Tag Archives: Andre Blackman

Rushden 1 AFC Wimbledon 0

The problem with starting the season with a winning streak is even experienced supporters with twenty-five full seasons of following their team (like myself) can be fooled into thinking this might be the year we break all records as we romp to the title… until the first defeat shatters the illusion and we resign ourselves to a season of frustration and joy in equal measures.

Our first defeat of the season came in frustrating circumstances as the Dons dominated the game. Hang on, sorry, the Dons dominated the game for the first three minutes. For the remaining ninety-two minutes of play both sides played as if they had their memories wiped and were just coming to terms with this new spherical object bobbling around the place.

The hosts satisfied themselves with the basics – getting the ball forward quickly, keeping it tight at the back, etc. Wimbledon tried to play their normal brand of passing football, sadly not realising that the spell that makes the ball magically go where they need it doesn’t work away from home, where they are reduced to mere mortals cursed with poor touch and little vision.

Yet it could have been so different if either Yakubu’s header had veered either side of Rushden keeper Roberts (more on him later…), or Luke Moore had buried the rebound rather than looping his header onto the bar (it hit the bar right? It was quite murky down the far end…). It could have been a repeat of last season. Instead the game settled down, the Dons started to come apart and the visitors began to come into it themselves, especially once Sam Hatton left the game half way through the first half. Hattons replacement, Ryan Jackson, has been one of the highlights of the embryonic season so far, but when used in an attacking position on the right. When introduced as Hatton’s replacement at right back, he looked a little lost, unsure when to press on or hold, often finding himself not quite there positionally because of it.

As well as this, Rashid Yusseff was having a few difficulties fitting into midfield in place of the injured Ricky Wellard. Toks has looked impressive during his cameo appearances against Histon and Tamworth, but after a disappointing start he disappeared into anonymity midway through the half only to reappear occasionally to give the ball away. Up front Main and Moore looked isolated either side of Kedwell… Moore seemed to receive more than his fair share of high balls, which he stood little chance of converting into anything meaningful… and I have no doubt Jon Main will be his awesome self if presented with a chance in front of goal, but suffers when he receives the ball awkwardly on the half way line with little support.

Against a better side (perhaps that is a little unfair on Rushden – it would probably be more accurate to give them the benefit of the doubt and say ‘against a more confident side’…), the Dons would have gone in a couple of goals down. But the hosts were having their own problems creating chances, unless a chance counts as a mishit shot from twenty yards skewed wide these days. Their best effort came when Howe found space on the right, only to loft a back pass into Seb Browns hands while attempting to chip the goalkeeper.

Half time came with presumably the majority of the sparse crowd wondering why they had bothered making the journey, especially the Dons fans who paid £17 for the privilege. You have to wonder what Premier Sports viewers (sorry… THE Premier Sports viewer) will make of this tripe on a regular basis… and there are too many games like that at our level. At least a highlights package with a more mainstream channel would have given as much exposure to clubs whilst also papering over the rather boring cracks…

The Dons fans could cheer themselves up in the second half however – Dale Roberts was only yards away and well within earshot of some rather loud abuse from the Dons support, chants of ‘Where were you when Terry scored?’ and absolutely nowhere for the goalkeeper to hide, after his girlfriends rather public indiscretion with his former team-mate Paul Terry. If you’ve never seen Dale Roberts, consider this. John Terry has been beaten a few times with the ugly stick, and his brother resembles him if crossed with a slightly retarded pit bull. Now imagine the sort of guy who would make Paul Terry seem a looker, and you’re half way there…

Not that Roberts had anything else to do but listen to the good-natured ribbing… The Dons started the second half in pretty much the same manner as they did the first. This might have worked at Southport where the luck went our way, but tonight nothing was going for the Dons. Despite this the defence were holding firm… and by ‘the defence’ I mean Yakubu and Johnson. Yakubu in particular was solid, real no-nonsense defending at times, on several occasions having to recover after his initial clearance was gifted to the opposition by a lacklustre midfield. As for the full backs – I mentioned before Jackson was learning a hard lesson, and Andre Blackman, despite admittedly getting stuck in, seemed to spoil his hard work losing possession following one touch too many on rampaging runs into the opposition half.

It was slightly frustrating watching Andre, as there wasn’t much wrong with the performance except in the detail. Like Jackson, when he gets his positional sense cracked and learns to distribute the ball at the right time, he’ll be fine. It is slightly annoying to hear people accuse him of being greedy with the ball, it’s actually a blessing to have a player who feels comfortable running at opponents (especially ones who scare so easily…), and hopefully it won’t be too long before he starts to realise when he’s running down a blind alley and becomes the devastating force we know he can be. Having said that he did pick up a rather unfortunate booking before later firing the ball into the stand following conceding a throw. Fortunately, the referee saw it as a misguided attempt to speed up returning the ball to the opposition rather than any petulance, yet it didn’t exactly endear him to the home support. Still, in my experience these provincial types don’t normally need much of an excuse to hurl abuse at a Blackman…

When the goal came it was the sort of incident that makes you want to storm the referees room en mass to recover your travelling and ticket expenses from his wallet. And if he didn’t have enough to cover all of us, I’m sure the still thriving slave market in certain parts of the world would have appreciated a bit of fresh blood… The incident that started this course of events should really have finishing with Rushden’s Howe trudging down the tunnel in disgrace, having thrown an arm in Blackmans direction. The referee managed to make a bit of a meal of the incident, but it seemed certain a red card would follow… in fact for the first time that evening I felt comfortable, knowing the man advantage would at least secure a point. Yet eventually he had a quick word with the culprit… then let him off completely.

Of course the Dons managed to make a mess of the resulting free-kick, and somehow conceded one themselves… which was taken very quickly and nowhere near the incident (something the Dons had been pulled up for all evening long), finding its way to Howe in the right channel about twenty yards out. As the Dons stood off, he hit one across Brown that seemed to do something strange in the air, dipping over the keeper before finding the net via bar and post.

As I said before, this kind of blow is normally easier to take knowing the Dons were playing poorly, but the opposition had really given them a run for their money in the crap stakes, Finding ourselves a goal down following this type of incident was really tough to take. The Dons attempts come back into the game only seemed to end up resulting in Rushden counter attacks which were fortunately wasted as frequently as they were presented.

In the absence of Ricky Wellard and with no Lee Minshull to fall back on (and boy could we have done with him in the last few minutes…), Toks was eventually replaced with Reece Jones. To be fair Jones deserved a chance to show what he could do, but you get the impression that it was more for the experience than any realistic expectation he would make an impact. Jones will come good for us, with a little hard work and a lot of patience, but the pace of the game seemed to take him by surprise from the off. 

Eventually, one of the Dons few shining lights in Christian Jolley started to get a grip on the game. Rushden had little answer to him on the left, the only disappointment being his team mates inability to feed the ball to him with greater regularity. Jolley had replaced Jon Main, and I have to say I felt sorry for Mainy on the night, he had little impact on the game and it was an obvious call to bring on the pace and width of Jolley, but as a striker he got little decent service from his colleagues and it can’t be all that fun to endure that for sixty minutes before being hauled off for the fourth game in a row.

While Jolley gave the ball away (no one was immune to that on the night), he also provided two wonderful balls into the box from the left that were begging to be put away by someone, only for the ball to ricocheted around the box before somehow ending up in the grateful hands of Roberts. Four minutes of injury time were played, although Rushden had realised they weren’t going to score again and had one eye on the clock well before then. This reached its nadir when the referee ordered Corcoran from the field for treatment, yet allowed the Rushden man to hang around on the pitch for an age before finally yellow carding him, much to the anger of those in blue as time ticked away.

To be fair to the referee he had been very much in charge earlier in the evening, and only lost control when he blew his whistle at around 7.45 and allowed the game to begin – we would have had a decent time together if he hadn’t bothered… Fortunately he had added time on for the Corcoran incident, enough in fact to allow him to turn down a huge Wimbledon penalty appeal – and to be fair to him it was the sort you appeal for knowing he will only give it to make up for some earlier injustice… and those who read my Southport report will know what I think about that! It was very much a corner though, which explained why the referee gave a goal kick…

The final whistle went, which allowed Roberts his own personal moment of triumph and meant we had to endure this gurning oaf pumping his fists and wagging his jug ears in our general direction. I’m sure that went a long way to killing a few personal demons, at least until he woke in the middle of the night, noticed the cold empty side of the bed and remembered once again how small a man he really is. Well, we can only hope…

On another day we would come out of this type of game with a point. There were periods of the match when the Dons seemed unable to string more that two passes together, but the opposition were equally weak. They may have managed to get the ball into our box more than we did theirs, but for all their territorial advantage the hosts had the nervous manner of a side yet to claim a win. They were there for the taking, but Wimbledon put in the sort of shift that was way below recent performances in terms of quality. If they could have captured just a hint of what they showed during the second half of the Tamworth game it would have been a different story. Digging deep and earning points when you haven’t played well, even if you don’t particularly deserve to, was probably the difference between a play off place and upper mid table for us last term, and it will be again this year.

And yet… despite the poor performance, despite the negatives, it was just only ninety minutes. Two big games await this weekend, two winnable games. Lets not set ourselves any targets, but things could look a lot brighter come Monday evening.

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Southport 0 AFC Wimbledon 1

It was at about 8.25 in the morning that I first came to regret not investigating train tickets before they became prohibitively expensive, being as I was on the coach, with the seat in front digging into my shins and knees slowly turning to concrete… find me someone over five foot ten tall who actually enjoys taking the coach and I’ll show you someone who in all probability has a pretty severe bondage fetish… but to be honest, I would have endured a seat of spikes to see the Dons opening fixture (although the game itself would turn out to be pretty excruciating). You see, we just don’t lose on opening day… and we normally win!

It’s the sort of record we can start getting cocky about… the last time we lost on opening day, if my memory serves me right, was against Manchester United back in the days when I was still having difficulty getting served at the bar… And its the subject of alcohol that really piqued my jealousy – everyone, and I mean everyone I spoke to who had travelled up by train seemed considerably (and by considerably I mean a LOT) drunker than I was. As I have mentioned in previous posts, this is likely the last opening day fixture I’ll be attending for some time (no, not just until next year…), I should have celebrated Jolleys winner by stripping to the waist and invading the pitch – that would have been a story for the grandkids to be proud of!

But I suppose someone needs to maintain… someone needs to tell it like it is – and that person is destined to be me! Instead I had a quiet couple of pints in the Southport bar, chatting to some very friendly locals – with the exception of one jobsworth steward whose life’s work seemed to be ensuring that people stood quietly enjoying a drink moved away from the bar entrance, despite being NOWHERE NEAR THE ENTRANCE! You get those at every club though, and it doesn’t disguise that they are a nice club, Southport; one that had their own experience of a moneyed local rival suffering a case of Crawleyitis, and in their case they beat them to the title last season – an example to us Dons as Crawley (well, just Steve Evans actually…) kick off over not being able to sign a player under contract that seemed to have no real interest in going there to start with…

Around six hundred Dons fans packed onto the away terrace, a roofless affair meaning the Dons fans racket, pretty impressive up close, dissipated into the openness merely a few yards walk away. This was a larger turnout that Fulham managed at Bolton, by the way… although I’m sure Bolton charge a bit more than Southport’s £12.50, an impressive boast all the same.

As for the game, it wasn’t a good start to the season for the Dons. The passing was no-where near as crisp as it has been in pre-season, possibly held up by what looked like a pitch that hadn’t been mown for a good couple of weeks. If the first half had been a boxing match, you would have given it to Southport on points (albeit accompanied by fans throwing chairs into the ring and demanding their money back…). On a couple of occasions some ponderous defending led to Southport chances, with only last-ditch challenges keeping the ball out of the Dons goal. Having said that, Wimbledon ended up having the best chance of the half, in bizarre fashion.

As Sam Hatton cut in from the right, he was clipped by his man and went down. Free kick to the Dons, or so we thought… the ref had other ideas and awarded the Dons a penalty. I can only presume the ref had no idea where the incident took place, for which I don’t blame him really, the lines had barely been marked and us Dons fans had great difficulty working out when the ball entered the penalty area closest to us, never mind one at the opposite end of the pitch!

The problem with getting cheap decisions like this, is we never seem to take them. It seems to be the Wimbledon way… rather than giving the ball to Keds to smash past the keeper, thus going in at half time with an ill deserved lead, Jon Main stepped up, almost apologetically side footing to the keepers left and making no effort to disguise what he was about to do. The Southport keeper made it look easy, it really was an absolute let off for the home side, one that could have changed the game considering what was to follow in the second half…

The Dons started the second half with a little more purpose, Sammy Moore in particular could have done better with a chance presented to him. Southport seemed content to simply throw the ball forward and hope for an error, something that presumably served them well in the BSN last season when they were the biggest and strongest, but looking a bit one-dimensional against the Dons more refined football. Having said that, the Dons looked a little creaky at the back, the Johnson/Yakubu partnership still needs working on, as though both players had decent enough games, the performance as a unit didn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts. This wasn’t really helped by Andre Blackman’s continued positional drifting, I know Andre is the sort of player, like Chris Hussey was, who looks to contribute more in an attacking sense than a defensive one but it does leave us rather lacking at the back when he finds himself on the halfway line with his man streaking past him.

Fair lay to Andre though, he put in a fair few thunderous challenges himself, on a day my worry was he would get bullied out. He wasn’t the only one I had my fears for, but the young Dons stood up pretty well to the physical challenge. I’m sure most of us thought it would be like Land of the Giants, with our poor lads bundled off the ball at every available opportunity. It didn’t quite work out that way, if anything the Dons players looked the more aggressive… but before we get carried away, I have to say Southport did look very weak indeed. Even for a part-time side, and this could be something that causes them a fair few problems during the course of the campaign. In fact, it even got to the stage where these supposedly big tough players resorted to throwing themselves to the deck and pleading to the referee… a bit embarrassing for the locals I would presume, watching a team of kids rough up their boys… but something that almost worked for them in no small part due to inconsistent refereeing (which would ruin poor Lee Minshull’s debut, as I will explain later…).

As for inconsistent refereeing, the Dons were denied a stonewall penalty at the start of the half, as a big Southport defender (a quick reminder – I’m not taking notes at away games this season, so identifying opponents isn’t going to be easy!) fell on the ball, making contact with his right arm a couple of times before swatting it away with his left arm. Maybe the referee and linesman thought they would make up for their earlier error by not giving this one, but as the Dons failed to take advantage of their previous good fortune… in fact what am I talking about? Previous decisions should have no bearing on a referees next one, it’s not down to him to ‘level things up’…. more misfortune for the Dons…

Something had to change either way, and it was fortunate that it was Terry Brown who had the game changing card up his sleeve. This time last season we may have taken off a tiring Lewis Taylor and asked Ricky Wellard to play the free roll. Or switch the strikers around. A change for changes sake if you will. This time around, Terry Brown was able to remove Main and Moore – neither of whom had been poor, but then neither had changed the game either – and bring on Ryan Jackson and Christian Jolley. This had an immediate positive effect, changing the philosophy from trying to feed the strikers through the channels, adding a lot more width and allowing these pacy players the freedom to try to get in behind Southport.

The Dons now looked far more dangerous, especially as Hatton and Blackman were looking more effective going forward, having someone to work with on their respective flanks rather than just mucking in. Danny Kedwell started to come into the game more, receiving the ball at feet allowing him to terrorise the hosts back line. And eventually the goal came, good awareness from Christian Jolley to round the keeper and slot into an empty net after a fantastic ball from,,, well actually I’m not even sure who played the ball over, it could have been Hatton, it could have been Jackson (two players who obviously look very similar…) but whoever it was, the goal had finally come, and at that stage it seemed the Dons could go on and win comfortably…

That was until the referee intervened again. Lee Minshull was given his debut, and won the ball perfectly in the middle of the park, only for the referee to call play back with another of those ‘what’s he doing there?’ calls. Perhaps looking to make up for the phantom penalty (Again: Why???), the referee decided this was actually serious foul play by Minshull, and sent him off. ‘play on’ would have been the correct course of action in this situation, but this clown genuinely believed it was a dangerous challenge. If that was the case we should have been at seven a-side at that point, as he would have had to send off those responsible for more serious offenses earlier in the day. A quick review of the tape should ensure Minshull won’t have to serve a ban, but that didn’t help the Dons see out the last ten minutes or so a man short.

Southport gave us a few nervy moments in the final stages, a mishit shot across the face of Sebb Browns goal that he locals got pretty excited about, a smart save down to his right by Brown following and a hopeful appeal for a penalty that might have carried a bit more weight had both players not been holding each other… Southport might consider themselves a bit unfortunate, and they may be able to channel this into a sense of injustice that carries them through the next couple of games – but this is a big strong division, with tougher sides than Wimbledon… Big, cynical teams that will play for the decision, and I’m not sure Southport can live with that. Having said that, there is enough driftwood making up the numbers at the bottom of the table for Southport to be confident of staying up – as well as the usual financial basket cases that make the last two relegation places redundant most seasons.

As for the Dons, well there’s no point saying we need to play better against the bigger sides in the division, I presume that’s what Terry Brown was doing at full-time with the lads on the pitch. We can at this stage only look for the positives. We learned some lessons, and we did so while also taking three points with us back down the motorway. Histon and Tamworth shouldn’t scare us, despite their respective positions of second and first in this very early season table, and we can look forward to seeing the Dons play their football on the bowling green that is Kingsmeadow. Beyond that, we can be confident, but in terms of a promotion push? It’s still very much ‘wait and see’…

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Corinthian-Casuals 2 AFC Wimbledon 6

Well it didn’t rain, but I did get my legs eaten away by hordes of blood sucking insects. That’s the last time I wear shorts to an evening game, that’s for sure. My fault for having sweet blood I suppose, but makes me wonder why the players aren’t similarly affected. Maybe they are… maybe they just don’t moan about it as much as I do.

It was one of those really sweating evenings as well, by the time I made my way into the bar at King Georges it smelled like a rabbit hutch. Meaning a lot of sweaty Wombles had already passed through, that or they actually keep rabbits in there on non-matchdays. Terry made a note of praising the pitch before the game, which admittedly looked like a bowling green… albeit a bowling green that had a number of thick, deep trenches running down one side of it. I don’t want to exaggerate, but they must have been about four inches wide and as much deep – enough for someone to lose a foot in!

Which probably affected Terry’s starting lineup, starting Andre Blackman and keeping him out of the ruts. Not that this stopped Blackman getting injured… a late challenge from a Casuals man did for him on the half hour mark. As if this wasn’t frustrating enough, the ref refused to allow him to be treated on the field, and ended up ordering him off the pitch, from which he was destined not to return… At one stage I thought the referee might have sent him off, but with no Dons sub available until half time, they had to play out the remaining quarter-hour with ten men anyway…

As an aside, the referee was one of those little Hitler types, typical small man syndrome, whose efforts to ruin the game frustrated players and supporters alike. I’m all for the Respect campaign and that, but here’s hoping he enrages the wrong person to such an extent he gets his comeuppance later in the season…

Anyway, back to Blackman. He shuffled off the pitch, mumbling to himself, barely managing to acknowledge the presence of the Casuals substitutes in the corner asking about his wellbeing, before looking anywhere but at the Dons fans behind the goal applauding him on his way through… and fortunately for him Casuals have reduced the size of their pitch, meaning he didn’t have to get too close to the unwashed masses (who also happen to own the club he now plays for…) on his way past…

I also heard, albeit second-hand, about a Dons journo’s attempts to interview him after the game… and his monosyllabic responses. He certainly knows how to win popularity contests, that boy… It seems no matter how hard we search for something of interest in Blackman’s character, the more he comes across as a spoilt ex-Premier League starlet who thinks he’s too big for the Dons. I mean even the rumour that he squared up to DK probably isn’t true… and looking back it always seemed unlikely.

Having said all this, Andre Blackman can be the biggest knobhead on the planet for all I care. As long as he turns it on a Saturday afternoon (and occasional Tuesday evening) for the club I support… well I can overlook a certain amount of arrogance.

Plus there was another player in a Dons shirt whose name was on the tips of Wimbledon supporters tongues, and that man was… trialist Delano Sam-Yorke. Of course, most Dons fans had to double-check the team sheet or rely on Chinese whispers to work out who he was (leading to a couple of not entirely incorrect calls to ‘Go on, Sam’…). Sam-Yorke was to trouble the scorers later in the half, but his first moment of impact came after a turn of pace saw him clear of a slightly dozy Casuals defence before being upended by the keeper. Fellow trialist Reece Jones, a skinny, eager midfielder, was first to the ball and thus stroked home the resulting penalty.

The Dons second resulted from fantastic footwork from Steven Gregory, the ball came to him quicker than expected but he still passed the ball home, almost in slow motion but with perfect placement enough to beat the Casuals custodian. The second followed another sloppy moment at the back by Casuals, as Christian Jolley picked up the ball on the right side of the hosts area before cooly picking out Sam-Yorke to slot home.

Sam-Yorke’s second, which in turn led to Casuals response, was a bit strange. After a drop ball that was supposed to return possession to the hosts, the Dons trialist nipped in a little too soon for everyone’s liking, side-stepped an opponent and expertly found the bottom right corner with a curling effort. The fact that twenty-one blokes were shouting ‘No!’ at him didn’t seem to affect his concentration… not that I blame the kid either. Put yourself in his shoes – you have sixty minutes to make an impression, you’ve just scored… it would be a case of put the ball in the net and ask questions later, wouldn’t it?

The Dons allowed their hosts to walk one in, or rather slow jog it in… although to be honest they could have let them have three and it wouldn’t have made any more of a game of it at that stage. The second half… a bit of a let down after the all action performance of the first. Perhaps it was down to Casuals electing not to turn the floodlights on until it was more or less dark (and what did that save them? A couple of quid at most…). Whatever, it spurred them into action and Jack Turner was forced to make a couple of smart saves before his removal on the hour mark… at which point the gentlemen next to me leaned over and remarked what a great keeper he’s going to be when he’s 19, reminding me once again just what a jewel we could have in him. Blackman the first ex-Don of the AFC era in the Premier League? If he doesn’t make it, Jack will…

Lets face it, the last half hour must have seemed like a kick around for the rest of the squad having been put through a training session on the training pitch next door. Jon Main certainly enjoyed himself; receiving the ball with his back to goal, spinning and firing past the despairing keeper in one smooth motion – all this literally seconds after his introduction.

Casuals had a bit of pressure after that, pulling one back and forcing Sebb Brown (who looks like he spent the summer in the gym) to make a couple of saves. Repeated leg scratching and the knowledge that at that time of night the London-bound trains only leave every hour meant I made my excuses and left just as Jon Main capitalised on a defensive error to grab number six. Apparently. I was behind the stand at the time, so will never know. Perhaps we didn’t score a sixth, the fake cheer and celebration were all for my benefit, and right now several hundred people are laughing at me behind my back…

To summarise – a decent run out, especially from those eager to please to win first team places/contracts… Sam-Yorke looks like the sort of player I would like to see more of, and I’m glad we are looking at trialists still… I certainly hope there will be a degree of flexibility in terms of squad numbers. Eighteen is a small squad regardless of the number of players who can master multiple positions, and is the only aspect of this summers squad building that is worrying me. If Terry can shuffle the budget, and we can bring in an extra player in the three main areas of the pitch, then I for one will feel a lot more confident going into the season…

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Tuesday Evening In Tolworth (A Corinthian-Casuals Preview)

You just know its going to rain.

Our latest pre-season opponents quite helpfully knackered themselves out by contesting a four team tournament over the weekend (why don’t we ever get invited to this type of thing? And IOM doesn’t count as it was three team…). Which means we could see a few goals down at King Georges Field if the Dons remember to pack their scoring boots… although as a responsible, thoughtful blogger I have to point out that Terry is unlikely to learn anything new about his squad from this type of fixture… but you always have to have at least one seven goal spree or the pre-season fixture list just doesn’t look right…

Actually, my hunch is this will be a low scoring bore-athon, the sort of pre-season game that makes you question your very existence, but I’m not sure CC would welcome such negative publicity in the build up to their biggest PSF of the summer. The Dons enter the game off the back of a decent performance against Millwall and having newly signed Sammy Moore in the squad meaning not only will those who own a replica shirt with Luke Moore’s name on the back will have to add an ‘L’ for next season, but the squad is now all but complete except for that centre-half shaped hole that needs filling.

Whether that will be the end of the squad building remains to be seen; after all, eighteen is quite skinny for a squad with intentions of doing well next term, especially when injuries and inconsistency hit. Terry wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t kick down Eriks door when news of the extra £35k from the Premier League came through… and then kick him in the nuts if he refuses to add it to the playing budget (after all, everyone else will…). Squad building should never be complete in my mind, and while better players become available as the season nears (or more accurately, their wage expectations fall into our budgetary reach…) we should be flexible enough to accommodate them if the manager so wishes.

A giveaway as to whether we will sign anyone else will be how many trialists appear tomorrow that aren’t centre halves… Friday night saw us field Rene Steer at left back, although no-one – including the manager – seemed to be all that sure why. Terry obviously saw a decent player with a great pedigree become available and couldn’t resist the chance to take a closer look, even if he was effectively window shopping. This didn’t stop the conspiracy theorists put two and two together (the other ‘two’ being the shiner sported by Andre Blackman), and come up with something unlikely…

I don’t normally make a point of commenting on gossip (well, unless it was gossip that I actually started…), but when I heard the news about Blackman’s spat in training, or rather the supposed details of it, I was really encouraged. Training ground bust ups happen all the time, especially at full-time clubs… Dons teams of years gone by used to scrap it out a Richardson Evans from Monday to Friday, then take apart the opposition on the weekend. When I heard this one, well if Blackman had gone up to Luke Moore and started something, I would have ben disappointed. But what he actually did was face up to the biggest, meanest player in the squad…

…If indeed any of it actually happened. Blackman featured a black eye, but it could have been a collision, or I have heard he has moved back in with his mum and if she is a ‘You’re never too old for a clip round the ear…’ variety… well you just don’t know. What I do know, is from what I’ve seen of Andre Blackman on the pitch, he’s the sort of player I want at Wimbledon for as long as possible. And I just get the feeling that, if he’s still at the club by the end of September,will go on to be a real player before earning (yes, earning) a move back to a Premier League club for a transfer fee that can buy us a new stadium three times over… Or maybe not.

Back to tomorrow nights game, Terry has announced he will follow recent friendly protocol by giving his players 60/30 minutes, although the recent cull of first team trialists, along with Mark Nwokeji and Lee Minshull both out injured, suggests at least one or two might be in for their first full game of the summer.

I might even make notes at this one, so keep ’em peeled on Wednesday/Thursday for that effort…

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AFC Wimbledon 2 Charlton Athletic 0 – A (Friendly) Match Report

Man, that was hot. I really wasn’t built for weather like that, and judging by the news that the club have already sold out initial stock of the new shirt in XXXL sizes, I can’t have been the only fatty suffering in those conditions. Fortunately, our all new professional Dons are a super fit  group of young men, and put on a fantastic show against… well I don’t want to use the description ‘League One opponents’, as Charlton supplemented their bare bones squad with a number of trialists and young players, and you would hope for their sake that the eleven they finally settle on to start their season show a lot more quality than those on display here, albeit in a glorified training game.

Still, you can only beat whats put in front of you, and the Dons own group of youngsters and trialists put in the sort of performance you just don’t expect to see at this early stage of pre-season, full of energy and understanding that belied the fact they had only been together for a couple of weeks. In fact, the scoreline could have been even more embarrassing for the visitors had the Dons put away a few more of their chances, especially in the first half.

After a slow start the Dons started to show intent, mainly through the front three of new skipper Danny Kedwell flanked by Luke Moore on the right and Main on the left. The new formation asks more questions of players like Jon Main, and it was a (pleasant) surprise to see him back helping out Michael Noone, the first half left back, on a number of occasions. Yet Main was also the Dons prime threat, having a couple of chances breaking down the left channel, the best of which appeared to be heading in despite Charlton keeper Elliot until a desperate goalline clearance from an unidentified Charlton player (I was at the other end of the field – as per usual!) hacked the ball off the line.

The first half was the slower of the two, and Charlton should really have lead going into the interval (although this would have been harsh on the Dons first half XI). Former Reading forward Gunnar Thorvaldsson nodded past Jack Turner, only for his shot to hit Brett Johnson covering on the line with the entire goal to aim at from six yard out.

The Dons really picked up the pace in the second half, helped by the introduction of Andre Blackman and Christian Jolley down the left. Blackman looked very much like the most naturally talented footballer on the field, which isn’t a surprise as if it hadn’t been for his lack of discipline he would still be at Bristol City. Hell, he would probably still be at one of the Premier League clubs that kicked him out instead of preparing for a season in the BSP with the Dons. Jolley, on the other hand, is all about pace and enthusiasm. He may spend a little time on the bench next season, and when he does get on he might well be the poster boy for the phrase ‘the Inconsistency of Youth’, but in the long run he has the building blocks to turn into a real gem for us.

Yet it wasn’t Blackman or Jolley that immediately caught my eye, it was big Lee Minshull in midfield. You sensed most Dons fans are wishing him to do well, he really is the sort of imposing midfielder we so desperately needed last year and I found myself wishing for it to work out for him over the next year.  After an unfortunate injury to Mark Nwokeji (which fortunately doesn’t seem to be as bad as first feared while being carted off on a stretcher) Minsull completed the game up front.

Before this, the Dons had taken the lead. A set piece fell to former Barnet captain Ismail Yakubu in the box, who switched sides with some clever footwork only to telegraph his shot a little, allowing Elliot to make a save. Fortunately for the Dons, trialist Javonne Morroy was on hand to tap home and give the home side a richly deserved lead. And it was Minshull who doubled the tally, after some great work on the left by Jolley and Blackman. Jolley set Blackman free, and the full-back blistering pace took him away from his faultering marker. Cutting in from the left it seemed likely Blackman would finish himself, but instead he intelligently squared for Minshull to crash home at the far post and put the game beyond the visitors.

All in, a convincing victory, and a morale booster at this early stage. Next weeks visit of Millwall will be a tougher test, as will the arrival of the Arsenal kids a week before the season starts  But you get the impression we will learn more about our rebuilt squad in games such as Maidenhead or Woking (ironically mentioned here as I won’t be able to attend either…), and there is a lot of hard work before Southport. Perhaps all yesterday did was settle the nerves of those who had seen a lot of names they han’t heard before this sumer come in, when other clubs in our division are spending thousands on proven talent. The amount of quality floating round as free agents at the moment suggests this might just be the right time to put together a team on a buget, the quality of some of our triallists yesterday showed that – especially Fraser Franks at centre half.

To sum up – the Dons are back!

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