivering away in a couple of weeks. And we certainly caught Gillingham cold (hmmm…) with a red-hot start (hmmm… again…).

You could probably question Gillingham’s defending for the three goals, but then again if you scrutinise every goal scored in this division you’ll find somewhere the conceding side could have tightened up in 95% of them. The first Dons goal was just unfortunate, a big Dons punt up field, the visiting defender just slipped… yet you have to take advantage of such fortune, not something Dons teams have exploited in the past.

The second arrived just two minutes later, Hatton delivering a low cross from the right that Jolley just wanted more to double the lead, much to the home supporters surprise. It was probably inevitable on this particular day that Jack Midson would find his way onto the score sheet, and when the goal arrived in the twenty-second minute it was a bit of a Wimbledonesque disaster for the Gills defence. They looked like they had dealt with Christian Jolley, who looked more likely to fall over himself than cause the visitors any problems. Yet a panicky stab goalwards found Midson, who was never likely to miss.

Wimbledon being Wimbledon the only danger of holding a 3-0 lead with pretty much seventy minutes of the game remaining is our leaky defence might throw it away, but they’ve improved considerably in recent weeks and were unfortunate not to go on and keep a clean sheet. Gillingham might have had more luck if they hadn’t left it until the second half to add playing some football to a game plan that had previously only involved trying to rough up the Dons players. Their front men barely had a sniff – the aforementioned Kedwell looked a shadow of the man who was destroying Conference defences on the same ground twelve months previously, and I only realised Nouble was on the pitch when he somehow stayed on the pitch after slapping Seb Brown to the floor ten minutes into the second half.

Gillingham’s goal was the best of the game, Lee picking up the pieces and guiding the ball into the top left corner from the edge of the area, and the fear was the home side would fall apart. A second goal would have been crucial, but the home defence stood firm, held together by our new skipper playing like a man possessed. Despite some inconsistent defensive performances as a unit, Jamie Stuart has been in form this season, the master of the last ditch interception, and although he didn’t perform his party trick of a knee-high headed clearance, he did just about everything else.

That’s three wins in a row for the Dons, and although you still get the impression of the two sides on the field yesterday the visitors are more likely to be in the promotion picture come May, we’re doing fine. October is a tricky month for us, so the more points we can put on the board early the better, if we find ourselves still in the top half of the table going into November we’ll have done very well indeed.

Tagged

Gillingham Preview

So yesterdays ode to Kedwell means I’m all Dannyed out right now, its time to concentrate on tomorrows actual game rather than what sort of reception the great man will get. Although interestingly Keds himself seems unsure of what sort of welcome he’s going to get – proof if anything that not only do players take note of what is said on social networks and message boards, but negative comments have a habit of overwhelming the majority of well wishers looking forward to his return. Fortunately the minority who want to boo him (without wanting to demonize them – they have every right to express the disappointment we all partly share) should be overwhelmingly drowned out by those of us looking forward to thanking him for his contribution to our amazing story. That is until 3PM, when we’ll join together to remind the fat pikey he should have stayed at the big club…

One thing I do want to say before I move on to the preview itself is this story where Danny promises not to celebrate any Gillingham goals… and I have to say I don’t really agree with this type of taking respect way too far that is creeping into the modern game. Goals are the most glorious part of the game, what strikers live for, yet even the most prolific will only get to feel that moment of elation twenty or so times a year. If Kedwell repeated his effort at Luton a couple of years ago tomorrow, I wouldn’t expect him to hold back his celebrations for my benefit – as long as he isn’t baring his arse to the Tempest I’d probably be too caught up with the shock of conceding a goal to notice. Still, a nice sentiment, says a lot about the man, but Danny – what makes you think Gillingham are going to score anyway?!

The Gills management team of Andy Hessenthaler and Nicky Southall seem to be building their visit up as a trip to play the Crazy Gang circa 1986 in downtown Basra, rather than a side who has the potential of laying out the welcome mat (despite recent improvements, we all know they still have it in them), combined with an atmosphere – despite the best efforts of the Tempest and a handful in the KRE and JSS – that more often than not barely reaches simmering. Those 750 Gillingham fans might make a lot of noise, sadly the away enclosure seems to act as some kind of sound bubble, so they’ll only be heard by anyone wandering within a twenty yard radius of them.

Kedwells return has brought the prospect of a Kedwell/Stuart battle, the sort of clash that you would expect more often than not would result in at least one of them picking up a card of some colour, had they not apparently been quite good mates who were still in regular contact with each other. Yet another intriguing battle could be taking place alongside, with Callum McNaughton taking on West Ham team-mate Frank Nouble. With McNaughton looking as though his loan may not be extended, this could be his last appearance at TCRRFSKM for a while, and hopefully he’ll want to go out by keeping his fellow Hammer quiet.

Another player facing his former club is Rashid Yussuff, not that he had much of a Gillingham career, by all accounts he wasn’t exactly highly regarded in his eight appearances. Yet he’s had a full season in a Dons shirt, and is starting to look better and better, to the point he is becoming the sort of player who can run games. He still has the odd stinker as shown against Aldershot, still very much a work in progress – like the team – but could go on to be a leading midfielder in the lower division.

All this talk of former players coming up against their old side, friends and team mates squaring off has disguised the fact we’re looking at an early season top of the table clash. Now we’ve passed the ten game point we can look at the League table as some kind of guide to strength – it’s still nowhere near accurate, and won’t be until nearer Christmas, but the Dons sit seventh on merit. I always like to judge which game is the ‘biggest’ in each division by adding the positions of each team and seeing which fixture has the lowest sum… and we aren’t quite game of the week material, Southend-Shrewsbury comes in at a meagre five.

Yet it’s another of those moments when I catch myself wondering how the hell we got to a position where we’re facing off against Gillingham in a ‘promotion’ clash. We might not find ourselves troubling the top seven for much longer, so lets enjoy it while it lasts. And hell, I haven’t even thought of what I might do if we actually win tomorrow, which is probably more likely than a few of us are allowing ourselves to believe.

Tagged , , ,

News Roundup 26/9/11

Starting the week, a news roundup to kick off a hopefully more productive seven days for The Anonymous Don… apart from this, there’ll hopefully be an ode to our former captain as well as the preview and match report. On the subject of previews, an apology for failing to come up with any offerings for Cheltenham and Bradford. I know the majority of you like the previews, as opposed to the match ‘reports’ or aimless guff like this.

To be honest, the previews are normally the first to fall foul of any squeeze in free time I have, normally being written on a Thursday or Friday night… those days being the most likely I’ll be sidetracked by attempts at having a social life. Having said that, I’m having a real problem coming up with match reports for games I know I won’t be able to attend, and Bradford certainly fell into that bracket.

What a game to miss! Despite the League table telling us we’ve actually won more games away from home so far, I still get the impression victories on the road will be, if not quite rare, then a special occurence. A credit card balance the size of which would make most small countries spit out their morning coffee unfortunately requires immediate attention, and is interfering with my away game attendance, and consequently this blog. Still, no problem attending home games, as we welcome the Gills on Saturday.

The return of our former skipper makes this an ‘occasion’ worthy of build up, and I’m sure the majority of us look forward to giving him a warm welcome back – a quick chant of his name before kick off, followed by Mo-style applause as he’s dragged off by the opposing manager in the 55th minute, wondering why he ever left the place to begin with. The urge to see Keds fall flat on his face in embarrassing style only begins once the whistle blows, and extends until either the final whistle or the Dons have wrapped the game up – whichever comes first. Outside of that period where supporting our team becomes a priority, here’s hoping Kedwell gets a good reception from the Dons fans – he’s certainly earned it.

While tickets remain on sale, the club have been forced to close internet sales after Gillingham sold their allocation… which is unfortunate, but left us with very little choice. The game would have ended up being a Bristol Rovers-style casual sell out, as ditherers realised there were still tickets remaining in the days leading up to the fixture, but now I get the impression we might not sell out at all – we miss out on the casual crowd who like to walk up and pay on the day, and that’s something we can’t really do anything about until we have the capacity to deal with games such as this. Which we probably won’t have until we find ourselves in a new stadium…