Tag Archives: Luke Garrard

AFC Wimbledon v Kidderminster Harriers – A Match Preview

khfcI’ll be honest. I didn’t know much about Kidderminster before I sat down to write this. I know its in Worcestershire. I also know they make a lot of carpets there. Which should make us their natural enemies seeing as though most of South-West London ripped up their wall to wall shag pile years ago for natural hardwood flooring (or at the very least, varnishing the existing floorboards…).

But this is not a preview aimed at mocking Kidderminster (who lets not forget are an ex-League club, for what it’s worth). I’m sure Kidderminster fans know as little about us as we do them. The tightness of the division at this early stage means except for Oxford, we haven’t been able to sit up and pay attention to rivals as much. No-one has really stood out (including us). So maybe they have heard a little about the history, or seen that some bloke called Kedwell has bagged double figures already, but from then on it’s all new.

Fortunately Terry Brown has done his research, and posted his view of Kidderminster shortly after I began writing this, thus destroying any desperation that I may have had concerning the need to possibly do my own research. I had noticed the names Barnes-Homer and Smikle popping up in the scorers section, but the names only stuck because, well, they’re a bit silly. Barnes-Homer sounds like a rugby player and Smikle like something out of Lord of the Rings… although I gather it is pronounced more like the goalkeeper…

Fortunately for me, I write a blog about AFC Wimbledon, so I will concentrate on the home team from here on in. Lets start by throwing a few of those stats back in the Official Sites face! Kidderminster have only lost one in their last six? Well, Wimbledon have lost none in the last seven… or two in the last fourteen. Dodgy home form was alluded to as well. Is this the same slack home form that has seen only one defeat (to the runaway leaders), and three goals conceded?

Anyway, the big news of the day has been the revelation that Luke Garrard has gone to Borehamwood for a short loan spell in order to get some game time under his belt. Indeed the message board has been hot all day with discussion about Luke… sadly not Garrard however, more that knob who has generated a whole load of negative publicity for the club… good work by the way, dickhead. The fact that this story was deemed to be bigger than Garrard’s situation by the fanbase in general suggests (i) some of our fans don’t believe we could be harbouring any troublemakers despite pulling in huge crowds (ii) another section are secretly rubbing themselves off at the news that a serious hooligan was in their midst all this time without them realising, and of course (iii) the news was completely expected.

With Sam doing such a good job at right-back, to the point he seems to have dislodged the excellent Jay Conroy, that third choice Garrard was always going to be in danger of being pushed toward the exit door. I can understand why he asked to go on loan. If he does get the chance to leave in January, he can put himself in the shop window now. On the other hand, the club will want to keep him ready should the Hatton experiment fail, or we suffer a midfield injury crisis, or Jay Conroy gets injured or suspended.

Moving on, it’s slightly worrying to find there appears to be a virus sweeping through the squad. Even more worrying is that it seemed to originate from Jon Main, the striker for whom everything he has touched this year seems to have turned to shit. I can’t help but think Mainy must have run over a dozen black cats, pissed off a lot of gypsies, and smashed dozens of mirrors (probably during shooting practice…). Either that or he is saving it all up for the biggest goal in the clubs history, probably to win the replay that takes us to Old Trafford in the FA Cup or something…

Paul Lorraine has been affected by man-flu too, which a few weeks ago may have caused some panic, but one of the repeated knocks on the head that Alan Inns has received seems to have turned him into a quality Conference centre-half. Innsy apparently drew blood for the cause once again at Rushden on Tuesday, although he can now no longer remembers where he lives… the other player affected is Ricky Wellard… I know, when I read that I thought ‘thank fuck its no-one important’ too, but the chance this disease could be on the spread is cause for concern.

Hopefully we will see a bigger crowd than the one that graced us last week however. If you have a mate thats been talking of taking in an AFCW game then this week might be the week to bring them. Although, despite the close nature of the division I hope the fact we are fourth may have an impact, as any fair-weather floaters may have been put of by our awful form dropping us down to twelfth… either that or there are several hundred of us who are really put off by draws (like Mrs Anonymous Don, brought up in a country where winners are everything, losers are nothing, and those who draw are communists… I had to explain to her last week why in reality it’s not really preferable to ‘sometimes wish they lost as its better than drawing’…).

Predicted line up time…

Pullen

Hatton

Hussey

Lorraine/Inns

Johnson

Gregory

Adjei

Taylor

Moore

Kedwell

Montague

Firstly, its not cheating if someone is touch and go due to illness that I select an alternative. Secondly I really think this one stands a great chance of being the first time I get it 100% right. I know it Terry pretty much gave it away and it was virtually identical to Tuesday, but still, allow me a rare victory. As usual, it would be great to hear your opinions, especially those who agree with me…

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Second Thoughts… Tamworth 5.9.09

First off, my all encompassing match report managed to leave out one minor detail, that being Tamworth’s second goal. Thanks to Anonymous (no relation by the way) for pointing that out. So, here we go…

‘Tamworth doubled their lead, slightly against the run of play, as Chris Hussey failed to cut out a cross from the right. This is a problem I have highlighted before concerning Chris, but he does have a habit of showing his man to the byline without any kind of challenge. He has to be a lot tighter in future, and I hope it proves to be a lesson learned for him, as on this occasion it proved costly. The ball found Nick Wright all alone to thump a header past Pullen from close range, as the Dons backline seemed to take a laissez faire attitude towards marking.’

Of the eight games we have played so far Jay Conroy has only featured in four of them. Now I know this is down to the injury he picked up on the eve of the season, and due to Terry’s insistence on rotating for certain games, but I doubt he will miss another four games all season if he continues to show the sort of form he has recently.

Despite Kedwell’s two goals, Conroy just shaded him to my man of the match award. In fact it was probably the most complete performance we have seen from a Dons player this season, with the possible exception of Luke Moore against Salisbury. Conroy found himself shunted around the pitch, actually looking better playing out of position at centre half as he did at right back. Plus he possesses qualities we probably haven’t seen in the AFC era from a fullback.

For example, Luke Garrard was a gifted ball playing midfielder before Terry settled him into the right back slot. Yet now he reverts to the standard non-league fullbacks image of launching hopeful balls over the top and occasionally backing up the right winger by offering an outlet behind only to then dump the ball into the box with as much care and attention as an NHS nurse (not been to hospital recently?…).

Conroy however, has the ability to put his foot on the ball and pick a pass, whether forwards, sideways or to a midfielder, rarely looking like gifting possession away or panicking and hoofing one over the top. As well as this, like Hussey on the other side, he looks not just to get up in support of attacks, but even get past his colleagues on the right and provide a creative outlet. And for an added bonus, how good is he in the air?

Looking forward to next Saturday, we have run into a centre back crisis at precisely the wrong time. Cambridge hit seven against what admittedly sounded a pretty awful Forest Green side, but facing a strike force with the scent of goals in their nostrils is not for the Conference rookie. Having said that I would have no problem with Jay playing centre half on Saturday if required. He can do the job, of that I have no doubt.

Undoubtedly he would have played in that position had we been playing Wrexham tomorrow, but who would have played at right back? Sam Hatton has proved to be immense in that role, but would you pick him over Luke Garrard? Luke is such a likeable footballer but seems to be stuck in a rut after recovering from injury. He is solid enough, but just seems to be lacking something that Jay has at the moment.

Plus, assuming Conroy isn’t available at some point in the future and you go for Sam Hatton to fill in at right back, would it be possible to use Luke in midfield? It has been some time since he played there, and he wouldn’t immediately spring to mind ahead of the likes of Taylor or even Adjei. In fact it seems like a waste of Hatton’s talent even considering it. But could it actually work?

Moving down the opposite end of the pitch, Jon Main continued his miserable spell in front of goal once more on Saturday. In fact he contributed little to the game, seemed to be brushed off the ball all too easily and posed very little threat to the opposition goal. Some have mentioned how tired he looked towards the end, yet I would argue it is his lack of strength that really worried. At one stage he seemed to give up on a ball long before his chance of winning had gone, allowing his man to block him off and the ball to run out of play. He turned to me wth a look of agony and seemed to stare straight into my eyes (so maybe not the best time for me to cry ‘Oh come on Mainy!’ at him).

So what’s up with Jon Main? At the start of the season he was creating opportunities for himself with some intelligent running, but on Saturday at times he looked like a passenger. He gave the sort of performance you would have expected from someone suffering from a virus of some kind. I would imagine if Terry had a substitution left in him during the second half he would have hauled Main off, either for Godfrey or Wellard (with Moore supporting Kedwell up front).

With Ross Montague regaining fitness we could in theory see him set for a place on the bench come Saturday. In fact, could Terry even start with him? If Montague is good for an hour it would be good to see what he can do, with Main knowing he has the chance to be the impact sub many supporters believe it would be better to use him as. No player wants to earn a reputation as a supersub, and it would just be a short term thing providing a fresh Jon Main uses the opportunity to face tiring defences and turn opportunities into goals. It wouldn’t just be good for the team, it would be good for him personally.

Finally (before we get to the good bit), Chris Hussey didn’t look as dangerous as he has done of late, and defensively he was guilty of an error of sorts, but the boy can deliver an awesome dead ball when he puts his mind to it. His wonderful corner created the equaliser for Danny K, and his continued form has resulted in a standby spot for England C. Now I was speaking to a Manchester United fan last week moaning that our players seem to be overlooked for the squad, yet he seemed to believe this was a good thing for our young players. I can understand people perhaps feeling that it is a worthless exercise that could only result in a possible injury.

However, the ‘C’ squad don’t have twelve games a season for us to worry about. I can think of no better experience for a player such as Hussey (or Taylor, Gregory, Conroy, Hatton or Moore for that matter) to gain the sort of experience you just can’t buy. I for one would be proud of any Dons player called up to represent his country, and the fact we have half a dozen or so players who will still be under 23 in two years time (the duration of the forthcoming International Challenge Trophy that England ‘C’ compete for against a variety of representative sides across Europe).

So well done for receiving a place as standby for the squad Chris, but make sure you go on to show Fairclough just what a good player you can be. He certainly has the potential to prove himself the best under-23 leftback the Conference has to offer… and yes I appreciate the irony that I spent the first part of this article highlighting his mistake on Saturday before calling for him to be added to the England squad…

So, on to the ratings;

Pullen    5

Conroy    8

Hussey    6

Gregory    6

Inns    6

Johnson    6

Hatton    7

Adjei    6

Kedwell    8

Main    5

Moore    6

SUBS

Godfrey    6

Brown    6

Taylor    6

Explanation? Pullen looked poor even taking his injury into account, and no-one else really deserved more than a six with the exception of Conroy (for reasons listed above), Hatton (who really did well when asked to fill in at fullback, and still managed to get forwards to contribute a great ball for the first goal), plus of course Kedwell, our two goal hero.

After a free week, the Dons return next Saturday against Cambridge. Tune in for all the buildup – and I know some of my previews have been a bit lame of late, but I shall try my hardest to redress this balance – plus hopefully a couple of other pieces here and there…

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AFC Wimbledon 1 Luton Town 1 – A Match Report

I woke up on Saturday morning in a pessimistic state of mind. I really had the impression that we would suffer in the manner Norwich eventually did, with season-ticket assaults on Terry Brown and everything… (while I’m on the subject, I bet those Norwich fans who ran on the pitch regretted it five seconds after they had done it, especially when they found that not only were they not getting their season tickets back, they wouldn’t be watching football for three years minimum…).

We have history of blowing big games. Remember Wycombe last year? Torquay? Even going back to St Albans in the Trophy and Thurrock in the FA Cup, whenever we had come across a side that represented a huge step up in quality we had fluffed our lines. The difference was, those games had been cup ties… however as this game was our first in the Conference and we had nothing to measure it against, it did have more of the one-off feeling of a cup game.

Fortunately I wasn’t the only one suffering from a case of the pre-game jitters. After taking my non-attending wife for lunch at the Slug and Lettuce in Kingston to make up for not getting her a ticket, I bumped into an agreeable bunch of Luton fans who weren’t entirely sure of my gut feeling we would be annihilated. This led to me delivering them to the Peel via the 131, obtaining other Luton fans on the way – I felt like the Pied Piper, perhaps I should have led them into the river?!

Kingsmeadow was at its glorious sweaty best as I arrived, coincidentally at the same time as Sam Hatton, who almost became the first person to fatally mow down a blogger in Jack Goodchild Way. I bought a WUP, amazed to find an article I wrote at the end of last season had been included… in fact I had forgotten I had submitted it, which meant there was at least one decent article for me to read in there! The ground looked in great condition. There were even a few new advertising hoardings this year dotted around. Oh, and of course, this – http://fleydon-flags.blogspot.com/2009/08/these-boots.html

Once again I’m in the John Smiths again this year although with no access to the KRE (at least this week) it was entirely forced on me… on Saturday I found myself behind the home dugout. However I must say the vast majority the support was superb, barring one or two who felt the need to slag of a certain midfielder of ours. I’ve gone on and on about it elsewhere, and its something that annoys me, I’m glad it seems to annoy the majority of Dons fans as well. But if the elimination of this kind of negativity is perhaps a step too far for us at the moment, the majority did a fantastic job of drowning them out. Even the John Smiths, which seems to be a better place to stand thanks to the addition of some singers who presumably found themselves edged out of the Tempest this year.

The lineup was pretty similar to as I expected, with a couple of exceptions. Firstly, we went 4-5-1, no Jon Main as I exclusively revealed on this very blog. But no Luke Moore either, the extra place in midfield going to crowd favourite Sam Hatton. Finally, Luke Garrard got the nod at right back over Jay Conroy, presumably it came down to Luke’s experience.

There were a lot of nerves kicking around, and that seemed to transfer itself to the pitch. The opening few minutes were low key, the referee setting his stall out by awarding a couple of baffling freekicks. Wimbledon’s first chance came during this period, a corner on the left found its way over to Lorraine, who guided his effort up and over, finding himself called for pushing at the same time.

Lets get this straight, Luton looked faster, more composed and basically in control in every department, but they hadn’t managed to fashion a chance of any sort. While Wimbledon were giving away possession left, right and centre, caught by the speed in which they were closed down by Luton men, it hadn’t led to any problems. This was until the thirteenth minute, when a Luton corner delivered in at pace amid a lot of pushing and shoving in the box. Lorraine and Shane Blackett crashed to the floor, with the referee electing to make a decision against the Dons man.

Luton’s impressive forward Tom Craddock slotted home from the spot powerfully striking into the right corner, despite Jamie Pullen reading his intentions the penalty was just too good for him to get anywhere near. The visitors almost doubled their lead only minutes later, the impressive Adam Newton racing clear down the right, picking out Craddock (one of two Luton players completely free at the far post) whose firm header was brilliantly saved by James Pullen. The ball bobbled about in the six-yard box for a moment before being cleared to safety by Paul Lorraine.

Now Luton had the lead, Wimbledon’s five man midfield worked in their favour. Godfrey and Hatton were working overtime in the midfield, but were well off the pace. Neither were helped by some poor balls into them requiring them to release the ball a lot quicker than either of them had experienced before. This was a real baptism of fire for certain Dons players, with the two midfielders and Chris Hussey desperately trying to keep their heads above water.

I mentioned in pre-season how Husseys decision making seems to let him down in defensive situations. On many occasions Hussey had the chance to knock a 60/40 challenge in his favour to safety before the ball had even got to Newton, but his cautiousness in keeping his feet let the tricky winger beat him time and again simply but knocking the ball past him and beating him in a leg race.

However he persisted, going on to enjoy a much better second half which led to Newton being removed from the game, and while Hatton and Godfrey were substituted in the second as well, they at least left the field having worked so hard to keep Wimbledon within touching distance of our illustrious visitors. Even before the safety of half time, the Dons had to defend for their lives on a couple of occasions.

On twenty minutes, another cross from the right was flicked on dangerously, Wimbledon perhaps fortunate that it was too far from a dozing Kevin Gallen. Portly ex-franchise hitman Gallen looked out of place among this talented Luton team, employed seemingly only to shout at the referee and fall over when appropriate. He picked up a yellow card during the first half, perhaps he receives a bonus for this as any reliance on a goal bonus this season could see the mercenary forward well out of pocket come April.

The Hatters were confounded again on twenty five minutes, the visitors breaking quickly to create a two on two led by Newton. While the nippy winger seemed too good for Wimbledon down the right, when approaching goal through the centre he seemed overwhelmed by the options available to him. Eventually he decided to ignore his teammate and go it alone, being brilliantly held up by Luke Garrard before Chris Hussey finished the job, clearing to safety.

Garrard had an interesting afternoon. While looking comfortable on the right side of defense he had an annoying habit of playing colleagues into danger. While Luke needs time to adapt to the speed of the game, both in terms of overcoming rustiness following his injury and getting used to the pace of a higher level once more, he was inconsistant rather than poor.

While Wimbledon were losing the ball in midfield on a regular basis,the sheer number of players on hand mean the opposition themselves suffer the same problems. While Luton looked comfortable, they weren’t creating as much as the would have wished, and did not dominate as much as their manager suggested after the game. While it would serve a purpose for him to suggest they were unlucky on this occasion, they are going to face teams who flood the midfield week in, week out. Most probably won’t be able to work as hard as we did, in fact we must be the fittest ‘part time’ club in the country, but those that do will frustrate Luton, especially away from home.

Danny Kedwell cut a lonely figure all alone up front. When the ball found its way to him and he managed to win it, he either flicked the ball on to no-one or got it under control and fed a midfielder to knock it long into space or find themselves closed down before they even got a chance to do that. Consequently Wimbledon created nothing until just before half time.

Sammy Hatton found himself in an advanced position to flick on to Kedwell. However Danny was still far from goal with defenders in his way. He improvised well, juggling the ball around a defender which sadly left him off balance, his stabbed volley rolling harmlessly wide. With Wimbledon on the front foot, Lewis Taylor and Derek Duncan managed to get forward, the former almost providing an assist or the latter with a superb drilled ball that Duncan stabbed just wide.

Just a quick word about the Luton fans in the first half. As I said before the majority were a decent bunch, although they did seem to have a minority of braindead scum, one of which who made a name for himself by breaking through the segregation and removing Haydons head, before throwing it on the pitch. Now this incident has been covered extensively elsewhere, but you have to wonder what was going on with the security. Now I’m not one of those willing to slag off the stewards, they are just volunteers and they do a great job. Wherever possible they should be able to watch the game, thats a given – it’s not as if they earn money or anything.

And they shouldn’t be expected to put their own personal safety on the line when someone misbehaves in a violent manner. In that particular corner there was a group of half a dozen police officers. These gentlemen certainly were being paid for their afternoon at the game, primarily to prevent what happened from happening. It seems it’s not only the team who need to sharpen up to Conference Premier standard…

The second half started late (somehow that Tempest End goal became unfastened again…) yet this time Wimbledon were starting to give as good as they got. A strong run by Lewis Taylor down the right, powerfully holding off a Luton man before feeding Luke Garrard, whose delicate chip found Kedwell who found no pace on the ball, his header dropping into keeper Tyler’s arms. Still, it was promising. Duncan and Taylor were more advanced however that inevitably gave Luton more space to build for themselves. Pullen had to save smartly from Cradock, before the same player again found space in the left side of the penalty area, hitting across goal agonisingly wide of the right post.

Wimbledon were still having trouble creating chances, and it took until the hour mark for them to produce their best moment of the match so far. Great play down the left between Duncan and Hussey saw a deep cross evade everybody apart from Lewis Taylor at the far post. It took him some time to get it under control, but when he did he had a couple of lashes at it- the second of these excellently parried wide by Tyler.

At last the Luton keeper merits a mention in this report, and this was good enough to persuade Terry Brown it was time to unleash our not-so-secret weapon. Jon Main and Luke Moore replaced the exhausted Derek Duncan and Sam Hatton, with Godfrey following shortly after for Ricky Wellard. This shot in the arm was enough for Wimbledon to take the front foot. Main’s pace scared the life out of the Luton defense, resulting in the penalty award with just ten minutes to go.

Last night in the Score! update I mentioned the to penalties were ‘dubious’ after I saw it described as such elsewhere. However – after seeing a shaky video of it, I’m now prepared to believe what my own eyes saw at the time, that while Blackettgot the ball he did so by scything down Main as he was about to shoot. Blackett had to go for that, and the penalty itself was despatched by Main, sending Tyler the wrong way rolling the ball into the right corner.

From here on in, it looked as though it was only going to be Wimbledon who would win. Another dangerous ball into the box fell to Taylor who struck firmly at goal from eight yards only to see it deflected wide for a corner. Luton weren’t helping themselves, or to be more accurate their manager wasn’t anyway, bringing on Basham and a midfielder in exchange for their best players on the day, Adam Newton and Tom Craddock… which meant while the Hatters now had two big men up front they had no-one to service them.

Of course, Wimbledon were on hand to provide that last chance. Garrard collided with Johnson to gift posession to Luton by way of a freekick given when Garrards attempt to recover the situation only led to him chopping down a Luton man who appeared from nowhere. Fortunately, the freekick was delivered straight at the wall (ironically enough charged down by Chris Hussey…).

It was down to Hussey to deliver a great, great chance for Paul Lorraine, unmarked coming round the back from a corner, to head into the ground and wide, the Dons improbable chance to win the game having gone begging. Despite this Wimbledon fans celebrated at the final whistle, a point gained following a tough first half. 

Perhaps we could have faced easier opposition on the first day of the season, but Luton have lifted the bar high enough for us to prepare ourselves for lesser opposition as well as the likes of Oxford and Wrexham looming on the horizon. Make no mistake, watching Wimbledon defend for their lives in the first half was no fun, but had we started with an orthodox 4-4-2 we would have been taken apart by a much better side than we are. Had we player the diamond we would vitually have sacrificed the midfield, again leading to us losing the match before we had even got into our stride.

The formations we played in pre-season will come in handy later in the year, but the fact we had to start with a containing tactic, and at home as well, should give everyone an idea of how tough it’s going to be to eventually win this league. It worked for us today, on the hour we were still in the game, and that was good enough for us to go for broke and swap things around a bit. Some young players learned some harsh lessons out there, yet we survived, we took something from the game, we almost snatched an amazing win. I guarantee when we look back at this game at the end of the season we will see it as a point gained.

Now on to Eastbourne for a more ‘usual’ Conference game… and whisper it, but a great chance for our first three points?

NOTE – Unfortunately I was unable to take any pictures this week. Apologies to those of you who look forward to them, normal service will hopefully be resumed on Tuesday, although I took a couple on my mobile, so a couple may appear on the report later…

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AFC Wimbledon 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 2 – A Match Report

Another League One club down at Kingsmeadow last night, and if the games are this good I think we will easily get used to this Wimbledon side. Unfortunate if anything to lose last night, despite playing a side that were superior to them, the Dons looked dangerous every time they ventured forward, and only some harsh luck (or poor finishing, depending on whether your glass is half full or half empty) prevented Wimbledon troubling the scorers… nah, that doesn’t really work in a football context does it. It’s still early in pre-season, give me time!

Unfortunate then that both Brighton goals came from Dons mistakes… although you could say Wimbledon rode there luck as far as the frame of the goal went; including one mighty punt from Albions second half keeper Michael Kuipers that caught out Paul Lorraine and triallist David Wilkinson in goal before bouncing off the top of the cross bar. Of course I didn’t see the ball leave his foot, being preoccupied with tweeting my opinions to the world (perhaps I’ve bitten off more than I can chew? Perhaps… but once again, its still my pre-season).

To bring it back to the beginning for fear of making more excuses for my own poor pre-season reporting, the day didn’t start off well for me – in fact I missed the kickoff. This was due to an early running K1 driver, and a long wait for a 131 in Kingston town centre. I only missed it by a few minutes, this was enough to be late for the team lineups, so for the second home game running I spent most of the game with no idea who was playing for the opposition, at least until one of them scored. So apologies to any Albion fans passing, yet in my defence this is a Wimbledon blog, and (cough) it is very early in the season…

bha 003Wimbledon started off brightly, with the first half chance falling to them around five minutes into the game. A ball knocked into the box was half cleared to Luke Garrard on the edge of the area who fired just over. How great it was to see Luke in a Dons shirt again, although he did seem half a step off the pace, very unlike him and probably down to being a week or so behind the rest of the squad as far as game time went, and seeing a though his primary competition for his place Jay Conroy has twice as many minutes under his belt you would have to consider him in prime position for the number two shirt by the time Luton come to town.

Brighton surged back a few minutes later when their 11 found himself in space down the right channel and smashed the ball against the centre of Wimbledon’s crossbar, the ball bouncing down and away while Wilkinson was still grasping air. Brighton didn’t quite take hold of the game though despite having the best of the possession, and it was the Dons who came closest. Derek Duncan lined up a freekick right of centre, curled it round the wall only to see the Albion keeper scramble it wide low to his left with a little help from the upright.

Later in the half a Dons foray forward seemed to be about to come to an abrupt end as the ball ran away from Elliott Godfrey, but this wasn’t picked up by any of the Brighton players nearby, and Godfrey was able to catch up with the ball and smash it right footed just wide of the right post. Despite this Albion always seemed more likely to break the deadlock, and it finally came in frustrating style on 38 minutes as Wimbledon contrived to give the ball away in their own half, the ball was fed out to the left side of the field for Kevin McLeod to drive into the box and drill beyond Wilkinson and into the bottom right corner of the net.

The second half began with eight substitutions for the visitors, and perhaps they weren’t as switched on mentally as they could have been as Wimbledon took it to the visitor shortly after the break. An excellently timed challenge from Duncan saw him carry the ball at speed down the left flank, releasing Luke Moore. In fact the speed of the attack had left Wimbledon’s strikers flagging behind, so Moore cut inside, and seeing no-one had made it forward beat his man and sent a low strike bobbling across goal and wide of Brighton’s left post.

bha 006Derek Duncan was making the left back position his own. Strong in the challenge (although not always perfectly timed… he sent a couple of Albion players flying with desperate challenges), with the engine to get himself up and down the field with pace. I’ll talk about the differences between Hussey and Duncan a little later, but it may only be Duncan’s versatility that would allow Hussey game time at all next season.

Wimbledon turned the crew as time ticked away for the starting XI to make their mark. Hatton found space wide right, and teased a dangerous ball into the box, hacked clear by a Brighton man under great pressure from Kedwell just over his own crossbar. Kedwell didn’t make a huge impact on the game but worked hard all the same, his runs sometimes going unnoticed, sometimes creating space for colleagues behind him.

His strike partner tonight, the previously mentioned Moore, found the ball at his feet much more often and clearly knows what to do with it. Very offensively minded, Moore impressed in the hole against Wycombe and showed he is equally effective playing alongside a strike partner. Perhaps the most impressive of all is his willingness to defend high up the pitch a la Kedwell, despite his lack of inches compared to towering centre halves he never gives a ball up as lost, his ability to launch himself into the air and challenge the bigger men lead to a number of balls finding touch for a Wimbledon throw when perhaps a Jon Main challenge might have seen the ball flying back towards the Wimbledon half.

As the hour mark approached it was time for the aforementioned Main to make his mark on the game and show qualities of his own. It might sound stupid compared to his goalscoring exploits of last season, but a front three of Kedwell and Moore, with Godfrey just behind, will be enough to scare the life out of the best defences we come across next term. If we then bring on Jon Main with half an hour to go, against tiring defences, it could be enough to destroy the best of them. Injuries will play a part, as will the unknown fourth striker. Bossman didn’t appear last night but I’m sure I read somewhere that he was unavailable and was due to appear against FCUM on Saturday, however any thoughts that he might come good for us eventually have been slapped back into reality by recent news reports reminding us there are dozens of strikers out there who could do the business for us straight away. How long until we see random postings on Old Centrals asking ‘…ave we singed monagew yet…?’.

bha 009So Wimbledon’s mass cull of players certainly gave the linesman some counting practice, with only Duncan, Ricky Wellard (who was quiet last night) and Bret Johnson (who reminds me of Andy Thorn for some reason) surviving. A few minutes beforehand a much more significant substitution took place, with Mark Wright taking the field. I took a deep breath as a football mercenary with Them only last season was announced… to no audible reception whatsoever.

Once we ended up with a full complement of players back on the pitch, the game resumed. And miraculously it eventually regained the same flow it had in the first, making it hugely watchable for the last twenty-five minutes or so. In fact, on 68 minutes the Tempest End broke into its first prolonged chant of the season, which spurred the game back into action. Derek Duncan was first to try his luck, now playing further up the field, when he saw his long range effort handled in the box. Referee Jamail Singh, perhaps thinking back to a first half decision when he failed to give Brighton what would have been a soft penalty following a clumsy push in the box, waved play on.

But Wimbledon were just getting started. A few minutes later a strong Hussey run down the left touchline saw him flash a shot from a tight angle just over. I remember him doing this a few times when he could have pulled the ball back for a team mate, although in those cases he did enough to force a corner. If he concentrates on getting those on target he might score that way soon. Considering my previous opinion of Duncan, I have to say if there was only one place available I would give it to Duncan. However if possible, and when the circumstances call for it, we could do a lot worse than play both of them, as they seem to complement each other pretty well.

Another strong Hussey run saw him play a decent percentage ball low and curling back towards the onrushing forwards, missed by Main and Peter Rapson (who I will imagine will go on loan to a Ryman/CS side as soon as a fourth striker is brought in, but is an exciting forward in his own right and may deserve a chance himself in the first team before the season is out). Terry Brown then bawled out Lewis Taylor for not getting himself in the box, and this advice almost paid dividends minutes later.

Before that Taylor sent Main away down the right channel, but the striker hesitated momentarily, but for long enough to allow a Brighton man time to get back and block his effort. It wasn’t long before his pace took him free of the Brighton defence in the same position once more, this time sent away by a good ball from Wellard. This time he elected to drive the ball across goal, the ball again being deflected and dribbling wide of the far post. Taylor had taken his managers advice however and just failed to reach the ball in time, stabbing wide with the goal at his mercy.

bha 013Wimbledon fashioned an equally good chance moments later when Hussey again found room on the left. Spotting Duncan pointing for where he wanted the ball, he tried to sly it in only to see it half blocked and fall behind Duncan, sitting up beautifully for Jon Main to head home, and send the Tempest End into raptures. Unusual that, for a pre-season game, and entirely unnecessary as the dust settled and a second look revealed the ball wasn’t nestling in the corner,and had in fact flown wide.

While an equaliser now seemed a certainty, time had caught up with us, and a blocked Taylor effort moments later was the last Dons chance. Frustratingly Brighton took the ball down the other end, almost killing the game but for a brave save at feet by Sebb Brown. It was only a short respite or Wimbledon, a corner in injury time that seemed certain to be cleared was in fact chested across goal by a (fortunately for him) unidentified Don, Adam Virgo making no mistake and drilling under Brown to give Brighton the win.

Still, the majority of the 1167 crowd wenthome happy after seeing a very decent Wimbledon performance against a Brighton team who I’m sure will cause a lot of problems of most teams in League Two next year. The Dons need to get down to business and score a few goals, hold on to the ball in midfield but perhaps most importantly keep the tempo high in the remaining two games, against Fulham’s non-European squad XI, and first up FCUM or the SD Cup, appropriately sponsored by Co-Op this time around. If that game is even half as good as this one, we are in for a treat. And my dislike of pre-season friendlies has been cured.

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The General Specific (Thursday 28th May ’09)

Well a couple more players have signed (although thats not really the actual reason I was writing today, but I’ll get this out of the way first – no offence meant to those concerned!). Jay Conroy and Elliott Godfrey are onboard for next season, great news as Jay looked like the sort of right back we had badly missed since Luke Garrards injury. As far as Luke himself is concerned, well I think he is still the better right back but we may well see him act as a midfield utility player next season as and when required.

Elliott is a top player as far as I’m concerned, and the news that he has signed again is a relief (although I had the impression he was under contract already…) as a player with his combination of workrate and skill should always have a home at our club, especially as in my mind (and presumably Terry Brows mind too) he has done more than enough to earn his shot at a higher level.

On to more important things, You may remember I mentioned the ‘non-existant ground in Wimbledon’ yesterday. Well judging by news reports this morning in the Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1189065/AFC-Wimbledon-target-Football-League-Plough-Lane.html), the Mirror (http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/2009/05/28/wimbledon-going-home-115875-21394759/) and more comprehensively in the Evening Standard (http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-sport/article-23700727-details/AFC+Wimbledon+plan+to+go+home+to+Plough+Lane/article.do) suggests, well, we may be in the verge of a move back to Plough Lane.

Which raises a few questions. Firstly how concrete are these plans? Well the club has spoken openly about attempting to open dialogue with the owners of the site, which has largely fallen down through the lack of response from the current owners. The reports above seem to suggest an agreement of some kind has been made, but of course doesn’t mention who it was with. Its sounds more like educated guesswork as far as I can see, and the more measured responses from the fanbase consider that perhaps an agreement has been reached with the council for a football ground to be included in any planning application for the site.

If so this is unhelpful reporting for a number of reasons. It comes on the eve of an important meeting where Dons Trust members will decide the future direction our club will take ins the form of a Strategy Review, and if members approach the meeting with their heads filled with improbable dreams, will they really be acting in the clubs best interests going into the SGM?

Perhaps the Trust are intending on revealing all before the meeting begins tonight, but perhaps they have been thrown slightly by one of our own mouthing off to the press at the worst possible time. There are ways and means of doing things, for example Marc Jones revealed his wish for the club to return to Wimbledon in the SLP last week, this was enough to spark debate, why did someone feel the need to take it one step further and act, as the articles describe, as a ‘spokesman’ for the trust?

There are a number of issues which I want to cover in greater detail that work commitments mean I don’t have time for right now, however its likely the picture could become clearer in the next 24 hours. This afternoon however, I call on the club to issue a statement so everybody is aware of the facts ahead of time, even if they just advise a further statement will be made at the meeting tonight. That in itself could help calm the speculation, as while they remain unanswered supporters, myself included, find their hopes raised by lazy reporting which may turn out to show we are still as far away to agreeing a move back as we were yesterday.

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