Tag Archives: Jon Main

News Round-Up 11/6/11

Having waited a week for enough news to actually round-up, some of this might not exactly be news to any of you, but I’ll press on all the same. This is deep into holiday time, in a summer without a major tournament (although the U21 championship and Womens World Cup will hold my interest before pre-season).

I was actually planning on staying up late to watch my wife’s local team, New England Revolution, play their local derby at New York Red Bulls (a franchise not quite in the odious leagues of Them, but despicable enough thanks mainly to their owners activities in Salzburg…). Boston to New York is about the distance of London to Manchester, not really a derby in our meaning of the word, but a short hop for seasoned supporters in North America. The Revs were unable to add to a sweet week for New England teams over their New York counterparts going down 2-1, fortunately I fell asleep well before kick off.

The reason I mention this (apart from obvious filler in a slow news week) is had my plans to emigrate to NH earlier in the year not been scuppered by global financial meltdown, I would at very least have been settling down to watch the game on TV, possibly even joining the small band of Revs fans who boarded buses and made their way down I-95.

The cushion that softened the blow of not being able to relocate, and simultaneously having those relocation plans set back years, is that I was able to witness, and find myself blogging in what might turn out to be one of the most exciting periods to be a Dons fan. The Football League AGM in Cyprus this week saw the formality of the Dons membership of League Two confirmed, leaving behind the Conference… a division that just seems to get more and more mental with each passing year.

The so-called AGM Cup being played out this weekend at Celtic Manor, seeing the half-expected expulsion of Rushden, and subsequent reprieve of Southport. This further develops the northern imbalance of this division, and further southern imbalance of the level below – poor old Bishops Stortford now look like being forced into the BSN competing with the likes of Workington and Colwyn Bay. The fifth level of English football is increasingly becoming a headache; clubs throwing money at the two promotion places at the top sitting uneasily in what is the melting pot between the professional and semi-pro games, and as a farewell to the division I’ll be writing more about that later in the week.

Back to the Dons, with holidays coming to an end players are outlining their plans for the season ahead, and for those already signed up for next season, still floating on air presumably, talk from Jamie Stuart and Seb Brown is of challenging for another promotion. Us supporters will probably accept mid-table with a nice cup run thrown in, not that we were really expecting too much last season in what was meant to be a transitional season.

What has become apparent is TB won’t be rebuilding his squad again this summer, which will mean an extremely steep learning curve for some – I’m especially thinking of the likes of Christian Jolley, Ricky Wellard… younger players who were looking at two to three years in the Conference learning their trade before stepping up, and now find themselves in a sink or swim situation, at least as far as their Dons careers are concerned. Of course, if they are successful, they will be much better players for the experience.

Yet TB is still trying to supplement his squad for next season, and has confirmed his interest in one rumoured target. Jack Midson was spotted at the Fleetwood game, and we are fortunate his column over at The 72, The Not So Secret Footballer allows us a glimpse into Midsons personal circumstances. He certainly seems to have a few potential suitors, but appears to be keeping his feet on the ground. Still highly regarded by Oxford fans despite his release at the end of last season, if he comes to Wimbledon or elsewhere we can only hope he continues his blog, a readable insight into the life of a lower league footballer.

This week also saw confirmation that Jon Main will be returning to Tonbridge in the BSS next season, joining ex-Dons Lewis Taylor and Ben Judge. It goes without saying I wish him all the best next season, as many of you know I’d still rather gouge my eyes out than go down the road and pay to enter Beveree but if Tonbridge play there on a day the Dons don’t have a fixture, I may just be forced into a policy change…

Still no news on possible pre-season opponents beyond the three already named, either officially via the O/S, on other teams websites… even rumours are proving hard to come by. Still, a new WHAK is due any day now, and should prove a useful outlet for releasing further news.

Five days until the League Cup draw, six until fixtures are released…

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Legends Of Yore #1 – Jon Main

Kicking off a new feature this summer, there can be only one place to start… a man whose Dons career only came to a close officially mere days ago, but whose arrival was instrumental in kick starting the Dons climb from Ryman League to League Two. In fact, it was apt that when Danny Kedwell blasted home the winning penalty, the first man on the scene was Jon Main…

Its worthwhile remembering that back in November 2007, a year before Kedwell came on the scene, the Dons struggled for goals with a forward line including the likes of Richard Jolley – a striker who has scored for fun at every club he has played at, but didn’t really settle at the Dons – and Danny Webb, the target man that never was… Just hours after Main scored for Tonbridge to kick-start a comeback that saw the hosts overcome a 2-0 Dons lead to take a point, Terry Brown brought him to the club as record signing. I remember seeing the name of this Main guy popping up regularly in the scorers column when I checked the NLP on a Sunday, but the pressure of turning out for the Dons was a different matter altogether.

Just days later, Main made a winning, if not scoring, debut at Hastings, but his first home appearance ended badly, a defeat to Chelmsford that even at that early stage left the Dons facing the playoffs once more. Main found the net for the first time to earn Wimbledon a point at Ramsgate the week before Christmas, and went on to score in his next three games. Yet the Dons never really managed to keep a sustained spell of form going from there until the end of the season, and as Chelmsford strode away with the title the Dons were busying themselves losing at home to the likes of Harlow, Boreham Wood and Horsham. Brown reacted by bringing in proven quality on loan… a risk, but in a way it also took the pressure off Main slightly, who scored the goals that saw off Hornchurch in the semi-final.

I still count his second goal that night as my personal favourite AFC Wimbledon goal, and it pretty much sums up what Main is all about. Check from 0.16 onwards in the video below. After racing into a two goal lead thanks to Cumbers and a Mainy header, the Dons seemed set for the final. Yet Hornchurch scrambled one back during the second half, and as the clock ticked towards ninety minutes were throwing everything at the Dons. In front of a now fever pitch Kingsmeadow crowd, Main picked up a clearance, realised he would have to do it on his own, and simply ran the Hornchurch defence. As he approaches goal John Purdy is doing exactly what you would want your centre half to do, but Main’s change of pace just leaves him for dead… then has the coolness to not simply blast the ball but clip it past the onrushing keeper and wrap up the game.

Upon promotion, Brown had the chance to rebuild his squad, and effectively build a squad around Jon Main. The Dons pacy counter attacking style was ideal for him, and he went on to bag 33 goals as the Dons went up at first attempt. The Dons performance at Newport in the clubs first game at BSS level was a wonderful team performance, capped by a stunning hat trick from the man himself…

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing, and Main made a name for himself scoring late, important goals against the likes of Bognor and Bromley. It seems strange now, but the arrival of Kedwell in September was designed to provide a foil for Main, the target man Brown had been searching for quite some time. True, the man who acknowledges Jon Main as his best friend in football went on to give us so much more, but the partnership these two honorary Kent Wombles struck up went on to fire the Dons to promotion. Of course, this being Wimbledon there had to be a wobble towards the end, as controversy at Eastleigh and Bromley threatened to allow Hampton in.

Plus – and this sounds a little strange for a 33 goal striker – the goals had dried up a little over the last couple of months of the season, and as the Dons travelled to Hampton needing a point in what effectively became the title decider, Main was left on the bench. Of course, this just added to what became a legend… With the Dons 0-1 down and chasing the game, the video below picks up the story from 6.20 onwards. Hussey is stopped by two Hampton defenders, a quick throw, a decent ball into the box… if there was one player you wanted to be on the end of a ball like that, it was Jonny Main. No mistake, he knocked the ball past Lovett, and the Dons were going to the Conference Premier.

At this stage its easy to forget the impact Jon Main had at the start of the Dons maiden Conference campaign. Main grabbed the Dons first goal in the division, his penalty earning a point against Luton, and after a quiet spell grabbed braces against Grays, a memorable away win at Forest Green, at Salisbury and in the home hammering of Hayes. Yet those goals against Hayes proved to be the last Main would score for Wimbledon in the league. The dynamic of the Dons squad had changed, Brown was now building his side around Kedwell, and brought in Nathan Elder in an attempt to take the pressure of his leading scorer. As for Main, fifteen goals was a decent haul, but for a confidence player whose game was based on scoring goals, the writing was on the wall from that point on.

Jon Main was always a great professional, always ran his heart out, always put in a shift for the team, but the start of this season saw him moved to support Kedwell on the left side of a three-pronged attack. I was excited for him in pre-season, I remember commenting on his willingness to track back and help out his full back, I thought this could be a whole new start. But with the power of retrospect, Jon Main’s game was always about hanging off the last man, not stuck out on the left wing. We might have seen a different Jon Main had his penalty on opening day at Southport not been saved, but the odds were always stacked against him in Brown’s preferred formation.

You could probably write a volume about the psychology of goalscorers. Their mental state is so different to any other position on the pitch, perhaps having more in common with the baseball slugger enduring a long hitless streak, or the opening batsmen who try as he might just can’t get out of single figures. Goalscoring is all about timing, when to time your run, whether to shoot early or delay… and there are only two ways to dig yourself out. One is to score goals, which is why news that Mainy had bagged for the reserves, or in the LSC, brought a minor blip of excitement from Dons fans, but the truth was Main was never going to dig himself out of a hole with ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there for the first team. The likes of Christian Jolley and Luke Moore had come in and taken their chance, which left Main with no other alternative but move elsewhere.

Even then, I think a large number of us were hoping he would rip the BSS apart and some back a different player. While he did more than contribute, a goal for Dartford and three for Dover, his return to the club was more for one final swan song, a chance for the fans to sing his name once more. His cameo against Grimsby saw him hang on the final man, coiled like a sprinter just waiting for the right ball to latch onto… in fact the ball only came once, Main was dragged back but no penalty, no chance to sign off with a goal…

What next for Jon Main? Well, now we aren’t in that division anymore, I hope to see him in the BSP next term. If Hayes or Braintree have any sense they’ll snap him up, although I hope he goes to Ebbsfleet, I can see him bagging loads getting on the end of Calum Willock’s flicks. If not, he knows where the goal is in the BSS, a stint at Dover or Woking could see him work his own way back… Either way I hope we see Jon Main back at Kingsmeadow soon, as supporter, if not player. We genuinely wouldn’t be where we are right now without him, and future Dons strikers will have to do a hell of a lot to eclipse his legend status.

I never got the opportunity to really chat to Jon Main (being as I am the sort of person who gives the players their space), so never exchanged more words with him than Good Luck/Thanks… but those people I know that don’t have such hang ups about chatting to the players said he was a smashing guy. The sporting world reacted with awe when Usain Bolt smashed the 100m record then put it down to a meal of fried chicken, but those Dons fans who befriended Main of facebook were always aware of the magical boost of explosive speed a regular dose of Nandos gives a sportsman…

Just harking back to Saturday… Main did play a part in the Dons promotion, and this says an awful lot about Mainy (along with all non-playing squad members) and the team spirit at the club. Main was out warming up on the Eastlands pitch, sampling the atmosphere, cracking a joke here or there, keeping those in the starting XI grounded and calm. There was never any doubt over whether the entire first team squad, rather than just the sixteen men named, would travel to Manchester. And when Kedwells penalty flew in, we celebrated as one. Players, management, fans, Jon Main at the centre of it all, one of us and always will be.


News Round-Up 24/5/11 – Brown Cuts Five

Ignoring the fact three posts within 24 hours is normally newsworthy enough as far as the Anonymous Don is concerned, today has seen Terry Brown announce five players have been released…. and there were a couple of shocks. The trio of strikers were not a surprise, Jon Main’s departure has been an open secret for weeks now, but Yakubu and Harris leaving stunned me a little.

It always seems a little harsh cutting players who have played a huge part in our promotion almost before the champagne corks have hit the floor, but that’s football. Yakubu seems to have been a victim of his injuries, and Harris eventually lost a season long war with Fraser Franks to decide which talented youngster would prevail, but I personally though Brown would give all five centre halves their chance – at least for next season.

Not for the first time, Brown has surprised me, but going on previous experience we should expect to see a couple of exciting replacements coming through the Kingsmeadow door over the next two weeks.

It goes without saying I wish Delano Sam-Yorke, Mark Nwokeji, the legend that is Jon Main, Ed Harris and Ismail Yakubu all the best for the future, and I will be recognising their contribution to the Dons in the coming weeks.

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Winners and Losers

My wife doesn’t get drawn games. It’s just a complete anathema in her culture for a sporting event to end in a tie. Thus, upon being informed our Dons have drawn, she tells me that ‘both sides lost’. In a way, of course, she is correct. Three points were up for grabs, yet only two awarded. The only practical winners following our goalless draw in the North-East were Crawley Town. Yet in a more detailed sense, her opinion is hopelessly naive. There is a reason in our sport why even her own country’s domestic league stopped using shootouts to decide drawn games following massive public opposition. Football is a simple game in most respects, you either win or you lose. It’s when you draw it gets complicated… I mean was yesterday a point gained or two points dropped?

I suppose the answer to that question depends on your philosophical outlook on life… is the glass half full or half empty? Yet tied games like this often, like Schrödinger’s cat, have the ability to simultaneously be a positive and negative experience. From one perspective earning a point at playoff chasing Darlington is a decent result, on a solid surface against a robust ex-League outfit, and its great to see the Dons picking up points from games we would have lost a few months earlier. Yet on the other hand, you get the impression that Crawley would have found that moment of quality to break the deadlock in a game like this. Despite the brilliant season we are having you start to get the feeling we simply won’t be able to compete with their superior resources despite our own January recruitment drive, and that we are destined to scrap with Luton for second – itself a ridiculously difficult proposition. Crawley have raised the bar to the point even a decent result such as yesterday isn’t enough.

As you might have gathered, the game itself was junk, I’m having to improvise. Aside from a Danny Kedwell/Sammy Moore (delete as appropriate – I was too far away to tell) effort late in the first half I can’t remember a moment when I really thought we would score. We just didn’t seem to have the incision to make the breakthrough. Of course, the same could be said for Darlington, and I believe that could have had something to do with the state of the playing surface. From a distance it looked the sort of pitch the Dons would excel on; bowling green flat and in perfect condition, the problem was it seemed to be frozen solid in certain areas. The near side touchline was a joke, pools of frozen water stood just off the playing surface. The conditions being the same for both sides I can understand why the game went ahead, especially as I had been on a coach for nearing five hours by the time the inspection took place and my backside was already screaming for mercy. I would imagine if the conditions were replicated at a fixture involving two sides local to each other, or we hadn’t suffered the misfortune of having most of December wiped out by the weather, this game would probably have fallen foul of the icy conditions.

No first visit to Darlington could go without commenting on their new stadium. I have to say if you didn’t go, and you’ve already visited the new efforts built by Middlesbrough, Derby, Southampton, Reading, et al, you haven’t missed anything you wouldn’t have seen before elsewhere. Yet all of those stadiums, besides being architecturally similar, are always impressive to visit. Some mentioned how surreal it felt among 2000 hardy souls in an arena designed to hold over ten times that amount, personally I’m waiting until a shower of frogs fall from the sky mid-game – that really would be surreal. Nevertheless it’s certainly novel… anyone who has ever seen a reserve game or FA Youth Cup game at a large stadium, or even watched a Dons game in the early rounds of the League cup back in the day. I suppose any lurking MK scumbags will be able to understand the feeling of regularly playing in a stadium that is way too big for them.

As you can imagine the largely unused seats were displaying the sort of dirt you would expect given the lack of backsides giving them a regular polish. Not that most Dons fans bothered using them of course, not that the stewards were that bothered, until an impromptu disco took place in the aisles when they were forced to earn their money and shepherd those involved back to their seats. Another feature of the stadium were the stewards – there were dozens of them, far more than you would see at a regular Conference fixture, from the team who shepherded the coach in, to those responsible showing us to the seating area, to the well staffed control room above us, we almost had a steward each. Without wanting to delve too greatly into another teams finances you have to worry about the money Darlo fritter away forced to staff such an arena, and unless they can find a way of downsizing you fear for their ability to challenge in this division.

On to what could be gathered from the game itself, well let’s get the negatives out of the way first. TB has made no secret of his desire to get a new left back in, if only as cover. With Andre Blackman suffering unspecified fitness issues, Chris Bush, himself only on work experience from Brentford, has no competition for the shirt. The problem is while Bush occasionally shows glimpses of the brilliant player he will undoubtedly become, he is prone to putting in the sort of poor performance that marks him out as our weak link. I wouldn’t have a problem persisting with him if he was our player, as far as I’m concerned the sooner Andre makes it back into the side the better, as if we are going to persist on fielding a youngster who regularly misplaces passes and finds himself caught out of position frequently, it may as well be one that’s under contract for us to reap the benefits if they turn out to be a prospect. Beyond that, a few of the team still seemed to be suffering the after effects of the flu virus that has swept the squad. Kirk Hudson has only been with us for ten days and has already fallen foul of it…

As for the positives, well it reinforced in my mind what a wonderful young goalkeeper we have. He didn’t have a lot to do, but came and claimed just about every high ball Darlo tossed into our box. A few months ago he would have punched some of those, but with confidence flowing he looked unbeatable even when called upon to make couple of good stops on the rare occasions the hosts broke through what was a pretty solid backline. A lot of the credit for that has to go to the highlight of the afternoon, the debut performance of Jamie Stuart. He really was solid, made everything that came near him his own, and seemed to strike up a pretty decent understanding with Fraser Franks (who also stood out for the Dons).

The midfield didn’t really show the sort of cohesion that won us points over Xmas, yet James Mulley was a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating afternoon in the middle of the park. Mulley had probably the best Dons chance with the exception of the Kedwell/Moore effort, when he showed great composure in the box to wriggle past two men only to slightly over hit the ball and see the goalkeeper reach it first when a better touch would have left the goal at his mercy. I remember being a little underwhelmed upon finding out Mulley was released by Hayes earlier in the season, but it seems Hayes loss could definitely be our gain. Brown had a decent look at him as he trained with the squad for a couple of weeks and obviously liked what he saw, signing him up on non-contract terms, giving Mulley the chance to play his way into a deal.

Attacking-wise we didn’t seem to have the potency that has seen us hit the net three times in each of our last five games, in icy conditions such as those I would always favour big tough centre halves to come out on top of our young forward line, although the captain put himself about as you would expect. In the first half Kedwell found himself isolated on a Darlington pitch which lets just say is a little bit larger than Kingsmeadow and didn’t favour wide players who like to stick to the flanks. Young Jolley and Jackson were sacrificed at the break as the Dons switched again to 442, although the Dons looked slightly more potent than during the first period the tactical change failed to work on this occasion.

This wasn’t due to any lack of effort from Mark Nwokeji however, I still can’t get over how he manages to beat guys in the air who have a clear foot in height advantage over him. Of course if Jon Main had shown any kind of form or confidence this tactical switch would have worked in his favour, and Nwokeji finds himself a clear pick when Kedwell needs a partner. Now it seems he is finally injury free and has started to score goal I expect Nokkers to play a big role during the next few months or so. The deal to bring Danny Hylton in from Aldershot appears to be dead although there still remains to be seen whether Brown has any other striking targets. If someone is brought in I would expect to see Jon Main leave, at least on loan, before January is out. It will be in the best interests of both club and player, Main has served us well over the past couple of years yet is caught in a rut at the moment. He needs game time, he isn’t going to get it at AFCW any time soon except for the odd county cup game. Lets face it, I’m sure we all dream of Jon Main finding his scoring boots and grabbing the goals that take us back to the Football League, but the time has come to accept that probably isn’t going to happen, and its time to let someone who was an important part of our recent history find the chance elsewhere to rebuild his career.

To sum up, and answer the question I originally posed, as I see it this was more a point gained than two lost. The last time I saw a performance as disjointed as that we lost to Rushden on a night we couldn’t blame the conditions, and I believe Darlington are a far better side than they are. Following on from our comeback at Newport we are picking up points here and there in games we would have lost a few months ago. It’s frustrating we end up in a division where one of our rivals is able to reinforce at will, and with the games we have in hand I fear we could see a similar situation to our first season where Withdean 2000 eventually hauled themselves into an unassailable lead. Wednesday is a big game for so many reason, a win could reinvigorate all of us and ensure we are in the title race for the long run, a defeat and we will find it difficult to even retain parity with Luton.

As for me, I now face the unenviable task of trying to explain once more the concept of a ‘six pointer’. She didn’t get it when we played Hampton, and I’m sure she won’t get it now…

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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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Rushden 1 AFC Wimbledon 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Southport 0 AFC Wimbledon 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To sum up – the Dons are back!

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Wimbledon 3 Altrincham 1 – Match Report 19/1/10

A much changed Dons line-up went through to the Third Round of the FA Trophy after a disjointed performance that was just about good enough to see off a battling Altrincham side. Lining up in a formation that owed more to ensuring as experienced a side as possible took the field, and with a non-existant bench, it could be argued this Wimbledon side just don’t know how to lose at the moment, despite making things hard for themselves at times played in front of a disappointing crowd of just 1450.

In fact it was Altrincham who had the first real effort of the game after two minutes, an outswinging corner firmly headed towards the left side of Sebb Brown’s goal, fortunately Jay Conroy had taken up a position on the post and was able to nod clear. Conroy found himself caught out of position frequently later in the game, but the tie would have followed a different course had he allowed this effort to creep past him. It was also pretty much the only effort Alty managed on goal before the break.

Not that Wimbledon dominated, at least not to start with. It took a while for the game to settle into any kind of pattern, as players fought to cut a niche for themselves while occupying slightly unfamiliar positions. For Danny Kedwell this seemed more of a problem than most, trying to play the Moore/Hendry role he constantly found himself sucked back deeper into midfield to win the ball, to the extent it almost seemed as if he was trying to play the holding role rather than the point of a diamond. Whatever his tactical instructions may have been, it left him far less effective than normal.

His battling qualities were still there, and he drew the foul that led to the Dons first chance just after the ten minute mark. Just right of centre, it seemed ideally positioned for Ricky Wellard’s left foot, but instead Hatton tried to whip it over right footed, the ball clearing the bar with ease. Next up Kedwell almost got on the end of a Main pullback after he had been set free down the left by a Hatton flick, sadly he was just beaten to the ball by a defender and the chance was gone.

Still the Dons now had Alty on the back foot. Despite not yet creating anything, and giving the ball away with worrying ease, the home side were getting the ball back thanks to some increasingly panicky clearances that allowed the Dons to build from the back once more. All of a sudden Wimbledon started to test Altrincham keeper Saunders. First, a Johnson cross found Kedwell whose looping header caused Saunders to stretch in order to collect. Then a Sam Hatton volley from the right edge of the penalty area caused the visitors custodian to drop smartly to his right to gather.

Finally, with five minutes of the half remaining Wimbledon found the breakthrough. Kennedy Adjei was given time to compose himself on the half way line before launching a rampaging surge into the visitors half, leaving two opponents for dead in the process. The ball found its way to Ricky Wellard loitering on the right edge of the area, a drop of the shoulder saw him past the opponent that blocked his path as he cut back inside, and rifled a left foot effort into the bottom right corner of the goal.

There then followed a bizarre piece of refereeing that infuriated the Dons fans and left both sides feeling a little hard done by. A through ball found Altrincham’s Chris Senior through on goal, and despite being a clear two yards offside the linesman’s flag stayed down. This threw Sebb Brown’s concentration, and he spied the danger too late before rushing out to clear. Senior’s balance had gone by the time the two came together, and after prodding the ball past the keeper the Alty man decided to take the easy option and tumble over the goalkeepers leg. Finally a whistle came, too late for Dons fans liking, awarding the free kick in Altrincham’s direction. A yellow card for Brown, but no more on account that Senior’s trajectory was sending him closer to the corner flag than the Dons goal, and at least two covering players were protecting the goal.

Not that the Altrincham bench were happy with the free kick, and kicked off into one of the biggest strops seen at Kingsmeadow this season, which included an always enjoyable spot of crowd interaction. Perhaps Alty manager Graham Heathcote should have read Terry Brown’s Mansfield programme notes, as there was little Respect shown by him towards the match officials. Ultimately you could say the men in black came up with the correct result, the referee seemed to notice something was up and took leniency on young Brown when I suppose a red card was a possibility – we have seen those given in the past. But ultimately the only losers in the incident were the Dons… if the referee had managed to make the correct decision to start with, I wouldn’t be writing this now!

[Edit – I’ve actually seen the video now and in particular the image reproduced here, and I’m ready to accept that it might have been a closer offside call than I suggested – which of course doesn’t excuse Senior’s extravagant tumble, which you don’t quite get the full benefit of on the video. For the avoidance of any doubt though, you can see the direction he was heading (Berrylands) and the number of covering players (plenty)]

Presumably Heathcote used this mock sense of injustice to his advantage during the half time break, not that it did him much good as his side found themselves two goals down less than five minutes into the second period. Adjei controlled a fierce low clearance, and slid the ball into Ross Montague, who had his back to goal on the edge of the area. Montague quickly laid off to Jon Main, who took a touch before drilling the ball into the bottom right hand corner.

For the next few minutes it looked as though the Dons would put the game well beyond their visitors. Main forced a corner on the right, and Wellard’s delivery was flicked on at the near post by Brett Johnson, only to be deflected behind. Wimbledon then threatened though a number of succesive corners, ended when Jon Main found himself brushed off the ball in the area, with the referee and his assistants being in no place to make a decision.

It was a that point that Heathcote decided to make changes, bringing on the more offensively minded Clee and Little. The switch had an immediate effect, with Altrincham now able to hold the ball in the Dons half more effectively and build attacks. Minutes later they forced the first real moment of danger in the Dons box, with Shaun Densmore’s precise volleyed cross from the right finding Senior in space, only for the Alty man to rush his headed finish when he could have taken the ball down. It was only a short respite for Wimbledon, as the visitors pulled themselves right back into the game.

As another Alty forage forward looked to have been repelled, a half-clearance found Anthony Danylyk in space twenty-five yards out, and he took his chance really well, returning the ball into the bottom left corner of Sebb Brown’s goal at such pace it gave the young keeper no chance.

Adjei immediately picked up a head injury that required a BIG bandage, however it was just coincidence that following this the Dons overworked midfield seemed to break down temporarily. Unable to pass the half way line, their balls forward were either over hit and poorly placed, or didn’t make it past the first man. Fortunately the back line was battling bravely against a barrage of crosses during a spell when it seemed a matter of when Altrincham would equalise rather than if.

But the storm had been weathered, and the Dons finally found their feet again in midfield. This culminated in a gradual spell of pressure that saw the hosts extend their lead and put the game beyond doubt. Following a bit of head tennis in the area a Ricky Wellard shotwas deflected into the air, looping perfectly for Jon Main to bury his header… Instead he just about did enough despite putting the ball too close to a defender for anyones liking. It seemed to have crossed the line before said unidentified Alty player fisted it away from goal, but Ben Judge was on hand to blast into the roof of the net and end the arguments.

Except the arguments between Main and Judge of course! To be honest it all happened to quickly to tell whether the linesman was flagging for Judge or for Main’s original effort, the two of them still trying to work it out long after the final whistle [Late edit – you can’t tell from the video either!]. To be fair Main gets more than his fair share, and Judge is a warhorse, reliable and loyal with it… Judge deserves the goal. If Jon Main has a problem with that, my only advice to him would be to make sure the ball hits the net in future – then no-one can take it away from you!

Five minutes later Altrincham had the ball in the net once more, this time ruled out due to a rather obvious handball by Colin Little, still it ensured a few Dons hearts leapt into mouths at a key moment. Despite the shaky performances from both sides, or rather because of the shaky performances, the game was reasonably exciting throughout. Although the Dons created more chances, including a self-made chance from a surprisingly lively Ross Montague that ended with a twenty yard shot that was slightly scuffed and comfortably saved by Saunders, it would have been slightly rough on Altrincham who deserve credit for their gutsy performance.

And those stay-away supporters ultimately missed out. Wimbledon now face the other unfortunate team that lost out to the 1977 Dons 4 Div 4 campaign – Workington of the Blue Square North. Without wanting to tempt fate, the Third Round draw has presented a series of fixtures that mean a winnable quarter-final would be just as likely as a difficult one – should we get that far… And to paraphrase Sam Allardyce (sort of…), those that weren’t there last night will be the first ones to complain when they can’t get tickets for the later rounds…

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‘We’ll Never Make It Back To Wembley’, Part Two (or Altrincham Match Preview 19.1.10)

After our return to League action, we immediately switch our attention to the Trophy and welcome Altrincham down to the ‘Meadow. While not exactly the Magic of the Cup, the Temptation of the Trophy will be enough to drag 1732 hardy souls down to Kingsmeadow to see this vital Second Round tie. In fact I’d almost rather have half of those there than the bland atmosphere we witnessed for most of Saturday, when my concentration had been broken on several occasions by the dropping of knitting needles in the Strank Stand…

I love midweek cup action at Kingsmeadow; that it’s normally just the hardcore who turn out for this type of game means perversely there is more concrete and steel for the atmosphere to bounce off, and not absorbed into static flesh like it was on Saturday. Plus where do these extra supporters disappear to for these midweek cup ties? We are always going to lose a few due to kids not coming, distant Dons being unable to travel, late shift workers not being able to get there in time… but that can’t account for half our regular fanbase, surely?

I think its down to our modern Sky-assisted idea (yup, it’s always Sky’s fault…) that there is nothing like the League, and all other tournaments are little more than a meaningless distraction… which as we all know is horsecrap of the highest order. The cup is where it’s at, and if you think back to some of the greatest games you’ve seen, I guarantee at least half of them would be cup ties – which those of you working out the ratio of League games played to Cup games would already have worked out, doesn’t quite add up…

To borrow a Football Managers Cliche, ‘The League is our bread and butter’… which probably explains why managers are more likely to suffer heart problems. Stop moaning about stress, try using low-fat spread for a while, that’ll sort it out. Plus you can’t eat bread and butter all the time, which is effectively what these stay-away fans are doing… How do they avoid the boredom of Conference fixture after Conference fixture? You need the curry of an FA Cup run, or the microwave Spag Bol of the Trophy from time to time… even the Curly Wurly of the Surrey Senior Cup is enough to sort me out good and proper…

As for the game itself, lets not kid ourselves that we are going to overwhelm Altrincham. If they won their three games in hand they would only be a win away from us (not that they will necessarily win those games, it’s just a way of saying ‘careful now..’), and have shown some pretty decent form away from home. Their supporters are confident – not just for this tie but for them to go on and win the thing – which is a great attitude to have (and I mean that not in a patronising way, football gods…).

Having said that, I think we would have been more likely to throw this one away if we’d played the game on its original date. Ever since we lost 1-5 at home to Southall in the Combined Counties Premier Challenge Cup we have looked shaky at the ‘Meadow in cup competitions played on a Saturday. I’m still waking up in the middle of the night sweating while having nightmares about Walton & Hersham. Even right up to Boreham Wood, when we could easily have ended by shuffling out of the ground wondering what just happened.

Team news now, and as the O/S conveniently managed to point out just before I had the chance to, John McAliskey is Cup Tied and won’t be featuring for the visitors. There, thats it, my one and only insight into the Altrincham lineup and they go and ruin it… ahem, although my sources close to the Moss Lane outfit suggest apart from that the lineup will be pretty similar to the side that picked up three points at Ebbsfleet on Saturday (which is more than we did…).

Dons news, and the list of those available would probably be easier to write than those that are out, but as far as I’m aware those Cup Tied are Hendry, Poole and Garrard, with the beast that is Elder unavailable due to not being signed in time for the original tie (one of those weird rules that you only find out about when it affects you…). With Saturday’s Man of the Match out, we will have to make do with top scorer Danny Kedwell starting, and with a point to prove.

In reality our best forward line will probably turn out to be Kedwell alongside Elder, despite Jon Main’s best attempts to put himself about Keds style on Saturday. Main can put an end to that type of talk tomorrow however, and I’m sure he’ll be desperate to avoid slipping out of the starting XI altogether no matter how effective most of us think he can be as an impact substitute.

So in my opinion, we will line up something like this;












Ricky Wellard’s fifteen minutes against Mansfield has shown his desire is there, even if we may have to make do with the negatives as well as the positives he brings to the side – although like Sam Hatton I’m one of those who firmly believes those positives far outweigh any mistakes he might make. Plus he seems to have discovered his eye for goal, so keep an eye out for any screamers he might let loose from distance… one day one of them is going to end up in the top corner and we’ll be talking about it for months…

Apart from that, the side pretty much picks itself at the moment, mainly due to those unavailable. With Lorraine out the centre half pairing looks assured, I think if Blanchett can walk he’ll be asked to play over a virus-ridden Derek Duncan, and continuity will be good enough reason to keep Sebb Brown between the sticks despite what must be a strong urge to give returning senior goalkeeper Jamie Pullen a Cup run-out. The only thing I’m not quite sure of is formation, so we could see something interesting happen involving Ross Montague should Terry decide to leave a midfielder on what I would imagine could be a fairly lightweight bench.

I spent most of today thinking about this game; I’ve been looking forward to it since the draw was made. We could be in for a difficult but watchable game, I would expect the home team to have 60-70% of possession, but it certainly won’t be enough to make sure of a victory on its own – its making use of the ball that is going to ensure whether we win through, or watch Altrincham continue on their way and wonder what might have been.

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