Category Archives: Pre-April 2010 Archive


So the Dons went down 2-1 tonight and the wonder of modern technology means Im lucky enough to be writing this from the M23. So apologies for the lack of grammar…
I know this will probably echo most comments you will read but we sucked tonight. We sucked in the same manner that a certain South African one notoriously sucked a horses penis. Five points dropped from two games and you have to say we are thankful that Chesters demise and results going our way means we still technically are still in the hunt.
But after tonight? Seriously? We are capable of so much more… but ‘efforts’ like tonight are why we are going to fall short. We only seriously threatened in stoppage time, and were lacklustre when chasing the game.
Oh well. Who’s coming to Harrow?…
More (Moore, Moore…) tomorrow lunchtime if I can drag myself away from my pot noodle and Bloons Tower Defense 4…
PS : The referee managed to make himself look more of a giant hairy ladypart than Steve Evans… Well done sir…


Crap, crap, crap. Not the Dons last night, but me sitting here on my sofa, watching Sky Sports News and writing this. It means I’ve blown my perfect sickness record for the year (and its only February!) after contracting what I believe might be the only genuine case of football-related sickness ever recorded… or it could just have been the dodgy egg and bacon sandwich I picked up from Twickenham railway station yesterday afternoon… either way I’ve always felt that spending a morning retching into the toilet bowl is a little bit unfair when you haven’t had the night of heavy drinking beforehand that normally makes it in some way worthwhile…

What? No drinking? I hear you say… well to be honest I would have had a couple of beers except for heavy traffic on the Oxford Ring Road putting a stop to all that. Then a fifteen minute wait to actually park up, in the overflow section behind Frankie & Bennies. It was probably a good thing too in the circumstances. But I’m sure your delighted to be reading this earlier than expected. In fact I know most of you are chuffed to be reading the blog at all – after a few weeks of poor service I’ve been inundated with emails from you offering genuine Rolex watches, sex drugs and the like… all at knockdown prices. Plus I never realised we had so many supporters in Africa, all wishing the Anonymous Don to join their adventure in laundering millions of pounds of cash into the UK. You crazy Africans! I wish I had time to reply to all of you…

Inside the ground, and my trusty travelling partner Maliniok was marvelling at the stadium, telling me that even Polish top flight clubs would be jealous of the facilities (which doesn’t bode well for the Euro 2012 tournament!). And while we marvel at the facilities compared to our Kingsmeadow home, you have to say it certainly isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Take the stand we were sitting in, shorten it slightly and plonk it behind the goal and you could be forgiven for thinking you were at Mansfield. When looking around (avoiding the open end), squinting the eyes slightly and adding a bit more blue and a bit less yellow, you could have found yourself viewing a future Dons stadium.

Which got me thinking… how would we go about distancing any potential new stadium of our own from the crowd? Even in theory it’s quite difficult… my best idea yet has involved taking a notch of seating out of the stand closest to the touchline and having a statue of Allen Batsford, facing the pitch. So many clubs erect statues of legends outside the ground, facing away, even at Wembley poor old Bobby Moore faces an eternity of watching the fans come down Wembley Way then return home again, destined never to view the action or be part of the atmosphere… Perhaps behind him could be a restoration or replica of the Womble Till I Die gates at Plough Lane, little things like this that would stamp our ownership of the stadium. Even have an area of standing pods, in a corner or above existing seating areas where supporters could gather to eat food and stand together, not for the prawn sandwich brigade but first come, first served. Then if they wish to return to their seats others could take their place, one in, one out. I know it would be expensive, but why not? Anything to break the monotony of plastic seats.

On and off the pitch, Oxford have got it all sorted. They stand head and shoulders above any of their rivals. Wimbledon weren’t great on the night, the lads worked hard and caused one or two problems to their hosts, but you always had the impression they had an extra gear they could step up to if required. And for the second time in four days a Constable ruined my match experience, this time it was Oxford’s James nabbing both the goals. The first was pretty preventable as the Dons defence ended a period of twenty minutes of Jamie Pullen shot stopping practice by finally conceding. It was sloppy stuff but nothing that our hosts hadn’t deserved, although it seemed to be the wake up call the Dons needed. Wimbledon mounted a series of attacks, never really threatening except for a hopeful Nathan Elder header that bounced off the top of the bar. To be honest, despite the high work rate from the likes of Poole and Hatton, and particularly the exceptional Hendry, unfortunately none of them had their shooting boots with them – which was a problem as all the chances fell to our midfielders. It was more like toblerone boots as shots flew high and wide, threatening those Oxford fans sitting in the corners more than the net.

A lively Lewis Taylor was forced off in the first half, replaced by Jay Conroy who found himself involved in the main talking point of the second half. An attempted clearance was charged down by an Oxford man, seemingly with his arms and sending him clean through on goal. With no angle to narrow Jamie Pullen was left exposed in goal, and Conroy selflessly pulled back his man, a clear sending off but leaving the Dons with half a chance of getting back into the game. Conroy seems to be rivalling Elliott Godfrey as the unluckiest player in the squad, for every time Godfrey found himself in the way of a goal-bound Dons shot I can think of a moment where Conroy slipped over leaving his man a clear run; and for all the time Godfrey has spent on the sidelines with niggling injuries Conroy has found himself losing his place due to unfortunate suspension.

Wimbledon brought on Jon Main for a labouring Nathan Elder (presumably his ankle wasn’t quite 100%?), which added genuine pace to the firing line, unfortunately with little time to measure balls over the top the Dons midfield saw the Oxford back line easily batter away. Either that or balls that did put the hosts defense on the back foot ended up being chased down by the not-quite-as-pacy Kedwell, still a better option than watching Jon Main trying flick a ball on though…

Constable grabbed his second to end the game with around ten minutes to go, but credit to the Dons fans, most stayed to applaud the lads off at the end, despite what must have been a very strong desire to beat the traffic. At most other grounds you would say that beating everyone else out of the car park is a shameful reason to leave a game early, yet we deeply regretted not leaving early ourselves as we found ourselves stuck for half an hour without moving! Love the Dons fans reaction after, loudly wondering why there wasn’t another way out of the car park, as if Oxford would suddenly realise ‘Hey! We didn’t think of that! What a great idea!’ after several years of stadium usage…

A free Saturday follows, as the little man at Conference HQ with a pencil and eraser couldn’t work out how to produce the fixtures without leaving clubs with blank Saturdays – maybe the Conference will at least catch up with the 20th century shortly, never mind the 21st. Which probably helps the manager more than we could imagine. Potentially nine home games of our remaining fourteen remain – and I would say all of them are potentially winnable, even the visits of Rushden and Stevenage. The playoffs remain within reach, but by the time we face Altrincham, certain sides will have pulled ahead of us in terms of games played, which could leave us playing catchup for most of our remaining campaign.

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Toilet Town

No, I’m not dead. I did say I had to cut back on the reporting (but to be honest even I was quite surprised to hear I hadn’t written anything since the Forest Green build up…). But I still intend to pop up in Kedwell style when the big moment calls for it.

And it was a big moment. Feedback from other supporters suggest Luton fans thought it ‘was our Cup Final’… well yes of course it was. It was one of them at least. It doesn’t matter how big a club you are, if you win at one of your main promotion rivals, you celebrate. Perhaps the fear of looking over excited about promotion from the BSP to the Football League could explain why we didn’t hear a peep from the Luton fans all day. And if that’s the attitude in the stands, you have to wonder whether it’s the same attitude in the boardroom, hell even the dressing room? Theres something familiar about Luton at the moment, something we’ve seen before elsewhere. At Oxford for the past couple of years. At Leeds before this season in League 1. At our friends from down the South West Mainline as they contemplated their first season down in the BSS (0-5 at home to Welling? Haha!). The assumption that simply being too big for a division would be enough to take you out of it. As soon as Luton start to realise that and start playing with a bit more direction, the quicker they can get back into the League. It might have to come from a better vocal performance from their supporters to kickstart it. But I don’t see that happening any time soon…

Wimbledon were far from at their best today. If Richard Money believes Luton were ‘simply brilliant from start to finish’, yet still managed to lose to an underpar Dons side that couldn’t hold on to possession longer than a couple of passes, I’d hate to see what they are like on a bad day. Furthermore, (and I appreciate I’ve been talking mainly about our opponents thus far) what Luton need is a leader to stand up and say ‘we weren’t good enough, here’s why and here’s what we are going to do about it’. Which is a shame, because Luton’s anti-MK cheerleading in the first half shows exactly why they deserve to recover their Football League status. But, maybe not at the expense of the Dons, eh?

As for his comment that ‘Hopefully (Wimbledon) understand that they were second best today’; well that’s just a downright insult. No prizes for guessing whats going to be pinned on the dressing room wall if we come up against Luton in the playoffs. To be honest, as I said before, Wimbledon were average in terms of the amount of times they simply gave the ball away. Perhaps they were fortunate that their hosts seemed in way too much of a rush to get anything done, and returned possession frequently. You would expect in these circumstances that a great amount of chances would have been produced, but no. I can only remember three occasions apart from the goals where either goal looked particularly in danger, all of them off target. An early Luton chance saw a looping header bounce off the top of Pullens bar, Elder headed into the side netting when free later in the half, and Kedwell stabbed inches wide from a tight angle in stoppage time.

As for the goals themselves, well the first two barely minutes apart were both entirely preventable. Elders effort somehow evaded Tyler before creeping over the line, producing the ultimate in delayed reactions from the Dons fans at the opposite end. Then a mishit shot heading nowhere deflected back into the path of Craddock to sweep home and tie things up. The game seemed to die a death early in the second half, with neither side able to fashion a decent chance until Kedwell provided the games only real moment of quality.

Elder picked up the ball on half way and switched to Kedwell on the right before being taken out of the game by a late challenge. On the break, all Kedwell seemed able to do was hold the ball up and wait for reinforcements. Instead he carried the ball to the touchline, before rounding the Luton left back with ease. Eight yards away from goal, but only a yard from the touchline, Kedwells route to goal seemed blocked by the figure of goalkeeper Tyler. But as the Luton stopper went to ground, Kedwell guided it high over him and into the top right corner of the goal. A stunning individual effort and one worthy of winning any game.

Not that, in my head, I really believed it would be the winner. Despite the lack of chances, Wimbledon repeatedly failed to clear their lines, Luton frequently regaining possession not just in the Dons half, but on more than one occasion in very dangerous areas on their left flank. Luton looked really disjointed going forward, and to the Dons relief time ran out before they could get themselves together. There was no big chance for Luton fans to look back on and think, ‘if only’. No heart attacks for Dons fans, just celebrations that the promotion push is back on track.

What now for the Dons? Well it seems likely that in the next couple of weeks we will see the end of Chester as we know them. Recent reports regarding a mysterious Danish ‘MyFC’ style operation have only muddied the waters, and seem to lack a great deal of substance. After all, why would anyone want to buy a club hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt with no supporters left? Add in the fact the Vaughans are now reportedly advising they would waive the hundreds of thousands they are somehow owed by the club in order for a buyer to come in and the short-term situation is even more muddled. It seems clear the only reason the Vaughans are doing this, knowing they stand no chance of making any money from the club, is down to sheer spite. Hopefully a breakaway fans club will start next season at the Diva, regardless of whether Chester City still exists in one form or another.

Regardless of whether the Conference clubs vote to expel them it seems the most likely outcome would be that the club are wound up in court thanks to those huge HMRC debts. Whether their records are expunged or not is vital to the top of the table, for example of Chester were removed today the Dons would be solidly entrenched in the play off places. Even if they aren’t removed, we would face them in our last home fixture, playing a severely weakened side with pretty much three points in the bag and a hefty addition to our goal difference. This would still give us an advantage over Luton for example, by a point and every goal over a two goal margin we score in that fixture.

Immediately, we face Oxford. I don’t think for one moment anyone expects a victory there, although we take a great deal of momentum with us Tuesday. Anything is a bonus, be it a point or even a single goal defeat keeping the goal difference intact. Beyond that, and with our blank weekend scheduled for next Saturday, the sides around us who have enjoyed games in hand recently will now get the chance to move ahead of us. You would prefer points in the bag at any stage of the season, but this gives a chance for some of our promotion rivals to throw points away. With our rescheduled fixtures against the likes of Grays and Barrow, we can quite rightly expect to take the majority of points from them.

So if we find ourselves ending the month down in eighth, there is no need to panic. With nine home games remaining this season, we can turn our attention to turning Kingsmeadow into a fortress, as points dropped at home could prove the difference between heading towards the playoffs or taking an early summer break.

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Green Army

I’m starting to feel the hangover from our defeat to Workington is wearing off. I had no intention of going to Tooting on Monday after that (a good job really), in fact I found myself getting hooked on Football Manager 2010, something I’m sure the sponsors would love to hear as I now give them invaluable free advertising telling you about it. Not that its ridiculously better than any of the previous versions, but I have just downloaded a file some guy made using the editor, which extends the game down to level ten; including the Vase, SSC, etc… Naturally as a football geek, this has reignited my love of the game as I prepare to guide Cobham from CCL1 to Premier League glory…

Unfortunately it means I have little spare time for anything else. Including the blog, but to give it some balance, also including my wife… plus I have difficulty getting up in the morning meaning I roll in about fifteen minutes late every day, with the messages piling up for me and my boss steaming out of his ears and giving me the ‘no more Mr Nice Guy’ talk.

So for the sake of my career, as well as my reputation as AFC Wimbledon’s Premier Blog Writer, its time to take a step back and welcome our visitors for Saturday, Forest Green Rovers. Not much time seems to have passed since we pitched up in Nailsworth and came home with the points. On that day after a ridiculously exciting first half, the Dons stretched their legs in the second and our hosts couldn’t live with us, finishing with our biggest away win of the season.

For our visitors, I suppose their biggest away win go down as one of the two they have managed to win, and they now sit just inside the relegation zone fighting for their Conference survival. They seem to have turned a corner of late, working their way back into the scrap around the drop zone, and will be keen to keep their run of form going – as when you find yourself down at the bottom its hard to recover from a knock like this. Still, not a game you would expect us to lose, or one that we should drop points in at all if we hold any hopes of working our way into the playoff picture. Yet there seems to be a nasty lack of confidence developing in the squad at the moment, which could evolve into a rather nastier run of poor form. What should have been a routine home win has now turned into a potentially nervy encounter.

Fortunately we have some quality returning. I expect an overhaul of the midfield with Gregory, Poole and Hendry returning, and although its hard to call exactly who is going to miss out I feel we could have seen the last of Adjei for a few weeks.  Although our bag four looked paperweight last week that was largely down to our midfield not working hard enough, having said that I would expect Lorraine to come back into the starting line-up. Plus there is a strong possibly Jamie Pullen back in place of Sebb Brown to give them further confidence behind them.

Whatever team takes the field tomorrow, a victory is needed – the squad, in fact the whole club needs a lift right now after a tough couple of weeks. With some massive games on the horizon, including trips to Luton and Oxford within four days of each other, those extra three points will make the difference between going to these places looking for points or turning up with no pressure, playing good football and seeing what happens.

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Bitter? Me? Of course, which explains why there was no Workington report!

Not towards our conquerors of course, I wish Workington all the best in the next round and to be honest if I had to choose a club that would knock us out, I would have chosen a side like them. No, it was our own players who stoked my ire, to the point that I wanted nothing to do with the game for the rest of the weekend! Perhaps better that I sit down now and analyse, although I have just deleted a thousand words of text that turned into a semi-rant at everything I perceive at being wrong with the squad at the moment. I won’t insult the intelligence of my readership by dictating that to you, after all I’m sure you have been able to formulate your own thoughts on it by now, maybe different and contrary to my own?! Instead, just a few thoughts…

Firstly, my anger at the performance has taken me by surprise, certainly we have seen what appeared to be far more incompetent performances in the past, although maybe not this season. It took me a while to realise it was because we have such a talented squad, the drop off in performance was so extreme it can’t simply be explained away by the inconsistency of youth, or the settling in of new players. This involved under par performances from a good half a dozen or so players, and very poor performances by at least three players in key positions. In a game of such importance, how could this have happened?

Of the players I want to single out, by far the worst was Kennedy Adjei. We have seen signs of complacency creeping into his game over the last few weeks, especially as since Steven Gregory picked up his injury Kennedy has had no competition for his place. Judging by Adjei’s performance on Saturday, I don’t think the vastly superior Gregory will have much competition for his place when he returns either! You have to wonder just how motivated Adjei is when, a week away from his competitor for a first team place regains fitness, he puts in a performance like that. He must have been told about the importance of retaining possession in training a million times judging by his managers reaction every time he gives the ball away. Yet even though there is no-one else who really fits in that holding position, Terry Brown still removed him with an hour to go.

The annoying thing is we know on his day he has the talent to do a job. Quite why he can’t produce this every week is his business, it will be the difference between him staying or going in the summer, but you have to say its worrying that he could not perform against a side from the division below when we needed him most. Adjei also wasn’t on the field when we blew it in the last five minutes, the blame he has to accept comes as part of the fact the game really should have been under control by
that point.

Blanchett and Taylor, two other players whose performances were questionable to say the least, had no such excuse. Blanchett could have got away with a defence that he is still settling in at the club, but he is an experienced player and must have known that the last ten minutes are a time for concentration, not to lose the plot. And when Lewis Taylor plays well, he can be the best player on the pitch. On Saturday he was more of a liability than anything, constantly giving possession away, running into blind alleys, seemingly nowhere near on the wavelength of his team mates.

In fact Johnson, Hatton or Brown, despite not performing quite as badly, should still be looking in the mirror this morning. Johnson thought he had forever to distribute the ball from the back and frequently came unstuck. Such a lack of concentration from a player who has experience higher up the pyramid is unforgivable.  Hatton was patchy, summed up by one brilliant run into the Workington half, before laying the ball off to a dark-shirted player to his left… only to see he had actually passed to the referee, no Dons player was within twenty yards and a grateful Workington man was making his way forward on the counter attack. Hatton has what it takes to be a great Conference/League 2 midfielder in future, but after two and a half years in the side he really needs the chance to step back, play a bit of reserve football, and learn to get his head up and pick a pass. Maybe he could go on loan to a friendly BSS club? Either that or the reserves, for a good half-dozen games, and I guarantee he will come back a more determined and confident player.

I’m starting to think I was correct all along about Sebb Brown, but now I know more about him I wish I wasn’t. We all want the kid who grew up wanting to play in goal for Wimbledon to be our number one, but the truth is had James Pullen played on Saturday we might be looking forward to a trip to Stevenage after a lucky escape. While there was little he could do about the freak second goal, a decent punch would have cleared the danger for the first, and I really need to see the video to work out how the third squeezed through him.

In fact looking at the lineup for tonight’s game against Tooting, it seems only Blanchett, Adjei and Judge are being punished by being forced to play. All I can say is I bet there are a couple of lads feeling lucky they picked up a minor knock. And Judge can consider himself quite unlucky, it was only his attitude at being subbed that got him the gig tonight. I just wish he had shown such passion when he was on the field! Still, heres a man in his mid-thirties still behaving like a spoilt kid – he probably feels a fool and hopefully will come back stronger next time.

As for where this leaves our season… Well we are still in sixth place. The playoffs would be a big ask, but if the lads get their heads down and work, nothing is impossible for them. It would really make up for the disappointment of missing out on the trophy!If they really apply themselves, well I wouldn’t like to be FGR next weekend thats for sure. And if they don’t make it, but they have gone down in a blaze of glory and entertained us all the way only to be beaten by better teams? Well thats fine in my book. We could easily fall to pieces and end up finishing eleventh, but what if we did make it into the playoffs? What if the lads took us to Wembley? What if they went on and won the thing???

Well, there would still be miserablists like myself bemoaning the fact we never won the Trophy on our way…

‘We’ll Never Make It Back To Wembley’ Part Three (or Workington Match Preview)

I faced a difficult decision on Tuesday night. One one hand I had every intention of going to watch a mix-strength side take on Camberley in the SSC. On the other, I was freezing on my way home from work, which was a fantastic time for my wife to call and suggest a takeaway, some wine and a movie. So I faced that classic dilemma; AFC or KFC? Dons or a doner? Vino or the team-o??? (Yeah that last one was a bit desperate).

If it had been any other competition, even an FA Youth Cup game I would have been there like a shot. But faced with watching a group of promising youngsters getting kicked around by an experienced Combined Counties side while our senior players looked on and avoided injury left me feeling a little flat. Big props to the 410 who did turn up though, I’m sure the vast majority wished they hadn’t bothered after we squeaked through on penalties.

I’ve always thought the SSC was the sort of unloved competition worthy of experimenting on, i.e. play the early rounds during pre-season, straight to penalties after 90 minutes, turn the whole thing into a 5-aside tournament and play it over a morning at Goals…

Yet now we turn our attention to a rather more prestigious competition, and one that rewards success with a trip to Wembley for the final, with the merchandise windfall that goes with it. Hopefully a place in the quarter finals will be enough to tempt the many that failed to turn up for the Boreham Wood and Altrincham games and ensure at least a half decent atmosphere at the Meadow.

After eliminating Altrincham we now face the other unsuccessful side in the 1977 League election process, Workington. The phrase ‘grudge match’ has been used elsewhere, and if its going to bring the crowds in then why not? As we ourselves now know, League membership should be regarded as a treasured gift – yet it’s only when League status is lost that you really notice how much it means. Having said that I doubt the Workington supporters will be heading down with torches and pitchforks in search or Ron Noades (and if they were, I might join them…).

The Reds come into the game off the back of a nine game unbeaten run in League and Trophy games, including the prized scalp of Rushden. I would imagine the long journey and unfamiliar surroundings of Borough Park played a big part in this, which should underline why a replay on Tuesday night in Cumbria could prove as disastrous as a defeat. However their build up to the game so far seems to have involved quite a lot of hot air, not in a disrespectful way, and manager Darren Edmondson seems confidence that focusing on work rate and battling qualities will be enough to see us off. If indeed he has ‘studied tapes’ of our matches, I can only presume he would have realised by now his side will need a deeper game plan than that – or cross his fingers and hope we have a collective off day…

As for our Dons, I can only presume TB is currently pinning up the press cuttings in the dressing room as we speak (“Wimbledon used to be a team that was feared but that was in the days of Vinnie Jones. He’s not around any more so our lads have nothing to be scared of.”). Our new signing Josh Parker from QPR (why is it that every other teenager around at the moment seems to be called Josh?) is immediately available and with the loss of Ross Montague to what seems like a long-term injury  (just when he seemed to be finding his feet…), it is likely we might see Parker appear at some point. I have to say during his time at the club, Brown has proved an expert in the loan market, from short-term options like his late season five-player shuffle that got us through the Ryman playoffs to long-term signings such as Elder, he always seems to find the right player. Hopefully Parker will reinforce this reputation.

Apart from that he seems to be playing his cards close to his chest at the moment, so I’m not even going to make a fool of myself by predicting the line-up today. Either way, so long as the lads perform as we know they can, it is odds on we will find ourselves one step closer to being the only group of fans to see their side win the FA Amateur Cup, FA Cup and FA Trophy…

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I couldn’t make it to Wrexham in the end, either fortunately or unfortunately depending on which way you want to look at it. And now I’m worried that a pattern seems to be emerging… when I can’t make a game, we seem to lose 0-1. Although according to the BBC North Wales commentary we did sound slightly unlucky to go down in what sounded like  a poor game. Returning Wombles have now assured me I was correct, and I’m looking forward to any video highlights that might become available to see the Wrexham goal – which sounded slightly dodgy to say the least.

The defeat has rocked our play-off hopes, despite remaining in the top five, as sides below us also won. Now I said a couple of weeks ago that I would prefer the points in the bag to games in hand, but the truth is we now don’t have enough of them to hold our position against Luton for example. The Hatters are just three points behind us with four games in hand, and although our superior goal difference could be considered an extra half point in our favour, can we really see them only picking up four points from those games, regardless of the opposition?

No, we are still playing catch-up as far as the playoffs are concerned. By the time we return to league action against Forest Green on February 6th, we could find ourselves well off the pace, as an albeit shaky Kettering side face Gateshead and Crawley, Luton play Histon and Ebbsfleet, and Rushden are up against Wrexham and Hayes – and play again on Tuesday 9th against Eastbourne. So by the time we visit Cambridge, a tricky journey at the best of times, coming back with three points will be essential. With back-to-back Tuesday night visits to Luton and Oxford following, come the end of February our play-off odds will be a lot clearer.

We face two cup games this week. We face Camberley in the SSC on Tuesday and its unlikely we will see a Dons side as strong as the one that overwhelmed Ash in the last round. I will expect a side full of Marcus Gayle’s young Dons should be enough to overcome our CCL opponents despite our opponents currently enjoying second place in their division, and an extended run in this competition would give our youngsters some great experience.

However, Saturdays game with Workington will be the fixture Terry Brown will be focusing on. The FA Trophy has always been our target, and with a place in the quarter finals at stake I think we are all hoping for a professional performance against our Blue Square North opponents. Lets hope more than a couple of thousand can be bothered to turn out this time, as this is a competition we can genuinely win… I’m not sure we can overturn Oxford or Stevenage in the League, but as we have already seen in a one-off game against either of them we have nothing to fear… although a two-legged semi-final could prove more tricky!

The luck of the draw could decide how hard the route to Wembley will be, and lets not assume the Workington game will be a walkover… they are a tough BSN side and Wimbledon will have to be at their brilliant best to overcome them. Anyway, more about both cup games later in the week. All I can suggest is that we don’t look too closely at that League table in the coming weeks, so lets allow ourselves to be distracted by the Trophy!

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Wimbledon 3 Altrincham 1 – Match Report 19/1/10

A much changed Dons line-up went through to the Third Round of the FA Trophy after a disjointed performance that was just about good enough to see off a battling Altrincham side. Lining up in a formation that owed more to ensuring as experienced a side as possible took the field, and with a non-existant bench, it could be argued this Wimbledon side just don’t know how to lose at the moment, despite making things hard for themselves at times played in front of a disappointing crowd of just 1450.

In fact it was Altrincham who had the first real effort of the game after two minutes, an outswinging corner firmly headed towards the left side of Sebb Brown’s goal, fortunately Jay Conroy had taken up a position on the post and was able to nod clear. Conroy found himself caught out of position frequently later in the game, but the tie would have followed a different course had he allowed this effort to creep past him. It was also pretty much the only effort Alty managed on goal before the break.

Not that Wimbledon dominated, at least not to start with. It took a while for the game to settle into any kind of pattern, as players fought to cut a niche for themselves while occupying slightly unfamiliar positions. For Danny Kedwell this seemed more of a problem than most, trying to play the Moore/Hendry role he constantly found himself sucked back deeper into midfield to win the ball, to the extent it almost seemed as if he was trying to play the holding role rather than the point of a diamond. Whatever his tactical instructions may have been, it left him far less effective than normal.

His battling qualities were still there, and he drew the foul that led to the Dons first chance just after the ten minute mark. Just right of centre, it seemed ideally positioned for Ricky Wellard’s left foot, but instead Hatton tried to whip it over right footed, the ball clearing the bar with ease. Next up Kedwell almost got on the end of a Main pullback after he had been set free down the left by a Hatton flick, sadly he was just beaten to the ball by a defender and the chance was gone.

Still the Dons now had Alty on the back foot. Despite not yet creating anything, and giving the ball away with worrying ease, the home side were getting the ball back thanks to some increasingly panicky clearances that allowed the Dons to build from the back once more. All of a sudden Wimbledon started to test Altrincham keeper Saunders. First, a Johnson cross found Kedwell whose looping header caused Saunders to stretch in order to collect. Then a Sam Hatton volley from the right edge of the penalty area caused the visitors custodian to drop smartly to his right to gather.

Finally, with five minutes of the half remaining Wimbledon found the breakthrough. Kennedy Adjei was given time to compose himself on the half way line before launching a rampaging surge into the visitors half, leaving two opponents for dead in the process. The ball found its way to Ricky Wellard loitering on the right edge of the area, a drop of the shoulder saw him past the opponent that blocked his path as he cut back inside, and rifled a left foot effort into the bottom right corner of the goal.

There then followed a bizarre piece of refereeing that infuriated the Dons fans and left both sides feeling a little hard done by. A through ball found Altrincham’s Chris Senior through on goal, and despite being a clear two yards offside the linesman’s flag stayed down. This threw Sebb Brown’s concentration, and he spied the danger too late before rushing out to clear. Senior’s balance had gone by the time the two came together, and after prodding the ball past the keeper the Alty man decided to take the easy option and tumble over the goalkeepers leg. Finally a whistle came, too late for Dons fans liking, awarding the free kick in Altrincham’s direction. A yellow card for Brown, but no more on account that Senior’s trajectory was sending him closer to the corner flag than the Dons goal, and at least two covering players were protecting the goal.

Not that the Altrincham bench were happy with the free kick, and kicked off into one of the biggest strops seen at Kingsmeadow this season, which included an always enjoyable spot of crowd interaction. Perhaps Alty manager Graham Heathcote should have read Terry Brown’s Mansfield programme notes, as there was little Respect shown by him towards the match officials. Ultimately you could say the men in black came up with the correct result, the referee seemed to notice something was up and took leniency on young Brown when I suppose a red card was a possibility – we have seen those given in the past. But ultimately the only losers in the incident were the Dons… if the referee had managed to make the correct decision to start with, I wouldn’t be writing this now!

[Edit – I’ve actually seen the video now and in particular the image reproduced here, and I’m ready to accept that it might have been a closer offside call than I suggested – which of course doesn’t excuse Senior’s extravagant tumble, which you don’t quite get the full benefit of on the video. For the avoidance of any doubt though, you can see the direction he was heading (Berrylands) and the number of covering players (plenty)]

Presumably Heathcote used this mock sense of injustice to his advantage during the half time break, not that it did him much good as his side found themselves two goals down less than five minutes into the second period. Adjei controlled a fierce low clearance, and slid the ball into Ross Montague, who had his back to goal on the edge of the area. Montague quickly laid off to Jon Main, who took a touch before drilling the ball into the bottom right hand corner.

For the next few minutes it looked as though the Dons would put the game well beyond their visitors. Main forced a corner on the right, and Wellard’s delivery was flicked on at the near post by Brett Johnson, only to be deflected behind. Wimbledon then threatened though a number of succesive corners, ended when Jon Main found himself brushed off the ball in the area, with the referee and his assistants being in no place to make a decision.

It was a that point that Heathcote decided to make changes, bringing on the more offensively minded Clee and Little. The switch had an immediate effect, with Altrincham now able to hold the ball in the Dons half more effectively and build attacks. Minutes later they forced the first real moment of danger in the Dons box, with Shaun Densmore’s precise volleyed cross from the right finding Senior in space, only for the Alty man to rush his headed finish when he could have taken the ball down. It was only a short respite for Wimbledon, as the visitors pulled themselves right back into the game.

As another Alty forage forward looked to have been repelled, a half-clearance found Anthony Danylyk in space twenty-five yards out, and he took his chance really well, returning the ball into the bottom left corner of Sebb Brown’s goal at such pace it gave the young keeper no chance.

Adjei immediately picked up a head injury that required a BIG bandage, however it was just coincidence that following this the Dons overworked midfield seemed to break down temporarily. Unable to pass the half way line, their balls forward were either over hit and poorly placed, or didn’t make it past the first man. Fortunately the back line was battling bravely against a barrage of crosses during a spell when it seemed a matter of when Altrincham would equalise rather than if.

But the storm had been weathered, and the Dons finally found their feet again in midfield. This culminated in a gradual spell of pressure that saw the hosts extend their lead and put the game beyond doubt. Following a bit of head tennis in the area a Ricky Wellard shotwas deflected into the air, looping perfectly for Jon Main to bury his header… Instead he just about did enough despite putting the ball too close to a defender for anyones liking. It seemed to have crossed the line before said unidentified Alty player fisted it away from goal, but Ben Judge was on hand to blast into the roof of the net and end the arguments.

Except the arguments between Main and Judge of course! To be honest it all happened to quickly to tell whether the linesman was flagging for Judge or for Main’s original effort, the two of them still trying to work it out long after the final whistle [Late edit – you can’t tell from the video either!]. To be fair Main gets more than his fair share, and Judge is a warhorse, reliable and loyal with it… Judge deserves the goal. If Jon Main has a problem with that, my only advice to him would be to make sure the ball hits the net in future – then no-one can take it away from you!

Five minutes later Altrincham had the ball in the net once more, this time ruled out due to a rather obvious handball by Colin Little, still it ensured a few Dons hearts leapt into mouths at a key moment. Despite the shaky performances from both sides, or rather because of the shaky performances, the game was reasonably exciting throughout. Although the Dons created more chances, including a self-made chance from a surprisingly lively Ross Montague that ended with a twenty yard shot that was slightly scuffed and comfortably saved by Saunders, it would have been slightly rough on Altrincham who deserve credit for their gutsy performance.

And those stay-away supporters ultimately missed out. Wimbledon now face the other unfortunate team that lost out to the 1977 Dons 4 Div 4 campaign – Workington of the Blue Square North. Without wanting to tempt fate, the Third Round draw has presented a series of fixtures that mean a winnable quarter-final would be just as likely as a difficult one – should we get that far… And to paraphrase Sam Allardyce (sort of…), those that weren’t there last night will be the first ones to complain when they can’t get tickets for the later rounds…

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‘We’ll Never Make It Back To Wembley’, Part Two (or Altrincham Match Preview 19.1.10)

After our return to League action, we immediately switch our attention to the Trophy and welcome Altrincham down to the ‘Meadow. While not exactly the Magic of the Cup, the Temptation of the Trophy will be enough to drag 1732 hardy souls down to Kingsmeadow to see this vital Second Round tie. In fact I’d almost rather have half of those there than the bland atmosphere we witnessed for most of Saturday, when my concentration had been broken on several occasions by the dropping of knitting needles in the Strank Stand…

I love midweek cup action at Kingsmeadow; that it’s normally just the hardcore who turn out for this type of game means perversely there is more concrete and steel for the atmosphere to bounce off, and not absorbed into static flesh like it was on Saturday. Plus where do these extra supporters disappear to for these midweek cup ties? We are always going to lose a few due to kids not coming, distant Dons being unable to travel, late shift workers not being able to get there in time… but that can’t account for half our regular fanbase, surely?

I think its down to our modern Sky-assisted idea (yup, it’s always Sky’s fault…) that there is nothing like the League, and all other tournaments are little more than a meaningless distraction… which as we all know is horsecrap of the highest order. The cup is where it’s at, and if you think back to some of the greatest games you’ve seen, I guarantee at least half of them would be cup ties – which those of you working out the ratio of League games played to Cup games would already have worked out, doesn’t quite add up…

To borrow a Football Managers Cliche, ‘The League is our bread and butter’… which probably explains why managers are more likely to suffer heart problems. Stop moaning about stress, try using low-fat spread for a while, that’ll sort it out. Plus you can’t eat bread and butter all the time, which is effectively what these stay-away fans are doing… How do they avoid the boredom of Conference fixture after Conference fixture? You need the curry of an FA Cup run, or the microwave Spag Bol of the Trophy from time to time… even the Curly Wurly of the Surrey Senior Cup is enough to sort me out good and proper…

As for the game itself, lets not kid ourselves that we are going to overwhelm Altrincham. If they won their three games in hand they would only be a win away from us (not that they will necessarily win those games, it’s just a way of saying ‘careful now..’), and have shown some pretty decent form away from home. Their supporters are confident – not just for this tie but for them to go on and win the thing – which is a great attitude to have (and I mean that not in a patronising way, football gods…).

Having said that, I think we would have been more likely to throw this one away if we’d played the game on its original date. Ever since we lost 1-5 at home to Southall in the Combined Counties Premier Challenge Cup we have looked shaky at the ‘Meadow in cup competitions played on a Saturday. I’m still waking up in the middle of the night sweating while having nightmares about Walton & Hersham. Even right up to Boreham Wood, when we could easily have ended by shuffling out of the ground wondering what just happened.

Team news now, and as the O/S conveniently managed to point out just before I had the chance to, John McAliskey is Cup Tied and won’t be featuring for the visitors. There, thats it, my one and only insight into the Altrincham lineup and they go and ruin it… ahem, although my sources close to the Moss Lane outfit suggest apart from that the lineup will be pretty similar to the side that picked up three points at Ebbsfleet on Saturday (which is more than we did…).

Dons news, and the list of those available would probably be easier to write than those that are out, but as far as I’m aware those Cup Tied are Hendry, Poole and Garrard, with the beast that is Elder unavailable due to not being signed in time for the original tie (one of those weird rules that you only find out about when it affects you…). With Saturday’s Man of the Match out, we will have to make do with top scorer Danny Kedwell starting, and with a point to prove.

In reality our best forward line will probably turn out to be Kedwell alongside Elder, despite Jon Main’s best attempts to put himself about Keds style on Saturday. Main can put an end to that type of talk tomorrow however, and I’m sure he’ll be desperate to avoid slipping out of the starting XI altogether no matter how effective most of us think he can be as an impact substitute.

So in my opinion, we will line up something like this;












Ricky Wellard’s fifteen minutes against Mansfield has shown his desire is there, even if we may have to make do with the negatives as well as the positives he brings to the side – although like Sam Hatton I’m one of those who firmly believes those positives far outweigh any mistakes he might make. Plus he seems to have discovered his eye for goal, so keep an eye out for any screamers he might let loose from distance… one day one of them is going to end up in the top corner and we’ll be talking about it for months…

Apart from that, the side pretty much picks itself at the moment, mainly due to those unavailable. With Lorraine out the centre half pairing looks assured, I think if Blanchett can walk he’ll be asked to play over a virus-ridden Derek Duncan, and continuity will be good enough reason to keep Sebb Brown between the sticks despite what must be a strong urge to give returning senior goalkeeper Jamie Pullen a Cup run-out. The only thing I’m not quite sure of is formation, so we could see something interesting happen involving Ross Montague should Terry decide to leave a midfielder on what I would imagine could be a fairly lightweight bench.

I spent most of today thinking about this game; I’ve been looking forward to it since the draw was made. We could be in for a difficult but watchable game, I would expect the home team to have 60-70% of possession, but it certainly won’t be enough to make sure of a victory on its own – its making use of the ball that is going to ensure whether we win through, or watch Altrincham continue on their way and wonder what might have been.

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Wimbledon 2 Mansfield Town 0 – Match Report 16/1/10

Before the action, Wimbledon said goodbye to one of the men that made us. Allen Batsford, the man who initially took Wimbledon into the Football League in 1977, sadly passed away after collapsing at Wimbledon Broadway tube station following the Chelsea-Fulham game just after Christmas. It was time for those who knew Allen to say goodbye, and those who didn’t but still recognise the great debt this club owed him for his fantastic work almost three decades ago. The programme carried his photo on the front cover, his former players spoke before the teams emerged and a perfectly observed minutes silence preceded kick off.

But life goes on, as does football, and the clubs playing staff had to stay focused on the task in hand. Terry Brown, the man tasked with replicating Batsford’s achievements in the seventies, has played his transfer hand this window and brought in three newcomers to the squad; Chris Hussey replacement Danny Blanchett, plus the ex-Brentford pair Glenn Poole and Nathan Elder. Perhaps with one eye on Tuesday nights crucial FA Trophy tie with Altrincham, and aware that neither Poole nor Elder can play a part in that game, Brown took the risk of naming all three in his starting line-up. In fact including Sebb Brown and Brett Johnson the Dons started with four ex-Brentford players, with Ross Montague also waiting on the bench.

It should be regarded as a good sign that we featured so many players that were part of a promotion winning side last season in the division above, but many Dons fans wondered whether this was too much of a risk against a side one place and one point ahead of them before kickoff – especially considering Wimbledon have failed to beat a side that started the match above them in the table all season.

Any butterflies were eliminated moments after the first whistle. Before the game had even had a chance to settle, Will Hendry picked up the ball in the visitors half. With Nathan Elder the obvious target, Hendry’s job was made a whole lot easier by the big forward intelligently dropping off his man. Hendry floated an inch perfect ball to Elder, who floated his header back across Mansfield goalkeeper Marriott and into the net.

All thoughts that top scorer Danny Kedwell (who has interestingly been linked with a six figure move to St Mirren very recently) was on the bench taking a rest, Elder became an instant hero and a contender for earliest goal on début in Dons history, having netted after only 117 seconds. And Wimbledon weren’t ready to take their foot off the gas just yet…

Five minutes in, and Jon Main found himself free on the right linking with Elder to send his new strike partner free. Mains ball bobbled around and never quite sat right for Elder, who sensibly decided to square for Lewis Taylor. Taylor was well placed, but seemed to rush his finish, seeing the ball deflected away and eventually scrambled clear. Wimbledon had started the way we have come to expect of them, passing the ball around nicely, always looking forward, positive and expansive in their play.

Not that Mansfield were going to sit back and take this. The visitors looked like a team lacking confidence despite their position, seemed unable to string together more than a couple of passes and were over-reliant on their albeit admirable battling qualities. Wimbledon were as solid when faced with this type of aerial onslaught as they have been all season, yet a reshuffled Dons midfield were sloppy at times, gifting the ball to their opponents on far too many occasions. A team firing on all cylinders could have punished them, yet Mansfield seemed rusty, the weather enforced mid-season break seemingly having done them no favours today.

They created chances though, the first on twelve minutes when Gary Silk wriggled free on the right side of the Dons box only to be closed down by Sebb Brown, the Dons keeper deflecting the ball wide for a corner on the right. A deep corner travelled all the way to big forward Rob Duffy at the far post, who could only direct his header tamely wide of goal. The unfortunate Duffy showed no confidence moments later when he found himself in the clear with only Brown to beat, but could only side-foot tamely into the Dons keepers arms.

Now all too aware they couldn’t simply stroll through this game, Wimbledon stepped up a gear. They thought they had doubled the lead on twenty minutes, Lewis Taylor was brought down as the ball ran on to Elder, whose expert finish was ruled out by the referees whistle. Not for a Dons free kick as most presumed, the referee refusing to bring back play even though the Dons had gained no advantage, and presumably wouldn’t have anyway had Elder been offside. Terry Brown aimed his programme notes at fellow managers who had criticised referees of late, but even he must have had to bite his tounge after some inconsistent decision-making from the man in black.

The Dons weren’t to be denied though, and they added a second goal in fantastic fashion in their next attack. Blanchett fed the ball from the left flank to Hatton on the right via Kennedy Adjei, and Hatton delivered a great ball to Elder. Wimbledon’s new hitman this time cushioned a header into the path of Lewis Taylor who swept his shot into the bottom left hand corner of the Mansfield goal giving Marriott no chance.

While Mansfield’s workmanlike forays forward were ultimately proving fruitless, the Dons went on to go close on a couple of occasions during the remainder of the half. Perhaps the best saw Jon Main flick a ball in Glenn Poole’s direction leaving him in possession on the left side of the area with his back to goal. Expertly spinning his man he whipped a shot across the face of goal, just dropping wide of the right hand post.

The second half took a little bit longer to get going than the first, mainly down to a nasty clash of heads that saw Elder receive his second off pitch treatment of the game. The frontman was rightly named the Dons man of the match by the sponsors, combining the battling qualities you would expect from a man of his physique with some intelligent forward play and, as you would expect from a Terry Brown signing, some nifty footwork too that consistently drew fouls from the bamboozled Mansfield back line (even if the referee didn’t always elect to blow his whistle for them…). Then, with the Dons first real chance of the half just after the hour, he could have grabbed his second after being played in by Will Hendry only for a fantastic challenge from Michael Brough to deny him.

The Dons had to stay alert defensively, a fantastic stretching challenge by Sam Hatton saw off a three on three Mansfield break. The visitors just weren’t troubling the Dons goal, their game plan was direct but their play was directionless. Their best player – by some way – was substitute Jake Speight, the only Mansfield player who seemed to show any inclination or ability to take the ball and run at Wimbledon. The difference between the two teams was the home side had players like this all over the pitch, and while the Dons could just about handle Speight, with the likes of Taylor, Hendry and Main among others bombing forward, Mansfield couldn’t really cope.

Hendry was withdrawn for Ricky Wellard with fifteen minutes to go, after proving what a fantastic signing he has been. Hendry seems to have almost single-handedly made the Dons midfield a more offensive unit, he slipped straight into the squad as if he had always been there at just the right time. I still think the Dons squad is poorer without Luke Moore, but Hendry is a more than worthy replacement for him.

Elder made way for Montague with seven minutes remaining, to huge applause from the home fans. Yet it was a fifteen minute cameo from Ricky Wellard that almost stole the show and gave Wimbledon breathing space. First, Montague chased down a through ball that Marriott was clear favourite for, but the Mansfield goalkeeper seemed to be distracted by one of his own defenders and mishit the ball to Wellard just inside the visitors half. As Marriott retreated, Wellard rounded an opponent, and urged on by the crowd struck a perfect dipping effort that the goalkeeper somehow managed to tip over the bar.

Then two minutes later he picked up the ball wide right, cut inside leaving two Mansfield men for dead, and smashed a left footed effort towards the top left corner. Marriott was once again equal to it, just, flying across goal and getting enough on the ball to divert it over for a corner. Marriott won this personal battle, but Wellard showed just how much more confident he has become of late. Not long ago it seemed in the balance whether he would make it at Wimbledon at all, but ever since he turned down the chance to move on loan he seems to have really come on. Yes, he will still suffer from the inconsistency of youth from time to time, but he has shown he has the ability to blossom into a Football League midfielder if he applies himself further.

In between Wellard’s attempts to steal the show, Mansfield managed to get the ball past Sebb Brown only for the effort to be ruled out for offside. Some suggested after the game that an extra goal for each side would have been a more accurate reflection of the game, this would have been at the expense of yet another clean sheet for Sebb Brown and the back four. The Dons have now only conceded once in the last eight league games, and Decembers Conference Player of the Month winner Brown has kept eight clean sheets in his eleven full games for the club.

Adjei and Conroy had twenty-five yard efforts that just cleared the bar in stoppage time, but the points were Wimbledon’s by this stage. The victory moved the Dons up to fourth, which perhaps disguises that there is still plenty of work to do – the Dons find could drop as low as seventh if sides below them (including Mansfield) win their games in hand, and until a few of those games have been played, and points are dropped by promotion rivals, Wimbledon really need to be aware that they haven’t really broken into the playoff places just yet. Stretching the gap between the clubs below them should be their first priority.

If anything the Dons playoff ambitions could be decided between now and the end of February, with winnable home games combined with some very tricky road trips, and if Terry Brown can ensure his newly reinforced squad can remain in the top five by the time March rolls around, we will know whether this is a serious promotion push or not. While Batsford loomed large on the front of the programme, the rear cover featured an advert for our sponsors new game, urging you to ‘Make History’, like Allen did, and Terry is trying to. If Brown can guide us from the Ryman League to the Football League in three consecutive seasons, well, that would be an achievement that would even eclipse the achievements of the great man himself in the seventies. And should it happen, I’m sure there would have been no prouder man than Allen Batsford himself.

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