Tag Archives: Blue Square Bet Premier

Snow.

Is anybody else thinking the last thing we really need right now, as players and supporters lick their wounds after a demoralising defeat, is the visit of bona fide title challengers Luton? Who themselves had a bit of a result at the weekend, holding Charlton away from home. Confidence must be high in their camp, I would imagine Luton fans right now would find it difficult to believe they won’t go on and win the title, regardless of what ourselves or Crawley get up to. Add to this a minor defensive problem, and things aren’t looking too good for the Dons.

There is a flip side to the coin, that now might be the best time to face Luton, our boys could rebound and take an unlikely victory… it’s a bit unlikely, but it seems to be the thought process Terry Brown is taking. Quite right too, although the biggest impact that doubt might have on the game is whether it actually goes ahead. I have to say as I’m sitting here writing this, with the knowledge the forecasted temperature isn’t going to rise above freezing before kick off swirling around my head, I really can’t see myself at Kingsmeadow tomorrow night. Or any of us for that matter. Especially as I’ve not long got in from outside.

Should there be some kind of miracle, such as the Cambridge Estate going up in flames again and the resulting heat wafting across the pitch and raising the temperature just enough to keep the pitch thawed, then you don’t have to necessarily fall into the pessimists camp to realise taking anything from the game is going to be a big ask. Brown is playing cagey with his pre-match comments, to the point you wonder (or hope…) that he feels confident as he has a plan up his sleeve…

TAD’s predicted Dons line up;

Brown; Hatton, Bush, Franks, Yakubu; Yussuff, Moore S, Wellard; Moore L, Kedwell, Jackson

A rare prediction – The Dons will take the game 2-0 (when it eventually gets played some time in March…)

ALMOST IMMEDIATE UPDATE – Just as I posted this, the news came through that a 7PM pitch inspection resulted in the game being postponed. There you go, Terrys plan worked a treat…

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Phew.

That was a close call. This was a classic game of two halves, the Dons had the game won after one of the most impressive 45 minutes of football you’ll see from a Wimbledon side, hell, a side in this division. Yet it almost wasn’t enough. A goal early in the second half gave Kettering hope, it was game on at 3-2 with ten minutes left, and only the reactions of Sebb Brown kept us ahead at the end, where nerves threatened to throw away two points.

Sunday football is weird. I never really got used to it in the nineties, and on the rare occasions we have to play now it just messes with my weekly pattern. I like to keep to some type of schedule, and Sunday is reserved for the well-earned treat of doing fuck-all. And ironically public transport is twice as busy, as it takes twice as long for buses to turn up and South West Trains decide to half the length of their trains despite there being no significant reduction in the amount of folk out and about for the day.

The Dons were rewarded for switching the game with the lowest crowd of the season turning out, and the atmosphere was a bit lacking, too many people either full of Sunday lunch or empty and longing for their dinner. Even the promise of Stevenage tickets being on sale didn’t boost the attendance, not that the decision helped me in any way as I didn’t find out until I actually got to the ground, and hadn’t brought enough money with me. Which kind of serves me right for being too lazy to walk down the ground on Saturday when they were openly available.

Still, the Dons punished those unable to attend with the sort of first half display that makes you wonder whether we might just be playing our way out of recent indifferent form, just in time with some difficult looking fixtures on the horizon. Ricky Wellards low raking cross field ball found Luke Moore in plenty of space, after teeing up Thursday nights late pair Moore showed the composure to slot the ball under Kettering keeper Jack and into the bottom corner. Wellard had a superb game, especially in the first half where he looked the best player on the pitch. It sums up why we get so frustrated with Ricky sometimes, I’m sure the manager must too, because when he is on his game he’s one of the best midfielders in the division. 

The Dons grabbed a second when Kettering’s Nick Green simultaneously obstructed his team mates attempt at challenging Sammy Moore, while managing to knock the Dons midfielder literally flying into the air. In Danny Kedwells absence Luke Moore tucked away the spot kick, the Dons were looking comfortable now. In fact, the rested Kedwell wasn’t missed at all, Moore having a fine game on the left and Jolley – looking well rested after his three game ban – almost unplayable on the right. In fact, Wimbledon almost looked like scoring every time they went forward.

Well, not really. I mean we all know how many chances the Dons can create for themselves only to find the reward for their efforts wasted through poor finishing, so it was almost a pleasant surprise when the third came. Nwokeji found himself through on goal, his stabbed effort was blocked by Jack only for Jolley to nod into the empty net. Jolley should have got a second for himself and really finished the game before half time when his effort smacked off the bar, and the Dons were buzzing. After the other two members of the runaway top three posted big scores yesterday, you wondered how many the Dons would get as the teams departed at half time. Matching Luton’s five at least? Six? Seven???

Something changed though, and it happened before half time. Sam Hatton was removed after another excellent performance, and Ryan Jackson replaced him for what should have been a comfortable fifty minutes or so at right-back. The back four had looked pretty solid up to that point, repelling rare Kettering counter attacks with ease. Yakubu and Harris looked unbeatable, and while he gave the ball away cheaply on a couple of occasions, Bush looked capable defensively on the left.

Kettering created the goal they needed to build a comback on ten minutes into the second half. It was a very defendable goal, the sort of sloppy effort conceded by teams who are a little too overconfident of holding onto a big lead. Just a simple ball into the box from the left, nodded beyond Brown by Solkhon who had the space and time to make it look easy. A classic consolation goal, really, or so it should have been if the Dons had regained the initiative. They threatened to, but the old problem of overplaying in the final third reared its ugly head, Jolley and Yussuff being two in particular who found themselves hustled off the ball when they really should have got a shot away earlier.

At the back, Wimbledon seemed to have weathered the storm, but that all changed when Ryan Jackson had to hobble off injured. Fraser Franks came on to fill in at right back, but from that point on the Kettering winger could beat him for fun. The threat of Kettering’s pace caused Wimbledon to defend deeper and deeper, to the point Paul Furlongs half way line flicks to nobody were now taking place on the edge of the Dons box, causing more than a few heart attacks.

Kettering seem to have made an effort to be a little more pleasing on the eye following Marcus Law taking over, but the robust side of their game seems to have remained. By ‘robust’ I of course mean ‘thuggish’, they managed to pick up five yellow cards but it could have been so much worse for them, a couple of assaults on Sebb Brown while he lay on the floor with the ball in his hands went unpunished.

Going into the last ten minutes, the Dons looked absolutely shattered. The prospect of a week off must be appealing to them before Stevenage! It was almost no surprise that Kettering made a real game of it courtesy of Furlong scrambling home. Sebb Brown then had to be at his absolute best to claw out a fierce Furlong effort that seemed to be heading for the top corner. It’s at moments like that you realise how important Sebb Brown is to us. That save was every bit as important as a goal to us, and ultimately it won us two points. There was one last worrying moment, where Noubissie threw himself to the floor in the box in stoppage time. The referee blew, and for a split second you wondered whether he had fallen for it, but fortunately the yellow card was waved in the Kettering players direction, and the Dons had not just escaped, but returned to the top of the table once more.

You get the impression Crawley and Luton must be looking at our young, inexpensively assembled squad, wondering what the hell we are still doing above them in the table? I still feel the resources of those two sides will be enough to see them clear of us post-Christmas, until then we will do well to put as many points on the board as possible. Just being top once more is a fantastic achievement, and we can now look forward to our FA Cup tie with Stevenage, and perhaps show them how much we have improved since last April?

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The Unadventurously Titled Alty Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Misery (AFC Wimbledon 0 Darlington 2)

It’s not quite Halloween yet, but its close enough to expect a variety of puns from the mainstream Dons press after this performance, along the lines of it being a ‘Horror Performance’ where Darlington put ‘The Frighteners’ up the Dons before ‘Dumping Their Badly Mutilated Corpse On The Bank Of The Hogsmill’… The Dons weren’t beaten up in that manner by the visitors really, and were largely the creators of their own downfall. Oh, along with the pumpkin-headed clown in black, of course.

Such a clumsy introduction but not a million miles from the truth. There were rumours the ref was spotted in the car park before the game colouring in the white sections of his Darlington shirt with black marker pen before he could pass as a genuine official. Last week, Darlington were involved in a game where three members of the opposition were given their marching orders, to the point the local PA guy felt the need to berate him mid-action for ruining the game as a spectacle. If only we had such an enlightened announcer down at Kingsmeadow!

It’s certainly enough to get the conspiracy theorists among us wondering whether Darlington are intercepting the real match officials pre-game in order to plant their own ringer. Not a bad idea, if you ask me – we should create a working group post-haste in order to investigate the possibility of employing such a dastardly scheme ourselves (although the last time one of ‘us’ took over, albeit the line at Eastleigh a couple of years ago, it didn’t do us much good…).

Only joking of course, and apologies to Darlington for even suggesting there may have been some element of corruption behind their victory – but we have to find humour in defeat where ever we can. In fact the referee deserves credit for not allowing those dark glasses and stick to impede his movement around the pitch. Plus it must have been hard growing up without a father. And I hear he is highly regarded down at his local chapter of the Man/Boy Love Association. Et cetera, ad nauseam…

Moving on (briefly, I’ll undoubtedly refer back to the penis-lookalike in black later in the report), the ball isn’t really running for the Dons at the moment, is it? First Gateshead, where we were fortunate to rely on a set piece to break down awkward opponents. Then Basingstoke where a bunch of BSS part-timers almost took us to a replay before fitness, and another set piece, won us through. Todays game reminded me very much of the Forest Green game, unfortunately on this occasion there was no moment of magic to grab us a point…

We have to face the fact that, right now, we are at the base of a trough performance-wise. Plotting an imaginary graph in my head, I predict we will see at least a couple more mini-slumps before the season is out. Although the Inconsistencies Of Youth (which will probably turn out to be the title of our end-of-season DVD…) means this can’t be relied upon as an accurate indicator of future performance – we could quite easily demolish Ebbsfleet next week going unbeaten until Christmas (still some way off despite what the commercials on tv might have you believe…). More worrying is we are just as likely to be equally as crap as we were today until the end of the campaign.

We started well enough today, without creating any clear-cut chances. Unfortunately the visitors caught us with a goal after fifteen minutes, Chris Senior being gifted enough space to squirm the ball under Sebb Brown whilst being given the freedom of the penalty area by his obliging hosts. You have to bear in mind I was in the KRE and at pitch level, so when I say there was a suspicion of offside about the goal I’m merely voicing the opinion of others. I have no reason to doubt them, they were closer to the action than I was, and I await AFCWTV for some conclusive proof… awww, who am I kidding? I went through ninety minutes of frustration watching at the ground, I’m not going to waste another five minutes of my life browsing through the highlights.

If Senior was offside, it might explain why we was given so much room. He’s certainly what my dear departed gran would have referred to as ‘a tricky little cunt’, not someone who will cause you problems physically, possessing a frame that makes the likes of Ivor Heller realise he could have been a contender. But he knows where the goal is, that’s for damn certain, and we left him alone at our peril. If he wasn’t, fair enough, we were wronged, but those with a long memory will remember I defended the decision not to send Sebb Brown off for bringing Senior down during last years FA Trophy replay at home to Altrincham by suggesting Senior was ‘at least two yards offside’… then having to backtrack two days later upon being presented video evidence to the contrary. So I’m not touching this one…

Darlington were presented with a free kick shortly after, within shooting range and in an area that would have been regarded as dangerous… Had the visitors not completely screwed up what should have been a simple lay-off, allowing Danny Kedwell ample time to break from the wall and rob his dozy opponent. Yet somehow the referee saw this as a foul. If so he was the only person in the ground who did. At this stage, with angry Dons players bearing down on him and the crowd up in arms, he might have realised he had made a teeny tiny error. If he did, he obviously decided to just go along with it, and decided to stamp his authority by booking Kedwell. To paraphrase the gentleman a few yards down from me, he truly was a copulating visually impaired lady part…

As the half wore on, the Dons looked more like equalizing, without ever really testing the opposition. This was mainly down to first Sammy Moore, then Steven Gregory failing to take decent chances when presented them. It seems as though the Dons squad are putting on a production of The Nutcracker for the Christmas party, both Moore and Gregory are competing for the role of Sugar Plum Fairy, and each decided to encorporate elements of their audition while attempting to finish when well placed. Sadly. football and festive two-act ballet does not mix, a lesson both of them have now learned the hard way…

Sadly the Dons couldn’t immediately replicate the pressure they built at the end of the previous half as the second kicked off. Darlington actually looked pretty comfortable at this point, enough to bring on the man who has made a career at this level out of doing little more than backing in and getting the ball caught under his feet – Jefferson Louis. Immediately after the referee gave his next joke call of the afternoon, gifting the visitors a penalty for holding by Yakubu. No Darlington player thought to appeal, except one who started hurling abuse towards the referee, until he realised it wasn’t a Dons free kick, it was a penalty, and promptly decided to keep his mough shut.

Now Louis has a bit of previous with the Dons, as we remember him from last season where it turned out he wasn’t quite good enough to make the grade at a pre-moneyed Crawley. Presumably he was up all night working on his celebrations should he score, judging by the way he grabbed the ball before the penalty. Perhaps he thought a little too much though, as his sidefooted effort was a little too casual and Sebb Brown got down easily to block. Unfortunately it squirmed away from Brown, and with the Dons players flat footed Marc Bridge-Wilkinson slammed the rebound into the roof of the net.

The Dons were now stuck deep in a hole they didn’t look capable of digging themselves out of. They huffed and puffed throughout the remainder of the half, but it was the visitors who came closest to scoring late in the game when Brown pushed a header onto the bar. The home sides best chance of getting back into it revolved around a couple of ‘what might have been’ efforts – Jolley smashing into the side netting with team mates well positioned, and Sam Hatton tripped in the area and punished by – guess who – the referee, his crime being he tried to stay on his feet. How stupid of us! We failed to realise stonewall penalties are only given when players hurl themselves onto the deck these days.

Much as in the first half, Wimbledon looked more likely to score the longer the half went on, which was ironic in that the later they would have scored, the more meaningless it would have been. They failed to even pull one back in the end, which just made the news that Crawley had won 4-1 at Mansfield even more crushing. Days like today makes you wonder how we can possible challenge for the title come April…

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Frustrations Of Youth (Darlington Preview)

As the mundanity of a football-free week comes to an end, the FA Cup makes way for the bread and butter of league football – albeit temporarily – as Darlington come down to the Meadow attempting to knock us off our perch. After last weeks disjointed performance at Basingstoke I’m not sure anyone would have minded too much if we had been taken back for a replay at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday in order to blow away a few cobwebs… well, maybe we would have minded if we ended up losing it, which taking the performance in the first game into account was probably quite likely…

Its been a tough week for the football community, what with the death of Paul the Octopus and all. Whats really been keeping me up at night is did he see it coming? If so how frustrating must his final few months have been, desperate to tell his captors of his impending demise by shuffling himself into various boxes… boxes for fuck sake! If ever an animal was trying to give us a message it was this, and we mistook it for some kind of score prediction service…

Meanwhile, back in the real world, some people are having difficulty determining what happened in the past let alone the future, judging by this article. Presumably the definition of the word ‘legal’ differs in Darlington from that used at Companies House, or indeed Soho Square. I’m sure most Dons fans will sigh and move on when faced with such inaccuracies, but I still get angry… stuff like this is going to follow us around for years to come. Ultimately though, you really don’t expect that kind of inflammatory article popping up on the website of a fellow Conference club, mere days before they visit for an important League game… I mean, do they not like warm welcomes or what?!!

Most of the ‘facts’ on offer seem to have come via Darren Holloway, which is annoying, because although sometimes it seems as though footballers are Professional Thick Bastards just doing what their agents tell them and following the money, not all of them are like that… not by a long shot. The behaviour of WFC players at the time and since have gone a long way towards showing us that. But for every Neal Ardley there seems to be a Holloway, for every Kevin Cooper The First there is a Dean Holdsworth… Kudos also needs to go to the ‘journalist’ who went to the trouble of checking the facts before sticking the story online… oh, no wait, he didn’t bother. In that case I won’t bother checking to see if he is indeed a boneheaded lazy sister-fucker before I brand him as such on this esteemed bloggy-type thing…

On to the football, and the Dons will once again look towards the combined talents of Ed Harris and Fraser Franks should Yakubu fail to overcome a niggly shoulder injury. As Yakubu looks like the sort of bloke who walks through barn doors without bothering opening them first you sometimes forget he does occasionally hurt himself, and would be a big miss despite the fantastic form of the younger partnership in key games earlier in the campaign.

One big decision Brown has to make is whether to go for continuity and include Andre Blackman in the lineup or revert to Chris Bush, banished from playing in cup games in case Brentford need to call him up later in the season. Bush will be absent next week which is a huge tick in the Blackman box, but… I’m probably Andre’s biggest fan with the possible exception of his mum, but he didn’t quite do enough last week, did he? To be fair, no-one was good enough at Basingstoke, which was a really bizarre performance in that despite individually being a pile of steaming cattle dung we still came away with a result. Yet Andre would have finished the game had he not picked up an injury, which explains his bench belting routine upon leaving the field – in one moment showing more passion in than the rest of the team combined over the course of the entire day (although I’m fairly sure I saw Sam Hatton clench his fist at one point). Another tick in the Andre box…

Further up the field and it looks as though it will be same again for the front three. The two wide boys are doing well, especially Jackson, but in the last couple of games top scorer and chief goal creator Danny Kedwell has displayed the sort of touch that makes Ivan Klasnic look like a tender lover in comparison. However, if there is one player who you can rely on to come back stronger than ever its the captain, and it’s not as if there are options on the bench. Jon Main just can’t seem to catch a break at the moment after pondering whether he should leave the club on loan earlier in the week, which is probably still a step ahead of Mark Nwokeji, who appears certain to head out on loan whenever we can find another Conference club willing to spend a month or so getting him fit enough to play for us.

Luke Moore has emerged as the leading contender to fill in the forward line where required, but he is being touted to take over Ricky Wellard’s midfield position after the youngsters (hang on… they’re all young…) obvious concentration issues blighted his last few performances. Wellard is the epitome of the frustrations of youth, ghosting past men and playing the sort of killer through ball the average player just isn’t capable of one moment, drifting out of position or gifting possession cheaply the next – very often in the same game, occasionally even in the same passage of play. You get the impression if he can make it past these teething troubles he will be a fixture in the Dons midfield for the best part of the next decade, so long as he isn’t Husseyed away from us in the meantime. Another contender for the midfield position is Rashid Yussuff, the Zidane of the Conference – but only when he is introduced to the action from the substitutes bench… when given a start he may as well come and join us in the stands for all the impact he makes.

Darlington will put up a decent fight, albeit in the same manner as Forest Green or Histon did. Don’t get me wrong, their average supporter is slightly more clued up than the turnip who defecated out that interview with Holloway, these are supporters who have seen the sharp end of footballs stick bear down on their exposed backsides, almost, almost reaching the stage where mismanagement and downright hard luck lead to them exploring the option of creating their own club. Stuck out-of-town in a vast arena (I’m not describing it as soulless just yet as I won’t be visiting until January, although many more have done), it doesn’t exactly encourage the walk-up fan… lets not discount the impact that having many thousands of people living within a twenty-minute walk of Kingsmeadow has had on our attendances. I consider Darlington to be every bit as big a club as the Dons, perhaps more so – we have no idea what effect a consistent period of mundane mid-table action would have on our attendances, and Darlington’s location has effectively turned them into a big club without the big crowds to back them up.

I saw some photographs of Feethams about six months ago which seemed to suggest there is a lot of it still standing, which must rankle with Darlington supporters who I presume miss the place a great deal. I was having a conversation with a fellow Don during the Basingstoke game relating to the toilet facilities serving the West Bank, specifically their ability to turn day into night and pre-match burgers into chunder. No matter how sanitized and clean new stadiums are, they are also increasingly mundane, shiny symbols of footballs lost soul, especially the ones where thousands of empty gleaming seats stare back at you, one final taunt at misplaced ambition.

The Anonymous Don line-up guestimate – Brown; Hatton, Yakubu, Harris, Bush; Gregory, Moore (S), Moore (L); Jackson, Kedwell, Jolley

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Subconsciously Craving Misery (AFC Wimbledon 1 Forest Green Rovers 1)

Aww crap. That wasn’t much fun, was it? Although we didn’t lose the game, dropping two points was particularly hard to take. Ultimately the visitors lack of ambition and a moment of magic in an otherwise disjointed performance was enough to ensure the Dons took a single point and ensure the unbeaten home record continues into October. Although to be honest that’s ringing pretty hollow right now – this was nothing more than pure frustration in the rain. 

Not that I had any worries we would take anything other than victory from this game after a dominant first five minutes in which the Dons forced five corners and looked to be carrying off from where they left off before the final whistle so rudely interrupted them on Wednesday night. Then something happened that wasn’t in the script, in fact it was so unexpectedly surreal it caused me to laugh out loud. Forest Green scored – and despite the Dons having a couple of chances to clear it will go down as a pretty well taken finish by Ben Watson. Still, with eighty-five minutes of the game remaining, it seemed more likely than not that the Dons would come back and win the game comfortably. 

Yet Wimbledon lost something from that moment on, as if infected by fear, and the younger players in particular suffered greatly because of this. Which for this Dons side is a big, big problem – as even our more experienced players are on the young side, and lead to pretty much half the team having an off day. Whenever they looked like creating danger for their opponents, the move broke down. Ryan Jackson in particular was having a frustrating afternoon, he saw plenty of the ball but his opposing full back was getting the better of him. Jolley was suffering similarly on the other flank, he didn’t seem to be floating past his man like we know he can. Under these circumstances, our midfield needed to stand up and be counted, instead it just sort of vanished. Moore, Wellard (especially Wellard) and even Gregory seemed as if their only purpose in the game was to recycle possession back to Forest Green. The Dons most potent force, Danny Kedwell, was forced to battle for scraps on the half way line, with no option but to win flick ons that ultimately went to no-one. 

Still, surely given a good half time talking to the lads would come back out and take the game? It only took a couple of minutes play in the second half to realise there would be no immediate return to form. Steven Gregory was withdrawn for the more offensive Luke Moore – who was by far the outstanding Dons player despite only being on the field for forty-five minutes. Jon Main replaced the injured Jackson with half an hour to go, and Terry Brown finally tired of Ricky Wellard replacing him with Rashid Yussuff. Yet it still just wasn’t clicking, and ultimately it relied on individual skill rather than an intelligent team performance. With twenty minutes to go, Jolley found some space down the right, and although it looked as if the chance had passed him by as he brought the ball under control he managed to evade two Forest Green players before curling the ball with his left foot beyond keeper James Bittner and into the far corner. 

It seemed as though the goal would give the Dons the momentum to go on and win the game, and while they rode the crest of a wave for five minutes or so after the goal, ultimately they couldn’t keep it going to the final whistle. The best chance fell to Sammy Moore, after a fantastic run from the forward minded Yussuff saw him round several players, before unselfishly knocking the ball towards Moore with only the keeper to beat. It seemed either a powerful finish or guiding the ball either side of the keeper would be enough to give the Dons the points, yet Moore did neither, tamely sidefooting straight at Bittner. 

The Dons didn’t threaten after this. In fact, their performance in the last few minutes was nothing short of appalling. Passes were literally hit to no-one, there wasn’t enough urgency, and how I managed to get through injury time without tearing my hair out I’m not sure. For some reason I decided to stand in the open corner by the Tempest, taking a soaking, as if I was subconsciously craving misery. The Dons have turned on the style at times this season, but here it just wasn’t working. Much as I appreciate the philosophy of playing out from the back, when there are only seconds to go in injury time you have to put that to one side and get the ball forward as soon as possible. If Sebb Brown felt his kicking wasn’t going to be accurate then that’s fair enough, but I would much rather see him heaving one down field only for it to be headed clear than giving it to a full back (unfortunately I need to name and shame Andre here…) just to gift possession away. 

Results elsewhere meant the damage caused by these dropped points wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Second place still with Crawley three points ahead, and while we face an early season six pointer at Mansfield on Tuesday we know Crawley and Luton playing each other means at least one of them will be dropping points. With another tough looking away fixture at Wrexham on the horizon, we might find ourselves looking for gifts from elsewhere to ensure parity with our rivals, while we ride out this period of inconsistency – presuming of course our early season form wasn’t just a flash in the pan…

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The Sort Of Corner I Hate (AFC Wimbledon 3 Cambridge United 0)

Crack open the champagne, break out the cigars, The Anonymous Don has correctly predicted a Dons line-up; albeit at the nth time of asking. Probability suggests it was bound to happen sooner or later, there are only so many combinations of players to positions. Put it this way, give a thousand monkeys a thousand typewriters and you’ll probably get more of them agreeing with Terry than I do in any given preview. Don’t try this experiment with Bromley supporters though… their closed neandethal fists are unable to produce intelligible responses on a standard qwerty keyboard, and in frustration they’ll just end up hurting themselves or those around them. Having said that – i just had to think twice over the spelling of ‘qwerty’…

Before I get onto the game itself, I signed up for the Minithon before the game. Three miles is just about the shortest distance you can run without prospective sponsorees saying ‘Hang on, thats a piece of piss, I do that every morning/lunch/evening before work/school/pub’, and is yet achievable even by those in the advanced stages of pie addiction like myself. I’ve been looking to shed a few pounds prior to my ‘big event’ next year, maybe this will kick start my fitness push. If not it’ll help raise a few quid for the ground fund at very least. And therein lies the point – I would never, ever have dreamt of signing up for something like this if I wasn’t accutely aware I will no longer be a resident of the United Kingdom in six months, and time is running out to Do My Bit. While my impending emigration weighs heavily on my mind, competing in events such as this means I can be assured that wherever in the world I end up I can kick back with a beer, look at the night sky, and know somewhere in this endless Universe of ours, somewhere out there at this very moment, there will be a Wimbledon supporter moaning that they received an unsolicited email publicising the pre-match carvery…

After a quick pint I headed into the KRE, not quite as full as it was for last Thursdays Crawley game but not exactly deserted either… In fact the attendance stood up pretty well considering the deluge we saw in the hours leading up to kick off. I wonder how many got out of work, saw the state of the skies and though ‘Nah, not tonight…’. Mind you. the crowd was comfortably over 3K on an awful evening weatherwise, especially impressive as Cambridge only brought two-hundred odd with them – decent in terms of the division as a whole, but for a so called big club it was a bit ‘meh…’; you’re York’s and your Grimsby’s would do better given the same circumstances. I can only presume the U’s shocking away form had something to do with it.

Still, forced to bunch together under the small section of the away enclosure in the JSS that actually features a roof, they sounded pretty strong and added to a half decent atmosphere in the ground, especially given the decibels were dampened by the heavy downpour. Either that or I’ll have to redraw the graph I created correlating distance from London with ability to talk proper… ‘Martin Lings Tobleroney’? Is he??? And why do they dislike Barrow so much???

Sadly for the visiting supporters, their team could at best be described as ordinary. They worked hard – but thats the bare minimum you should expect of a Conference side. There was no sign of any quality, man for man they were workmanlike but failed to stand out. Normally you get one or two who show a few decent touches and make you think ‘he looks a bit handy…’, but in this Cambridge side there was no-one. I am reluctant to write off a team based on one viewing, but Cambridge’s performance made them look mere mid-table fodder. Having said that, the slickness of the surface placed a strong demand on technical ability, which on the night put a different bias on the differences between the two sides. Presumably this encoraged the Dons to redouble their efforts when picking out passes, as despite the conditions it was pretty much the first time this season I’ve left a game without thinking ‘They were good, but they gave the ball away too easily…’.

In a first period the Dons dominated (despite what the BBC website will have you believe…), there were minus points. In a way it’s a nice ‘negative’ to have, but you would really expect given the number of chances the Dons created that at least one of them would have been taken. Christian Jolley seemed to be at the centre of the better chances, and boy-oh-boy you Tempest-Enders probably don’t realise what a gilt-edged chance he spurned when one on one he blasted straight at Cambrige keeper Brown. I said it was a nice negative because I have absolute faith that the next time Jolley finds himself in that position he will have learnt from this experience. During a half when Wimbledon did everything but score, the performances of our young wide players was a joy to behold. Jolley, Ryan Jackson and Andre Blackman were destroying Cambridge, who had no answer to the pace and close control that accompanied their rampaging runs foward. All three of them floated around the field, while their opponents struggled simply to stay upright. In fact the most effective manner of stopping them (especially Jackson) seemed to be a series of cynical fouls that the referee was quick to clamp down on – no waiting for the second half to show cards here. The visiting supporters chanted they had ‘another crap ref’, high irony to the Dons fans on the one accasion we seemed to ahve found a decent one…

Probably the best chance of the half fell to Sammy Moore. Ricky Wellard drifted forward into a shooting opportunity, yet spurned the opportunity with a sideways ball into Moore, who looked like he might have been crowded out and the chance gone. Presumably to Wellard great relief, Moore was able to spin a shot that bounced off the inside of the post and away, yet so close the Tempest was in full celebration mode while the KRE wondered what the fuss was all about. So good were the Dons I began to doubt they would be able to produce more of the same in the second period… and my mood wasn’t helped when Cambridge came out and created a few chances of their own. Their best effort owed a great deal to the conditions – a shot the otherwise unflappable Sebb Brown got nearly everything behind, only to see it squirm under his body and thankfully stop short of passing over the line.

The Dons quicky got the measure of this more positive approach from the visitors, by now shorn of Yakubu at the back, Fraser Franks replacing him. Franks would go on to be the two goal hero of the night, of course (and for those who have avoided the result prior to reading this match report, I’m sorry for the spoiler…), yet it was the defensive side of the game that most impressed me. One of the pleasant surprises of the season so far is that Franks is fourth choice centre half behind Johnson, Yakubu and Harris – and I’m not sure there is much doubt about that (that isn’t the pleasant surprise by the way… I’m getting to the point, don’t worry…). Yet Franks would walk in to half of the teams in this division, I would imagine Martin Ling would have been extremely envious that he ended the game blanked out by a side playing their second-string defensive partnership. You wonder why Brentford let him go to start with – given game time and full time training, if he applies himself as he has done in the last few months at Wimbledon he looks nailed on to make a decent career for himself in the professional game – yet hindsight is a wonderful tool, there must be an enormous amount of pressure to release anyone who passes through the youth ranks at lower League clubs such as Brentford that isn’t going to make an immediate impact on the first team. And their loss is very much our gain…

Franks first goal was beautiful, firstly because it came at a point when I started to convince myself that despite the continued chances, Cambridge might just escape for a draw. Secondly, it came from a corner, and we all know how ineffective we have been at this particular set piece over the past few years. Sam Hatton drifted the sort of corner I hate into the near post (I much prefer balls hit at pace inswinging across the six yard box as per his delivery for Yakubu;s effort against Bath, but variety is the spice of life and all that…). Kedwell won his header, flicking back towards Franks, unmarked. At this stage you could have forgiven him for panicking and planting his effort into Brown’s midriff, but Franks has a head on him that keeps ticking in the attacking third as well as his defensive home, guiding beyond the stricken keeper and giving the Dons the lead they more than deserved.

A sigh of relief from The Anonymous Don, and before I even had the chance to develop a complex that Cambridge might come back, it was 2-0 and game over. Jackson delivered the ball to the far post, Kedwell came crashing in to bury the ball across the Cambridge goal and into the net – OR SO I THOUGHT – as it turns out Jolley got a much deserved goal by knocking it over the line, yet I only because aware of this after the game had finished. Still, plenty of praise for Keds, who seems to be doing as good a job of laying on strikes for his team mates as scoring himself. Still I’m sure he’ll make it into double figured before too long. The crowd didn’t have too long to settle down before Cambridge hit the bar, a minor moment of threat when the game was all but won.

Still time yet for Fraser Franks to finish the night with a brace, thanks to a piece of instinctive finishing. Sammy Moore laid the ball across to him, with a little too much weight. Certain unnamed strikers who are yet to get on the scoresheet this term might have panicked and blazed wide/over/into next week, but Franks simply slid it into the corner with little fuss – just a really composed piece of finishing. It was icing on the cake, but it wouldn’t have flattered the Dons, even if Sammy Moore had connected properly with a chance in injury time.

It wasn’t enough to return the Dons to the summit of the Conference, Crawley managed to defeat Tamworth on the night, but the Dons stand just a point adrift… Forest Green to come at the weekend and if any of the lads are reading this – no pressure, but more of the same please!

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AFC Wimbledon 2 Crawley Town 1

The two likely outcomes to a much anticipated Dons game;

(i) The Dons huff and puff, have an arguably better opening period but eventually succumb to self inflicted pressure.

(ii) Dons win. It’s the greatest night ever.

We don’t get that many (ii)’s. For much of the second half it looked as though we were heading down a well worn path. Much the better side in the first period, they lost concentration just before half time and found it difficult to regain momentum at the start of the second. Our young side were being asked to dig in, and didn’t look as though they would respond.

To be honest though, I was amazed we got a football match to start with. I turned up, got my free WUP and brown paper bag and prepared myself for an evening of Evans-bashing. I had worried earlier in the day that our fun and games might be ruined by twenty two idiots kicking a ball around and getting in the way. In fact, by the time the teams got onto the pitch the Crawley fraudster was all but forgotten, able to sneak across the field almost unnoticed. And for those who did spot him, well, maybe those brown paper bags didn’t stand out as well as we thought under floodlights…

The larger than normal crowd were supplemented by the expected Crawley contingent of rent-a-fans… it was just like hosting Bromley, without the ‘HIV Wimbledon’ chants, but with plenty of reminders as to who was top of the league (something that came back to haunt them later in the evening…). This type of moneyed trash has followed us up the leagues in various forms, no one incarnation standing the test of time. When the money runs out we will eventually leave them behind, we know it’s going to happen – whether it’s in ten years, two years or tomorrow, the Crawley bubble will burst. When we leave the Non-League scene will we leave clubs like this behind for good, teams elevated above their natural status by large short term cash injections? Either way, it’s never nice to lose to this type of outfit, as we found out in our first season when we lost 0-2 at home to Withdean 2000 (who eventually bypassed their self imposed expiry date a lot sooner than we imagined…).

When the chances fell in the first half, they fell to Ed Harris. Beyond these misses, and a mistake for the Crawley goal, Harris and Franks were immense at the back. Truly beyond what you would expect for a second choice central pairing in this division (especially one so young), although if Johnson and Yakubu aren’t careful they may not be second choice for too much longer after performances like this. To be fair, I missed the Harris mistake because the stanchion in the Kingston Road End goal got in the way…

By the way, the atmosphere in the stadium seemed pretty impressive, although I couldn’t really tell as the noise in the KRE was pretty good in itself… I mean I purposely chose to stand in the noisier part of the terrace so I could join in (I so rarely sing at home these days, but felt it was my duty…), maybe our noise drowned out a louder general atmosphere in a stadium where noise is difficult to generate… the Tempest in full voice normally sounds quite distant from our end, but it must have been an amazing game to play in when all four sides of the ground (well, three and a half…) joined in, something that happened a couple of times on the night – which is normally as rare as finding a four leaf clover. On the moon.

As the second half wore on, hopes of an equalizer began to diminish. Hatton and Jackson were still tearing Crawley apart on the right side when given the opportunity, but it looked as if sheer Crawley stubbornness would see them through. You began to wonder if Crawley might have nicked a second to take the game beyond the Dons. Tubbs had a chance blocked by the legs of Brown, yet although neither Crawley front man really impressed, the threat was still there.

Until fifteen minutes to go. The Dons had created a bit of pressure, and won a corner on the right. Toks whipped in the sort of ball we have sorely missed since the departure of Chris Hussey, a slip in the penalty are gave Sam Hatton a free header, and as you would expect from someone so consistent this season he made no mistake, burying his header into the slick turf and watching is skid up into the roof of the net. Bedlam inside Kingsmeadow, and finally Dons fans saw the tide had turned. There would only be one team that would win this one.

Crawley barely had time to catch breathe before it came. Less than three minutes had passed, a deep cross from Sammy Moore saw Kedwell lurking. With a Crawley man in front and another behind he looked second best to get anything on the ball. To actually guide the ball beyond Jordan in the Crawley goal looks an unlikely finish even watching it back on Youtube… in the flesh it was an almost superhuman piece of finishing. If the celebrations following the equaliser were impressive, these were a return to old fashioned just going mental. Like the good old days, grabbing the person next to you, whether you knew them or not, and ending up ten yards away when it all calmed down a few minutes later. Celebrations like that will probably land you a common assault charge in the street, on the terraces jubilation took hold…

One last big roar, as the final whistle blew. Evans skulked off, apparently storming out of the press conference when someone had the temerity to question his side – although, like his team, you can only presume he had no answers to it. Terry Brown stalked the pitch, beaming smile, showing how much it meant to him personally. The man of the moment, Kedwell, found a yellow shirt bearing his image in the penalty area, put it on, milked the applause, and was the last Dons player to leave the field. If anyone deserves the praise it was him.

We won’t win the League by winning games like these. It helps, and of course it falls under that mathematical conundrum of being a six pointer – Crawley lose the points, we gain them. The league will be won by winning games we should draw, and drawing games we should lose, in bread and butter fixtures like Sundays game at Kidderminster. Terry Brown said a couple of years ago (when referring to the BSS) that if you have twenty points on the board after ten games it’s a great springboard for promotion. Wimbledon currently have twenty-two…

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AFC Wimbledon 4 Bath City 0

The hardest thing about writing these match reports is coming up with a snappy opening line that really captures the reader’s attention and hooks them into reading the subsequent text… Now we’ve got that out of the way I can get on with telling you all about table topping AFC Wimbledon’s 4-0 victory over plucky Bath City. I was under the impression this could have been a potential banana skin, particularly as I had seen various comments from the fan base along the lines of how many goals we would score. Fortunately once Sammy Moore had opened the scoring on the twenty minute mark in this one, there was only going to be one winner.

In fact today all went off a little too swimmingly for my liking, which makes me suspicious… is this all a dream? Am I about to wake up on Saturday, or even worse, last Monday morning… I mean even the crappy Arriva bus service that takes me to Dorking station turned up on time, and that’s always late (when it turns up at all…). Having said that, I did have one ‘back to reality’ moment when I turned up at the ground and picked up my XXL WUP Danny Kedwell t-shirt. I didn’t want to carry it around with me, so I just put it on. Only for one of my fellow Dons bloggers to comment that it ‘looked a little tight’. I know I’ve piled on a few pounds recently, but that was not what I really wanted to hear… That incident kind of made up my mind that I’ll be running the Dons Minithon (the best way to force yourself into doing things like this is to tell as many people as possible what you are planning to do, so you know how much of a knob you’ll look if you don’t…).

Back to the game, and Moore’s opener came just as the Dons started to stamp their authority on the game. A decent move lead to Steven Gregory teeing up a shot from the edge of the area which was blocked well by a Bath defender, only for the ball to break nicely for Moore to turn and stroke into the bottom left corner. For the remainder of the half, the Dons were at their dangerous best. Both fullbacks were bombing forward causing Bath no end of problems, combining well with Jolley and Jackson who are excelling starting games – no doubt causing the manager a few headaches as they are there on merit ahead of Main, Moore and now Nwokeji. A special mention as well must go to Yakubu and Harris, who kept the door firmly shut at the back as pretty much every other Dons player seemed to having only attacking intent. Yakubu in particular pulled off a brilliant interception at one end before showing his team mates how it’s done at the other.

In fact it was a wonderful goal, if only because we so rarely see the Dons score from corners. If you couldn’t make the game, well what can I say? You missed it. The execution of the goal suggested there may be more to come in the future – Sam Hatton struck the ball into the near post perfectly, Yakubu knew exactly where it was going and timed his run to meet it perfectly. In fact I’m amazed it didn’t break the net with the force he put into it, and for Dons fans, lovely to watch.

Wimbledon could have extended their lead before half time creating more chances, particularly an incisive Andre Blackman run which ended with his curling right footed effort sailing just wide of the right hand post. To be honest though you got the impression the Dons would go on to score as many as they wanted in the second half, as I took the opportunity to take advantage of the soft segregation in place to go and watch the rest of the game from the Tempest…

As is so usually the case, the Dons chose the first fifteen minutes of the second half to have their worst spell of the game, but Bath still couldn’t find a way to even threaten the Dons goal. A Phillips effort that bounced back off the underside… of the roof behind the stand was the closest they came, still the Bath goalkeeper got a moment of excitement out of it. In fact despite the great football they produced it could be argued Wimbledon never really needed to hit top gear, a worry for the visitors with a long season ahead. And they went further behind to the most basic of goals, the sort you really need to defend better if you want to be competitive in this division. Ryan Jackson hoisted a long throw into the Bath box, Danny Kedwell flicked on and Christian Jolley guided the ball back across the goalkeeper into the net.

We hadn’t seen much from Kedwell so far, he had a decent game linking the play, but the man on everyone t-shirt hadn’t threatened to add to his goal tally, mainly down to a decent performance by former Don Danny Webb. The man with a fifty pence piece for a head was last seen by Dons fans flapping about in an ill-fitting goalkeepers shirt as his Salisbury side were destroyed 4-0 early last term, and he was destined to lose by the same result when he and his colleagues left Kedwell all alone in the box to notch his eighth of the season.

In fact Webb’s afternoon could have got a whole lot worse as he appeared to haul back Kedwell after the Dons striker got in front of him and the goal at his mercy. Webb stayed down, perhaps expecting the worst, but the referee (who had a very decent game, by the way) decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. By this stage, Jolley and Jackson had reverted to full backs as Jon Main and debutant Mark Nwokeji were brought into the action. Main worked hard again but it was Nwokeji that impressed during his ten minute cameo. He does look a tidy player, and one that can bring a lot to the side. Jackson is holding that right sided forward position for now, but expect Nwokeji to reclaim that shirt, with Jackson one for the future…

So Wimbledon gained the victory they needed to ensure they would remain top on Friday night regardless of the result against Luton, but the next two games will tell us a whole lot more about their promotion credentials. Terry Brown has said in the past that twenty points from the first ten games is normally regarded as the sort of start you need to challenge for promotion – Wimbledon currently have nineteen… and the luxury of knowing any points against the two big spenders will be a bonus…

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Bath City Preview

After the Newport game, this blog confidently predicted we would not see the Dons on top of the Conference table again this season. I have to say this was one of those statements I come out with from time to time that are made solely in order to tempt fate… and I’m very glad that my fiendish plan worked. For that reason, I would like to state here that there is no chance the Dons will remain top of the table come 4.50pm on Saturday, nor indeed any chance of promotion…

Actually, I was more than pleasantly surprised when the news came through that we had beaten Kettering last week. I always find it quite surreal missing my first game of the season, and have never really got into listening to the game on WDON, excellent service that it is… I’m going to have to get used to it next season, as I won’t be in the country for at least 44 of our 46 games – still, it should make for more accurate match reports…

When I say I didn’t expect us to beat Kettering, what I really mean is I thought Kettering would be the sort of place that this Wimbledon side would come unstuck, which probably wasn’t entirely unreasonable after effectively throwing away two points the Monday before against Newport (and how good would the league table look now if we had held on to those?!). Yet they proved me wrong, and long may they continue to do so. This young squad are playing with no fear at the moment, although you do wonder how they would bounce back from a heavy defeat or morale busting last minute loss. There is a temptation to say Bath City should not prove too much of a threat to the Dons holding onto top spot, but this is football, Bath City are undoubtedly better than their early league position suggests and will ask questions, the Dons need to be focussed to stand any chance of going into next Fridays game at Luton as leaders.

After missing our two league games in Bath during our BSS championship season, I was naturally thrilled that Bath City overcame Woking in the playoffs last year – albeit losing a potential derby with our ‘friends’ a few stops down the South West mainline… then horrified the Conference fixture computer (i.e. bloke with pencil, dice, shaky grasp of geography…) allocated our visit to a Tuesday in January… I still hope to get down there, as I have heard nothing but good reports of our previous trip, but probably won’t get the chance to explore the city as intended… From what I have seen online Bath fans are making all the right noises ahead of their trip, I hope they have a great day out as they seem to have quite an unpretentious fanbase.

Bath are an unknown quantity to me, are missing five players, whether this will have much effect on them remains to be seen. The Dons have no new injury worries apparently, which meant the Surrey Herald (who must have some kind of Dons related quota to meet) were forced to recycle the news that Brett Johnson will miss the game, but stands a chance of being back for the Luton game. Ed Harris has the chance to stamp his claim for regular first team football, alongside the unflappable Ismail Yakubu. Steven Gregory is listed as doubtful, and as we all know Mark Nwokeji is yet to make is debut, will have to wait another week at least.

Now, the moment you have all been waiting for… the Anonymous Don predicted line up;

Brown

Hatton

Blackman

Yakubu

Harris

Moore, S

Minshull

Wellard

Jolley

Kedwell

Moore, L

I have Wellard in for Gregory, and Luke Moore reprising his place with Ryan Jackson making way… which will be extremely unfortunate for the youngster, but I just have this hunch…

WUP is on sale tomorrow which may or may not feature a contribution from The Anonymous Don (they don’t tell me in advance, to ensure I actually buy a copy…). Danny Kedwell t-shirts are available too, for a crisp tenner (including WUP). Further details can be found here – http://www.afcwgb.co.uk/keds_tshirt.html

 #### LATE UPDATE! ####

My brave prediction that Luke Moore would come back into the starting line up only had the effect of giving him a poorly tummy, presumably caused by him reading this and getting a bit over excited. This means Luke will not play any part tomorrow (according to the O/S…).

As one plant is crushed, so another seed germinates, and our boost is that Mark Nwokeji is finally fit enough to join the squad. Heres hoping for a positive debut, I for one wish him all the best and hope he earns his Dons colours with style…

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