Tag Archives: Luton Town

50/50

If you were having difficulty remembering just how far we have come over the last nine years there are frequent reminders pretty much everywhere. The last question in the ‘Can You Help’ section of this weeks Knowledge in the Guardian features a question wondering whether Tipton Town, who racked up 100 points this season and still only finished second in the Midland Football Alliance, were the greatest runners-up of all time… I’m sure there’ll be quite a few replies from the South West London area pointing out the third place team in the 2002/3 Combined Counties season and their mighty 111 point tally…

I’ve seen comments from a couple of people on the WUP guestbook mentioning how surreal the last seven days have been and I thought ‘hang on, with respect hasn’t the last nine years just been a completely bizarre experience?’. If I woke up in a daze to find its 2002, the three-man commission are about to unanimously throw out Wimbledon FC’s request to relocate, and the last nine years have been but a vision, I wouldn’t be surprised. In fact I’d be fucking delighted, I’d be twenty-four again…

But then again, haven’t the last nine years been unbelievably special? We’ll never know what would have happened if we had been given a chance to breathe life into the Wimbledon FC corpse, presuming the Trust had somehow been able to take control of the club… it’s likely there would have been a minor feel good factor upon taking over but years of hard slog would have followed, as we slipped down the table. We could easily have found ourselves in exactly the position we are now (including playing at KM) without that special feeling we have around the club, not to mention the momentum we carry with us.

I thought twice about writing that last paragraph in case some passing Franchise apologist picks up on it and uses it as justification for the move, the old ‘it’s worked out best for everybody’ excuse that the outcome of the event somehow justifies the theft itself. And while we’re on the subject of theft here’s a well know quote form the commission report you might want to bear in mind on Saturday…

128. Furthermore, resurrecting the Club from its ashes as, say, “Wimbledon Town” is, with respect to those supporters who would rather that happened so that they could go back to the position the Club started in 113 years ago, not in the wider interests of football.

 Well come 5PM on Saturday, ‘Wimbledon Town’ could be back in the League, the only problem being our opponents were also royally shafted by the football authorities… neutrals I’ve spoken to are admitting split loyalties, but are falling down on our side of the fence. Not that this means anything beyond being a nice gesture, anyone with even half an interest in making the journey was put off by those darn ticket prices, so it’s just our core support of 6,000 heading up, outnumbered 2:1 by Luton (but then again hasn’t that always been the Wimbledon way?).

Regarding the game itself, I’ve been thinking about it pretty much all week and have come to the conclusion this could really end up just about any score you could think of… its close, 50/50, but if one team cracks under the pressure on the day the other side could end up knocking in a few… yet maybe that’s what comes from thinking through just about every possibility in my head since last Wednesday.

I’ve got to say, while I’ve analysed how I would react to failure, I’ve stopped short of thinking what I would do if we actually won… I daren’t even allow it to cross my mind for even a moment – well that’s a lie, actually, I thought about it  Monday morning on my way to work, and its highly likely I’ll end up in tears. Perhaps I’ll even end up standing there passive, shell-shocked, my mind unable to find a suitable expression to the level of emotion I’ll feel.

I know we’ve convinced ourself defeat won’t be a disaster, and we’re right, it won’t be the calamity it would be for Luton if they miss out. I have heard that Saturdays loser will automatically be installed as next seasons favourites for promotion, but the truth is we have no idea how much money Fleetwood and Mansfield are going to throw about over the summer. We just don’t know how competitive the bigger clubs like Grimsby are going to be. We can do ourselves a massive favour by winning at our first proper attempt.

I’ve got a lot of respect for Luton and the majority of their supporters, they’ve been treated as harshly as we have… but another season in the BSP won’t kill them. We’ve spent nine long years in the wilderness, we’ve worked hard for this, we’ve earned it and we deserve it. We shouldn’t be ashamed to admit we want this badly, it’s the reason why so many of us haven’t been able to sleep for most of the week…

So come on Wimbledon, make us prouder than we already are right now. And whether you’re joining me at Eastlands, watching at home or the pub, or some dodgy feed in some corner of the world, I hope we have something to celebrate together come 5pm BST on Saturday…

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Different Ninety Minutes

It goes without saying if we don’t win the league this season I hope our visitors tomorrow go on to claim the title ahead of a certain club from Sussex, and in an ideal world we would wish Luton all the best after tomorrow. But as the old proverb reminds us ‘be careful what you wish for…’ as such circumstances would invariably see us paired with Crawley in the playoffs, and I get the impression we would rather prefer tomorrows visitors should it come down to it.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, they are marginally more beatable (although as I mentioned the other day, still insanely difficult). Secondly, if us and Luton end up in Manchester come May, I don’t think I would take defeat half as badly as I would if I had to witness Steve Evans waddling across the pitch in celebration, sweaty pits visible to all as he raises his arms as high as his chubby shoulders allow. In the real world, we can only focus on our own team and worry about winning enough points to take the title or (perhaps more realistically) an advantageous position in the playoffs.

To be honest if you had told me we would still be top of the league and four points ahead of our visitors at this point in the season after we had lost 0-3 on that miserable Friday evening up at Kenilworth Road, I would have had a bit of difficulty taking you seriously. It wasn’t that we were outclassed, just well beaten on the night by a far more professional team, and the journey home was filled with thoughts that Luton would go on and stretch their legs in a two-way battle with Crawley. Yet, here we are, with over half the season played, somehow still involved in the chase. This is testament to how our young squad has grown as a team, and the marked improvement of certain members of the squad as the season has progressed. Throw in the recent reinforcements made by Brown (its been negated to a certain extent by the recent bout of illness ravaging the squad, but I’ll throw it in anyway…), and we are set for a very different ninety minutes of football to that seen back in September. Cue 3-0 Luton win…

There will still be more than a few missing from tomorrows squad, but lets not forget the sorry state we were in when the original fixture was somewhat mercifully postponed. In the days before we realised Lee Minshull could fill in at centre-half (although that’s slightly irrelevant as the original game fell outside the two-week window every three months that Lee manages to find himself fully fit…), Fraser Franks would have been the only player fit enough recognised to play the position. Quite who would have partnered him I know not, although I have a funny feeling it would have been Sam Hatton and he would have had a stormer. Now despite the absence of Johnson and I presume Yakubu, we have Franks, Harris and new signing Stuart available, with Patrick Kanyuka waiting in the wings with his deal presumably reliant on Brett Johnson’s long-term fitness.

While we are on the subject of defenders (and harking back to being careful what you wish for following my comments after the Darlington game), Chris Bush sat on the bench for Brentford tonight, and while he will presumably still be available to us under the terms of his work experience it does make you question his long-term future at the club. To be fair, the Football League allows seven substitutes and it could just have been a case of Brentford needing a body to sit on the bench and naming him for experience, but we can only hope either (i) we sign a new left back, or (b) Andre overcomes whatever ‘fitness’ problems are holding him back. I know some of you have given up on Andre already, but I believe players with the sort of ability he has already shown in his few appearances in a Dons shirt should be given as many chances as are practical to make it work before chopping them.

An example to Blackman in how to overcome both fitness issues and the gossipy nature of the Dons fanbase is Mark Nwokeji. Two months ago he was on the verge of getting shipped out on loan, with question marks raised over his attitude, even whether he could physically cope with being a professional. Football fans are always going to fill in the details themselves in situations such as this, especially in an information vacuum, so we’ll probably never know how true those rumours were. Yet we can consider ourselves fortunate that while Nokkers hasn’t won everybody over just yet, he has played and scored recently, and is the natural choice to partner Kedwell when playing 442. In fact, even if we start in Browns preferred 433 formation, he has a decent chance of filling in for the out of form Ryan Jackson (presuming the returning Hudson will relieve Christian Jolley on the left…).

The Dons have remained top of the table for what has seemed like months (actually I just checked, it has been months…) yet a Luton victory tomorrow would see us drop for the first time in a while. If we are to sacrifice the summit we will find it incredibly difficult to find our way back there. For that reason I want to end on a plea… the laws of football dictate that should at any stage our fans sing any song relating to being ‘top of the league’ at any stage before the final whistle, we WILL lose. Regardless of how much of a lead we hold at the time. Crawley found that out to their cost earlier in the season, and we got lucky when we sung it during the last ten minutes of that game. And the last thing we really want is to hear the visitors singing it come 9.45PM tomorrow…

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Toilet Town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The General Specific (Friday 31st July ’09)

8 Days……….

Tomorrow we head off to Farnborough for an absolute feast of football… The reserve kick off the day with a 1200 game against our old CCL opponents and the victims of our first ever home win, Cove FC. Boy, I remember the last time I headed down to Squirrells Close (or whatever its called…) for a 5th November game that saw the Dons run out comfortable winners in a game that lost my interest if I remember, possibly down to being played in the middle of fireworks exploding left right and centre. Nowadays, Cove provide a decent challenge or Marcus Gayle’s young reserves, and I’m heading down to see if I can spot the next Peter Rapson. Expect a full report (probably at the expense of the first team game) on Saturday/early Sunday.

Next up is a quick stroll up Cherrywood Road to see how Farnborough Not Town are faring with their plan to produce the finest stadium in non-league football, and following heartbreak in the playoff final last year, they must be determined to make sure of it this time around having signed a bundle of quality signings, including our former loan striker Kezie Ibe. You may be interested to know that BG Business have given up their sponsorship of the Southern League, so Farnborough will be playing in a division sponsored by a company I have never heard of and now have to look up – the Zamaretto Premier Division.

On top of the ground and squad building, Farnborough are playing out one of the most impressive set of pre-season games I have laid eyes on… along with ourselves they have already played Brentford, Aldershot, Swansea, Southampton and Reading, and after us they face a Chelsea XI as well as hosting Asian Champion League regulars Al-Ahli of the UAE. Quite how this is going to prepare them for a visit by Leamington on their opening day, I’m not sure!

By the way, judging by their website, the boot will be on the other foot for us as far as programmes are concerned as we find ourselves being fleeced £2.50 for a joint effort with the Chelsea game… those who always buy programmes won’t be put off, of course…

In an annoying twist, Terry has announced that the NGU game on Monday will now feature mostly first team players, which makes me almost obliged to attend. In a week when I was intending on writing a number of articles for your pleasure in the build up to the big kick-off, this is more work I’m not sure I really need!

Its now only eight days until we host Luton in our opening game, and you can expect a full preview including the Conference file entry for Luton Town, an AFC Wimbledon squad preview, a ‘sideways look at how I think the season will pan out’ which I am planning on writing not because I think it’ll be funny (it won’t), more than I’m sure someone has had the same idea for WUP (out Saturday… possibly…) and I want to get in first… and maybe, maybe, if I have time, that much talked of Poll Review article will find its way on here.

Talking of polls, an old favourite has joined the AFC Wimbledon blogosphere. Paul Raymond’s legendary It Must Be Dons site has been relaunched as a blog, and can be found here http://imbd.wordpress.com/ or in the links section. So with that, myself, SW19’s, Silverbugle and Fleydons flag blog, there is a sizable AFC blogging community out there (even if I’m not so sure myself about being thrown into a community of bloggers… it sounds like the seventh level of hell to me…).

Lastly, remember the noise we made at Newport last year? I know we were on the road, but there’s no excuse for not replicating that kind of support at home this time around. There’s 4000 of us and 800 of them – wherever you are in the stadium, lets drown ’em out like we did last year, and make sure all our new boys know they’ve joined a special club…

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The General Specific (Wednesday 8th July ’09)

Its just a matter of days now until we see our lads step out onto the pitch (for a maximum of 45 minutes each, of course), as Wycombe areset to visit TCRRFSKM come Saturday. The first of four (four?!) home pre-season games kicks off at 3pm, and you can expect full match coverage from myself (well, unless my lack of internet gets in the way…) starting with a match preview on Friday (or perhaps tomorrow???).

I think we will see a fair attendance of around 1200 as inquisitive Dons fans gather for a first glimpse of our new heroes. On paper the gap between ourselves and Wycombe is still the same as it was when we met back in November, however the difference between a BSS club and a League 2 club against the difference between a BSP and a League 1 club is probably a bit smaller, so we should be seeing a decent game… Awww, who am I trying to kid? It’ll be played at half pace, our players will be able to pass the ball around a bit, we may even score. But anything else that happens is irrelevant… unless one of our lads suffers from a case of the Lewis Taylor’s…

In other news Terry Brown seems to be acting as Brett Johnson’s agent, so keen is he to let everyone know that while Johnson is training with us, he is yet to sign a contract. Brett is currently the property of the PFA (as it is they who are paying his July wages), and will only sign a contract with us in August. If of course no potential suitor notices the press he has been receiving and decides to step in with a better offer. To be honest, Johnson is unlikely to sign for a BSP rival unless one of ‘your Lutons or your Oxfords’ weigh in with a bid. Everyone else would probably have to offer serious cash to part him from Terry Brown once more.

The SLP came up with the non-story of the week advising we will not be signing Brighton striker Jonny Dixon. It was all a bit tame really, Brown spoke to him but we already have ‘that type of striker’. The SLP could have sexed it up a little more if they had thought of it, for example ‘DONS SNUB LEAGUE ONE HITMAN’ would have been closer to the mark – essentially that’s what happened. Brown spoke to him, he didn’t want to sign him, therefore he snubbed him. That’s how football works kids… at least as far as tabloid journalism is concerned.

Finally, our beloved gaffer has revealed to the press that ‘Luton… are red-hot title favourites’, something most of us believe anyway (although I will consistently argue the opposite, if only to play devils advocate… don’t get me wrong they’ll be up there, I just think its going to be a lot harder than they think…). If this was an effort to drum up interest in our opening day fixture I don’t think its required. Remember less than 5000 can fit in the ground, it would have sold out whoever we played and with it being Luton… I think we need to tone down the hyperbole and perhaps start concentrating our efforts on encouraging those who are unlucky enough not to get tickets for the Luton game to turn up for our midweek clash on the 18th August. After all our three home games after this are going to be pretty big draws too, especially if we have anything like a good start.

Ill start to ball rolling…. I think, despite their problems last season, Salisbury are going to crap all over this division… it’s going to be a real clash of the titans on the 18th August, so make sure you get yourself down there… Actually I’m probably approaching it from the wrong angle. How about… Look, our first five home games are going to be really hard, best to turn up on the 18th August as its probably our best chance of a home win…

Finally, breaking news has reached me that our beloved mascot Haydon (the Trumpton Batterer) has been selected to stand on the Trafalgar Square plinth on Friday from 6pm. Lets all go down there and give him a cheer… well not me, obviously I’ll be in the pubstill sorting out my new flat. This is seriously good publicity for us, unless Haydon disgraces us by becoming the first plinther to fall off…

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Fixtures Part Two

blue sqOk. Deep breath. I’ve carried stuff downstairs all afternoon, in this hot hot weather (tomorrow morning I have to carry it upstairs, so it doesn’t get any easier…). I think you caught me at a bad time earlier as all I could do is moan about Luton at home. It is undoubtedly a great opener for us as a club, our opponents are current holders of the Johnstones Paint Trophy and extremely unfortunate not to still be in the league after the club were docked 30 points for the actions of a previous administration, with the points they won last year they would have finished mid-table in League Two.

So they should stroll this division, right? Well, no. The unnatural promotion/relegation between The Conference and The League of only two clubs up and down means some large clubs have got caught in the Conference net, and there is a great deal of deadwood still knocking about at the bottom of League Two. Our opponents have to face the prospect of a wound up Cambridge, beaten playoff finalists two years on the trot, an Oxford side who haven’t been able to work their way out despite their huge crowds, moneyed Stevenage have been knocking on the door for way too long, Wrexham and Mansfield will be looking for a challenge this year. Plus there are sides like Rushden and York who are going to be no pushovers.

Plus lets not knock ourselves out of contention before we have even begun. We are going to be a real wildcard this season, a young side looking to prove they have what it takes to launch a challenge in the coming years, in front of what should be a more hostile crowd to what we have seen in previous years, in a tight ground that’s likely to be full more often than its not. And Luton have to come here first.

Next up, Eastbourne away. My prediction we would play them on opening day was not far out. After the sellout Luton game its our first ‘usual’ Conference fixture. Perhaps a few hundred travelling fans and what will be a tough test for us, and an immediate return to the sort of fixture you sense means more to our opponents than it doe to us.

Our first Saturday trip sees us visit Kettering. Anther decent test for us against what I’m sure will be an upper midtable side. Quickfire games at home to Salisbury followed by Altrincham and our trip to the Manchester suburbs see u take a weeks rest before Oxford hit town. Probably our two biggest home games in our first three fixtures at Kingsmeadow.

But it doesn’t finish there! Our next home games see us face Wrexham, and then Cambridge United! A bit annoying, as the new facilities for visiting supporters will not be available, so we can’t just throw them in the corner, we have to give them the whole of the Kingston Road End (although surely we won’t give Wrexham the whole end for a midweek game?).

I’m sure the second fixture after opening day that any of us that celebrate our birthdays during the season is which game takes place closest to our big day. This year I will be spending most of my 32nd birthday in (or travelling to)Barrow-in-Furness.

So what is the most unappetising fixture on the list. Well as I correctly predicted yesterday we are playing Hayes and Yeading over Xmas, so our December trip to Salisbury looks like the best (or worst) candidate, being a Tuesday in early December, but cup runs could see other games moved.

Of course what I have been writing about for the last two months or so hasn’t been football. I know what your thinking, blog based on a football club, I’m sure I’ve been reading quite a bit about football here recently? Well you’re wrong. All I have been writing about has been the prospect of us playing football. Next weekend will see some element of football that we can view ourselves come back into the equation, albeit only friendlies. By the time I get my internet sorted I can finally write about the game itself once more!

Until then, take care of yourselves.

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Fixtures Part One

Bloody hell Luton Town first up. That’ll sort the men from the boys.

But can I be the first to say why oh why oh why couldn’t we have gone to Oxford or Luton on the first day, at least 2000 tickets available to us so anyone who really wanted to go could have got in there early. Surely its better to have these games at the 11000 Kassam (or whatever they’re calling it these days) or 9000 Kenilworth Road (or whatever theyre calling it these days… its been too long) rather than, erm, 5000 TCRRFSKM (or whatever we’re ca… sorry). It makes sense. Why do you think we got Newport away last year… because they knew we would have four figures travelling and it was the only ground that could cope… plus it was miles away and they thought it might put a few people off. By that logic I suppose a trip to Gate Shed would have been ideal, but lets save that for our final day promotion 10th place party.

Anyway, more ‘comment’ later… I’ve got to pack my shit prior to the movement of the entire Anonymous Don empire a mile down the river to Surbiton tomorrow AM.

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