Legends Of Yore #3 – Danny Kedwell

Following Jon Main and Marcus Gayle in the ‘Legends of Yore’ series, with his return to Kingsmeadow imminent there can only be one choice… the man whose penalty took us to the Football League, and whose goals and work rate in the preceding forty-eight games got us to Eastlands in the first place.

It’s rare that Wimbledon ever sign a player to the universal approval of Dons fans. Future legends have been written off before they’ve even appeared in a blue shirt by sections of the fanbase of various proportions… we’ve had players come in being too old, too expensive, too injury prone. In Danny Kedwell’s case, his strike rate at his previous club, Grays, was called into question. That would have been understandable had Kedwell been signed as a goalscorer, but at the time his arrival heralded the target man Terry Brown had been looking for, a foil for the prolific Jon Main.

Lets not forget how difficult obtaining a target man actually is… Dons fans had to endure the likes of Tony Battersby and Danny Webb stinking out the place before Ked’s arrival. Yet from his first appearance it was obvious Kedwell was more than just a big guy to lump long balls up to. His appearance as a half time substitute replacing Sam Hatton against a stubborn Maidenhead side changed the game, contributing an assist to tee up the home side’s game clinching second goal.

By the time Kedwell notched his first goal, capping off a comfortable FA Cup replay against Bedford in his first home start, he was already well on his way to securing crowd favourite status. While Main set about breaking scoring records, Kedwell concentrated on teeing them up for him, doing all the leg work, defending from the front… yet grabbing his share of goals, eventually weighing in with fourteen in the league in his first season.

Would we have even gained promotion that season had Kedwell not joined? Despite our brilliant start, the arrival of Danny added an extra dimension even Jon Main couldn’t provide on his own. We stuttered a couple of times, even with Kedwell in the squad, ending up just falling over the line. I’m not convinced, with all respect for the rest of the squad, that we would have gone on to be anything other than playoff fodder… Danny gave us just that little extra we needed.

Kedwell still wouldn’t have been everyone’s first choice for a favourite player – he would have been up there, but these were the days when strike partner Main was still the , erm, main man. That all changed at the start of our first season in the Conference. Main’s goals started to dry up, but Danny was there to make up the shortfall, and then some. Despite an inconsistent season in terms of results, Kedwell performed beyond all expectations, slamming in twenty-six in all competitions. Of course, that form brought with it unwanted attentions…

At the time it wasn’t clear whether Crawley’s move to bring Kedwell was serious, or simply mind games. Yet for all his efforts to present himself otherwise, Steve Evans isn’t an idiot. Kedwell had proved himself the most feared hitman in the Conference, for us holding on to him was an achievement worthy of more than just a t-shirt… yet at the time I wondered whether he could come close to his goal tally from the year before in a young, rebuilt Dons side.

Young it may have been, but it was built around Kedwell. For all the talent in the side, Kedwell’s sheer work rate alone meant the team were heavily dependant on him on a regular basis. And the goals kept on coming… finishing the season matching that twenty-six goal tally from the year before. He hit the net twice more at Eastlands, two strikes that sum the man up…

Firstly, a chink in the armour… and there weren’t many during his days in the Conference. When I was asked back in the summer for some of Danny’s weaknesses this was the only one I could come up with. His disallowed goal was a perfect example of his annoying habit of creeping beyond the last man, even when he is standing on the flank and can see every defensive player on the pitch. He must have been in the top five players caught offside in the Conference last year, infuriating because most of the time he’d bought himself so much space he didn’t need to steal any more.

And there we go – his only weakness as a Conference striker. Some questioned his fitness, but if you saw him blowing during the last ten minutes it was more down to the effort he put in during the previous eighty… and he covered some ground, that boy, probably more than most midfielders. Some questioned his temper, he did look as though he had a spark in him waiting to be lit, but was seldom carded, never sent off. He was always able to channel his energies productively.

About that second strike… I remember the nerves I felt knowing it was score-to-win, forgetting who was still to come, then when I saw Danny striding forward deep down I knew it was going to be ok. Some have questioned Kedwell, the rumours he had spoken to Gillingham as far back as the turn of the year, but look at his face when he buries the penalty that took us to the Football League (6.46 onwards by the way…). Is that the face of someone who didn’t care about the club? Is that the face of a mercenary looking for his next pay day?

And yet when someone who means so much to so many decides to move on, invariably a small minority of the many are going to take it badly, and there’s no disguising some Dons fans certainly saw his departure as some kind of betrayal. A few will boo him on his return, but rest assured that will reflect more on those doing the booing than Kedwell’s Dons legacy.

The rest of us will celebrate his time at the club, applaud politely and sing his name… right up until 3PM, when his history with us is forgotten, and he becomes just another opposition player…

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News Roundup 26/9/11

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

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

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

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

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

Bradford City – A Match Reaction

So that’s another box ticked, winning at the ground where the Crazy Gang dream ultimately unravelled, perhaps the most depressing game of football I can ever remember. Except it’s not quite forgiven and forgotten, many Dons fans such as myself missed yesterday’s victory, so we’ll have to turn them over at Kingsmeadow before we can officially say Bye Bye Bradford, and Dons-Bantams fixtures become a normal occasion again.

Unfortunately I’m only able to do one long away trip a month, and that was taken up this month by the trip to, erm, Aldershot. I will be heading up to Morecambe though, a fixture that might well turn out to be an early season top of the table clash. Yes seriously, I bet you never thought you’d read that after the Northampton game. If anything its an example of just how tight this division is. I know its early days, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we were never more than a couple of wins or defeats away from the top and bottom of the table respectively all the way up to Christmas.

We’ve reached ten games, the point in which the League table looks less like a form guide and starts serving its purpose, and despite an inconsistent start performance-wise, you can’t ask for more than five wins and a couple of draws… it’s play-off form (which explains how we currently find ourselves in seventh place). Not that we should start making plans for a season of success just yet – although a fearsome looking October will tell us a great deal more about our true position in this division.

Our challenging month starts with the visit of Gillingham next week, in a much-anticipated encounter for one obvious reason. Yet the Gills also represent a side with serious promotion ambitions, and will provide the stiffest challenge we’ve faced so far. Coupled with the aforementioned trip to Morecambe, as well as tough looking journeys to Torquay and Shrewsbury, the Dons face Crawley and Crewe at Kingsmeadow, in a month we’ll do very well to finish still in the top half of the table.

Before then we welcome back Danny Kedwell next Saturday, and I’ll be building up to that later in the week…

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.

Anonymous Don On Best Of The Bets

The Cheltenham report is looking like its going to be the latest TAD match report ever – this is partly down to a busy weekend but partly due to Mrs AD’s part time job in our local, and the free drinks that accompany it that would have otherwise seen the whole thing polished off by Sunday morning. I mean its not even going to be particularly long… but I’ll persevere, even if it means posting it on Friday…

In the mean time, I’ve answered a few questions relating to our beloved Dons for gambling site Best Of The Bets, you can read them here – which will hopefully keep you going until that Cheltenham report eventually materialises…

Dons Destroy Cheltenham…

It’s fair to say we needed that result badly after the somewhat unfortunate 0-3 defeat at the hands of Northampton. Prior to our two game home stand I think most of us would have accepted three points and balanced goal difference, although I doubt many of us would have predicted we’d achieve it at 10pm on Tuesday evening…

This was a vastly improved performance against potentially dangerous opposition, and deserves more of a write up than I can unfortunately afford to give it at the moment. Its been a hectic weekend for the Anonymous Don, and I can’t write my usual Sunday match report… but fortunately we have another clear midweek, so further comment will follow in the next couple of days…

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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The Anonymous Don’s Summer Squad Preview Part IV – Forwards

Just when you thought I’d forgotten… ok, I actually had forgotten. With no Kedwell and no Mo the front line is looking very different to last season, but the delay in previewing has already seen a promising start…

CHARLES ADEMENO

I’ll admit to being a little confused by Charlie Boy’s arrival… surely not a replacement for Kedwell, maybe someone to give us more options from the bench after Mo’s departure… but it turned out Charlie Ademeno is looking like becoming a more than decent player in his own right. Not that we should have expected any different – remembering Grimsby fans commenting on the move, none of them questioned his ability, they just seemed a little miffed they didn’t see more of him on the pitch due to his injury records.

The length of time he spent on the sidelines went a long way to ensuring Grimsby allowed him to leave half way through a two-year contract, this a player they paid a five-figure sum for less than a year earlier. It also means Charlie has a contract built towards protecting the club should he spend most of the season on the treatment table, and means should he stay free of injury and score goals for us, TB might just have picked up the League Two bargain of the season.

While not the biggest forward, he uses his enormous strength to protect the ball and hold possession and bring others into play… which is the one aspect of Kedwell’s game I thought we would have most difficulty replacing. Unlike Kedwell, I’m not sure Charlie will be the most prolific of forwards, but that’s just going on his previous record – if he starts scoring on top of that it’ll be a nice bonus.

RYAN JACKSON

Is he a forward, is he a winger, or is he a full back? Well, to be honest we probably won’t see him very much in any of those positions this term, having fallen out of favour after a spell of indifferent form at the start of the year, allowing TB to bring Luke Moore back into the starting lineup. Yet although the O/S lists him as a defender, we’ve seen far more of him in an attacking role at first team level.

It’s a big season for Ryan, stepping up to the Football League. On his game last season his pace and direct running made him a handful for any Conference defence… the problem being when not performing to those levels he became a bit of a passenger. He hasn’t come close to getting game time in our early fixtures, which is a worry… I hate writing off young players, but I have to admit Ryan is one who I can’t see being with us this time next year.

KIERAN DJILALI

The newest of the bunch, by all accounts a forward with plenty of pace and promise. Experience further up the leagues with Crystal Palace gives him a head start over some of our other younger forwards, the only slight worry being sometimes dropping down the divisions signals the beginning of a career slide for young players. Alternatively taking a step back is sometimes the only way to take two forwards, and if Djilali puts in even half the effort he did on his debut (still not fully fit, remember…) he won’t have any worries on the career front. We only have about an hour of football to judge him on so far, so I won’t, what I will say is his arrival gives us options…

CHRISTIAN JOLLEY

Having already made the step up from county football to Ryman in a season, then from Ryman to Conference Premier a year later, Christian Jolley now finds himself playing in the Football League. Given the steep career curve Jolley has taken, an outside observer might expect him to suffer in the same manner Ryan Jackson is… in other words struggle for a contract next season.

But no… Christian has continued where he left off at the end of last season – not starting games, admittedly, but causing chaos and frightening the life out of League Two defenses as an impact substitute. Jolley has become something of a fan favourite thanks to his pacy, direct game, and we shouldn’t discount him having a run of starts (and hopefully goals) at some stage during the campaign.

And yet he is still young and inexperienced… still learning lessons. He will be inconsistent – one minute unplayable, the next fans forgetting he was even on the field. But once he gets over that, we could end up with some player on our hands…

JACK MIDSON

With Kedwell having departed, I think a few of us were hoping Jack Midson would be the new Danny Kedwell, but have been proved wrong just a couple of weeks into the new season… it turns out Jack Midson is doing just fine being Jack Midson, and us Dons could find ourselves better off for it.

I can see Midson being as much of a hit with Wimbledon supporters as Kedwell was. We can already see for ourselves the qualities he’ll bring to the side… An eye for goal speaks for itself with four goals already, but bravery? Staples in a head wound that would have put lesser players out of the game at Dagenham. Plus we are already seeing plenty of positive comments praising his high work rate – Dons fans would forgive him for not being the twenty goal a season hitman if his hard work creates goals for other players.

LUKE MOORE

I’ve always been a big fan of Luke, a tricky and intelligent forward who gets his fair share of goals but creates so much more for others. In fact I mentioned at the start of the campaign this could be a career season for Luke, providing he steers clear of injury. And what a start he made, showing everyone just what he is capable with a mazy run and finish at Crawley.

His goal tally might be boosted a little by the fact he appears to be our penalty taker this term, perhaps thanks to his nerveless penalty at Eastlands. Looks best when positioned behind a front two, like all our forwards he actually does an awful lot of work tracking back, not afraid to put in a challenge or two to win the ball back – definitely a Terry Brown player, a key member of the squad and the sort of player who, if he sticks around, will come in very handy if we find ourselves pushing for promotion in a couple of years time.

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