Tag Archives: Rushden & Diamonds

News Round-Up 11/6/11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rushden 1 AFC Wimbledon 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rushden & Diamonds v AFC Wimbledon – A Match Preview

r&dSadly I cannot make the game this evening… don’t worry, the short term financial problems are over, this is a more long term ‘run out of holiday’ issue. Ironically I booked a half day this afternoon ages ago but had to swap it as I have a doctors appointment on Friday and my employers would kick off if I insisted missing the entire morning to attend. Hopefully this loyalty will butter my boss up to allow me off for Salisbury, or dare I say any cup replays later in the year…

The irony is this preview is so late those travelling today probably won’t get a chance to read it. Never mind, I’ll keep it short. Apparently Rushden & Diamonds seem to be pretty matey with local rivals MK Dons… well that makes them only one rung away from the franchisers themselves. When you think about it, the two clubs suit each other. Both manufactured from nothing in the depths of an area of the country where football isn’t exactly in the blood, both operating in over-elaborate stadiums in front of crowds way under capacity.

I have heard that Nene Park is a fabulous ground to visit, well I have to say from the photos it looks like a shrunken Premier League stadium, which as we all know isn’t always a compliment. Behind the shiny plastic seats (of which there are far too many on display on a usual matchday) will be the usual steel and breeze block construction, with absolutely no attempt made to disguise it as anything else. Am I right?

It wouldn’t surprise me if a few franchise scumbags turn up tonight… of course this would be a huge mistake, although undoubtedly they would keep their shitty scarves well hidden until they are safely in the home end… The home ‘fans’ would probably love stirring it up too – again, perhaps an error as they still need to visit KM…

Anyway, on to predicted lineup:

Pullen

Conroy

Hussey

Lorraine

Johnson

Gregory

Adjei

Taylor

Moore

Kedwell

Montague

What?! No Sam Hatton? I think this is the right time for a well earned ‘rest’ for the lad, although ironically he seems to perform better away from home. If I am wrong and he does start it will either be at the expense of Adjei or Taylor. Mark my words, you’ll see. Jon Main has developed a virus of some kind, which is amazingly fortunate as it avoids the need to drop him. Montague is in line for his first start, expect Jay Conroy to get the nod at right back.

Last minute news coming in suggests Pullen and Johnson have overcome leg injuries, according to BBC Sport. So don’t be surprised if Brown and Inns line up then…

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