Tag Archives: Pre-Season Friendlies

Staines Town 1 AFC Wimbledon 5 12/7/11 Match Report

How about that for a snappy title? Sorry, but remember it’s pre-season for bloggers too…

In terms of pre-season entertainment (if that isn’t a phrase that screams ‘contradiction’), I’ll give last nights action at Wheatsheaf Park 3/5 – for the first half, at least. For some reason both sides changing sixteen odd players at once has an effect on the flow of a game… Ignoring the obvious question over whether our pre-season schedule will be long enough to prepare us for our first crack at the Football League, the fact there are currently only sixteen days until our first meaningful competitive action means it will at least be mercifully short for those PSF-haters among us.

As for the occasion, firstly, I misjudged both (i) the length of time it takes to walk to the ground from Staines Bus Station and (ii) just how long it takes the 216 to wind its way through Sunbury and Ashford, and consequently missed kick-off. Having said that, on entry to the ground five minutes in I had to double-check this was indeed a Dons first team fixture, so sparse was the ‘crowd’. This might have had something to do with our opponents popularity among Dons fans being in the basement, it almost certainly had quite a lot to do with our hosts decision to charge £10 entry (there being a certain psychology towards handing over a ten pound note for admission and not getting any change).

I’d only been in the ground for thirty seconds before further frustration set in, upon buying a copy of the programme, It’s Massive. It’s called ‘It’s Massive’, and it’s also massive. Those WFC circa late ’80’s A4 efforts normally aren’t a problem if there’s a bit of substance behind them, but weighing in at only eight pages it threatened to buckle in the breeze, a huge problem for those of us anal enough about our programme collections to worry it might get damaged…

I was still navigating my way around the ground when the Dons scored their first of the evening. The laughter should have told me it wasn’t actually Sam Hatton who grabbed the goal, as Staines PA guy erroneously announced, but having missed it completely I felt like someone walking in on the end of a joke… Unfortunately those I was meeting also missed the goal, partially my fault, they were watching me wandering in behind the opposite goal. So if anyone wants to contribute with a description of the first, feel free to use the comments section below…

It didn’t matter, as the second wasn’t long in coming. Chris Bush, who by the way looks as though he’s been saving money from rent by simply living in the gym since we saw him last (and he wasn’t exactly a victim of bigger boys kicking sand in his face back then either…), floated a perfectly weighted cross from the left for Lee Minshull to nod back into the opposite corner.

StainesHaving stopped sweating from my dash down Laleham Road, and with no further goal action for the time being, I got the chance to survey my surroundings. Wheatsheaf Park is one of the nicer local grounds, the main stand dominating, with the pitch looking perfect I could think of no finer place to watch a pre-season game. I earlier alluded to a grudge some Dons fans still hold, but to be honest from the congratulations offered in their programme to the friendliness of everyone connected to Staines I had the privilege of encountering on the night, the club has a bit of class about it… I’m glad at least at board and management level our two clubs have a decent relationship, I can think of no better club to send some of our young players to develop further, especially after last terms decent finish in the BSS (it’s just a shame they don’t need a goalkeeper…).

I was snapped out of it by goal action on the half hour mark. The Dons won a penalty, and after a bit of a playground squabble between would-be takers Sam Hatton and Jack Midson, the new boy won out and whipped his effort into the bottom left hand corner from a shortened run up.

Five minutes later after bagging his first in a Dons shirt, Midson was at it again, and the game was turning into a bit of a goalfest. This one was the best of the night, as Bush and Jolley combined down the left to tee up our new frontman for the easiest of finishes. The Dons should really have grabbed a few more, some of their football was delightful but they tended to overplay a little when in the last third. Ok, we can get away with it in pre-season, but without an obvious goalscorer going into the season we need goals from all over the field. Stevenage managed promotion last term despite none of their players managing double figures, which not only shows the importance of spreading the goals around the team, but what can be achieved if you do (although I’m not tipping us for a promotion push just yet!).

As you can imagine, the second half couldn’t live up to the first, especially once mass substitutions knocked the stuffing out of the game. Brendan Kiernan put the Dons five ahead on the hour mark guiding the ball into the bottom corner. Brendan had a decent game playing the Luke Moore role behind the front two, perhaps guilty of taking too many touches and losing possession a couple of times in the first half, but completely understandable from a young player looking to make an impression.

I haven’t got the time to write about all the trialists as I previously planned… Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz looked a handy back-up for Seb, although I’m basing that solely on his handling of backpasses, having little to do and being given no chance with Staines well struck consolation. Szymon Sidorowicz looked decent although obviously playing well within himself, but looked good enough technically to be in with a shout. Our resident Polish Don chatted to him on his way back to the dressing room, and it sounds as though it’s decision day for him very shortly…

The trialist who has attracted most attention has been Bas Savage, fair enough considering whoever is brought in now will effectively be considered by the majority of fans as ‘The Kedwell Replacement’. It’s fair to say Savage isn’t the sort of player you would naturally associate with the Dons playing style, in fact by comparison it was like watching an elephant trample through a field of tulips. Yet he didn’t look entirely out-of-place with the ball at his feet, and you wondered whether he would have made an impression had we played more to his strengths. Whether Savage will make it to Sutton on Saturday remains to be seen, with rumours other trialists are in the frame… We’ll know a little more this time next week, but by then we’ll need to, as the season will be all but upon us.

So to summarise, decent enough entertainment and personally an interesting first look at some of the new guys (I haven’t even mentioned Max Porter, although on this showing he looks part of the furniture already…). We aren’t going to enter the season in as strong a position as many of us thought post-Eastlands, and should rightly temper our ambitions accordingly. Yet we have enough talent in the squad to ensure next season shouldn’t be a struggle… we have plenty to look forward to.

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AFC Wimbledon v Fulham XI – Preview

Football is back, well at least for the couple of thousand of you who turn up at Kingsmeadow – I won’t be at the Fulham game thanks to a clash as one of my good friends decided to get married on Saturday. Fortunately he knows well enough to avoid the season proper, a mistake my own mother made a few years back… of all dates to pick the first day of the season was chosen…

Luckily the wedding was in the morning, the choice of reception location (The Albert by Kingston Hospital) was ideal for me to nip across to the Meadow and watch Shane Smeltz bang a brace in a 4-1 victory over Folkestone Invicta in what was our first game in the Ryman Premier. It was actually quite a warm afternoon packed into a three-sided Kingsmeadow (with the redevelopment of the Tempest End overrunning into the season), and I was sweating away in my suit before I had to run the last few hundred yards to make it in time for kick off, I can still remember the prickly heat and weird looks I got that afternoon. Never again…

I have a more relaxed attitude to pre-season. It’s not proper football, in reality paying £10 to stand and watch what is effectively a public training session is a bit of a rip off. This sort of occasion is the nicotine chewing gum equivalent of football, and for that reason I’m not going to cry too much about not being there… although having said that a small part of me is still wishing I could be there…

My pre-season kicks of on Tuesday at Staines, or failing that Saturday at Sutton. Nice of Fulham to bring a team down, we should see a slightly stronger side than the development squad they brought along two years ago, much like the Arsenal game last year it was a nice way to end pre-season, and was rare in being one of the few watchable friendly games I can remember. The Dons won that one 2-1 in a game played in the week before the season kicked off, which perhaps explained why both sides approached it in such a positive manner.

This time around, I suppose the only advice I can give is expect little from the game, anything more will be a bonus. I can remember a few appalling early pre-season games, last seasons encounter with Charlton being a case in point.. the Dons run out 2-0 winners on that occasion, fairly unsurprising considering Charlton fielded pretty much a team full of trialist (including one James Mulley…). Then there is the previous seasons 0-1 with Wycombe. And who can forget that classic goalless encounter at Croydon Athletic in 2008?

Fulham are of course in competitive action already, taking on NSI Runavik of the Faroe Islands in their Europa League qualifying game second leg. Fulham have a bit of recent history in this competition, something that ensures Martin Jol is going to take no risks with his line-up despite their 3-0 first leg advantage. I have to say I’m officially jealous of Fulham and their European excursions of recent years, something robbed of us after our FA Cup victory… and in these enlightened times no sign of Fulham hiring a team full of Manchester United youth teamers and switching the games to deserted stadiums fifty miles away, leading to hilarious additional European bans.

I’m still to this day a little miffed we didn’t take the Intertoto Cup a little more seriously. Admittedly Bursapor, Kosice and Charleroi were hardly European minnows, but a full strength side would have seen them off as well as giving themselves a good workout prior to our League season kicking off… lets face it, we were hardly going to win the League, but the squad was too strong for relegation, surely?

Sorry for the tangent, but sixteen years later it still riles me, despite the good memories the tournament provided… Beitar Jerusalem was a game so poor it gave the encounter an element of entertainment – two sides so bad neither could score, even spurning three open goals between them (including one memorable miss from Aiden Newhouse that made Nathan Elders own-save look respectable…).

So with Fulham’s European squad have already been given a workout, the visiting squad will be filled with those not selected who particularly need game time, which at least means we won’t be hammered by their big guns. But whoever does take the field should still be a few notches up on the Dons in terms of basic fitness and technical ability, pretty much ensuring the Dons players should spend the afternoon doing a lot of chasing, even accounting for the slower pace these games are normally played at.

For the Dons, it appears Sammy Moore is fit and ready for game time. TB has commented having Sammy back is like a new signing, I’m certainly guilty of forgetting how important he was for us during the first half of the season. Lets not forget there were rumours circulating a League club might come in for him in January, while we are fortunate that didn’t happen he does face a bit of a battle winning his place back in midfield, having seen Toks come on during the later stages, as well as the arrival of the aforementioned Mulley.

Rumour has it TB has been looking at a few trialist during training, including Bas Savage, rumoured to be on his way to Kingsmeadow last term. Savage has drawn criticism for not having the best goalscoring record, yet there is a reason there aren’t proven League Two goalscorers knocking about looking for a deal… if someone like Savage becomes available, I would expect TB to take a look and see what he can bring to the team. I’m sure we’ll see one or two other new faces, as is usually the case early in pre-season surprise trialist appearances seem to make up the majority of entertainment on the day…

As I won’t actually be at the game, there won’t be a match report as such, but I’ll try to cobble something together based on first hand reports. And for those of you who will be there, I sincerely hope my lack of optimism over the expected level of entertainment are proved wrong!

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News Round-Up 26/6/11 – Friendly Fires

The thing is, I already knew I would be missing the game on 9th July, whoever we were playing. One of my friends decided to get married that day, the knowledge that at kick off time I would be elsewhere, directing people to their seats, my first and last piece of stewarding for the foreseeable future…

So forgive me for being slightly underwhelmed at the news Fulham are coming to town. In all other respects it’s a decent first game. Obviously the commercial aspects of playing a Premier League side with a large local fanbase has been slightly undermined by Fulham’s Europa League campaign kicking off – if you were only going to watch one game in a week would you choose to pay a fiver to see your first team ease past a bunch of fishermen, or double that to see a ‘mix strength’ side face the Dons in what is effectively a training exercise?

The fact there are large pockets of Fulham fans in the area, added to the fact its our first game, means the attendance may trouble last seasons final warmup against the Arsenal kids. On the pitch, perhaps facing a full strength Fulham side wouldn’t have been entirely helpful, unless Seb requires practice at picking the ball out of the net four or five times. Fair enough, the first few games are all about fitness, and results are never that important, but there’s not too much to be learnt from playing a side that’s on a different planet to you – preseason is frustrating enough as it is, I mean it’s dressed up like football, there are eleven blokes on the field trying to knock the ball in the other teams goal, but comes nowhere near satisfying our urge for proper football to return.

I know of people who completely ignore preseason and I can understand that – if you were starving you wouldn’t hang around outside restaurants watching the diners tuck in, would you? I’m as guilty as forgetting that as the next man, even though I acknowledge it now I’ll still set myself up for a letdown prior to Sutton or whoever we are playing on the 16th.

This has been a strange, truncated summer, where through a combination of playoff euphoria, transfer speculation, and an earlier start to the season than we have been used to, the end of last season and the start of next seem to be merging together. The Dons warmup schedule seems a little lightweight as a consequence, effectively six games, with a seventh following shortly after the season begins (Tooting, and that’s if you count that weird League Cup pre-qualifier at Crawley as the start of the season…).

I’ve always wondered whether we needed to play so many games in years gone past, we may well find with six games we have reached the optimum… we would have played an extra game (as so many fellow League clubs will) had it not been for the aforementioned Crawley game. We don’t really find ourselves in a position where we need to field half a dozen trialists, we will probably see a couple in the opening games but there’s no need for us to go to the extents Charlton did last year, when they turned up a Kingsmeadow with a whole teams worth.

Elsewhere in the preseason schedule, the reserves are heading over to Guernsey to face the islands CCL side. Nine years ago the Ryman League turned our application down, with various doubters suggesting we were simply a protest club who would fade away before too long. Yet the CCL were only too glad to have us. The Guernsey experiment is slightly different to ours, being sponsor driven rather than fan power alone, yet the reasons behind forming the club seem to be based on a desire to improve the standard of football on the island rather than parachuting a club into the upper echelons of the pyramid simply for the sake of having a club.

There is obviously no guarantee the people of an island never previously considered a hotbed of football will turn out in numbers to support the new venture, it may take a few years and a few promotions before the club is even remotely viable – if it ever is. But the Guernsey people who have spent years preparing deserve their chance to test themselves in the pyramid – and once again it is the CCL who deserve credit for welcoming them onboard.

Admittedly, there is plenty in it for the CCL and its clubs – increased exposure and the chance for a free trip to Guernsey to play in front of what should be larger than normal CCL crowds. And it remains to be seen what will happen in the event of large-scale postponements. There may need to be a learning process, but the whole project is an interesting one that I’ll keep an eye on (perhaps even venture to one of their local games), and I’m glad our club could play a small part in their early development.

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News Round Up – 20/6/11

At last, the club feel they are in a position to reveal more information on pre-season games! I suppose we can’t blame the club, they have a policy of announcing fixtures only when contracts are received, mainly to avoid ‘games that never were’, such as the Leyton Orient game announced on their website… and subsequently cancelled. Having said that, couldn’t someone at the club have posted a short notice, along the lines of ‘we know you have all waited to hear news on pre-season games, but we can’t announce them yet and this is why…’?

With the first game (which was planned to be a home fixture) being delayed, the club were able to advise we would travel to a local rival on Tuesday 12th. Although unnamed at the time Sutton United have since announced the fixture on their website (whilst there I also noticed they are playing a two-legged pre-season fixture with Carshalton and it got me wondering whether we should arrange our own with Kingstonian… no?).

A League side has been lined up to replace Leyton Orient on the 16th, with Beckenham on the Tuesday after and a trip to Kevin Cooper II’s Bedfont Town. Saturday 23rd sees the visit of Watford, as previously planned, with Tooting to follow on 26th, before the Crawley game kicks things off. All in, with a couple of League sides (sorry… fellow League sides…) and a smattering of local non-league rivals, a decent enough preparation for our first season in the League. Under the circumstances we probably just about got away with it…

We are, I suppose, fortunate that the body of last seasons squad is still in place, so we don’t need vast amounts of game time to gel. I was going to describe TB’s summer squad sculpting as ‘cosmetic’, but that probably doesn’t apply in a situation where our best XI has effectively had its head chopped off with Kedwells bombshell. You can add one of the shoulders to that, now Kaid Mohamed has decided to take an offer closer to home and joined Cheltenham.

I have to say the loss of Mohamed hasn’t really hit me in the same way as Kedwell’s announcement did. I think he is talented, don’t get me wrong, but I think last season’s Wimbledon side really played to his strengths. It would have been nice to see whether he can kick on and finally make the breakthrough in League football, but it’s not to be. I get the impression finding a replacement for him might not be as difficult as rooting out the man to step into our former skippers boots…

As for Kedwell, well we might have held out hope that circumstance might lead to him staying but WHAK seems to have put paid to that thought. With news that there are ‘several’ clubs interested, there is a chance this might be resolved quicker than I feared, and for decent reward. The more money the club can squeeze out of Kedwell, the more funds available for his replacement… and lets not forget, Kedwell’s current contract wouldn’t exactly have been peanuts.

You may have seen in last weeks news update I linked to the blog Jack Midson is currently writing for The 72. Now he has signed for the Dons, Midson gives his side of the story in his latest blog. Interesting that Wrexham were able to offer a much better deal than we were, I can only imagine the money Andy Mangan must have been on, indeed how much Fleetwood must have offered to lure him there. No wonder Kedwell is so keen to get away. Nonetheless, I’m feeling pretty grateful that Midson came to us under the circumstances…

Finally, the ongoing blog makeover continues, with the features now in their own index for easy reference. Like the links section, this is an ongoing project… I’ve been looking around some of the other bloggers in League Two, and the bar has definitely been raised….

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News Round-Up – 1/6/11

There isn’t a hell of a lot of news about at the moment, largely because the squad and management team headed over to Las Vegas for a much-deserved promotion celebration (all except Gareth Gwillim, don’t worry Gareth, Vegas is no place for a married man…).
I do have one bit of genuine news though, and it looks as though the Dons will be heading back to Eden Park Avenue on 19th July to take on Beckenham, after the Kent Leaguers announced a ‘first team squad’ will be visiting. I’m looking forward to it, mainly because I missed the LSC tie earlier in the year and those who attended had only good words when reporting on the hosts.
The Beckenham game joins home fixtures with Leyton Orient (16th July) and Watford (23rd July), although lets remember PSF’s aren’t official until they’re announced, I think the worst that could happen with this one is the game gets downgraded to a reserve fixture by the time it ends up on the O/S…
Finally, in two weeks time we will know our Carling Cup opponents, with fixtures published a day later. It makes me wonder how we ever coped in the days when we had to wait until July to find out who we were playing… The countdown to the Football League starts here, and if it hasn’t sunk in yet, it soon will!
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Corinthian-Casuals 2 AFC Wimbledon 6

Well it didn’t rain, but I did get my legs eaten away by hordes of blood sucking insects. That’s the last time I wear shorts to an evening game, that’s for sure. My fault for having sweet blood I suppose, but makes me wonder why the players aren’t similarly affected. Maybe they are… maybe they just don’t moan about it as much as I do.

It was one of those really sweating evenings as well, by the time I made my way into the bar at King Georges it smelled like a rabbit hutch. Meaning a lot of sweaty Wombles had already passed through, that or they actually keep rabbits in there on non-matchdays. Terry made a note of praising the pitch before the game, which admittedly looked like a bowling green… albeit a bowling green that had a number of thick, deep trenches running down one side of it. I don’t want to exaggerate, but they must have been about four inches wide and as much deep – enough for someone to lose a foot in!

Which probably affected Terry’s starting lineup, starting Andre Blackman and keeping him out of the ruts. Not that this stopped Blackman getting injured… a late challenge from a Casuals man did for him on the half hour mark. As if this wasn’t frustrating enough, the ref refused to allow him to be treated on the field, and ended up ordering him off the pitch, from which he was destined not to return… At one stage I thought the referee might have sent him off, but with no Dons sub available until half time, they had to play out the remaining quarter-hour with ten men anyway…

As an aside, the referee was one of those little Hitler types, typical small man syndrome, whose efforts to ruin the game frustrated players and supporters alike. I’m all for the Respect campaign and that, but here’s hoping he enrages the wrong person to such an extent he gets his comeuppance later in the season…

Anyway, back to Blackman. He shuffled off the pitch, mumbling to himself, barely managing to acknowledge the presence of the Casuals substitutes in the corner asking about his wellbeing, before looking anywhere but at the Dons fans behind the goal applauding him on his way through… and fortunately for him Casuals have reduced the size of their pitch, meaning he didn’t have to get too close to the unwashed masses (who also happen to own the club he now plays for…) on his way past…

I also heard, albeit second-hand, about a Dons journo’s attempts to interview him after the game… and his monosyllabic responses. He certainly knows how to win popularity contests, that boy… It seems no matter how hard we search for something of interest in Blackman’s character, the more he comes across as a spoilt ex-Premier League starlet who thinks he’s too big for the Dons. I mean even the rumour that he squared up to DK probably isn’t true… and looking back it always seemed unlikely.

Having said all this, Andre Blackman can be the biggest knobhead on the planet for all I care. As long as he turns it on a Saturday afternoon (and occasional Tuesday evening) for the club I support… well I can overlook a certain amount of arrogance.

Plus there was another player in a Dons shirt whose name was on the tips of Wimbledon supporters tongues, and that man was… trialist Delano Sam-Yorke. Of course, most Dons fans had to double-check the team sheet or rely on Chinese whispers to work out who he was (leading to a couple of not entirely incorrect calls to ‘Go on, Sam’…). Sam-Yorke was to trouble the scorers later in the half, but his first moment of impact came after a turn of pace saw him clear of a slightly dozy Casuals defence before being upended by the keeper. Fellow trialist Reece Jones, a skinny, eager midfielder, was first to the ball and thus stroked home the resulting penalty.

The Dons second resulted from fantastic footwork from Steven Gregory, the ball came to him quicker than expected but he still passed the ball home, almost in slow motion but with perfect placement enough to beat the Casuals custodian. The second followed another sloppy moment at the back by Casuals, as Christian Jolley picked up the ball on the right side of the hosts area before cooly picking out Sam-Yorke to slot home.

Sam-Yorke’s second, which in turn led to Casuals response, was a bit strange. After a drop ball that was supposed to return possession to the hosts, the Dons trialist nipped in a little too soon for everyone’s liking, side-stepped an opponent and expertly found the bottom right corner with a curling effort. The fact that twenty-one blokes were shouting ‘No!’ at him didn’t seem to affect his concentration… not that I blame the kid either. Put yourself in his shoes – you have sixty minutes to make an impression, you’ve just scored… it would be a case of put the ball in the net and ask questions later, wouldn’t it?

The Dons allowed their hosts to walk one in, or rather slow jog it in… although to be honest they could have let them have three and it wouldn’t have made any more of a game of it at that stage. The second half… a bit of a let down after the all action performance of the first. Perhaps it was down to Casuals electing not to turn the floodlights on until it was more or less dark (and what did that save them? A couple of quid at most…). Whatever, it spurred them into action and Jack Turner was forced to make a couple of smart saves before his removal on the hour mark… at which point the gentlemen next to me leaned over and remarked what a great keeper he’s going to be when he’s 19, reminding me once again just what a jewel we could have in him. Blackman the first ex-Don of the AFC era in the Premier League? If he doesn’t make it, Jack will…

Lets face it, the last half hour must have seemed like a kick around for the rest of the squad having been put through a training session on the training pitch next door. Jon Main certainly enjoyed himself; receiving the ball with his back to goal, spinning and firing past the despairing keeper in one smooth motion – all this literally seconds after his introduction.

Casuals had a bit of pressure after that, pulling one back and forcing Sebb Brown (who looks like he spent the summer in the gym) to make a couple of saves. Repeated leg scratching and the knowledge that at that time of night the London-bound trains only leave every hour meant I made my excuses and left just as Jon Main capitalised on a defensive error to grab number six. Apparently. I was behind the stand at the time, so will never know. Perhaps we didn’t score a sixth, the fake cheer and celebration were all for my benefit, and right now several hundred people are laughing at me behind my back…

To summarise – a decent run out, especially from those eager to please to win first team places/contracts… Sam-Yorke looks like the sort of player I would like to see more of, and I’m glad we are looking at trialists still… I certainly hope there will be a degree of flexibility in terms of squad numbers. Eighteen is a small squad regardless of the number of players who can master multiple positions, and is the only aspect of this summers squad building that is worrying me. If Terry can shuffle the budget, and we can bring in an extra player in the three main areas of the pitch, then I for one will feel a lot more confident going into the season…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To sum up – the Dons are back!

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Charlton Athletic Preview 10.7.10

I’d love to be one of those super-cool fans who can spend the summer casually skipping through stories of new signings, pick up their season ticket, etc, and yet still resist all temptation to attend pre-season games. If I averaged over five pre-season games a year in my football watching life (and I’m fairly sure that’ll be about right…)  then I should have been to over a hundred by now… and the number of them that have featured any kind of entertainment can be counted on one hand. Of someone who has been involved in an accident involving a blender. Yet I never learn… I’m actually pissing my pants with excitement about tomorrow.  

It being a Friday today I treated myself to catching the train to work. I cant do it every day, it’ll bankrupt me for a start, so I will have to put up with the 24 mile round trip on the bicycle most days, which certainly gives me a new-found appreciation of the legends that are Velo and Blue… that and the fact that my saddle has normally split me to the naval by Thursday evening… So today I had the double treat of (1) not having one of my daily violent road rage exchanges with White Van Man while trying to traverse Copsem Lane, and (2) getting that fleeting glimpse of Kingsmeadow as the train rumbles through Berrylands. It’s still nowhere near as good as the thrill I got from spying the floodlights between Wimbledon and Earlsfield all those years ago, but it’ll do for now… 

 I didn’t make it down to Meet The Manager last night and haven’t had a chance to speak to anyone who was there, although its fair to say Rob produced a fairly comprehensive write-up over on SW19s,,, awww who am I kidding? I never used to turn up for that kind of thing when I lived ten minutes down the road… and bear in mind Mr Dunford is a professional journalist whereas I normally write this guff when I get a break from helping people fix their showers, I think it’s better to leave this kind of thing to him anyway…  

And as if to confirm the current part-time nature of this blog I won’t be going to Sandhurst tonight either. I’m still getting used to living in the middle of where I consider to be ‘the sticks’. I could have got a train from Deepdene station direct, but then I live three miles from Deepdene station and didn’t really fancy the cycle down a dark A25 at 11pm. Not that it wouldn’t be worth the trip, of course. I would recommend getting down to Bottom Meadow if you’re in the area tonight, and checking out the young players as I’m planning on doing later in pre-season (when we announce some more reserve friendlies of course…) . I think its fair to say the boys on trial in the squad tonight will more than likely be in the frame for a spot in the reserves rather than first team… otherwise Terry would have found room for them in one of the two Dons sides talking the field tomorrow – the one that starts the game, or the one that finishes it…  

So far I haven’t discussed our opponents, and it’s not as if we’re playing someone like Woking (with no due respect…). Charlton could, perhaps should, have been back in The Championship for next season. It’s no great loss to us of course, as the eventual playoff winners Millwall visit us next Friday, but to be honest, they’re a Championship club in everything but name… and there are kids of about 14 wandering around who think of Charlton more as a Premier League club fallen on hard times. Not that this is going to be a huge consolation to their supporters of course…  

There has already been a hell of a lot written about our current relationship with Charlton, and especially the two lads who will apparently join us for the season, and while I don’t want to go over the top on the implications, its worth keeping in mind Charlton’s status in the game. This is no ordinary League One side we are collaborating with.  

As for the game, what am I expecting? Well, Charlton have only been back in training for a week, and will themselves be fielding a team laced with trialists looking to impress. It’s a strange time, early pre-season, and for that reason the game certainly isn’t beyond Wimbledon… for what it’s worth. What would be nice to see would be a decent performance, signs of cohesion between the new signings – even if that’s just in terms of team spirit. A diamond or two to emerge from the half-dozen or so trialists would be a bonus, especially if they could fit into the budget in terms of their wage demands…  

And you will notice I haven’t mentioned the team too much, in fact I havent even mentioned most of them, and there was purpose to that. We need to hit the ground running in five weeks time at Southport, in what is a tough division. I would imagine outsiders would see it as slightly surreal in fact… But while certain other teams in our division spend their far Eastern windfalls with two-year ‘promotion-or-bust’ deadlines, we can get on with the job of building a team for the future on a strict budget. Because come next April, if Terry and the team can get this right, there might not be as big a gap between ourselves and those at the top of the table than some people think.  

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Back In Training…

Well the squad have been back in training for a while now. I was talking about me… even us bloggers need to get back in training after an extended summer break watching the World Cup (at home, on my sofa). In truth, I’ll give you the same excuse for not updating the blog as I gave my employers for not turning up at work for the last month… I had malaria. Yeah they laughed at the time, but it’s getting pretty popular now, isn’t it?

No seriously, I moved house again. This time I’m the other side of Dorking, so no more leisurely strolls down the road to Kingsmeadow for me next season. I’ll find out why those stay away far-flung fans from the early rounds of the Senior Cups really can’t be bothered to make the journey, oh yes…

While this World Cup hasn’t really set the hearts fluttering, I’ve found myself gaining a new-found appreciation of Uruguay. The first World Cup holders and two times winners might have crashed out to the Dutch yesterday, but with only 3.5 million inhabitants they must have catapulted themselves to the top of the man-for-man greatest football nation on Earth list…

Still, you can only take a month or so of these World festival of football gatherings… nice of them to overlap slightly with our pre-season campaign though? And don’t get me wrong, whats going on at our beloved AFC Wimbledon right now is history, happening right in front of our eyes. It’s no exaggeration to say this is THE most important pre-season in our history, with the obvious exception of that one year where we had to start the whole club up again from scratch…

We’re hearing all the right noises coming out of the club right now. Fitness levels are apparently ‘astonishing’. Our new signing from a League Two club is stunned by the high level of talent in the squad. But there are still risks associated with our current rebuilding process. There would be risks involved even if we were spunking hundreds of thousands on proven quality in the expectation of promotion this year or next… But even if Terry was a mind reader, even if he knew absolutely everything about his new signings (and I firmly believe his scouting methods are head and shoulders above most clubs at our level…), these are young players we are talking about. It would be a miracle if each and every of them settles at the club. There will be failures. I don’t think we can be in any doubt about that.

I’ll talk about some of the actual talent that has been brought in over the next few weeks (i.e. after I’ve seen them with my own eyes), but judging by recent reports (a South Korean under-21 international and a guy from the Glenn Hoddle Academy both on trial…) I think we have to face the very real possibility that we all merely exist only in the feverish imagination of a 13-year-old kid getting a little too carried away playing Football Manager…

I mean where else would you get a World Cup final like Holland v Spain???

Charlton preview tomorrow. The Dons are back, people…

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Getting the Arse…

So the mystery Premiership club has been named, and it turns out to be Arsenal. Which is probably the ideal outcome for us, considering (i) even their under-12’s play the sort of football that would drag any neutral out of their seat, and (ii) maybe Dons fans might turn out for a PSF in some numbers. Oh, and (iii) as their first team is over in Warsaw, a fair few Arsenal fans might prefer to see some stars of the future rather than watching that game on the internet. All of which adds up to… Ker-ching!

Naturally, we’ll be pretty bored of watching what are essentially training games by that stage, and the final Saturday before the season begins have seen some terrible spectacles played out in front of nobody (well… almost nobody. But the crowd at our Trevor Jones Memorial Trophy game against K’s on 11th August 2007 was so low we have been forced to withhold the actual attendance to this day on the O/S out of embarrassment…). It’ll make a change seeing some people there, having a good time, spending some money, and watching two sides who at least share the same philosophy of trying to play decent football (‘trying’ being the key word for us…). In fact, didn’t someone describe us as ‘The Arsenal of the Conference’ last season – obviously before our late season collapse?

But Arsenal’s second string is only the cherry on the icing of a particularly appealing cake. Our entire pre-season line-up is so decent looking that if you had asked me to pick a dream schedule I probably couldn’t have come up with better. Well, maybe I would have added a tour to somewhere warm and a home game against continental opposition (or just a rematch with the Isle of Man…). But the point is, it finally looks like it hasn’t been put together by someone who opened ‘The Big Book Of Non-League Clubs’, turned to the South-East section and started blindly pointing a needle about (so blindly that one year we found ourselves in Newport…).

Of course, it shouldn’t be ignored that pre-season is primarily aimed at getting the lads fit before the big kick-off. So, good luck to them with that…

I don’t mean to be flippant, but for a change I don’t think I’m going to suffer from pre-season syndrome this time around. Except, maybe… I feel sorry for the Non-League club we are visiting on 24th July, who were probably rubbing their hands in anticipation for the visit of the mighty Womble hoards and their bottomless wallets, only to find most of us will give it a miss in order to win brownie points off the missus save a little money for more important fixtures to come… And of course for Kingstonian, who in return for selling us a promising young player, get a pre-season game where we keep the gate receipts up to an agreed level, when they get paid a share of the money. To be honest, the agreed figure may as well be half a dozen for all the good it will do them – I can’t see there being a huge amount of interest from either fanbase.

The reason being, we host not only Arsenal Reserves/Youth, but also have strong League One sides coming from Millwall and Charlton (in reverse of that order… and as I write there is still a possibility that Millwall could be a Championship side by then). We also have an ultra-rare trip to another League One side in Exeter City. I know we had a trip to Brentford a few years back, but how many other non-league sides have been invited onto League grounds? Especially one that involves a round trip of some 360 miles… I know Yeading went up to Newcastle a while back, but that was exceptional…

I think I take more delight in the smaller steps we take than the bigger ones right now. Yes, we have now turned professional. But now League clubs want to play us, not for benevolent reasons but because it will play an important part in their own preparations. Our Under 13’s are champions of England. People in the game working higher up the divisions are looking at what’s going on at our club and liking what they see. This should be regarded as a huge complement to our management team, in fact to all of us. Because to progress higher than we are at the moment, we are going to need all the help we can get.

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