Category Archives: Dons

AFC Wimbledon 4 Cheltenham Town 1 17/9/11 – A (Late) Match Report

After our hectic opening few weeks back in the Football League, two back to back run of the mill home games brought us back to something resembling normality, fixtures-wise. Hell, for the Cheltenham game it was even possible for folk to walk up to the turnstiles, pay cash, obtain a ticket and gain entry to the ground. On Tuesday night, supporters had to face the frustration progress on the field was going to be a little slower than we might have imagined, come Saturday the Dons put in a performance to restore a little faith and show everyone what, on their day, they can be capable of.

We’re also seeing signs the club are learning off the field from our League Two experience… and I literally mean ‘sign’… Maybe its been there previously and I just hadn’t noticed, but a large board on the Kingston Road advising visiting supporters they can’t access the ground that way, and have to head towards the entrance on the left… shame it isn’t entirely clear it means left as you look at the sign, I spotted a visiting Cheltenham supporter read it, turn around and then turn left back towards the Cambridge Estate…

Still its better than simply expecting supporters to know where they have to go. Plus it made the stewards job a little harder, on top of their other duties having to catch away fans wandering down Jack Goodchild Way, scratching their heads wondering where they should be.

Actually, thanks to the increasingly efficient stadium management, I ended up watching this game from a slightly different location. As the Tempest started to fill up, I abandoned my usual position just to the side of the goal to catch up with a few people I know in the JSS – with Cheltenham’s travelling support taking up a lot less space than most League Two visitors I thought there would be more than enough room for one more.

On reaching the corner I found I could go no further, as stewards were checking supporters had the correct ticket before letting them through. Ignoring personal inconvenience, it’s about time we started doing this, controlling the numbers in each area of the ground will probably go a long way towards the stadiums capacity being increased slightly. My problem was having walked down to the corner I couldn’t just turn around and walk back – that’s the behaviour of a weirdo, or even worse, that of someone who made a minor misunderstanding and doesn’t mind admitting it publicly… So being a normal bloke I took up position by the corner flag and pretended that had been my intention all along…

It gave me a decent view of a returning playoff hero in Kaid Mohamed. It’s slightly unfortunate Mo’s last action as a Dons player was being the only Don to miss in that epic shootout at Eastlands, he’d run himself into the ground that day, and his hat trick in his last game on this ground went a long way to one of the most astonishingly complete performances I can remember from a Wimbledon team. I understand the practicalities of allowing him to sign for a club closer to home, but I don’t think I was the only one fearing he might come back to haunt us.

Yet, what was this? Rather than sticking him on the shoulder of the last man to latch on to through balls and destroy us with his pace, Cheltenham stuck him out on the left-wing. As the visitors tried to gain the upper hand in the early stages Mo tried to join in with the fun by cutting inside, but Sam Hatton saw it coming every time. Unfortunately the remaining nine outfield Cheltenham players were proving a little more difficult to shackle despite a more determined Wimbledon defensive display, and they managed to force a couple of half chances to ensure a nervy opening spell.

Yet this time around the home side weren’t prepared to let the visitors have it all their own way (and perhaps more importantly, didn’t find themselves looking at an uphill battle after conceding a nothing goal). After a couple of forages forward while sizing up their opponents, Wimbledon took the lead with a goal of a quality that came from its simplicity. Hatton and Jolley worked a triangle on the right flank before the former’s cross found Ricky Wellard unmarked on the edge of the six yard box, his downward header skidding off the sodden turf giving visiting keeper Butland no chance.

Tails up, the Dons grabbed a second just before half time. Excellent work by Lee Minshull down the left saw his cross turned in at the near post… and after Ricky Wellard became the ninth different Dons scorer this season it was nice to see OG notch his first of the campaign – with the subsequent damage to the Kingsmeadow pitch hopefully we’ll even see old favourite Divot chipping in soon. Seriously, this was all about Minshull, capping off a much improved performance compared to this disappointing showing against Northampton.

Those of a nervous disposition might have feared a Cheltenham comeback in the second half, but were spared a nervy second half as the Dons took a stranglehold on the game. Third and fourth goals were added in clinical fashion, a smart volley from Midson (by the way, would it be unfair to point out the current score is Midson 6 Kedwell 1?…). The common denominator in the two goals was Rashid Yussuff, who created the third before finishing off the final goal after capitalizing on Butland’s parry from Midson’s volley.

Toks was poor against Aldershot, but his second half performance was back to the sort of commanding form we saw him end last season with. In this kind of mood he is as close to a complete midfielder as you could hope to get in League Two, great touch, picks a pass and can finish, and also fantastic ball winner… wait, fantastic ball winner? Toks is never going to be the sort of midfield enforcer that takes ankles as often as he does the ball, but think of how often he nicks the ball off opponents, how his sheer athleticism allows him to pick up loose balls in the middle of the park – in the modern game you can’t underestimate the importance of his knack of turning the ball over by being in the right place at the right time, and works well in conjunction with more robust operators like Minshull and Sammy Moore.

All three finishing midfielders performed well together, as well as first half scorer and asthma victim Ricky Wellard, our defence looked solid with two rugged full backs and a couple of centre halves who just will not let the opposition pass (how frustrating this partnership will be torn apart when McNaughton returns to West Ham early next month…). Which meant we just needed our forwards to be firing to claim the points… if only every game could be that simple…

Where does this performance fit in the bigger picture? It was the stride forward we were looking for, but we shouldn’t read too much into this being a sign of an immediate upturn in form. We were a work in progress after the Northampton game, and are still a work in progress. Looking through our fixtures until the end of October, we’ve got some tricky fixtures – we’ll do well to average a point a game from our next seven fixtures, as the weather turns wintery the Dons will have more of an idea of their standing in our new division.

AFC Wimbledon 0 Northampton Town 3 13/9/11 – A Match Report

Ok. Not really sure where to begin this piece right now, so I thought I’d just bumble on for a couple of paragraphs until you’re all ready for the meat of the piece. Hope you’re all ok with this. If you’re a busy person I can only apologise and suggest skipping on a paragraph. I normally try to start the really tricky reports with a joke to lighten the mood, but I’m having difficulty coming up with one right now… would ‘the Wimbledon defence’ be too cruel?

I think the majority of us were expecting a problematic start to the season, so last nights result probably wouldn’t have raised too many eyebrows. I’m not going to jump on any bandwagons right now… there’s no point telling you things need to change defensively, we all know that. To be honest, performances have improved. Last nights effort was better than the Aldershot effort, which in turn was marginally more competent that the Port Vale display, itself light years ahead of the horror show on opening day… The real problem is these are marginal shuffles forward, mere pigeon steps opposed to the giant strides we hoped for.

It means in real terms, six weeks later, we’ve barely moved forward at all. We’re still reliant on the failings of the opposition, for our forwards to outscore them. We’re hoping the same three or four players have a decent shift to see us through while the remainder have a decent ten or fifteen minutes here and there if we’re lucky, or fade out of the game altogether. There have been moments when we’ve threatened to come to life, ten minutes here or there. We had one last night, with Northampton down to ten men where I genuinely thought we would tear them apart, but for all the pressure we put on them we barely created one clear-cut opportunity…

Then, much as they did on Saturday we allowed the opposition shooting opportunities… We can’t plead bad luck when we invite these kind of efforts. Danny Hylton’s effort hit someone’s knee and could have gone anywhere,but why did he get the chance to get a shot away? Seb Brown would stop those two Jacobs efforts 98 times out of 100, last night he made a couple of shocking errors, but once more, there was no pressure on the guy getting his shot away. These type of goals are unfortunate to concede, but there’s no element of luck involved… all of them being entirely preventable.

This on its own means every game is an uphill battle from the first whistle and would be bad enough, should we suffer a genuine slice of misfortune as we did last night the task becomes virtually impossible. I’m going to talk about the penalty, although I believe as supporters simply blaming the official is too easy an excuse for failings – these things normally even themselves out over the course of the season, Seb Brown himself mentioned after the game on his twitter feed it made up for Eastlands (I have no idea what he’s talking about – that was NEVER a penalty either!!!). Fortunately you rarely get such blatant miscarriages of justice, which makes last nights decision even more of a talking point… just what was going through his head that made him think that was a penalty?

Yet the fact is that decision didn’t cost us the game. We had more than enough of the ball to get back into it in the second half, and as TB himself said in his post match interview ‘He got one thing wrong, we got plenty of things wrong…’. Although I do remember Seb Brown getting bodychecked while off the ground that the official should have called – two things wrong – but Terry we get the point…

When the penalty was rolled in I bet there were more than one Dons player thinking ‘here we go again…’. It’s fair to say the Dons were more than a bit shaky for the remainder of the half. Scorer Adebayo Akinfenwa is a personal  League Two favourite of mine… I’ve enjoyed seeing the old park football adage that ‘if the opposition have a fat bloke in their side he’ll more often than not turn out to be their best player’ proved correct at every level we’ve played at, right up to the Football League. But the Dons back four just couldn’t deal with him at times, one on occasion McNaughton just bouncing off him, another where nippy Kieran Djilali was trying to nick the ball off him but was prevented by the sheer distance he had to run just to get around him, being two of my personal highlights.

We’ll never know just how much the early penalty affected the side psychologically, it didn’t overly affect them… they switched off on a couple of occasions, Northampton hit the bar, saw a free header flash wide and a brilliant Seb Brown save prevent them extending their lead, but were passing the ball around confidently enough, and the game seemed to swing in their favour following the red card.

Under the circumstances we’re probably fortunate it was right under the referees nose, he couldn’t fail to spot it. As Sammy Moore nicked the ball away on the stretch, McKoy went in over the top and caught him just above the ankle. Pretty straightforward decision, but still Gary Johnson decided to argue it all the way to the tunnel. Maybe there was a bit of desperation behind it, knowing his side would have to do an awful lot of work in the second half to hold their lead.

It took the arrival of Christian Jolley ten minutes into the half before the Dons really found there stride, a twenty-minute spell where an equalizer seemed destined to come sooner rather than not at all… Northampton, short-handed, didn’t have an answer to the width and pace of Jolley and Djilali – but didn’t get sucked in either. Perhaps a little risky to allow a player like Jolley to get into his stride, on three occasions he threatened to repeat his Port Vale effort, cutting in and leaving his man for dead, only once getting a shot away that troubled the athletes training on the track behind the Tempest more than the Cobblers goal, and frustrating by not getting a decent ball in early on the occasions he didn’t shoot.

But Jolley deserves a bit of credit for being one of the few players willing to try to make something happen – Djilali was the other (you get the impression once his team mates learn his game, he’s going to be a fantastic signing), and special mention to Sammy Hatton, who drifted inside before hitting a left foot shot into the keepers midriff, and Sammy Moore, who shanked over when well placed – but at least these guys were trying to make something happen.

Jack Midson was being well marshalled, but worked hard to find space and create it for others, Luke Moore was linking well, the movement and passing in general around the edge of the box was impressive… but there was no final ball, no one willing to have a pop around the edge of the box. As TB admitted, ‘too much fannying around’. Northampton on the other hand weren’t short of players willing to shoot from distance, one in particular – Michael Jacobs – profited twice through being willing to take a gamble and get an effort on target.

He probably won’t look back on either of them as being the most memorable goals he’s ever scored… sweet strikes the pair of them, but both going straight through Seb Brown. We’ve relied on Seb quite a lot over the last couple of years, I’ve long since lost count of the number of points he’s saved us, its easy to forget he is still so young. He’s earned the right to make a couple of errors – if anything we should be thanking him for making them within five minutes of each other, as the second goal had already effectively killed the game.

I’ve talked quite a lot about the Dons deficiencies, what positives can we take from the game? Firstly, it was a bad result, but lets not allow ourselves to be distracted by the scoreline… worse would have been had we come away from that game with a win – and that was a realistic possibility at one point – which would have masked all sorts of problems. We knew this division was going to be tough, we knew we’d come unstuck more than once, but lets not pretend last night revealed anything we didn’t already know about ourselves.

Personally I’m prepared to draw a line under this one for a few reasons. First, I’d rather support a team who is prepared to throw the sink at the opposition, to take a few risks and accept the opposition might end up running away with it, rather than taking a cautious approach. Secondly, even when three down and the game lost the guys didn’t give up, they never stopped trying to grab a goal back, trying to take a little bit of pride out of a bad situation.

Finally, the Dons support. There have been plenty of stories of people who lost it, who called for Browns head, who left after the third goal went in, but I stayed until the final whistle… as did the vast majority of you. I can think of a few clubs where the stadium would have been half empty come ninety minutes under the same circumstances… Fair enough, we moaned like fuck about the performance on the train home, at work next day, on message boards and blogs, but by staying on and supporting our team until the bitter end, sacrificing missing the early train or beating the traffic, we earned that right.

Either that or Kingsmeadow is a really difficult ground to leave early when almost full?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dons fans brave the open terrace

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

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

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

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

Throwback view from the East Terrace...

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

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

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

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

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Aldershot Preview

Six games in, we’re finally set for our first League Two game meaningful for reasons other than simply being a League Two game. So meaningful I was planning on updating the League Two File (an occasional series focussing on our divisional rivals) I wrote on Aldershot. But then, earlier this week, a couple of hundred Aldershot fans found the original (or rather one found it, the others followed their link…), so I didn’t bother. But you can still read it here, I’m going to be referring to it now and then in this here preview…

Firstly, is this game a derby? In the …File I suggested neither side consider it a derby, which I’ve since decided was quite frankly bollocks, not only is it Aldershot’s closest fixture, it’s probably ours too – and I’ve seen supporters of both sides describe it as such. Plus derby games are about a lot more than simple geography… the historical experiences and personnel shared between the two clubs give this game meaning above and beyond merely a fixture between two reasonably local sides.

Of course, if this is going to be a real ongoing derby, it’s going to have to have a name… all ‘proper’ derby games have a nickname (how could the media be expected to take it seriously otherwise???) – The North London Derby, the Steel City Derby… so what do we call this one? The North Hampshire/Surrey Derby isn’t that snappy (and may not even be geographically accurate), The A3 doesn’t quite stretch as far as Aldershot before veering off in the direction of Portsmouth, and the A3 Derby sounds like a cab firm anyway…

How about naming the game after the real reason this fixture is getting such a degree of attention from home and visiting fans alike… Mr Terry Brown. I’m not entirely sure the Brown Derby will catch on but in the unlikely event it does, you heard it here first (which would make a change…). Perhaps his good name lends itself better to a trophy, much like the one Derby and Forest play for. In fact… I’m calling it. Tomorrows game marks the inaugural Terry Brown Trophy tie, the winner will become the first holder, and every subsequent fixture, be it league, cup or friendly will decide future winners.

This is the Anonymous Don, not the WUP, so I don’t exactly have the resources to fund an actual, physical trophy that the winning captain can lift after a hard-fought victory. So, for now, this will be a metaphysical trophy, a trophy of the heart…

Whatever your feeling towards the fixture – and its fair to say not all of us are overly excited judging by the way the club has spent the last couple of days hawking round the final eighty tickets of what initially seemed a pretty measly 1300 allocation. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been slightly disappointed with our travelling support this season… Fair enough, we took over a thousand to Crawley for the League Cup on a Friday night, but we should have sold out that stand at Dagenham, £19 a ticket or not. And this game should have sold out from season ticket holders alone, it’s not exactly a long trip, right?

The fact we are struggling to rustle up travelling support is strange when you consider we are selling out Kingsmeadow on a frequent basis… even the Tuesday night game with Northampton looking as though its going to be hard to obtain tickets on the night. Could this be down to the more competitive nature of the division we are in? Even last season you would have expected us to win as many as we lost away from home, and watching your team lose at home is one thing, making the effort to travel is another.

This game was always going to be a tough one, taking into account our pre-existing defensive problems. Now on the eve of matchday we find not only might our top scorer be ruled out with injury, one of our only fit centre halves might have to sit out as well. Bret Johnson struggling with a hamstring injury could see a last-minute loanee pair up with Jamie Stuart, although a few cynics out there might see this as a good thing – not having trained with us he might not know that on winning the ball the done thing is to play a hospital ball to a tightly marked midfielder, and instead slam the ball sixty yards down field.

So how will the Dons line up? With Charlie Ademeno definitely ruled out, if Jack Midson still has two legs its highly likely he’ll at least start… we need someone up top who can hold the ball up, if not its a game of giving the ball to Jolley and seeing what he can do with it (which worked last week…).

Having strung this out long enough to get some team news from the O/S, along with the revelation that our new loan centre half is Callum McNaughton from West Ham, it looks like the new boy will start will Jamie Stuart. With Fraser Franks playing for the reserves for the first time tomorrow and Mat Mitchel-King nowhere near, McNaughton’s arrival for a month will cover us over nicely until we have our full complement of defenders back. How we’ll go in midfield is anyones guess, which is one of the reasons I’ve wimped out on selecting my predicted XI…

One final thought, harking back to whether this game is a derby or not… if there are any doubters out there pondering the importance of the fixture – the scoreline come 5PM tomorrow evening might go a long way towards how you view it in future. After all, I can’t remember too many people getting excited about trips to places like Hampton or Staines until one day we played them and they beat us…

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Stevenage in the JPT

As previously mentioned, I’m prepared to admit slightly more interest in the JPT than most League Two fans this season, if only because our entry into the competiton marks or ascent to the Football League. After a first round bye, the draw for the second round took place this morning, and the Dons have picked up a home draw against Stevenage.

If this tie turns out anything like last seasons FA Cup encounter between the two sides, we’ll be grateful that bye has extended our stay in the tournament slightly longer than our Carling Cup effort. Stevenage moved through League One in a single season and the two sides meet with a division seperating us once more. I suppose we can count ourselves slightly unfortunate to have drawn a side we’re playing at Kingsmeadow for the third season running when there were teams like Charlton and Brentford floating about, the club will announce pricing in due course but it goes without saying they might have to get creative to encourage anywhere near a decent crowd in for familiar visitors.

At this stage of the competition the northern and southern halves of the draw are more or less seperate tournaments, but elsewhere in the south east Charlton and Brentford face off, Barnet travel to Gillingham, and Leyton Orient or Dagenham host Southend.

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News Round Up 30/8/11

The dust has started to settle after the Dons 0-4 drubbing by Macclesfield at the weekend. No match response from the Anonymous Don, as I followed the game via WDON I’m probably not qualified to comment (which is a shame, as disseminating a shocking reverse is one of the most worthwhile aspects of club specific blogging), but my immediate reaction was this was a shocking scoreline.

I’m going to stand by that, no side should be losing by four goals against a divisional rival that, with all due respect, probably aren’t going to be challenging for the title this season. What I will say is a certain other London club who got hammered in the North West this weekend, one who spent much of the eighties and nineties benefiting from a robust long ball game but now are famed for their passing game, have decided to compensate supporters who made the journey. Although I’m not going to suggest our club follow suit… the Arsenal are cash rich having sold all their best players this summer and failed to replace them. Oh, hang on…

I’m sure most of those who followed the lads up won’t ask for any further compensation than and apology, and to be fair most of the playing staff have obliged over the last couple of days, be it on various social sites or via the media. Which is nice to hear, but you wouldn’t want them to make a habit of it, for obvious reasons. With transfer deadline approaching, TB could have made a knee-jerk reaction and acquired a new centre half, but perhaps sensibly he has chosen to stick with what he has for now…

I’m sure he was more likely to splash out his budget on that Kedwell replacement he spoke about earlier in the month, but we haven’t looked like we have a problem going forward. Far better to take stock of what we have over the coming months, only splashing out if we find ourselves in trouble come January… and I’m of the opinion TB has enough at his disposal squad-wise for a comfortable mid-table finish – if anything he just needs to learn the best combination. I hope to see an element of experimentation over the coming months, and will accept a degree of inconsistency while Brown searches for the right mix. Kieran Djalali looks like he’ll be the final signing of the summer for Brown, although you can never say never with our manager, he has thrown a few surprises our way in the past…

With a quiet deadline day and no midweek action, there’s little further of note newswise, although we are only without fixture this week thanks to our JPT bye. We’ll find our second round opponents at the weekend, with most of us crossing our fingers Brentford will do us a favour and beat the Franchise freakshow tonight. The club stealers have had a fair bit of media attention over the last week or so, mainly thanks to their unfortunate league position – and a fair bit of it has involved the national media falling for their revisions of history.

Don’t you just hate the way whenever we attempt to put our side of the story across in a calm and considered manner, some franchise loser pops up claiming ‘there are two sides to every story’, before spouting some absolute fiction in the hope of causing enough confusion the truth is buried? While the majority of intelligent football supporters are able to cut through the crap, unfortunately the majority of football supporters are not intelligent…

Fortunately Bath Womble has come to our aid with his excellent blog The Truth About Franchise FC, so next time the office wanker starts spouting rubbish again, you know where to send him…

At least we don’t need to worry about meeting them in the JPT – Brentford just beat them 4-3 on penalties… our eventual second round defeat will feel all the sweeter for it.

Kieran Djalili Signs, Sparking ‘Resting’ Dons Blogger Into Life

Interesting news coming through this evening that the Dons have signed former Palace winger Kieran Djalili following his decision to leave Selhurst in the summer. Personally this has come as a bit of a pleasant surprise at the end of a relaxing week for the Anonymous Don (so relaxing I forgot to write a Macclesfield preview – oops!). Its fair to say the Djalili signing doesn’t represent the big signing TB hinted at earlier in the month, this is more the younger forward kicking his heels waiting for the other deals to fall through.

Still, Palace fans seem to rate him highly, and expect him to perform in League Two. If anything his arrival will mix things up for a forward line that seems to be an automatic pick at the moment. Djalili and I have one thing in common, however – neither of us are travelling to Macclesfield tomorrow. Which has meant I’m suffering a personal fourteen day Dons match drought between Hereford and Port Vale, unusual at this time of year (I’m kind of thrown by the Football League neglecting to schedule August Bank Holiday fixtures at some point in our nine year absence…).

Yes, I could go down and watch the development squad over at Walton Casuals, a ground less than two miles from ADHQ but largely inaccessible without motorised transport unless I’m willing to either walk six miles or risk drowning crossing the Thames the old fashioned way… seriously, I like the Waterside Stadium, its a pleasant place to watch reserve football, but it might as well be located on a barge in the middle of the North Sea for non car owners…

Instead I’ll be listening in to the game on WDON. Normal bloggy service will resume after the Bank Holiday…

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AFC Wimbledon 1 Hereford 1 20/8/11 – A Match Report

Yes! We did it! We actually did it! Pop those champagne corks and soak it up, Dons fans, for yesterdays game is going to be one you’ll want to tell the grandkids about… AFC Wimbledon won a point at home in the Football League for the first time…

I’d much rather my glass was half full right now, as despite the sacrifices I made to the Football Gods in my pre-match preview the game actually went pretty much as I expected. Hereford indeed turned out to be the League Two equivalent of Forest Green Rovers (although this might now be considered an outdated comparison as the real Forest Green Rovers managed to win 6-1 away from home on Saturday…), as the Dons huffed and puffed their way through an error strewn performance that they seemed equally likely to lose as to grab a winner.

I have to admit an element of irritation before the game even kicked off. Despite breaking my attendance at a barbecue a mere ten minutes walk from Kingsmeadow, torrential rain conspired to ensure I was soaked through on arrival. An almost full Kingsmeadow felt packed to capacity as those with terrace tickets that would normally have been satisfied standing in the open corner packed under the roof – this was a good couple of hundred people, and having wandered to my position on the Tempest without having my ticket checked for the second home game in succession I’m pretty certain more than a few ended up somewhere they weren’t supposed to be…

Not that I blame them in the slightest, under the circumstances I would have done the same – the situation not helped by the fact a quarter of the JSS occupants (i.e. the visiting supporters) had been allocated half the capacity. This raises all sorts of issues over stadium management that I’m probably not best qualified to comment on, what I will say is there is a frustrating trend developing where the comfort of terraced spectators within the stadium normally compares with the level of performance on the pitch… so finding myself packed in and unable to move could only mean one thing…

It took Hereford eight minutes to find the net, that was almost ten minutes faster than Bristol Rovers on opening day. Once again, it was completely defendable… A hopeful cross into the box looked absolutely zero threat whilst in the air, yet Brett Johnson hesitated allowing Delroy Facey in, with Seb Brown in a different postcode somewhere over by his far post, the ball slid off the portly hitman’s forehead before rippling the net.

By all accounts Seb admitted blame after calling for Johnson to leave it, not that you’ll find anyone castigating him for it… his recent form has been exceptional and despite this he was rightly named the sponsors Man of the Match after a series of fine saves. Maybe the question we should be asking is why Johnson, as an experienced player, didn’t recognise the danger and step in, despite his goalkeepers call. Harsh criticism perhaps, but this is the Football League we’re playing in. That’s seven goals conceded this season, fair enough they came across five games, but they were seven preventable goals, and we can already count the points we’ve lost because of errors.

Wimbledon looked more likely to go further behind that level the scores immediately after the goal. Ricky Wellard summed up the Dons performance, one minute giving Hereford the ball, the next putting in an important challenge to prevent a visitors opportunity – this inconsistency dogged the home side all afternoon. Yet almost out of nothing, Wimbledon did find the net on twenty-five minutes, Sam Hatton swinging the ball over and Jack Midson getting his head onto it to send it into the roof of the net.

The Dons then had a spell that raised hopes they would go on and win the game. Straight after, Luke Moore had the ball in the net after a Midson shot deflected kindly for him, but was ruled offside. From the opposite end of the pitch it must have been close, the giveaway that Moore had strayed was probably the player himself, a competitive forward he reacted by holding his head rather than questioning the linesman.

Half time brought with it optimism that the Dons would come out fired up by TB and go on and win the game, as had happened at Plymouth in the week, this optimism proved as misplaced then as before the game. While chances were created, they were also presented to the visitors on a frequent basis. Seb Brown earned his MOTM with a few great saves, including one great one-on-one, but the home fans will have left the ground rueing some particularly good chances.

Off the top of my head I’m thinking of three (being tightly packed in isn’t great for note taking…). First, a deep cross found Ademeno at the far post, but his powerful header from an angle was well saved by Hereford keeper Cornell (signed on loan from Swansea mere minutes after my preview was published…). Then, Sammy Moore had a presentable chance to volley the Dons ahead, but his scuffed effort made it easy for Cornell.

The closest the Dons came to snatching all three points was an Ademeno header pushed away by the young Hereford keeper that in all probability had already crossed the line, but with neither referee nor linesman in a position to confirm you can’t really blame them for not giving it – if they had it would have been guesswork. Jamie Stuart seems particularly angry in the press, but the truth is if you want to make absolutely certain of scoring, you have to hit the back of the net… expecting the officials to make judgement calls based on a matter on inches is too much to ask.

Plus making an issue over one incident masks the fact that the Dons didn’t really deserve the three points, beyond actively trying to win the game. Thats not to say Hereford didn’t come looking for three points, their chances largely came about via Dons over committing or simply giving the ball away, but I can’t blame a side that hasn’t managed to chalk up a point settling for what they had rather than risk losing everything. What I will say is if Jamie Pitman ever found himself on Deal Or No Deal it wouldn’t be the most exciting episode you’ve ever watched, but he’ll walk away with a few grand all the same…

But for all the credit you can give Brown for it, you still don’t deserve to win the points simply through being prepared to roll the dice and take maximum or nothing… in fact it’s kind of expected of the home team. What I will say is despite our next opponents destroying Hereford at Edgar Street on Tuesday, I thought to myself on the way to the ground (partially as a way of distracting myself from the soaking I was getting) that next weeks trip to Macclesfield might turn out to be an easier game for precisely that reason, and despite the underwhelming performance I’m going to stick my neck out and stand by it.

In fact we might find ourselves picking up as many points on the road as we do at home this season. Away from Kingsmeadow the Dons are free to counter attack at will against opponents normally looking to be on the front foot in front of their own supporters, whereas at home we don’t always have the nous to unlock opposition defences.

Overall, yes it was frustrating, but there’s no point making excuses for the performance… we’ve already shown enough to convince all but the most pessimistic supporters we’ll finish comfortably midtable this term, and that should be enough. Six points on the road might have had us temporarily wondering ‘what if?’… And we may well find ourselves troubling the playoff picture come May. But everything we have seen so far suggests for that to happen we’ll need to improve – and quickly. The inconsistency we saw yesterday will likely dog us all season, some individuals improve, some won’t, and we’ll do some cosmetic work next summer to improve on wherever we end up this time around.

A downgrading of expectations will follow this result, and it’s needed… if anything the only wish-fulfillment we really need this season is a trip to Old Trafford or the Emirates in the FA Cup, and a subsequent cash windfall that might allow us to rebuild not just the KRE but the JSS as well, allowing us all to watch the Dons in the Football League in a little more comfort next term…

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Post Four Hundred – The Plymouth Preview

Nothing clever about the title, this is the four hundredth article on Anonymous Don, and will probably be the one that knocks me over the 100,000 view milestone, any amateur mathematician out there should be able to work out the average there (although about a quarter of those views have come within the past three months or so…).

I’ll be celebrating by not going to Plymouth tomorrow night, and therefore this is a slightly truncated preview. Hugely unfortunate that a short-term financial squeeze is preventing me from attending certain away games at the moment… and this was the one away game I wanted. I lived down in Plymouth during my student years… well I say years, an informal learning environment coupled with access to large amounts of cheap beer were two reasons further education and myself proved incompatible, so I left after eighteen months determined to get an entry-level job and work my way up. Thirteen years and, erm, one promotion and several sideways moves later, I can honestly say I don’t regret that decision one bit…

Further education and me might not have mixed, but Plymouth and me certainly did… When I first rolled up in that city I was an immature kid, but when I left I was a man. An immature man, yes, but a man all the same. I probably would have stayed down there but all the jobs were in London at the time, and after a meeting with my Bank Manager where he quite literally tore me to pieces I reluctantly moved back home.

Apparently the city has changed a lot since I was last down there, ten years ago now, and I would have loved to have gone for a pre-match wander to have a look round. It’s not just the city itself though, Home Park has been almost completely rebuilt since my last visit. And yet, I’ll be tuning in to listen on WDON tomorrow night instead…

On the face of it no better time to head down to Argyle, their young squad put to the sword by Rotherham, yet as we know ourselves all too well, young players can be inconsistent… We might find ourselves on the end of a backlash tomorrow night if we aren’t careful. Yet the Dons will have plenty of confidence behind them following our first three points back in League football… My overwhelming expectation is we will get a point, but without wanting to write anything that I might regret in twenty-four hours time, I have a good feeling about this one (although that’s based on nothing more than post-Saturday euphoria…).

On to expected lineups, and TB has done me a huge favour by suggesting in the press he’s going to stick with an unchanged lineup. I wasn’t expecting him to start Charlie Ademeno, but after a strong 75 minutes he doesn’t have too much choice but keep him in for this one. Max Porter is the only real question mark, but with Ricky Wellard not firing I think Brown will persist with him.

He’s had a couple of rough games, but he’s new to the club, looked decent in preseason, it would be wrong to discard him this early. Give him a chance to find some form, although Browns decision to bring on Sammy Moore to play that holding role on Saturday was interesting, I wonder whether he would consider him there permanently. It’ll be a bit of a waste for someone who has scored important goals, but at least we’ll know if he finds himself in a shooting position his effort won’t threaten a passing 131 on the Kingston Road.

My expected Dons lineup is as follows;

Brown

Hatton

Gwillim

Johnson

Stuart

Porter

Minshull

Yussuff

L Moore

Midson

Ademeno

Currently I’m 21/22 this season and hoping for another perfect XI to double my record from last season (to be fair to me I didn’t play this game every week…). I’m going to play it safe and go with the XI that started on Saturday. When you think of the quality we have on the bench, a recovering Sammy Moore, Chris Bush, Wellard, Mulley, Mitchel-King to come back and a possible new striker (?), this could get a lot more difficult as injuries and tiredness hit later in the year, but right now this Dons side is almost picking itself.

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Dagenham And Redbridge 0 AFC Wimbledon 2 13/8/11 – A Match Report

The Dons kept up their record of scoring two goals per game, this time shedding the annoying habit of shipping three, and thus recording our first League points, and League victory, for god knows how long. Nine years apparently. How long will it take us to tire of that song? Another nine years is my guess…

Now I have to admit, I didn’t take the thirty-six stop epic District Line journey I commented on in my preview, partly because I’m not stupid. Perhaps this fixture should be renamed, rather than District Line Derby, surely Change At Waterloo Then Take Jubilee To West Ham Before Boarding An Eastbound Train On The District Line Derby would be more accurate? Once on the District, it’s not exactly a short hop… the train called at Plaistow, East Ham, Barking, Southend, Lowestoft, Rotterdam, Gdansk and Narnia Heathway before finally pulling in to Dagenham East. Ok, not the longest journey we’ve ever made, but I’ve blocked the arse numbing coach journeys to Gateshead and Darlington from my memory, and tube trains weren’t designed for extended occupation…

The ground was pretty close to the tube station, and the Daggers are rare amongst football clubs in that they pretty much roll out the red carpet for visiting supporters… Even the view half way up the spanking new Marcus James end towers over the two adjacent stand roofs, and to cap it off, there’s a bar underneath it, with a couple of TV screens in. And a burger bar out back, that you might miss had there not been a sign at the first burger bar you come across just inside the gates advising not to queue for no reason and giving directions. Now that is class.

What isn’t class is a group of people who want to sit together each buying tickets separately, thus ending up with seats in completely different parts of the stand. We got lucky in that although the Dons contingent was large, it wasn’t quite large enough to fill the 1200 seat stand, meaning spares were available, and I was able to sit with people I know rather than my allocated seat. We got away with it this time, but tactics employed in the Premier League days may need to be redeployed (or not, as I seemed to find myself stuck on my own a fair deal back then…)

Once the game got underway, the travelling support initially had reason to worry, as Dagenham looked the better side early on, and might have threatened had they had a little more composure in front of goal. Unlike last week the Dons, while not looking entirely comfortable, went beyond the twenty-minute mark with sheets still clean, and started looking pretty threatening themselves. Charlie Ademeno was preferred over Christian Jolley for the start, and caused Dagenham all sorts of problems, setting up Jack Midson for the Dons first real chance, but the Not So Secret Footballer prodded over on the stretch.

The Dons eventually went ahead via the penalty spot, but it’s no exaggeration to say they should have had two more… a handball that went unspotted along with a rugby tackle on Midson, and along with this it appeared as though the Daggers should have gone down to ten men after their last man hauled down Midson just outside the area (him again, not having much luck with the referee as we’ll see in the second half…). As all these incidents took place down the opposite end it was difficult to tell what the referees thinking was behind turning down any of them.

When the referee finally caved in and pointed to the spot, the incident looked a little innocuous. A big Sam Hatton throw from the right flicked on and hitting the guy somewhere on the upper arm, the weight of previous appeals finally got to the man in black. The award caught the Dons fans a little off guard, one of those weird delayed celebrations followed as people finally caught on with what had happened. Luke Moore made no mistake with the kick, sending the keeper the wrong way for his second of the season.

With the tunnel situated just in front of the travelling support, the Dons fans were able to give the referee a little advice on his first half performance on the way in, followed by Charlie Ademeno, who was given a more rousing reception. Charlie’s performance was really encouraging, building on decent showings from the bench against Crawley and Bristol Rovers, and if he can stay fit he could prove a surprise hit… On signing I think most Dons fans expected Charlie to support an eventual Kedwell replacement, yet on recent form he’s providing us with everything Kedwell gave us and more, hardworking, almost impossible to shake off the ball and with an eye for goal.

Ademeno’s departure meant Jack Midson sneaked off almost unnoticed, blood appearing to be spurting from a head wound – well, perhaps ‘spurting’ is over dramatic, there was definitely red stuff on show. Not having seen the incident he could well have collided with a spectator with a heavily loaded hot dog, absence of mustard suggests that wasn’t the case, but either way Midson returned after the break, no bandaging apparent.

To be honest the Dons threatened to run away with it in the second half, Dagenham went from looking ex-League One to Conference fodder within the space of forty-five minutes. The second goal effectively finished the game, and was a fantastic effort from Toks, striding forward as the defence backed off, allowing him to fire a left foot effort into the top corner of the net, and worth the journey and ticket price on its own.

Dagenham had a spell lasting about five minutes directly after the goal where they forced a series of corners, but to be honest the Dons looked more likely to extend their lead from that point on. Even the removal of Ademeno provided little respite, Jolley coming on to terrorise the tiring home defence. Yet Wimbledon’s best chance of extending the lead was thwarted once again by the referee, this time right in front of the Dons follower allowing no excuses… Midson brought down as he bore down on goal, quite why the referee turned that one down I’ll never know.

The Dons were good value for the two goal cushion at least, but this early in the season it’s nice to see Wimbledon supporters remaining pretty grounded. This early in the season its hard to judge just how good a win this was, although three points away are always handy no matter which league you happen to be playing in, we’ll probably have more of an idea how we’ll get on by mid-September.

Until then, what of Dagenham? They certainly didn’t look like a side that almost survived in League One last year, although by all accounts they had a fair few injuries. Unlike Crawley and Bristol Rovers they probably won’t be challenging this year, and showed as much by failing to take advantage of a Dons defence still getting to grips with the division. They are probably closer to what you would expect of a mid table side this term, and if so we aren’t going to have too many problems achieving a respectable position this term.

For Wimbledon, well I remember commenting a little while back Nostradamus-like that losing a twenty goal a season striker won’t be a problem so long as goals are spread amongst the team, and here we are now, six goals scored, five goalscorers. Now if we do find that twenty goal hitman before the end of August (or one of Charlie/Jack/Luke get the knack of hitting the net), and the rest keep chipping in, who knows where that could take us?

We now move on to Plymouth and Hereford over the next week, two sides who shipped seven goals between them on Saturday. Yet once again, let’s keep our feet on  the ground for a moment (he says, after suggesting otherwise in the previous paragraph…). Plymouth are a young side operating under extreme pressure and budgetary constraints, their heavy home defeat could be as much of a blip as their decent point at Shrewsbury on the opening day. And Hereford, well a win in midweek over Macclesfield is a possibility, and could give them the confidence they have been looking for. The problem with being in a League where every dog has his day, what if we are the dog and have just had ours?

Two tough games, to add to the two we’ve already played and forty-two that will follow…

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