Tag Archives: Nathan Elder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Conference Score – Saturday 16th January ’10

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

Mansfield    0 (0)

Attn: 3584

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

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

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

Dons match report to follow shortly…

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