Category Archives: General

The Unadventurously Titled Alty Review

Continuing our game of leapfrog with Crawley, the Dons beat Altrincham 2-0 to go top of the league once more. The win was mainly thanks to a brace from Danny Kedwell, finding his scoring boots just when I was starting to worry his gran might have thrown them out with the rubbish. Just reward indeed after a tough start to the week for Dons fans.

Of course I wasn’t at the game, Altrincham have been poor this season and a win was expected, but I’m sure all Dons fans will be hoping we have turned the corner after what has seemed like months of dire performances – in fact before last nights game our winless run in the BSP stretched back all of, erm, one game. Yet amid FA Cup scraps we haven’t been playing well at all of late, and its only natural as supporters we look for any tenuous sign that the corner might have been turned.

For obvious and unavoidable reasons the FA Cup is going to be a much bigger distraction than we would have liked, at least for the next week or so. But Saturdays game at Barrow gives us another chance to visit a side struggling at the bottom – you sense Barrow will be a different proposition, but three points are still there for the taking, a victory will be huge before we face the cameras once more at Ebbsfleet.

For now though, I want to talk about news from last nights game – Kedwells return to scoring form is obviously a major boost, but equally so was Jon Main’s return to the first team. The forward line has looked a little tired of late, Jackson and Jolley have done nothing wrong but we seem to be a little over reliant on them, which causes problems when Jolley isn’t on the pitch and Jackson isn’t performing – as per Saturday.

You wonder how Brown will line them up at Barrow, will Main continue to hold his place while Jolley kicks his heels in the stands? It’s a cliché that’s easy to trot out on demand when a forward isn’t playing well, but he just needs a goal to get the confidence flowing, then we’ll see him running past men and raining shots in, operating down the channel just off Kedwell as opposed to Jolley’s naturally wide position. It for this reason that Kedwell was pleased Main returned last night, or as he says in the local Guardian “When you have another striker up there with you it makes a massive difference.”

Plus if Brown is going to revert to 442 at any stage this season, Main is the obvious choice to partner the skipper. Don’t get me wrong, the 433 has been by and large a massive success, and I’m still not sure we’ve really been ‘found out’ beyond those who have stuck five in midfield with fingers crossed. Because of this it seems unlikely we will return to 442 on a permanent basis, particularly when this will involve removing a man from midfield at a time when the midfield already looks a little lightweight. It relies on the wide players, previously let off the leash, having to tuck in from time to time, or even worse removing them from the equation completely and playing orthodox midfielders in the wide positions. Yet 442 will mean a return to Jon Main playing in his favoured position, with his prefered strike partner, so in certain circumstances it might help break down what has previously appeared to be a resolutely locked door late in games.

It was also great to hear Lee Minshull returned last night. While not an obvious starter, Minshull at least gives us the option of literally bulking up the midfield, a different sort of midfielder coming back just when it appears we need less snap, more bite. Plus Minshull is the sort of midfielder you feel you can rely on to hit the back of the net. We seem to create an awful lot of chances for our midfielders, chances that we really need to take. Before last nights game, we had notched only two in four… we need to be scoring more as a team when Kedwell isn’t weighing in, as we seem to be relying on him to do it all himself.

There just seems to have been too many efforts like Sammy Moore against Ebbsfleet, when he put his head down and scuffed the ball, straight at a goalkeeper who found himself on his backside before the ball had even been struck. Its infuriating, as it must be for Terry, but not nearly as bad as watching them pass across the edge of the box. It almost got to the stage you were glad to see Blackman blaze well over, because at least it meant someone was prepared to take responsibility, albeit the wrong man at the wrong time.

Anyway, I seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent… I’m getting a few things off my chest I was planning on doing for the Ebbsfleet report until events took a turn for the worse and I put it on hold. Plus now I have fulfilled my contractual obligations by mentioning Andre Blackman it might be time to put this post to bed. Can I just say what a pleasure it has been to simply concentrate on the football for an hour while writing this? I’m looking forward to when the circus leaves town and we can concentrate on whats important once more…

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Pretty Underwhelming Trip

The draw for the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round gave the Dons… a pretty underwhelming trip to Basingstoke. At first I thought ‘Great, it’s a straight shot on the train from Surbiton…’, until I remembered the walk through endless shopping malls, down a seemingly never-ending road and over a major road junction. It’s a good job I’m doing the Minithon, I’m going to need the fitness (or maybe get a cab this time round?).

All things considered, the draw could have been worse – we avoided our Conference rivals, although probability suggested as most of them are based in The North and the draw is still regionalised we would have been unfortunate to pull out a Luton or a Crawley. We also missed out on real potential banana skins, I’m thinking away to Bromley/Chelmsford, Dover or Dartford, places where the locals would turn up in real numbers and make things tough for us. You get the impression that even a disinterested Dons fanbase will more than match the local turnout on the day…

And yet, it could have been better. A home draw against a Ryman League side would have been nice… Basingstoke are the sort of team who can cause problems for us by getting right in our faces and turning the occasion into a Proper Cup Tie. With a sprinkling of Cup Magic we might be on the wrong end of an upset. No fielding weakened sides here – we are going to have to put out a full strength eleven firing on all cylinders to ensure our place in the First Round… even then anything less than full commitment could see us dragged back to Kingsmeadow for a replay… or possibly worse…

Basingstokes home form hasn’t really set the division alight so far with two wins, two defeats and a draw, but as we all know anyone driving down the A339 past the ground best avoid the Form Book, as its going to go flying out the window come kick off time…

Our last visit was quite early in our BSS promotion season – I vaguely remember it should have been a complete hammering, but the Dons ended up holding on for a 1-0 win. My only other recollection was the outside of the ground reminded me vaguely of walking past the old South Stand at Plough Lane, but this may have been because it’s also painted yellow and blue…

There have been a couple of links between the two clubs already this year, although Basingstoke haven’t had much luck with either of them… Ross Montague signed for them over the summer following his release, only to promptly damage his knee ending his season (and lets keep our fingers crossed not his career?). Then last month young striker Delano Sam-Yorke went for a loan spell, but ended up getting sent-off in his first game…

I mentioned yesterday how the FA Cup is quite favourable towards Conference clubs like ourselves… we only need to win this game to get to the First Round and potential windfall (as well as a share of the replays pot). We need a good run this year to keep our name on people’s lips, remind our local public and floating support that we are on the verge of something great… decent FA Cup runs don’t normally result in a long-term growth in league attendances, but every bit of publicity helps… Basingstoke won’t be a walkover but a win should be expected…

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A Little Wrexham Reaction…

I’ve caught up with goings on at the Racecourse Ground yesterday, and I am very pleased with what I have been hearing. After our recent run of good performance/bad performance I was dreading another defeat. Which is exactly what we seemed to be heading towards at half time yesterday. Another poor showing after the spectacular victory at Mansfield, and I’m sorry but potential champions do not lose games the have played poorly in… they win them. So our second half comeback fills me with a great deal of hope.

Dean Saunders didn’t seem very happy, did he? You would think he had been in the game long enough to realise it is goals that win games, not performances. In the past,we have seen AFC Wimbledon teams dominate games and not get their just rewards, so it’s nice for the boot to be on the other foot for a change. Plus if any further justification were needed over the importance of being a full-time professional outfit, it was our greater fitness going into the closing stages… we didn’t need a vote or SGM to decide this, we just needed to do it – and it could be the difference between us stagnating in mid-table with some of last seasons underachievers, or battling for promotion, all season long (hopefully not meekly quitting in March…).

By the way, has anyone read the interview with Sebb Brown in the NLP today? Doesn’t it make you proud, that one of ‘us’ is now regularly lining up for the side as we close in on achieving League status? This blog gave Brown some stick when he first joined the club, to be fair he looked nowhere near good enough in his early pre-season performances… but he’s really worked hard, and while he still has plenty of work to do to become a Football League goalkeeper, I am now one of his biggest fans – and if he can complete that type of turnaround, surely there is nothing in the game he can’t achieve?!!

The next week gives us a much-needed rest until Gateshead on Saturday, when attention diverts to the FA Cup (the Fourth Qualifying Round Draw is on Monday – tune in to this blog for exclusive reaction!). Not the best timing when it seems we could be developing a championship charge, but I am a massive sucker for the FA Cup, and more than any other division we have played in so far, Conference clubs are less hindered… a trip to the Third Round, the Non-League equivalent of winning the thing, only requires a minimum of four games…

Waste Of A Sunday

You may notice there is no Luton report. Sorry about that. I spent a few hours sculpting what was a quite difficult report only for my connection to go just as I tried to publish… losing the entire thing and leaving me banging my head against a wall for not doing what I normally do – write it in Word then copy over…

Naturally I’m too pissed off to write another one, but the time has come for a change as far as this blog is concerned… I’ll be looking to write shorter, punchier articles on a more regular basis, dropping the more traditional match reports for instant reaction to events – or just write whatever I feel like it on slow news days, which is kind of the point of a blog I suppose…

As many of you will now be aware, I will be leaving the country early next year, and it remains to be seen what effect this will have on the blog, just what it is going to mutate into… presumably just me writing ‘What the hells going on over there?’ on a daily basis with the odd Revolution/Phantoms/Bruins/Red Sox report thrown in for good measure.

I’ll be doing a bit of thinking about what form the blog should have in the interim. Until then, some actual football news seems to have broken. The Dons have signed Brentford full-back Chris Bush, who has put in some storming performances on loan at Woking so far this term. The timing could not have been better, with Andre Blackman starting (and finishing) his suspension on Thursday.

 More tomorrow when I can be bothered to get my research proper (and there isn’t a new episode of Spooks on tv…) where undoubtedly I will attempt to write about Bush but end up droning on about Blackman, and the build up to Crawley continues…

Back In Training…

Well the squad have been back in training for a while now. I was talking about me… even us bloggers need to get back in training after an extended summer break watching the World Cup (at home, on my sofa). In truth, I’ll give you the same excuse for not updating the blog as I gave my employers for not turning up at work for the last month… I had malaria. Yeah they laughed at the time, but it’s getting pretty popular now, isn’t it?

No seriously, I moved house again. This time I’m the other side of Dorking, so no more leisurely strolls down the road to Kingsmeadow for me next season. I’ll find out why those stay away far-flung fans from the early rounds of the Senior Cups really can’t be bothered to make the journey, oh yes…

While this World Cup hasn’t really set the hearts fluttering, I’ve found myself gaining a new-found appreciation of Uruguay. The first World Cup holders and two times winners might have crashed out to the Dutch yesterday, but with only 3.5 million inhabitants they must have catapulted themselves to the top of the man-for-man greatest football nation on Earth list…

Still, you can only take a month or so of these World festival of football gatherings… nice of them to overlap slightly with our pre-season campaign though? And don’t get me wrong, whats going on at our beloved AFC Wimbledon right now is history, happening right in front of our eyes. It’s no exaggeration to say this is THE most important pre-season in our history, with the obvious exception of that one year where we had to start the whole club up again from scratch…

We’re hearing all the right noises coming out of the club right now. Fitness levels are apparently ‘astonishing’. Our new signing from a League Two club is stunned by the high level of talent in the squad. But there are still risks associated with our current rebuilding process. There would be risks involved even if we were spunking hundreds of thousands on proven quality in the expectation of promotion this year or next… But even if Terry was a mind reader, even if he knew absolutely everything about his new signings (and I firmly believe his scouting methods are head and shoulders above most clubs at our level…), these are young players we are talking about. It would be a miracle if each and every of them settles at the club. There will be failures. I don’t think we can be in any doubt about that.

I’ll talk about some of the actual talent that has been brought in over the next few weeks (i.e. after I’ve seen them with my own eyes), but judging by recent reports (a South Korean under-21 international and a guy from the Glenn Hoddle Academy both on trial…) I think we have to face the very real possibility that we all merely exist only in the feverish imagination of a 13-year-old kid getting a little too carried away playing Football Manager…

I mean where else would you get a World Cup final like Holland v Spain???

Charlton preview tomorrow. The Dons are back, people…

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You Must Be Woking!

Couldn’t resist it. Sorry.

So as you’ve probably worked out by now, that final pre-season fixture has now been nailed down, and its a trip to everyone’s favourite Wembley alternative, Kingfield Stadium. (Aside – I really loved all those unnamed Dons fans who wanted the London Senior Cup final switched there… we’ve created a wonderful football club here but we ain’t going to pass many geography exams…).

It turns out this isn’t your usual ker-ching game either. Dedicated to ex-Don Phil Ledger, all proceeds are going to the Woking Hospice, which kind of makes me look a wally for suggesting football clubs are out for all they can get when PSF’s are arranged. And for all the childish jibes in the past (I used to watch Kingstonian when the Dons were away as a kid… blame them…), I’m actually pretty pleased we have a reasonably local trip against strong opposition.  As I said yesterday, this seasons pre-season schedule is, with the possible exception of our first season since reformation, the best pre-season I can remember. Yet I bet there are still people moaning about the Kingstonian game they were never going to go to anyway…

So that’s pre-season sorted, now we have the long drawn out chase of picking up the best quality young talent for the lowest price…

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News, News, News…

Twenty-two years ago this very day (I wrote this bit on Friday…), a ten-year old Anonymous Don was curled up in his bed, having seen his side win the FA Cup! This was in the days when the FA Cup was THE tournament to win as far as I was concerned, and I remember lying in bed tired yet very much still high on a Pepsi overdose listening while the rest of the family made their way to bed as well. In the pre-student days Kingston was quiet at night, and I remember lying in bed watching the moonlight illuminating my room through the open curtains thinking ‘This is it. This is what life is all about’…

Twenty-two years later and here I am, a couple of feet taller, three times heavier and with slightly more hair on my chin, older but not necessarily more mature – and I’m like scrooge on Christmas Eve. Yes, normally I would go for the underdog on Cup Final day but to be honest I’ve long since stopped caring about the struggles of plucky overspending Portsmouth, and can’t bear to watch Chelsea rack up the first of what may be many more doubles (although thank god for Man City, eh?). So I’m going to the cinema with my wife. Well, it is her birthday.

So we have signed a new player! Former K’s man Christian Jolley has joined and its fair to say for a first new signing of the summer, this one appears to be underwhelming at first glance. Jolley was a cog in the wheel of K’s promotion charge and its fair to say this signing has come as a bit of a surprise. Yet Jolley has apparently been interesting a couple of League 2 clubs, and Terry had to get in quickly at the end of the season to snap him up. 

With the small squad we are running Jolley definitely hasn’t just been signed to make up the numbers, so presumably Terry Brown feels he has the makings of a player who can come straight in and play Conference Premier football. Reading what his former manager Alan Dowson thought of him here that sounds pretty reasonable and he does seem to have made a huge amount of progress at Kingstonian since they plucked him out of the junior game. Apparently Christian was signed for a small fee (I would stick my neck on the line and say around £5,000) plus an agreement to play Kingstonian in a PSF where bizarrely we get to keep most of the proceeds.

Kennedy Adjei has made the reverse journey to the Ryman, signing a years contract extension but finding he will spend it on loan at Sutton. It’s a great deal for Sutton, who my Sutton supporting boss advised me will use him as a replacement for Alan Pouton, and its undoubtedly a pretty good deal for Kennedy too. There hasn’t been too many details of the deal that have leaked yet but I would imagine Sutton are paying most or all of his salary, and presuming the contract is full-time he will be able to train with us a couple of days a week… which would make it a great deal for Wimbledon too…

With a long summer ahead of us, and the management team prepared to play the waiting game to find the right players, there may not be a flood of news until the players prepare to n for pre-season. The news that Terry was not prepared to go ahead with signing a centre half from a top Conference club as we couldn’t match said clubs offer is positive, regardless of who the centre half was (and I don’t want to get into speculation as to who it was). The fact was Mr Centre Half was quite happy to come to the Dons were finances not an issue, which speaks highly of how the club is viewed in the game. Whoever it was, even if it was only for an extra £50 a week, I certainly wouldn’t blame the guy for staying at his current club in the current financial climate, I just hope the club he plays for has enough cash in the coffers to keep paying him for the next year…

More positive news came in the form of pre-season games. Our second PSF will be a Tuesday night game at Maidenhead, not too far for the hardcore among us to travel, but exactly the sort of game we should be playing at that stage of preparations. Much like the TBA game against K’s, the small crowd will allow the management team to try a few things that perhaps they won’t be able to in a showpiece game against Milwall or Charlton, or even the unknown Premiership clubs XI on 7th August.

As that particular team hasn’t yet been announced (and may not for a number of weeks yet…) we can all have a bit of fun guessing who they will be. Most sides will presumably be back from any tours, yet most clubs like to be involved in a showpiece game against top European opposition on that day. Not that this would rule out any particular club that has already arranged a fixture that day, as ‘XI’ normally means ‘Second string and Youth’  anyway.  So we could be looking at literally anyone… although a local side will ensure an element of their support will make the trip. I was desperately trying to remember the side the management team visited this year in case something was arranged then, I’m fairly certain though it was Derby… which is no use to us in this case…

A third League One side has been added to the schedule, in this case we have a trip to St James Park to play Exeter City, and for me it will be the first opportunity to visit having missed the FA Cup game there a few seasons ago. Having said that it is a long way to go for a pre-season game, originally I was planning to take Mrs AD down there to show her my old haunts in Plymouth, but finances are a bit stretched as I prepare to move house again, so that had to be shelved. The only reason I’m still going is that I got a good deal on a return train ticket that day…

Yet unlike the Maidenhead game, which I may give a miss to and represents memories of away games past, Exeter is a side I can see us playing on a regular basis in future. Plus they are also a side we can look up to, having been down in the Conference when we played them in that FA Cup game, yet now brilliantly not only made it up to League One, they stayed their thanks to an 18th place finish. It will be interesting to see how far they (and us) have come, as well as allow ourselves some early season dreams of what might be to come, maybe not next season, but soon…

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Gregory Gets England C Call… And Hatton Is On Standby!

I don’t know why but as soon as I saw this news article on the OS I immediately thought it may be two of the players that were released last month. It seems a very Wimbledon thing to do, to big up an a achievement of someone deemed not good enough for the club… so I was delighted to find out it was Steven Gregory who got the call into Paul Faircloughs 19-man squad for the International Trophy match against the Republic of Ireland in Waterford on 26th May.

The International Challenge Trophy pits Englands C team (basically a Non-League U23 team) against various other nations under 23 sides. Eire select players from their own domestic league, yet other nations field their Olympic sides or full strength selections. The Waterford game kicks off group B, with Estonia waiting in the wings. Games in other groups have already begun, with Italy (A) and Portugal (C) leading the way.

Gregory’s call-up comes off the back of an impressive debut season in a Dons shirt. He seemed to be one of the few young players who learned from their mistakes last term, and proved himself one of the better defensive midfielders in the division. Make no mistake, Steven Gregory really deserves this. Equally satisfying is the news that Sam Hatton was called up to the reserve list, and a huge thumbs up from Fairclough (who undoubtedly would have taken advice from others in the Non-League game before this selection). The squad contains a number of Oxford players, who still need to make it through the Play-Off final at Wembley unscathed, so there is hope for Sam yet to make the full squad.

Well done to the pair of them, and hard luck to Luke Moore who undoubtedly would have made at least the reserve list had his season not been ruined by injury.

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Resurrection

No, I’m not dead.

The timing of my return was quite delicately planned. I had no interest in writing of our last league game of the season (which contrary to what the OS might say was actually the Rushden game on 5th April…), and the less said about last Wednesdays innovative production of The Tortoise And The Hare the better. I am back, however, just in time for perhaps THE biggest off-season in the history of football in Wimbledon since that long summer of 2002.

We move from semi-pro to full professional status at a time when, as some season ticket holders will be all too aware, the club doesn’t even seem able to stamp an envelope correctly… Ok, I was being slightly tongue-in-cheeky there, but the point remains the club needs to embrace professionalism throughout the organisation. In some ways we are already light years ahead of clubs in our division, and yet… Switching to full professionalism, while not raising costs as much due to a smaller squad of 18 rather than the 25 or so we had on the books this season, does raise expectations. 

I think most supporters would be looking for us to build on this seasons impressive start, certainly the often trotted out ‘the players are tired’ reason won’t hold as much weight in April 2011 as it did this April. We can only hope regular training will improve the injury situation, five serious knee injuries next season will pretty much decimate the squad (I almost wrote ‘defecate’ there, although it probably would have still read the same…).

Plus it seems as though those cut from the squad in last weeks Great Purge do seem to be those mostly affected by injury and unavailability. I’ll write-up my thoughts on the leavers later in the week, but for now I can only say the likes of Ross Montague would probably have earned a contract had they had more match time to prove themselves. Carrying an injury prone player in an eighteen man squad wouldn’t be a wise idea…

And can I just say its great to have time once more to write this blog again. While the posts might be shorter I’m hoping they might be a bit more concise this time around…

Action from our Surrey Senior Cup Semi-Final defeat at Godalming. Just to brighten the place up a little...

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