Category Archives: General

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.

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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…

New Poll: Where Will The Dons Finish Next Season

With less than a week to go before the Dons kick off a new campaign in League Two. it’s time for a new poll to kickstart a week of buildup…

Closing date on Friday, its pretty self-explanatory… results will be announced/discussed in Friday’s match preview.

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The Anonymous Don’s Summer Squad Review Part II – Defence

Continuing my look at the current Dons squad, Terry Brown has built his Dons sides from the solid base of an experienced central defensive partnership, with youthful promise waiting in the wings…

CHRIS BUSH

Coming in on loan last season to cover the failed experiment that was Andre Blackman, Bush reminded us what a promising full back should be all about. Obviously raw, bursting with potential, showing no signs of being overawed by playing first team football… the only problem being he wasn’t actually ours. Fortunately we were able to work out a deal with Brentford to secure his services, over joining their development squad, this sort of deal just outlines the way forward for our club over the short and medium term.

Signings such as Bush point the way forward for the club in the short and medium term, unable to fill our squad with a balance of experience, we have to rely on guys just starting their careers. There are obvious negatives in relying on youth, but the benefit is we can at least attract the very best of those who feel they won’t find regular football at bigger clubs.

From Bush’s point of view, immediate first team opportunities are available either battling it out with Gareth Gwillim for the left back slot or providing cover in his prefered position in the centre. Bush will presumably have ambitions to play at a higher level at some point in his career, but for now the competition for places will do him no harm…

FRASER FRANKS

Given the opportunity, TB admitted he would happily have kept both Fraser and Ed Harris, but finances dictated it was always going to be one or the other. The shootout between the pair actually began in pre-season, where it looked as though it was a case only one would be offered a deal, though fortunately both were kept on at the time. The problem we had having two young defensive prospects was I found myself judging them against each other, rather on their own merits to the team.

Ultimately when Ed Harris found himself shipped out on loan the writing was on the wall, regardless of Fraser’s unfortunate injury towards the end of the season which will curtail his involvement in the early stages of this season, particularly when promotion was achieved. In Fraser we have not just another decent prospect but a player that shows intelligence on the field that belies his age.

No better example was shown when the Dons found themselves without a left back for the rearranged home game with Luton. I doubt Fraser had much experience of playing in this position (although he can and has filled in on the right), yet faced with one of the strongest and most experienced attacking forces in the division he held up extremely well.

Going into the new season, and once he gets his fitness back, Fraser will find himself behind the three more experienced centre halves in the squad, yet with a 46 game season approaching, injuries and suspensions will play a part in gaining plenty of experience. Come the end of the Dons first season back in the League, providing he progresses, he might even find himself challenging for a starting place on merit.

GARETH GWILLIM

Joining in January last year to provide cover for the left back role following the departure of Chris Bush. That we now have both of them at the club is a massive bonus in what was something of a problem position last term. As you would expect from a fullback who has spent the majority of his career in non-league football, Gwillim is a tough tackling, solid defender, something the Dons needed as they pushed towards the finish line.

On arrival some supporters, used to left backs such as Bush and Hussey before him, questioned whether he supported us enough going forward, but what we lost going forward Gwillim more than made up for defensively. Perhaps the best example of the battling qualities that will serve us well in League Two next year were shown by battling through the pain barrier against Fleetwood and in the final at Eastlands, after picking up a nasty knock in the first leg at Highbury.

Given a second chance at League football, you would expect Gwillim will find himself given more opportunities than with Dagenham in League One last term. Even more unusually, he held the distinction of being one of the few full-time footballers to hold down a job outside football, working as a contractor for London Underground overnight. This is a different solution to the problem that TB has mentioned that senior players have difficulty supporting a family on the money we pay, but probably not an example I would expect to see too many players follow…

SAM HATTON

Now the Dons longest-serving player, its easy to forget Sam is still so young. Originally arriving at the club as a midfielder, his switch to fullback was a bonus, and from Sam’s perspective has allowed him to go on and rack up more appearances in a Dons shirt than anyone else in the AFC era. Sam probably would have gone on to have a decent career in midfield outside the Football League, perhaps suffering the same problem Ricky Wellard had in stamping his influence on the team.

Yet a full back he now is, and a very good one at that. Drawing comparisons with Chris Hussey is how all AFCW fullbacks will be rated for the foreseeable future, and Sam is a slightly different sort of player. Still as keen to get forward but without the lightning pace, yet probably a better defender, either way he could go on to set the standard himself… now Kedwell and Gregory have departed, given a decent first season at this level we might find clubs in the higher division knocking our door down for Sam’s signature.

BRETT JOHNSON

Having said Sam Hatton might be a top transfer target for clubs next summer, I have to admit I have no idea what Brett Johnson was doing playing in the Conference for two seasons for us. By reaching the Football League he is back in what should be his natural environment, and he probably would have led the exodus of player such as Hatton and Brown along with the two that did leave us should we not have managed to win promotion this year.

Brett was probably the best defender outside the Football League last year, his calm, experienced performances at the back alongside Yakubu were the foundations on which our promotion campaign were built. Yet Brett is so accomplished you can often forget he’s there – as I did when compiling my captaincy poll. With Brett subsequently named vice captain for the season, there is a fair chance we could see him lead the side in Jamie Stuart’s absence. Captain or not, Brett is a key player and our performance next season could well depend on his form.

MAT MITCHEL-KING

I’ll keep it short as far as Mat is concerned as he is a player we know little of. The fact he contracted glandular fever so shortly after joining the club, coupled with his unfortunate injury record, suggest he’s not the luckiest guy in the world, but TB must rate him quite highly… I initially questioned the decision to sign him over Yakubu for next season, but with Brown confirming Yak couldn’t keep up with the training schedule a replacement was required. Here’s hoping mat is back training asap so we can see what he’s made of.

JAMIE STUART

The signing of Jamie during the January window was inspired. When battling for promotion, you can’t get enough leaders on the field, and Jamie Stuart is the sort of character who would at least attempt to run through a wall if asked. Not really too many surprises over the decision to name him as captain. His arrival gave us real strength in-depth defensively; yet this means Jamie will have a fight on his hands for the shirt.

Mat Mitchel-Kings unfortunate illness means he should start the season, but our defensive partnership will be aware any lapse in form could see them sitting on the sidelines. Yet Brown’s decision to name him as captain will probably put any short-term doubts over his first team place to rest for now.

 

 

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Quick Poll – Who Should Skipper The Dons Next Season?

With TB hinting the decision as to who will captain the Dons next season will be made shortly, I’ve decided to run a quick poll…

Poll will remain open until TB announces his decision…

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Departures

Saying goodbye can be hard sometimes. The recent Jon Main tribute was hard to write (if you missed it you can catch up here), but even that didn’t reach the level of a post that has been read more than any other in the short history of the Anonymous Don, my farewell to Jason Goodliffe two years ago, an epic of an homage that bordered the homoerotic in places, and the writing of which took days due to my spontaneously bursting into tears at random. It never got to the stage where I asked Mrs AD to wear a Goodliffe mask though. I mean, I thought of it, who wouldn’t…

Then again saying farewell can sometimes be quite easy. For example, did any of us really notice when Andre Blackman slipped through the back door? While he certainly doesn’t fall into the Andre category, Delano Sam-Yorke never made an impact on the first team, despite doing well on loan at Basingstoke (and being enough of a threat we refused them permission to play him upon drawing the Hampshire side in the FA Cup). He certainly shone in pre-season, I can understand why Terry signed him, but with hindsight we might have noticed he wasn’t our sort of player after his Bromley impression at Corinthian-Casuals during pre-season…

As was commented after Max Porter signed, Mark Nwokeji was the last long-term target TB eventually got his hands on, and it certainly couldn’t have helped that he was effectively dropping a couple of divisions to join. Perhaps if he had come to us directly from Staines he might have made an impact… we love small, pacy strikers, we do… he could have been another Roscoe… Injuries didn’t help his cause, and as Jonny Main found his chances blocked by in form Christian Jolley. so Nwokeji couldn’t find a way past an emerging Ryan Jackson. Even when Jacksons form dropped off, Nwokeji found Luke Moore ahead of him and playing like a man possessed – and from March onwards the writing seemed to be on the wall for him.

It was the back four that saw the biggest surprises on the departure front. During pre-season Fraser Franks and Ed Harris performed so well they almost bound TB to sign both or neither. The latter was never an option, and the pair seemed inseparable form-wise in the early stages. Much has been made retrospectively of Harris performance in the FA Trophy defeat to Woking, while Harris didn’t exactly cover himself in glory that day, neither was it the stand out poor performance in what was a woeful team display. Harris is a player of great potential, Football League potential… and, yet, that may have been his undoing, with Brown looking to fill that squad place with a more immediate prospect. You almost get the impression TB had decided to only take one of the two with him if the Dons made it through the playoffs, if that was the case Harris has lost out to a slightly better man in Franks.

Harris must have been a difficult conversation for Brown, but not as difficult as having to break the bad news to Ismail Yakubu. Yak fell foul of his inability to play twice a week on a regular basis (something bemoaned by TB during more than one post match press conference…), Beyond his injury issues, Yakubu ticked all the boxes Brown would look for in a centre half, besides being physically imposing in both penalty areas, Yak was technically gifted with the ball at feet, and when he was on the pitch he seldom put a foot wrong. In fact, I can only remember one error, nodding into the side netting with goal gaping and clock ticking at Eastlands. Even that was probably a more difficult chance than the replay I’m currently viewing in my mind’s eye, and was ultimately dwarfed by his confident penalty that set the stage for Keds to blast us back where we belong.

Like Harris, I can understand Browns decision (in spite of being disappointed by it), Football League status will allow us to bring in someone at least equally talented that can play week in, week out… a case of lightning striking twice for Yak after Barnet came to a similar conclusion last summer. Ultimately I personally felt we could give it a go with our five current centre halves, and yes, we probably could, Fortunately we are led by a man who isn’t afraid to make big decisions to take our football club forward. I have confidence the new blood he will bring in to replace them will make us stronger. And yet, I’m still interested in where all of those guys will end up next season. Yakubu has already been in discussions with Fleetwood (perhaps unfortunate that if he can’t find a League side willing to take a chance on him, there aren’t too many southern sides that will be challenging for the Conference next season…). One or two of them could come back and haunt us at some point in the future…

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Confirmed

So its done… the Dons are mathematically assured of taking part in the end of season madness that is the playoffs, and are all but assured of a top three place as well – unless Wrexham start racking up double figure victories, in which case a point will do it.

A comfortable victory it was too. The Dons were never in trouble in a game that effectively turned into a training exercise. Beyond the obvious bonus of not picking up any injuries, we also welcomed back Christian Jolley following his magic sugar injection (or whatever it is…), and Luke Moore rediscovered his goalscoring touch. All in all, a good day… We can only hope our remaining three games are as sedentary as this one sounded…

The playoffs are starting to take shape now, with the Dons six points clear of Luton, still requiring seven points to guarantee second place but in reality probably only need to take four to be sure once Lutons stuttering form has been taken into account. Luton play Histon and Eastbourne before finishing against Wrexham, which should at least ensure they pick up enough points to stay ahead of the Welsh side. Before that they face a tricky trip to York, who pretty much need to win to stand any chance of hauling themselves into fifth place.

Kidderminster face a distracted Wembley-bound Darlington side on Tuesday night, victory will set up their big game on Friday against Fleetwood – a match which could go a long way to deciding who the Dons face in the semi final. I’ve already admitted Kidderminster will offer my best chance of actually making it to the first leg… I think the selfish reasons for my desire to see them qualify could backfire – I might not even get the afternoon off for a start… And we know whoever we face will provide a stern test.

The next couple of weeks are going to be a bit weird, I’m sure most of our attentions will be on who is going to join us and confirmation of who we will play and when. I don’t know about you but as far as I’m concerned the playoffs can’t come quickly enough. Before then, there are four games in the next two weeks to look forward to, starting on Tuesday when a combination of young reserves and first teamers in need of game time take on Hendon in the LSC…

The Greatest Trick The Devil Ever Pulled Was Convincing Wimbledon They Had A Chance Of Winning The Title

Lets face it, if we weren’t going to win the league, the slow realisation from January to early March that it’s not going to happen beats the gut wrenching final day disappointment every time. We still face the prospect of gut wrenching disappointment in the playoffs, so all you masochists won’t go unsatisfied. Unless we actually go on and win the playoffs, in which case I recommend self-flagellation whilst repeatedly watching the DVD of our 2008 home defeat to Boreham Wood.

Yes, it is highly likely Crawley will have overhauled us in the table by the time I’ve finished picking bits of pancake off the ceiling, and with a mere five games still in hand over us… you would have to be an optimist of the highest order to believe the Dons can pull this one back, that or Nurse is currently on hand to administer the smelling salts. The exception would be if you happened to be a Dons player, stand up Seb Brown. Quite right too, while we can draw a line under the title race as fans – partly to avoid additional pain and loss of face in what appears to be a lost battle.

Yet there’s still a little voice in the back of my mind telling me ‘hang on, if they lose tonight and on Saturday, then we beat Kidderminster, then Hayes do us a favour on Tuesday and we go there on the Friday night and win we’ll be seven points clear and they’ll only have four games in hand…’. Even now, while writing that in an effort to illustrate how ludicrous it would sound, the irrational football supporter side of my brain is finding that a likely scenario. Someone strap me down…

If we do drop to second place I’m hoping to see a big reaction from our players… Yes, at the start of the season, we would all have been delighted with a top five finish, but the form we have shown so far means I can’t possibly see a situation where limping into the playoffs and crashing out in the semi-final would lead to supporters slapping players backs and saying ‘never mind, at least you tried…’. The bar has been raised. We aren’t going to win the title, and I’m not expecting us to win every game, but we do have a favourable schedule from now until the end of the season. With Luton’s fixtures all over the place thanks to their progress in the Trophy, I expect us to battle them all the way for second…

Next Friday is still a massive game, illustrated by the speed at which tickets sold out earlier today. In situations like this we normally find enough people give up without trying to ensure everybody who really wants a ticket will get one, but not today. You get the impression even if we had been given a ‘normal’ allocation tickets would have shifted pretty quickly. I don’t blame Crawley for ensuring as many of their own fans make it to the game as possible, it’s what we would have done. Plus they have given Luton the same allocation, this isn’t an anti-Dons thing, and I doubt any other sides in their run in will come close to taking up that allocation.

Yet I wouldn’t be doing this blog its dues if I didn’t get a sly dig in… the 4000 crowds who turned up to see Crawley pip Weymouth to the Southern League title seemed to forget their town had a football team for five years until they conveniently drew Manchester United in the Cup. Plus they seem to have already lost a thousand off the gate over the course of a week or so…

Before then Saturday gives us an equally tough encounter against a Kidderminster side currently occupying the final playoff place. They could show us exactly how tough they are by making a mockery of this post and beating Crawley this evening. Even with a free week injuries look like taking their toll, and if we are going to finish strongly and give ourselves the best possible chance of winning promotion through the playoffs a couple of the new arrivals need to find some form and start contributing. 

Things aren’t quite as bad as last year. Mulley has come in and been a huge positive, especially in the absence of Sammy Moore, and Jamie Stuart has been immense. Yet if Kirk Hudson is the answer, I don’t want to know what the question was. And no-one is expecting Gareth Gwillim to be the new Chris Hussey but it’ll be nice if he could put a decent cross in now and again without pausing for an eternity to weigh up all options. And as for Drewe Broughton, I thought he was being brought in to take the pressure of Kedwell, not partner him? Questions remain over those three, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – chances are a couple of them will come good for us over the next seven weeks or so… or is that wishful thinking? We’ll find out the answer to that question and a whole lot more by the last weekend in April…

Its Braintree In The Trophy…

That previously empty looking weekend in your diaries on 11th December can now be inked in with a home game against Braintree, currently sitting second in the BSS. The Dons have had a little difficulty overcoming sides from this division in FA competitions so far this season, and it will be interesting to see just how seriously Brown decides to take this competition. From a fans perspective though, and lets not be ashamed to be a little greedy here, it is the first step on what will be our only chance of reaching Wembley this season.

One positive about the timing of the game is currently we have a clear week after our game at York behind it and a clear week ahead to Wrexham, this could change if we require a replay following Saturdays game. There’s no doubt Brown will field the strongest side possible, but in a week that has seen key players rested after reaching the point of exhaustion the temptation will be there to give certain players a week off. If the game takes place a few days after a tough FA Cup replay, the decision to field a weakened side could be taken out of his hands.

I suppose how competitive we will be will depend on whether Brown manages to bolster his squad. With a few thousand swirling around in the coffers thanks to the TV money from the cup run, Brown mentioned keeping tabs on another target man to take the pressure off Danny Kedwell in Sundays programme notes, as well as the possibility of bringing in a defender on loan in his post match press conference. At the moment, with Johnson’s injury and Yakubu’s inability to play two games in a week, we are effectively down to two and a half centre halves for our two biggest games of the season, meaning the talented but young Harris and Franks will pair up for either the Stevenage or (more likely) Luton games.

As for Braintree themselves, they seem more than capable of pulling off an upset even if the Dons go full strength. Despite being something of a cliché that all you want in a cup draw is a side from a lower division at home, you would almost have preferred a home tie against the likes of Hayes or Bath than a side near the top of their division and firing on all cylinders.

Having said that, the draw could have been worse. We avoided Crawley, Luton… even the likes of Cambridge would have given us a decent game. This tie is winnable. Questions about the strength of side we should field can wait, the way players seem to be dropping like flies at the moment suggests if things get any worse in the next couple of weeks we may not have too much of a squad to select a side from…

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