Tag Archives: Blue Square Premier


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged ,

Toilet Town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged , , , ,

Green Army

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged ,


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged , , , , , ,

Conference Score – Saturday 16th January ’10

AFC Wimbledon    2 (2)    Elder (2), Taylor (22)

Mansfield    0 (0)

Attn: 3584

Nathan Elder grabbed a debut goal after only 117 seconds against playoff rivals Mansfield, as the Dons took the points on a day when most other contenders took another weather break. Elder also had a strike ruled out later in the half before laying on an assist for Lewis Taylor to grab a second, and Wimbledon could have had more in the second half against a disjointed looking Mansfield side.

Elsewhere in the division, the wheels haven’t quite fallen of at Oxford, but they certainly don’t seem to be the dominant force they appeared earlier in the year, slipping to a 0-1 home defeat at the hands of Tamworth. York predictably overcame Hayes 4-1 in the only other game that affected the promotion contenders that didn’t fall foul of the weather.

At the bottom, Ebbsfleet are now in real trouble slipping to a 1-2 home defeat against our gritty Trophy opponents Altrincham, the Fleet have now played more games than anyone at the bottom. Forest Green leapt a couple of places beating Gateshead 1-0 at The New Lawn, leaving their opponents in the bottom four. Eastbourne Borough pulled away slightly after coming away from Cambridge with the points.

Dons match report to follow shortly…

Tagged , , ,

Mansfield (H) – A Match Preview

Yesterday I was unfortunate enough to be confined to my house thanks to the freak snow we received preventing me from reaching work (actually my boss called me and told me not to bother as the office would be closed – it wasn’t – which made me look a bit of a tit when I spoke to my colleagues this morning who HAD battled their way in). I blame South West Trains and the dodgy wiring at Surbiton station… exactly how many times can they claim to have no information due to ‘power failure’ before the public realise they just flicked the light switch to the off position?

Fortunately, I spent my time constructively. I wrote an article for this here blog entitled ‘Bonus’, yet perhaps due to recent inactivity I somehow forgot to post it. Never mind. You didn’t miss much. Plus I’ll probably recycle most of it in this little preview – of a game that may or may not take place…

As many of you will notice, there was an appeal on the website requesting supporters arrive this morning to clear the pitch of snow, to allow the frozen surface underneath the best chance to recover. I have noticed a few people pondering why we don’t have a pitch cover when extreme weather is expected. I vaguely remember that these type of things cost tens of thousands of pounds, so I wonder whether it would be worthwhile making our own? All we would need are a few hundred old duvets and a load of Tesco Value binbags to line it… I’m sure we have a few thrifty supporters who wouldn’t mind devoting some time to knit it all together… then bingo! No more postponements!

For those of you wondering why Danny Webb’s old training kit couldn’t be used for this job, it’s currently on its way to Haiti to be erected as a tent and used as a field hospital…

I suppose clearing the pitch has become a bit of a race against time, with rain forecast for tomorrow and Saturday allowing the snow to melt and saturate the playing surface probably isn’t an option. Yet it must be a careful procedure… after all the pitch itself has cost a fortune to get into its present state, and the investment in playing staff on it means the last thing we need is Danny Kedwell turning his ankle on a pothole created by a well-meaning volunteer rushing to remove a pile of snow and ice…

Not that I’m slagging off those who rushed to the ground this morning – all I’m saying is Saturday will be a big, big game for us, and I don’t want any of them coming away thinking ‘I wish I hadn’t bothered now’… Some of the other ‘big’ ex-League clubs have looked ordinary so far… Hello, Cambridge and Wrexham by the way… and those who are the real deal are starting to rise to the top. Stevenage, Oxford, York, all unbeaten at home this season. And lying just below them, a point ahead of us and with a game in hand, are Mansfield. Luton may have three games in hand on us, and are only three games behind, but they actually have to win those games. At this stage of the season I would prefer to have the points in the bag.

Now I haven’t seen much of Mansfield this season, and its fair to say their away form has been indifferent, but they have picked up wins rather than splitting points – winning six and losing six of their road games this term. Last time out on the road they lost 0-3 to York (and we know all about York…) yet followed it up with a morale boosting win against Cambridge before the big freeze set in. The question is, does this form make any difference after a two-week break? Perhaps there is a Mansfield blogger sitting there now, drawing strength from our defeat at Hayes on New Years Day.

In reality our lacklustre performance was more down to the players that weren’t on the pitch than those who were. With two signings that could potentially start on Saturday (Blanchett and Poole), and another signing apparently on the way, it could be said Wimbledon are a team in transition at the moment. Not pre-season style transition – it won’t take weeks for the new boys to settle, and they could always click straight away. But perhaps enough of a reshuffle for Mansfield to catch us cold?

The flip side of the coin is that we now have the strength in depth that we have been crying out for. As I said last time out, genuine contenders are looking to strengthen now and not release players (Hello, once again, Luton Town…), so to see Terry so active in the market is encouraging. The lack of news about the striker we have been promised doesn’t seem so much of a problem knowing we have a fully fit Danny Kedwell and Jon Main, the most potent strike force in the division with 28 between them, and if anything service should be improved now we have the likes of Will Hendry and Glenn  Poole to add to the likes of Lewis Taylor and the much-missed Luke Moore. (The one thing I do wonder about is where this leaves Elliott Godfrey, such a hard-working but desperately unlucky player, once Moore returns from injury…).

So should we put more pressure on our young team by expecting a win on Saturday? Hmmm, I think some of us would just feel quite privileged to see a game of football again…

Tagged , , , ,

400 Minutes

Sorry for the delay in writing. The Anonymous Don is technically closed for Christmas, yet as I forgot to post a message advising that plenty of you have been returning waiting for an update, perhaps visualising me dead in a ditch somewhere…

The Christmas close down has come early as I am off to the States for two weeks two days before the Crawley game, and I have to get quite a lot of things done in the meantime. So the blog will return, relaunched in the New Year, in the mean time I will endeavour to keep as up to date as possible with intermediate updates such as this.

Last time I wrote, if you can remember back that far, was a 0-1 home defeat to playoff rivals York, and since Michael Rankine’s sixty-third minute strike in that game young Sebastian Brown has gone approximately four hundred minutes without picking the ball out of his net (including various time added on at half/full-time, for those of you who came up with 387 minutes…).

After York I really felt we had run into just the right opponents at the right time. Ebbsfleet had shown some resilience against us earlier in the season, but any fears Dons fans might have had of an embarrassing home defeat would have been put aside after only minutes. We were never going to have trouble against a side that gifted us possession so freely, even at our worst we don’t give the ball away so easily from start to finish!

Despite this I feel we made the trip to Kidderminster more in hope than expectation, but our hosts seemed to have the sort of bad day we had for their visit a month previously. With Moore and Taylor buzzing around Kedwell, the trio of Hendry, Wellard and Gregory took hold of the midfield and ran the game. Hendry has been an inspired signing, the missing piece of the jigsaw almost, and any possibility of turning this arrangement into something more permanent will only have a positive effect on Wimbledon’s playoff chances.

Although Danny Kedwells expertly taken goal was enough to settle the game, the Dons missed further chances that could have ended the match as a contest much earlier than the final whistle. How Jon Main failed to head home from yards out I don’t know, especially with hundreds of Wimbledon supporters behind the goal trying to suck it in. Either way, Wimbledon played some good football, and it was a real pleasure to make the journey to watch such a performance.

With two wins under our belts, my football (or more accurately Wimbledon) head told me the trick to Salisbury would be a lot harder than the League table suggested. I couldn’t make the game due to work commitments but it seems in tough conditions this really could have been a banana skin. Congratulations to the boys for coming home with the points, and even bigger congratulations to the hundreds of Dons fans who made the trip, despite not being too far away it was just long enough a journey for me to be unable to juggle my own commitments, so well done those of you who did.

Which brings us to Gateshead. This was a side in form against a relatively unknown quantity, and Wimbledon put them away with minimal fuss. Steven Gregory looked as though the last thing he wanted to do was strike left footed as he skipped past two defenders, if anything this probably made him think a little more about how he hit the ball. If it was on his right foot we may have seen it fly over the bar but instead his effort dipped over the keeper, finding the net via the underside of the bar.

Still it wasn’t the most watchable of games, mainly down to the referees ability to blow his whistle whenever there was any danger of some football breaking out. He cancelled out Kedwells strike early in the second half after Kedwell had brushed off an attempted rugby tackle by the last man. Fortunately even he couldn’t miss the challenge that scythed down Elliott Godfrey on the hour, allowing Ricky Wellard to stroke a free kick around the wall into the corner.

An other good day at the office for Wimbledon, but where does this leave us? We have gone from mid-table to just two points off the playoffs and above contenders such as Luton and Kidderminster in little over a week. In these circumstances it’s a shame we have to break for cup games, but thats football I suppose. If we were facing Crawley in Tuesday instead of Ash, I would have felt we would have gone with confidence and taken home the points.

Instead we have a two-week wait, and will perhaps have to regain momentum depending on what sort of side is named for the Boreham Wood game next week. Crawley is a tricky place to go as we found out when we visited for our cup game, yet I think after our ten man victory in the replay we might just have sussed them out. Another clean sheet should mean another victory, as I listen in from afar…

After the York game I think I wasn’t the only one to believe we really needed a Chris Hussey replacement but the back four seems to have gelled. We now have four defenders who could play centre half if required, meaning our full backs aren’t exposed to high balls over the top. Even when Hatton fills in at right back we look solid against an aerial bombardment. Yet this hasn’t had an effect on how we pass the ball around, perhaps fortunate that we have players such as Judge and Johnson who are as comfortable with the ball at their feet as they are attacking it in the air. Sure if a Hussey-clone becomes available in January I say we sign him, but if the right player isn’t available we should stick with what we have – and that includes making more use of Derek Duncan in this position.

It seems like Terry Browns plan is coming together. At the beginning of the season we anticipated encounters with our opponents by highlighting their dangermen, so it is good to know that sides who play us are now looking beyond Kedwell and Main (brilliant though they are!) and highlighting the likes of Gregory, Moore, even Wellard as stand out performers.

Yes, despite our recent run of form we probably won’t have the consistency this year to make the playoffs. If we do we will come unstuck against the experience of a York or Stevenage over two legs, but even missing out completely will be ok so long as the progression and momentum that has been built up continues throughout the campaign.

I remember a few scoffers writing off the likes of Wellard, Gregory and of course Hatton at the start of the season. All of those players have shown a huge improvement. In fact even the more ‘mature’ players have improved their game. Plus as a unit they are coming together all the time, as the side start to exceed the value of its parts as even the best sides should.

Moving onto the two cup games, its good to hear that Terry Brown will be taking a strong side down to Ash on Tuesday. Despite no longer technically being a first team competition, the county cups will be more than useful for giving our fringe players a run-out. With the size of our squad and the poor quality of opposition our reserves face, going all the way in both of these competitions would see two of these fixtures a month until the end of the season.

Plus the Ash assistant manager is Matt Everard. Reason if any to get yourself down there on Tuesday night!

Tagged , , , , , , ,

AFC Wimbledon 0 York City 1 – A Match Report

I think we were a little spoiled by our early home form. We got used to certain teams with huge budgets turning up at Kingsmeadow and not walking away with the three expected points. Well, except Oxford, but even they knew they had been in a fight. Then, at the start of October, bigger boys from The North started arriving, rolling up their sleeves and bullying us out of the game.

Yesterdays game drew comparisons with our previous two home games, except this week our potent strike force never even looked like they were going to bail us out of trouble. We only managed one shot on target all afternoon. In fact, I’m starting to get used to getting home on a Saturday evening feeling a bit down.

It seems as though the combination of players we have at the moment we can’t beat teams like York at home at the moment. It will be a different game when we travel up there in March, but right now it seems no matter how much of a fight they put up, our current crop were always going to be hanging on against a powerful side. It’s the difference between us challenging for a playoff place and spending the season in mid-table, which now looks likely.

So what was wrong with our lineup yesterday? Working from back to front, there were two clear weaknesses, our goalkeeper and our midfielder. I always thought Sebb Brown was a strange signing, yet over the course of the season when he was called upon to deputise for James Pullen he seemed to have drummed the simple errors out of his game. As a shot stopper he is competent, yet his distribution left a lot to be desired. Time and again he gave up possession with a series of kicks that found touch. I know conditions were poor, but a degree of concentration would have ensured the ball would arrive somewhere near its target.

Several players, as well as the manager, showed a great deal of frustration at this, and I’m not sure it would have been helped by the requirement of our entire team to pack out the area from corners and set pieces in order to protect his aerial deficiencies. This again gave up possession as it meant Wimbledon either had to hoof the ball clear, giving up the ball yet again, or try to play their way out of danger –  which lead to the only goal of the game.

I have mentioned in the past that we will have the same issues if we draft in young Jack Turner in terms of having to protect him, but honestly, why not? At least he is positive about coming for high balls. Plus he has a kick that would put any in this division to shame. I understand the theory that Sebb is being used to make the mistakes so Jack doesn’t have to at this early stage of his career, a first team start would be invaluable to his progress. Just send him out there, tell him there is no pressure on him and see whether he takes it. If it doesn’t work, bring Sebb back until Pullen recovers. If this really is a season of building experience, now we have a chance to give a start to a player who could well be our number one in a couple of years time.

The visitors physical nature showed up our midfield as the paperweight unit it is. To be fair to them, they didn’t give the ball away very much, but thats mainly down to them failing to win possession back very often. Plus when Sam Hatton turns out to be your midfield enforcer – well absolutely no disrespect to Sam intended, I though apart from the goal he had one of his better games and looked like the only midfielder capable of winning the ball in the air – but when you find yourself relying on him to win the ball back because no-one else will, then your going to have problems in this league.

It seems strange that Terry didn’t go for a tough midfielder, someone who is strong from box to box and isn’t going to lose out very much in a challenge. Someone who can lead the midfield, and who the younger players can play around and learn from. We saw this deficiency yesterday and it was like playing with a man short. While perhaps I have been one of the worst culprits in glossing over our midfield problems, it’s now the elephant in the room that we cannot avoid to ignore if we have any remaining ambition of putting together a run in the New Year.

The question is, will Terry take the opportunity to do this in January or will he allow the current bunch to lay out a season of comparative mediocrity? Although I have to point out, Steven Gregory is a really good player. You can see him playing at a higher level in future, and playing alongside the right mix of team mates he could be one of the men who help us out of the division. But Elliott Godfrey was lightweight. He tried really hard but he never got into the action. And Lewis Taylor just didn’t get into the game, mainly down to some fussy refereeing going against him.

On the subject of the referee, and moving to the game itself, he wasn’t going to let York use their strength to simply steamroller us. York started the better of the two sides without ever creating anything worth noting down, but I do remember Michael Rankine blasting well wide in the opening couple of minutes. Instead it was all about the antics of the York players, mainly their front two, and their baffling efforts to unsettle the Dons back line.

On another day Rankine would have been booked for an ugly early challenge on Lorraine, who seemed to be targeted by the visitors. It seemed a strange decision, as the big Dons defender kept his cool well – initially. It was Richard Brodie’s turn to have a go a few minutes later, where with the ball out of play he rushed towards Lorraine before barging into him, only to collapse onto the ground himself. It was actually one of the funniest comedy falls I’ve seen in a long while, and drew big laughs around the ground. Brodie naturally received a yellow, although the home crowd didn’t forget his intentions, booing him on the few occasions he found the ball at his feet.

Brodie and Rankine certainly look like a couple of beasts, Brodie himself could do with a mask and a chainsaw and I think he would have found his true vocation in the movies, whereas Rankine looks like the sort of person you see on real life documentaries, living on death row in Louisiana for eating babies. And it was Rankine who had the best chance of the first half, meeting a cross from the right only yards out but steering it well over the bar. If anything this outbreak of football was a mere interference to the more entertaining battle that was taking place.

Rankine was next in the book after a ‘collision’ with the unflustered Lorraine, and to the crowd’s delight Danny Parsloe beat him into the book for his excessive protests. The referee counted out the number of fouls Rankine had made, as usual pointing to nowhere near where these fouls took place but making his point. At this point Lorraine had the beating of his two rivals, and could have really pushed the pair of them later in the half had he not snapped himself, after another Rankine foul he pointed out that Rankine was treading a fine line a little too firmly and found himself in the book as well.

Overall an interesting but ultimately fruitless war ended from that point with all parties seeming to accept a draw. The fun and games were put aside as all parties put their minds firmly back on the football. Not that there was much taking place. York had the better of possession but they couldn’t turn it into chances. And in injury time of the first half Danny Kedwell managed what turned out to be Wimbledon’s only effort on target, taking down a ball on the left edge of the area before striking firmly towards the near post but easily smothered by the otherwise untested Michael Ingham.

Half time came as a relief with the hope that Terry might find those few magic words that could spark our misfiring team to life. A swooping flock of parakeets dived down in front of the Tempest and added a bit of colour to the occasion, but before anyone could ask whether they fancied displacing our problem pigeons they were gone. Still, they added a bit of colour to an otherwise drab afternoon…

The teams returned to the field and it quickly became apparent that it was the visitors who were most likely to take the game. Kicking towards their large but relatively quiet contingent of 400 or so in the KRE they seemed a step ahead of Wimbledon. Yet it took them a while to create anything, and the Dons had a couple of half chances. First a deep corner from the left was met by Lorraine, who nodded back into the six yard box. For a moment it seemed as though Brett Johnson was about to apply the finish from yards out but was beaten by a York head to turn it round for another flag kick. This corner was taken short and ultimately cleared, only as far as Steven Gregory, whose low effort was deflected into the air and just past the top left corner.

It must have woken York up for the need to find a goal of their own. A number of corners were cleared in desperation by the Dons defence, which even included Jon Main leaving very little choice but to hand possession back to York. Then a deep cross was met at the far post by Brodie, kept out via a desperate arm of Brown before the crossbar, the ball eventually hooked away to relative safety. I wrote in my notes that Wimbledon would be lucky to survive this spell, and like clockwork the goal came.

A couple of Dons defenders had chances to clear the ball before it fell to Sam Hatton in space on the right side of the Wimbledon box. With nothing ahead of him Hatton tried to dribble clear, only to be easily nudged off the ball for it to be returned at an angle for Rankine to meet with a firm header that gave Brown no chance. It was unfortunate for Hatton, who up to that point had been a man of the match contender thanks to his no-nonsense tackling and aerial ability, but it taught him that there are certain times when you can’t play football, and have to weigh up the percentages and knock it clear. If that means booting it into touch and regrouping then so be it. I get the impression they will have to learn th hard way a few more times this campaign before it finally sinks in…

With their backs against the walls a fight back looked unlikely, even with nearly half an hour of football to play. The referee had helped the Dons in the first half with his no-nonsense approach to infringements, but seemed to have taken a disliking to Lewis Taylor. Playing in his usual free role on the right, Taylor found himself tugged back time and again only to see the award go against him. I can’t be too unfair on the referee here, he did have a decent game when many others would have lost control, and maybe it was down to Taylor’s strange habit of waving his arms around like a man lost at sea whenever he gets involved in a footrace with an opposition player.

Gregory struck wide of the left post from distance with twenty-five minutes to go, yet Wimbledon only looked like they had half a chance of getting back on terms following the introduction of Luke Moore to replace Godfrey. He immediately looked the most impressive player on the pitch, picking up a ball on the left before finding the touch-line and prodding past Ingham across the six yard line, only to see Hatton beaten to the ball by a despairing York challenge.

Moore set about unsuccessfully trying to pick a hole through the York defense, one strong run from his own half was crudely halted by an unidentified York man on the edge of the box. With the ability to get everyone behind the ball it was no surprise that Hattons low free kick failed to beat the wall.

And that was pretty much it. Conroy made way for Montague as Terry Brown switched to 3-4-3 for the remaining few minutes, but this was to little effect. Really you had to question the decision to bring on Montague who never really looked like putting in a challenge capable of winning the ball, especially as Moore’s introduction had suggested perhaps bringing on Cumbers might have produced results while trying to play through York, and created space for Main and Kedwell.

Neither of the front two had a bad game, Kedwell forced back to defend all too often and Main isolated as his team mates dropped further and further. But to get the most of our talented front to we need to start creating chances for them. I think back to the number of chances Main wasted against Luton, Eastbourne and the like, and how he would just gobble up those kind of openings now he is back in form.

Perhaps the chances will come on Tuesday, and the Dons will regain a bit of confidence before a tough trip to Kidderminster next weekend. But before we can think of a comfortable win on Tuesday, we need to think about making sure of the win. Ebbsfleet have had their problems this season and are very much there for the taking, if Wimbledon feel the pressure too much to find a home performance we could find ourselves with all sorts of problems… and would a big win just paper over the cracks?

Tagged , , , , ,

Conference Score (Saturday 21st November ’09)

AFC Wimbledon    (0) 0

York City    (0) 1    Rankine (63)

The Dons slipped to yet another home defeat after a Micheal Rankine header secured the points for York who burst back into the playoff places as Wimbledon slip to twelfth. In front of a 4000 crowd, boosted by a fantastic 400 or so travelling supporters from York, the Dons failed to create an effort on target in a game of very few chances.

Elsewhere in the division the game of the day saw Cambridge claw back a two goal deficit at Luton in the last ten minutes. Leaders Oxford won at home to Barrow, second place Stevenage also won at Forest Green as ex-Franchise roly-poly self tan man Lee Harper’s Kettering showed signs of the wheels falling off their promotion hopes beaten 2-0 at home by Kidderminster.

Looking a few weeks ahead, the FA Trophy reached the final round of qualifying, as some old friends battled it out for one last shot at the Dons. Top of the list were Woking, who slaughtered the Stalebuns at Queensfield to give them that half chance of drawing us and playing their Biggest Game Ever. Bromley are out though (well done Maidstone!), yet the prospect of a visit from the villagers from down the river still exists as they beat Concord 3-2. Chelmsford and Hornchurch drew 3-3 and Dover overcame Dartford 3-2.

Match Report tomorrow (I’m not making any promises, but it will definitely be before the Ebbsfleet game…)

Tagged , ,