Tag Archives: Braintree

The Road To The Massive Arch Part One

There are cup ties against lower division opponents that will live long in the memory, such as the Ebbsfleet replay for example. Then there are games like yesterdays… The 3-0 scoreline might have given the impression to the many that took the opportunity to do some Xmas shopping that it was a comfortable victory, and yes it should have been a comfortable win against ten men, but didn’t quite pan out that way thanks to a disjointed midfield display. And yes, you can be kind to the boys and say it was their first game in a couple of weeks and there was bound to be some rustiness after training on Astroturf for two weeks, you can also make excuses and say against a better side they would have applied themselves a little better concentration-wise and perhaps there were an extra couple of gears they could have gone through if they needed to, but ultimately the small crowd left a little disappointed with the performance, and rightly so.

Braintree were a solid enough side, they worked hard, but the quality gap was evident when the Dons got the ball down and played it around as evident in the opening goal, and when they went down to ten men the Dons should really have run away with the contest. That it needed a couple of late goals to wrap things up probably summed up the performance, chances were missed earlier in the game that if taken perhaps would have glossed over the performance, as it was it was almost as if the Dons players considered the game wrapped up at 1-0… very much in the same manner we ended up being eliminated from the tournament last year at the hands of Workington. It could have happened yesterday – undoubtedly few would have shed too many tears if we had gone out, only 1201 bothering to turn up for a competition that at least during the early stages fails to capture the imagination of Dons fans.

The Dons had a few more breaks than said Workington game, and were assisted by a particularly toothless Braintree front line. Although I have to say the Dons back four were pretty faultless throughout in restricting the opposition, somewhat overworked thanks to the midfields insistence on turning the ball over to their opponents at every available opportunity, particularly in the second half. It was rather frustrating to watch, although its slightly easier to take when you’re winning football matches, you do wonder what Wrexham will do to us if we continue in the same fashion next week. And the really annoying thing was it came after such a promising opening period for the home team, capped off by an impressively worked goal after eight minutes. Some great interplay on the edge of the area saw the ball fed to Chris Bush, bursting through down the left channel. While he had a shooting opportunity he intelligently squared for Christian Jolley to firmly place the ball into the bottom left hand corner.

The visitors best chance of the game came later in the half, Sebb Brown deciding to come for a high ball into the box but beaten to the ball by Braintree striker Marks. His looping header was goalbound, but hooked away from under the bar by Yakubu, who had taken a position in the line to protect his goalkeeper. And the game seemed to be up for Braintree minutes later when a long clearance was chased down by Danny Kedwell, who positioned himself between ball and man, yet as he prepared to apply the finish he was crudely bundled over by Micheal Alaile. The referee had the red card out immediately, much to the frustration of some of the kids in attendance who were looking forward to their moment of pantomime chanting ‘Off! Off! Off!’ (I have to say I never thought the day would come where I’d get to criticise a referee for lack of showmanship…).

Naturally the Dons went on to dominate the remainder of the half, failing to extend their lead despite a couple of decent efforts falling to Sam Hatton, first he was played in by a clever ball by (I think) Luke Moore, only to see his firmly struck right foot effort across the keeper creep narrowly wide of the left post, then a fierce strike from twenty yards out in the right channel that appeared to bounce off the outside of the near post. You got the impression if one of those had gone in, the Dons would go on to run up a big score, but the small crowd were otherwise satisfied with the first half display.

I’m not sure what went wrong in the second half. The game was pretty much in the home teams pocket, but at least for the first half hour of the second period was characterised by some really sloppy play, the ball being given straight back to the opposition two, sometimes even three times in quick succession. As I’ve already said, the back four were doing a pretty good job of taking the ball back from Braintree, only to see their colleagues further up the field waste their efforts. To be fair, Braintree didn’t look like doing anything with it, but it would only have taken a fluke or a mishit to sail in, and the Dons could have been looking at the possibility of an unwanted replay on Tuesday night.

Eventually Terry Brown lost patience, putting Mark Nwokeji on up front with Danny Kedwell, Jolley and Jackson (who had replaced Luke Moore earlier in the half) ‘dropping back’ although in practice this meant a front four pushing on to Braintree’s tiring back line. As the visitors pushed forward, Wimbledon finally looked like they might put them out of their misery. The goal eventually came only four minutes from the end of normal time. The Dons won a free kick on the edge of the Braintree area, and as the visitors stood either arguing with the referee or pulling their statue impression, the home side were getting on with it, Sammy Hattons clever ball put Nwokeji through, as he took it round the keeper you wondered whether he had taken it too far wide, but he expertly converted from a tight angle to win the game. Two minutes later Kedwell gave the scoreline at least a satisfying gloss, a quick interchange saw him blast the ball into the bottom corner, the keeper getting a hand to it but the ball having far too much pace on it to keep it from bouncing off the upright and into the net. In fact there could have been further goals, as Nwokeji saw an effort clip the outside of the post.

Ultimately, despite the poor performance, a win is a win, and a place in the next round is all you can ask for. We were perhaps fortunate that no matter how bad we were, Braintree were a lot worse, as shown by their inability to create a goalscoring effort in the second half despite being gift-wrapped possession on a regular basis. Tomorrows draw will give us a game slap bang in the middle of January, a month that will go a long way towards revealing just how serious our promotion challenge is. With trips to Newport, Darlington, Fleetwood, Bath and Gateshead, as well as the 1st February York game, sods law suggests the draw will give us another long away trip. While picking our strongest eleven was a given on Saturday, by the time the Second Round rolls round and injuries and suspensions take their toll, we might not have that luxury.

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Braintree Preview

We’ve all had a rest from football, or at least the Dons (surely the only football worth bothering with…), for the best part of two weeks. This blog certainly went into slumberland, I did attempt to start writing a post I entitled Nothing Much Is Going On, but by the time I had commented on the weather and thrown in a few lame jokes, I realised there was genuinely nothing going on, and abandoned the project. Ironically I could have been working on my Xmas WUP article, but as I completely forgot it’ll have to wait until I’ve written this, and as I haven’t even got an angle on it yet I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for a quality effort…

Putting that minor insight into the writing of TAD and associated projects to one side for a moment, we finally have a game to get excited about. Braintree at home in the Trophy wouldn’t normally get the heart pumping, but they are after all top of the division below us in a competition that can provide us with our only hope of playing at Wembley this year. Plus you should all have got the Xmas shopping done last week, no excuses, I want to see at least 2,000 of you in TCRRFSKM come 3pm Saturday. Hopefully still remaining in the ground at 4.45…

In my Luton preview I mentioned how the game being postponed should be regarded as a Good Thing, yet the York postponement placed a slightly different angle on it. Having two games to catch up on might make you start to think that losing on Saturday will be no bad thing. I on the other hand disagree, in fact I disagree greatly. Theres no substitute in the game to winning football matches, and you have to ask the question that if the squad aren’t capable of playing an extra 6-8 games between now and May without dropping out of the promotion picture, then perhaps they don’t deserve to be in the race to start with. Maybe the young boys will get tired, maybe they’ll lose it mentally, but either way it’ll be experience earned. We’ll begin again next season and be stronger for it.

In the mean time, theres no value in wrapping the players in cotton wool. I hope, as he has suggested, Brown will put out a strong side for this, win it, and go on to have a solid run in the tournament, maybe even win the whole thing? Why not? Theres no-one in this division we should be afraid of in a one-off encounter, and our Cup no-shows against higher ranked teams won’t affect us as, well, for the time being there isn’t a club in the competition above us. Name your strongest side as promised, Terry, let’s have a decent performance and see us through to the next round (for which we already have a free weekend lined up), and we’ll see where we go from there. Cue TAD advising everyone ‘this is a blessing in disguise’ in my match report after we get turned over on Saturday.

Having said that, Braintree obviously aren’t going to stand to one side and say ‘There you go chaps. Easy passage to the next round this way…’. As our games against Ebbsfleet showed, the quality in the division is there, especially when they are right up for the game. And just as I write this – well, several hours earlier actually. I wrote the first few paragraphs at lunchtime and resumed this evening from ‘And just as I write this…’ (see if you can spot the join…). Anyway, as I wrote this, Terry Brown has popped up in the Surrey Herald warning us all not to underestimate Braintree. He also mentions on the O/S how the plan is to get to Wembley, as ‘the play-off final is in Manchester this year’… kind of giving away the belief I think we all share that Crawley or Luton or both will end up running away from us at some stage soon.

Anyway, in terms of a potential Dons lineup, its pretty much full strength with the exception of Ed Harris finally getting to serve his suspension, Brett Johnson still injured but looking, like Jesus, at a Christmas comeback. Oh fuck, hang on, Jesus was Easter, wasn’t he? Ok, Johnson is planning a Jesus like comeback, but at Christmas, not Easter. And to round-up more recent team news, Sammy Moore has twinged his groin, while Lee Minshull has recovered from his broken toe only to cry off with a note from his mom or something. His punishment is featuring in next weeks 0-1 reverse at Dulwich in the LSC. Punishment indeed, for I have every intention of being at Dulwich on Wednesday night. No excuses here. It is Wednesday, right???

TADs predicted lineup – Brown; Hatton, Blackman, Yakubu, Franks; Gregory, Yussuff, Moore (either, depending on who is fit); Jolley, Kedwell, Jackson

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Its Braintree In The Trophy…

That previously empty looking weekend in your diaries on 11th December can now be inked in with a home game against Braintree, currently sitting second in the BSS. The Dons have had a little difficulty overcoming sides from this division in FA competitions so far this season, and it will be interesting to see just how seriously Brown decides to take this competition. From a fans perspective though, and lets not be ashamed to be a little greedy here, it is the first step on what will be our only chance of reaching Wembley this season.

One positive about the timing of the game is currently we have a clear week after our game at York behind it and a clear week ahead to Wrexham, this could change if we require a replay following Saturdays game. There’s no doubt Brown will field the strongest side possible, but in a week that has seen key players rested after reaching the point of exhaustion the temptation will be there to give certain players a week off. If the game takes place a few days after a tough FA Cup replay, the decision to field a weakened side could be taken out of his hands.

I suppose how competitive we will be will depend on whether Brown manages to bolster his squad. With a few thousand swirling around in the coffers thanks to the TV money from the cup run, Brown mentioned keeping tabs on another target man to take the pressure off Danny Kedwell in Sundays programme notes, as well as the possibility of bringing in a defender on loan in his post match press conference. At the moment, with Johnson’s injury and Yakubu’s inability to play two games in a week, we are effectively down to two and a half centre halves for our two biggest games of the season, meaning the talented but young Harris and Franks will pair up for either the Stevenage or (more likely) Luton games.

As for Braintree themselves, they seem more than capable of pulling off an upset even if the Dons go full strength. Despite being something of a cliché that all you want in a cup draw is a side from a lower division at home, you would almost have preferred a home tie against the likes of Hayes or Bath than a side near the top of their division and firing on all cylinders.

Having said that, the draw could have been worse. We avoided Crawley, Luton… even the likes of Cambridge would have given us a decent game. This tie is winnable. Questions about the strength of side we should field can wait, the way players seem to be dropping like flies at the moment suggests if things get any worse in the next couple of weeks we may not have too much of a squad to select a side from…

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