Tag Archives: Sam Hatton

The Anonymous Don’s Summer Squad Review Part II – Defence

Continuing my look at the current Dons squad, Terry Brown has built his Dons sides from the solid base of an experienced central defensive partnership, with youthful promise waiting in the wings…

CHRIS BUSH

Coming in on loan last season to cover the failed experiment that was Andre Blackman, Bush reminded us what a promising full back should be all about. Obviously raw, bursting with potential, showing no signs of being overawed by playing first team football… the only problem being he wasn’t actually ours. Fortunately we were able to work out a deal with Brentford to secure his services, over joining their development squad, this sort of deal just outlines the way forward for our club over the short and medium term.

Signings such as Bush point the way forward for the club in the short and medium term, unable to fill our squad with a balance of experience, we have to rely on guys just starting their careers. There are obvious negatives in relying on youth, but the benefit is we can at least attract the very best of those who feel they won’t find regular football at bigger clubs.

From Bush’s point of view, immediate first team opportunities are available either battling it out with Gareth Gwillim for the left back slot or providing cover in his prefered position in the centre. Bush will presumably have ambitions to play at a higher level at some point in his career, but for now the competition for places will do him no harm…

FRASER FRANKS

Given the opportunity, TB admitted he would happily have kept both Fraser and Ed Harris, but finances dictated it was always going to be one or the other. The shootout between the pair actually began in pre-season, where it looked as though it was a case only one would be offered a deal, though fortunately both were kept on at the time. The problem we had having two young defensive prospects was I found myself judging them against each other, rather on their own merits to the team.

Ultimately when Ed Harris found himself shipped out on loan the writing was on the wall, regardless of Fraser’s unfortunate injury towards the end of the season which will curtail his involvement in the early stages of this season, particularly when promotion was achieved. In Fraser we have not just another decent prospect but a player that shows intelligence on the field that belies his age.

No better example was shown when the Dons found themselves without a left back for the rearranged home game with Luton. I doubt Fraser had much experience of playing in this position (although he can and has filled in on the right), yet faced with one of the strongest and most experienced attacking forces in the division he held up extremely well.

Going into the new season, and once he gets his fitness back, Fraser will find himself behind the three more experienced centre halves in the squad, yet with a 46 game season approaching, injuries and suspensions will play a part in gaining plenty of experience. Come the end of the Dons first season back in the League, providing he progresses, he might even find himself challenging for a starting place on merit.

GARETH GWILLIM

Joining in January last year to provide cover for the left back role following the departure of Chris Bush. That we now have both of them at the club is a massive bonus in what was something of a problem position last term. As you would expect from a fullback who has spent the majority of his career in non-league football, Gwillim is a tough tackling, solid defender, something the Dons needed as they pushed towards the finish line.

On arrival some supporters, used to left backs such as Bush and Hussey before him, questioned whether he supported us enough going forward, but what we lost going forward Gwillim more than made up for defensively. Perhaps the best example of the battling qualities that will serve us well in League Two next year were shown by battling through the pain barrier against Fleetwood and in the final at Eastlands, after picking up a nasty knock in the first leg at Highbury.

Given a second chance at League football, you would expect Gwillim will find himself given more opportunities than with Dagenham in League One last term. Even more unusually, he held the distinction of being one of the few full-time footballers to hold down a job outside football, working as a contractor for London Underground overnight. This is a different solution to the problem that TB has mentioned that senior players have difficulty supporting a family on the money we pay, but probably not an example I would expect to see too many players follow…

SAM HATTON

Now the Dons longest-serving player, its easy to forget Sam is still so young. Originally arriving at the club as a midfielder, his switch to fullback was a bonus, and from Sam’s perspective has allowed him to go on and rack up more appearances in a Dons shirt than anyone else in the AFC era. Sam probably would have gone on to have a decent career in midfield outside the Football League, perhaps suffering the same problem Ricky Wellard had in stamping his influence on the team.

Yet a full back he now is, and a very good one at that. Drawing comparisons with Chris Hussey is how all AFCW fullbacks will be rated for the foreseeable future, and Sam is a slightly different sort of player. Still as keen to get forward but without the lightning pace, yet probably a better defender, either way he could go on to set the standard himself… now Kedwell and Gregory have departed, given a decent first season at this level we might find clubs in the higher division knocking our door down for Sam’s signature.

BRETT JOHNSON

Having said Sam Hatton might be a top transfer target for clubs next summer, I have to admit I have no idea what Brett Johnson was doing playing in the Conference for two seasons for us. By reaching the Football League he is back in what should be his natural environment, and he probably would have led the exodus of player such as Hatton and Brown along with the two that did leave us should we not have managed to win promotion this year.

Brett was probably the best defender outside the Football League last year, his calm, experienced performances at the back alongside Yakubu were the foundations on which our promotion campaign were built. Yet Brett is so accomplished you can often forget he’s there – as I did when compiling my captaincy poll. With Brett subsequently named vice captain for the season, there is a fair chance we could see him lead the side in Jamie Stuart’s absence. Captain or not, Brett is a key player and our performance next season could well depend on his form.

MAT MITCHEL-KING

I’ll keep it short as far as Mat is concerned as he is a player we know little of. The fact he contracted glandular fever so shortly after joining the club, coupled with his unfortunate injury record, suggest he’s not the luckiest guy in the world, but TB must rate him quite highly… I initially questioned the decision to sign him over Yakubu for next season, but with Brown confirming Yak couldn’t keep up with the training schedule a replacement was required. Here’s hoping mat is back training asap so we can see what he’s made of.

JAMIE STUART

The signing of Jamie during the January window was inspired. When battling for promotion, you can’t get enough leaders on the field, and Jamie Stuart is the sort of character who would at least attempt to run through a wall if asked. Not really too many surprises over the decision to name him as captain. His arrival gave us real strength in-depth defensively; yet this means Jamie will have a fight on his hands for the shirt.

Mat Mitchel-Kings unfortunate illness means he should start the season, but our defensive partnership will be aware any lapse in form could see them sitting on the sidelines. Yet Brown’s decision to name him as captain will probably put any short-term doubts over his first team place to rest for now.

 

 

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Gregory Gets England C Call… And Hatton Is On Standby!

I don’t know why but as soon as I saw this news article on the OS I immediately thought it may be two of the players that were released last month. It seems a very Wimbledon thing to do, to big up an a achievement of someone deemed not good enough for the club… so I was delighted to find out it was Steven Gregory who got the call into Paul Faircloughs 19-man squad for the International Trophy match against the Republic of Ireland in Waterford on 26th May.

The International Challenge Trophy pits Englands C team (basically a Non-League U23 team) against various other nations under 23 sides. Eire select players from their own domestic league, yet other nations field their Olympic sides or full strength selections. The Waterford game kicks off group B, with Estonia waiting in the wings. Games in other groups have already begun, with Italy (A) and Portugal (C) leading the way.

Gregory’s call-up comes off the back of an impressive debut season in a Dons shirt. He seemed to be one of the few young players who learned from their mistakes last term, and proved himself one of the better defensive midfielders in the division. Make no mistake, Steven Gregory really deserves this. Equally satisfying is the news that Sam Hatton was called up to the reserve list, and a huge thumbs up from Fairclough (who undoubtedly would have taken advice from others in the Non-League game before this selection). The squad contains a number of Oxford players, who still need to make it through the Play-Off final at Wembley unscathed, so there is hope for Sam yet to make the full squad.

Well done to the pair of them, and hard luck to Luke Moore who undoubtedly would have made at least the reserve list had his season not been ruined by injury.

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AFC Wimbledon 0 York City 1 – A Match Report

I think we were a little spoiled by our early home form. We got used to certain teams with huge budgets turning up at Kingsmeadow and not walking away with the three expected points. Well, except Oxford, but even they knew they had been in a fight. Then, at the start of October, bigger boys from The North started arriving, rolling up their sleeves and bullying us out of the game.

Yesterdays game drew comparisons with our previous two home games, except this week our potent strike force never even looked like they were going to bail us out of trouble. We only managed one shot on target all afternoon. In fact, I’m starting to get used to getting home on a Saturday evening feeling a bit down.

It seems as though the combination of players we have at the moment we can’t beat teams like York at home at the moment. It will be a different game when we travel up there in March, but right now it seems no matter how much of a fight they put up, our current crop were always going to be hanging on against a powerful side. It’s the difference between us challenging for a playoff place and spending the season in mid-table, which now looks likely.

So what was wrong with our lineup yesterday? Working from back to front, there were two clear weaknesses, our goalkeeper and our midfielder. I always thought Sebb Brown was a strange signing, yet over the course of the season when he was called upon to deputise for James Pullen he seemed to have drummed the simple errors out of his game. As a shot stopper he is competent, yet his distribution left a lot to be desired. Time and again he gave up possession with a series of kicks that found touch. I know conditions were poor, but a degree of concentration would have ensured the ball would arrive somewhere near its target.

Several players, as well as the manager, showed a great deal of frustration at this, and I’m not sure it would have been helped by the requirement of our entire team to pack out the area from corners and set pieces in order to protect his aerial deficiencies. This again gave up possession as it meant Wimbledon either had to hoof the ball clear, giving up the ball yet again, or try to play their way out of danger –  which lead to the only goal of the game.

I have mentioned in the past that we will have the same issues if we draft in young Jack Turner in terms of having to protect him, but honestly, why not? At least he is positive about coming for high balls. Plus he has a kick that would put any in this division to shame. I understand the theory that Sebb is being used to make the mistakes so Jack doesn’t have to at this early stage of his career, a first team start would be invaluable to his progress. Just send him out there, tell him there is no pressure on him and see whether he takes it. If it doesn’t work, bring Sebb back until Pullen recovers. If this really is a season of building experience, now we have a chance to give a start to a player who could well be our number one in a couple of years time.

The visitors physical nature showed up our midfield as the paperweight unit it is. To be fair to them, they didn’t give the ball away very much, but thats mainly down to them failing to win possession back very often. Plus when Sam Hatton turns out to be your midfield enforcer – well absolutely no disrespect to Sam intended, I though apart from the goal he had one of his better games and looked like the only midfielder capable of winning the ball in the air – but when you find yourself relying on him to win the ball back because no-one else will, then your going to have problems in this league.

It seems strange that Terry didn’t go for a tough midfielder, someone who is strong from box to box and isn’t going to lose out very much in a challenge. Someone who can lead the midfield, and who the younger players can play around and learn from. We saw this deficiency yesterday and it was like playing with a man short. While perhaps I have been one of the worst culprits in glossing over our midfield problems, it’s now the elephant in the room that we cannot avoid to ignore if we have any remaining ambition of putting together a run in the New Year.

The question is, will Terry take the opportunity to do this in January or will he allow the current bunch to lay out a season of comparative mediocrity? Although I have to point out, Steven Gregory is a really good player. You can see him playing at a higher level in future, and playing alongside the right mix of team mates he could be one of the men who help us out of the division. But Elliott Godfrey was lightweight. He tried really hard but he never got into the action. And Lewis Taylor just didn’t get into the game, mainly down to some fussy refereeing going against him.

On the subject of the referee, and moving to the game itself, he wasn’t going to let York use their strength to simply steamroller us. York started the better of the two sides without ever creating anything worth noting down, but I do remember Michael Rankine blasting well wide in the opening couple of minutes. Instead it was all about the antics of the York players, mainly their front two, and their baffling efforts to unsettle the Dons back line.

On another day Rankine would have been booked for an ugly early challenge on Lorraine, who seemed to be targeted by the visitors. It seemed a strange decision, as the big Dons defender kept his cool well – initially. It was Richard Brodie’s turn to have a go a few minutes later, where with the ball out of play he rushed towards Lorraine before barging into him, only to collapse onto the ground himself. It was actually one of the funniest comedy falls I’ve seen in a long while, and drew big laughs around the ground. Brodie naturally received a yellow, although the home crowd didn’t forget his intentions, booing him on the few occasions he found the ball at his feet.

Brodie and Rankine certainly look like a couple of beasts, Brodie himself could do with a mask and a chainsaw and I think he would have found his true vocation in the movies, whereas Rankine looks like the sort of person you see on real life documentaries, living on death row in Louisiana for eating babies. And it was Rankine who had the best chance of the first half, meeting a cross from the right only yards out but steering it well over the bar. If anything this outbreak of football was a mere interference to the more entertaining battle that was taking place.

Rankine was next in the book after a ‘collision’ with the unflustered Lorraine, and to the crowd’s delight Danny Parsloe beat him into the book for his excessive protests. The referee counted out the number of fouls Rankine had made, as usual pointing to nowhere near where these fouls took place but making his point. At this point Lorraine had the beating of his two rivals, and could have really pushed the pair of them later in the half had he not snapped himself, after another Rankine foul he pointed out that Rankine was treading a fine line a little too firmly and found himself in the book as well.

Overall an interesting but ultimately fruitless war ended from that point with all parties seeming to accept a draw. The fun and games were put aside as all parties put their minds firmly back on the football. Not that there was much taking place. York had the better of possession but they couldn’t turn it into chances. And in injury time of the first half Danny Kedwell managed what turned out to be Wimbledon’s only effort on target, taking down a ball on the left edge of the area before striking firmly towards the near post but easily smothered by the otherwise untested Michael Ingham.

Half time came as a relief with the hope that Terry might find those few magic words that could spark our misfiring team to life. A swooping flock of parakeets dived down in front of the Tempest and added a bit of colour to the occasion, but before anyone could ask whether they fancied displacing our problem pigeons they were gone. Still, they added a bit of colour to an otherwise drab afternoon…

The teams returned to the field and it quickly became apparent that it was the visitors who were most likely to take the game. Kicking towards their large but relatively quiet contingent of 400 or so in the KRE they seemed a step ahead of Wimbledon. Yet it took them a while to create anything, and the Dons had a couple of half chances. First a deep corner from the left was met by Lorraine, who nodded back into the six yard box. For a moment it seemed as though Brett Johnson was about to apply the finish from yards out but was beaten by a York head to turn it round for another flag kick. This corner was taken short and ultimately cleared, only as far as Steven Gregory, whose low effort was deflected into the air and just past the top left corner.

It must have woken York up for the need to find a goal of their own. A number of corners were cleared in desperation by the Dons defence, which even included Jon Main leaving very little choice but to hand possession back to York. Then a deep cross was met at the far post by Brodie, kept out via a desperate arm of Brown before the crossbar, the ball eventually hooked away to relative safety. I wrote in my notes that Wimbledon would be lucky to survive this spell, and like clockwork the goal came.

A couple of Dons defenders had chances to clear the ball before it fell to Sam Hatton in space on the right side of the Wimbledon box. With nothing ahead of him Hatton tried to dribble clear, only to be easily nudged off the ball for it to be returned at an angle for Rankine to meet with a firm header that gave Brown no chance. It was unfortunate for Hatton, who up to that point had been a man of the match contender thanks to his no-nonsense tackling and aerial ability, but it taught him that there are certain times when you can’t play football, and have to weigh up the percentages and knock it clear. If that means booting it into touch and regrouping then so be it. I get the impression they will have to learn th hard way a few more times this campaign before it finally sinks in…

With their backs against the walls a fight back looked unlikely, even with nearly half an hour of football to play. The referee had helped the Dons in the first half with his no-nonsense approach to infringements, but seemed to have taken a disliking to Lewis Taylor. Playing in his usual free role on the right, Taylor found himself tugged back time and again only to see the award go against him. I can’t be too unfair on the referee here, he did have a decent game when many others would have lost control, and maybe it was down to Taylor’s strange habit of waving his arms around like a man lost at sea whenever he gets involved in a footrace with an opposition player.

Gregory struck wide of the left post from distance with twenty-five minutes to go, yet Wimbledon only looked like they had half a chance of getting back on terms following the introduction of Luke Moore to replace Godfrey. He immediately looked the most impressive player on the pitch, picking up a ball on the left before finding the touch-line and prodding past Ingham across the six yard line, only to see Hatton beaten to the ball by a despairing York challenge.

Moore set about unsuccessfully trying to pick a hole through the York defense, one strong run from his own half was crudely halted by an unidentified York man on the edge of the box. With the ability to get everyone behind the ball it was no surprise that Hattons low free kick failed to beat the wall.

And that was pretty much it. Conroy made way for Montague as Terry Brown switched to 3-4-3 for the remaining few minutes, but this was to little effect. Really you had to question the decision to bring on Montague who never really looked like putting in a challenge capable of winning the ball, especially as Moore’s introduction had suggested perhaps bringing on Cumbers might have produced results while trying to play through York, and created space for Main and Kedwell.

Neither of the front two had a bad game, Kedwell forced back to defend all too often and Main isolated as his team mates dropped further and further. But to get the most of our talented front to we need to start creating chances for them. I think back to the number of chances Main wasted against Luton, Eastbourne and the like, and how he would just gobble up those kind of openings now he is back in form.

Perhaps the chances will come on Tuesday, and the Dons will regain a bit of confidence before a tough trip to Kidderminster next weekend. But before we can think of a comfortable win on Tuesday, we need to think about making sure of the win. Ebbsfleet have had their problems this season and are very much there for the taking, if Wimbledon feel the pressure too much to find a home performance we could find ourselves with all sorts of problems… and would a big win just paper over the cracks?

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Crawley Town 1 AFC Wimbledon 1 – A Match Report

It doesn’t matter who we play, FA Cup ties are nervous affairs for me. The legs go a bit wobbly, I get twitchy and in need of a constant nicotine fix… and I don’t really smoke that much these days. I’ve long since realised smoking isn’t as cool as it appears in the movies (especially when you spot a girl across a crowded dance floor, then get smoke in your eyes, recovering vision in your streaming eyes just in time to see said girl and usually most of her friends pointing and laughing at you…). Cigarettes are hard things to quit, yet in all other aspects of my life I have cut them out… except football.

To be fair, circumstance helped calm me down. A couple of pints in the pub beforehand where I had the pleasure of meeting a number of Dons fans that in fairness I should have done ages ago. I won’t name them for fear this report becomes as cliquey as an article in WUP(!), but they certainly helped me relax… at least momentarily.

I got to the ground by trudging through and underpass rendered a death trap thanks to slippery pavement and wet leaves… and maybe a poor choice of footwear on my part… Crawley, or at least the part around Broadfield Stadium, looks as soulless as you would expect from a new town. The stadium itself is the shit shaped cherry on the sewage cake. Built on the cheap, all breezeblocks and concrete… It reminds me of the purely functional Eastern Bloc stadiums of the 80’s.

Actually quite flattery pic of Broadfield Stadium

Actually quite flattery pic of Broadfield Stadium

The turnstiles themselves looked like a hand me down from the Premier League, like Farnborough’s Chelsea rejects. Yet upon passing through them, I handed over my fourteen quid, and in return I got… nothing. No ticket, no receipt, absolutely no record of entering the stadium. Even Combined Counties League sides managed to rustle up a roll of stubs to hand out. The true nature of Crawleys, erm, lack of professionalism would become apparent later in the afternoon.

Unfortunately the side that Crawley managed to put on the pitch didn’t match their chaotic administration. While the Dons had difficulty finding their feet in the first half, the hosts took advantage by taking control of the game. Just four minutes in big Jefferson Louis managed to meet a deep corner only to guide it straight into Pullen’s arms. A couple of minutes later a good Crawley move saw the ball switched quickly from right to left only for Danny Forrest, who was a real thorn in the Don’s side all afternoon, to hit his effort wide of the near post.

Forrest made no mistake with his next effort. Wimbledon had several efforts to clear without success, the ball finding its way to the Crawley number seven on the right corner of the six yard box. His fierce effort took a nick off of Alan Inns, flashing past Jamie Pullen into the net via the underside of the bar.

Surely this was the wakeup call the Dons needed? Ahhhmmm, no. They continued playing in a manner that involved a few misplaced passes before eventually someone gave the ball away. Either that or Alan Inns thumped it forward and Crawley regained possession slightly quicker than they normally would have done. Having said that, Crawley weren’t exactly turning the screw either. After a bright start they just seemed happy to contain the visitors, which they managed to do easily.

Ready for kickoff

Ready for kickoff

It seemed like the Dons players hadn’t realised this was an FA Cup game. The midfield was absent for long periods, the hapless Ricky Wellard watching the game bypass him, perhaps not looking as poor as he would normally due to slack performances all round. Sam Hatton was exceptional, putting in probably his best performance of the season albeit at fullback. His involvement in two second half incidents changed the game in Wimbledon’s favour.

Firstly, a rare Crawley counter attack found Louis bearing down on goal down the left flank. Brett Johnson seemed to have the situation covered until an unfortunate slip saw the goal open up for the frontman. His attempted shot was blocked for a corner by Hattons appearance from nowhere, a wonderful challenge that probably went a long way to keeping his side in the competition.

Then just before half time, a Wellard corner was easily cleared only as far as Hatton lurking on the left edge of the area. Easily beating the first man he put his foot through the ball, firing low into the back of the net. Now this was Wimbledon’s first shot on target, it probably would have drawn cheers from the large travelling support if it had cleared the roof of the terrace behind. Regaining parity at that key point gave renewed hope leading into the half time period.

The ten minute break at half time gave me time to experience the stadium’s smoking area (i.e. outside the stadium), and the matchday programme. As if Crawley haven’t been put through the ringer enough by me already. Oh, Red Devils, I haven’t even started yet! This programme… it had a really thin cover page that screws up and rips easily in your pocket. Plus the content… the usual shit. I actually think the same about most programmes but don’t care to mention it because most clubs don’t have big signs up saying MATCH PROGRAMME £2.50 which someone has attached a piece of paper to obscuring the £2.50 and scribbled £3 on…

The second half kicked off with our boys attacking the away end, and it was a different Wimbledon who took the game by the scruff of the neck. It took a while, and the hosts again created the first clear-cut opportunity, and unidentified Crawley man being denied brilliantly by Pullen at his near post. Ten minutes into the half, and Terry Brown had seen enough, removing the weak link in Wellard and replacing him with Kennedy Adjei.

The effect was immediate. Instead of Wellard lazily drifting across the field like a feather caught in the breeze, Adjei stamped his authority on the game by putting in challenges, winning the ball, passing with some level of accuracy and intelligence. Normal things that midfielders are expected to do. We can no longer afford to carry individuals, that must be the lesson we take into the rest of the season. How can we expect to have good runs in the Cup competitions if we effectively play with ten men for the majority of games?

Kedwell in control

Kedwell in control

With Taylor and Moore receiving the ball on either flank with increasing regularity, the fullbacks joining the attacks and Kedwell not required to drop back and help the midfield as much, Wimbledon started to look like the team that would go on to take the tie. A storming Kedwell run on the hour saw him carry the ball down the right flank before his low cross somehow evaded everyone at the near post, with no one on hand to tap into an empty net at the far.

Jon Main seems to have regained his form, and more importantly the confidence that he can play at a higher level. A high ball over the top was well watched by last seasons top scorer, protecting it from his marker as it bounced in the area. Keeping the ball at arms length from his man, he hit a shot from a tight angle that took Crawley keeper Rayner by surprise and unluckily bounced away off the near post.

Rayner had gone missing when Hattons strike hit the back of the net, a fact that Dons fans had noticed. Quite why a fellow Dons fan felt the need to remind him by throwing a paper cup at him I don’t know. I mean, a paper cup??? Quite what thats going to do I don’t know; apart from making you, and by extension all Dons fans, look like knobheads. Besides the fact it was only a paper cup, theres just no class in doing it. We are Wimbledon fans, we are a cut above the likes of Crawley. We were a bit fortunate that someone in the Crawley end threw something at Pullen towards the end, but there is no credit to be gained from sinking to their level.

The problem I had with Rayner was his beard. One of his team mates really needs to pull him to one side about it. Fair play, a few of us (myself included) like to grow a bit of face fur over the winter period, it keeps you warm on cold evenings and winter mornings. Rayner should perhaps be going down the ‘Viking’ road like me rather than the ‘History teacher’ look he is currently sporting… it just looks, well, it looks a bit rubbish.

In fact, shouldn’t we be encouraging our own players, especially Pullen, to grow beards (even just for the duration of our cup run?). Lets not forget, we once went on a decent cup run as a non-League club that made us famous up and down the land, and the bearded gentleman between the sticks made a bit of a name for himself… Plus Pullen would scare the life out of a few lightweight Football League centre forwards, who wouldn’t have come across an albino Yeti many times in their career.

Hatton tries to ignore the empty terraces...

Hatton tries to ignore the empty terraces...

The Dons next attack was down the left, and this time Luke Moore’s direct run caused problems. He made it to the bye-line before his attempted pull back bounced off a Crawley defender, narrowly sneaking past the near post. Another Dons break saw Lewis Taylor break down the right. Taylor really is a sight to behold, watching him fly down the flank, bamboozling defenders as he goes. An intelligent ball into Kedwell saw the big hitman just unable to get the ball from beneath his feet, a challenge from a Crawley man only seeing the ball as far as Main, whose effort at goal deflected straight back into Rayner’s hands.

Wimbledon’s big chance sadly relied on the referee to do the right thing and point to the spot, as Main burst into the Crawley area on the right, rounded his man only to be hauled down by his opponent. Now there was no doubt about what happened, it only relied on the referee blowing his whistle and pointing to the penalty spot. The guy had two hands around Main, denying him the chance to move towards goal or get a shot away. The referee saw it as clearly as we did… yet for some reason, he bottled it.

I have mentioned in the past how we need referees to do their job. We have skillful players who many defenders just cannot cope with. We have been awarded numerous penalties this season because of it, in fact we have been given seven. Yet on numerous occasions, referees have just bottled it. This has cost us points in the past, and could have cost us our place in the First Round.

I think referees are showing a great deal of paranoia following the high-profile beachball incident at the Stadium of Light last week. Yesterday our friendly man in black ran twenty yards, holding up the game in the process, in order to burst an inoffensive tiny yellow balloon that found its way into the Crawley penalty area. If only he had been more thorough at his job moments earlier, perhaps I wouldn’t have wasted two paragraphs moaning about his performance.

The Dons wouldn’t go on to get a further clear-cut chance in the game, although Kedwell again burst down the right, this time firing into the side netting. This infuriated Luke Moore in the centre, but to be fair he hadn’t managed to take up a decent position, so Keds was within his rights to go it alone.

Crawley went on to raise our nerves by forcing a few corners towards the end that were dealt with comfortably by Wimbledon. One scramble saw Pullen bundled over by a Crawley man, who found his way into the book (this was the incident that saw the object find its way from the Crawley end in Pullens general direction… again I think it was a bog roll or something, but why do it?).

Crawley also managed to raise our tempers at the final whistle. First they announced the crowd as a mere 2204, a figure that drew an incredulous response from both sets of fans. Now the relevance of not issuing tickets becomes clear. I’m not suggesting we go all St. Albans City and our directors moan about it in public- thats my job. I suggest we ask the FA to audit this figure. Whether it was an oversight by Crawley or not, I can’t be certain, but it has been widely agreed that the actual attendance was closer to 3000. This means that, purposely or not, Crawley Town have stolen several thousand pounds from our own club.

Only a cynic would suggest that an error in calculating the figures would more than make up for our appeal to the FA to reduce the admission price resulting in them losing a pound on every person entering the ground. And you have to wonder whether in that case, Crawley Town received all the money from their own turnstile operators. I heard talk that children were being charged £4, despite the ‘Kids for £1’ offer being heavily signposted… did this extra cash somehow disappear into turnstile operators pockets??? Purely by accident of course…

The final insult came on the final whistle, when the tannoy announcer reminded us all that the replay will be at ‘Kingstonian FCs ground’ on Tuesday night… Now thats just downright petty, in fact its bloody stupid. I dont think the PA guy at Crawley is thick, I think hes just an idiot, and such a provocative comment is actually a pretty dangerous comment from someone who is only supposed to be there for safety announcements…

Yes of course Kingsmeadow is home to Kingstonian FC, and it always will be. K’s have been my local side and second team for as long as I can remember. But the stadium is now owned and operated by AFC Wimbledon, and naturally I take great pride that the side I support have taken another local team in my home borough under their wing, hopefully leaving Kingstonian FC with a vastly improved stadium that they can use to build their own ambitions.

Of course. Crawley PA guy probably never thought that there was a pre-existing relationship between the two clubs. He’s probably one of those knobs who turns up on the K’s forum trying to stir up shit between the clubs. It ain’t going to work mate… I suppose we can only be thankful he didn’t mention Them…

So its back to the Meadow on Tuesday night, and very shortly we will know who the prize for the victor will be. Can I first appeal that should it be a tempting one, we don’t get over excited. As yesterday showed us, we still have a huge challenge awaiting us before we even think about that…

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AFC Wimbledon v Kidderminster Harriers – A Match Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predicted line up time…

Pullen

Hatton

Hussey

Lorraine/Inns

Johnson

Gregory

Adjei

Taylor

Moore

Kedwell

Montague

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

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Second Thoughts… Histon 26.9.09

First up, surprise and no surprise, Jon Main. Main was given the start again for Histon, and I made a comment that was something along the lines of ‘Main was more of a hinderance than a help’ or something like that. Now thats not strictly true, he didn’t spend his time on the pitch wandering round fouling opponents or tackling his own players

There was something I spotted in Jon Mains eyes after he sat down following being withdrawn from the Crawley game, he looked away at no-one in particular and raised his eyes for a split second. He wasn’t happy with his contribution, thats for sure. Has this become a complex for Main? The guy that could possibly steal his first team place has scored more times from open play in his four substitute appearances, including contributing a lot more than just goals, than Main has in the many starts he has made.

The problem is in his head, thats for sure. Is the best answer really to send him on loan to a BSS club? What will that tell him (and us for that matter)? That he can score goals in the BSS? We already know that. And by extention we know that there are goals in him in the division above. Perhaps not as prolific, but  he can score goals. Its not so much of a leap that a player that hit 34 last season now cannot score at all in the Conference.

On the contrary, his goals dried up in the new year, Jon Main is going through the sort of nightmare that all goalscorers have at some point in their careers. But hang on, it seems like whenever the subject turns to Jon Main, I seem to be writing the same old things. Its his confidence… proven goalscorer… needs a couple of goals… In effect I’m just making excuses for Main, in reality he shouldn’t be in the team right now. If Ross Montague is ready for it, we should see him start to build an potentially exciting relationship with Keds. I’m probably drifting into the grey area between the Histon review and the Rushden preview, not that it really matters but more on this tommorow.

Another player suffering this season is Sam Hatton. Once again, its the same old excuses for Sam, I said his only productive period on the field against Crawley was the time he spent at right back. This time round, he’s given the position as his own (as lets be fair, even his most keenest supporters, and I count myself as one, have known this was coming). Yet, he didn’t quite justify his selection. Great going forwards, but his positioning left a lot to be desired when paired up with a speedy forward on that side who had him for pace and beat him in the air on most occasions.

And I have to say, we got away with it really. It could have been a potentially tricky situation, but no harm was done. All we really learnt was that Hatton looks great going forward on that flank, but doesn’t have the pace of a Lewis Taylor who can launch quick counter attacks. So moving Taylor inside isn’t really an option.

Which leaves us with Sam’s best position, centre midfield, where he can make a nuisance of himself, pick up the pieces, pass it on quickly and hopefully get himself into a shooting opportunity now and then. When he does this its not a problem. When he falls down on his passing, or strength of tackling, people really notice, and that stigma continues with him for the next couple of games.

The problem is, if he is having a poor game every three games or so, as he seems to be right now, then the criticism builds momentum. He can give himself a break by simply putting in a couple of good shifts. Thats easier said than done though, and at the moment he seems to be keeping the shirt through a lack of anyone else capable of playing there. With Wellard just not ready yet, Adjei is probably his biggest threat as he seemed to play Sam’s position well on Saturday.

Another option would be to move Adjei back to the holding position and let Steven Gregory move forward. But Adjei has proved to be something of a liability in a position where if you give the ball away, you create trouble for your team. And Gregory has been an absolute revelation so far this season. Which brings me to…

Steven Gregory. I love watching him play. It all seems too easy for him, as if he can see two steps ahead of anyone else on the pitch. We have heard people mention that Hussey, Kedwell, even Luke Moore might be the subject of scouting visits, and maybe they were. But anyone who has been sent down would have done themselves no harm by putting a good word in for this unflappable midfielder.

A players performance cannot be measured on goals alone, especially for a position where getting forward and scoring goals isn’t really in the job description, but as its something that most of you would have seen, lets examine it as a microcosm of his footballing mentality. Now the ball bounced to Hatton fast, and if anything it was more ‘cop out’ than vision that saw him nod it Gregory’s way. In a beat Gregory had worked out not only that having a shot was his best option, but floating it in the corner would be the most efficient way of doing so.

Watch this goal again, on AFC Wimbledon TV. From my angle it looked good, but as you could tell from my description of it I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing it from the angle that did it most justice. I know I haven’t provided a link, except for the one on the right, but you should know where it is now. In fact you should all have it bookmarked…

For the rest of you, what you’ve been waiting for; Match Ratings!

Pullen    7

Hatton    6

Hussey    7

Adjei   7

Lorraine    7

Johnson    8

Gregory    8

Taylor    6

Kedwell    7

Main    5

Moore    7

SUBS

Inns    7

Duncan    6

Montague    6

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Second Thoughts… Crawley Town

As I mentioned in the main match report, I had two special visitors with me for this game – my dad and my cousin. So what did they think of it all? Well these two veterans of well over a thousand games each really enjoyed themselves. The speed of the game certainly surprised them, although that may have been down to the bench-side position they chose to stand. Normally their trips to Football League games see them situated well away from the playing surface, so ground level must have made a change.

And their thoughts on Wimbledon specifically? Well, of course they had nothing to measure us against (except for Crawley…) yet they were very impressed by the style that Terry has the team playing. I think we have to be realistic that our players cant always get the ball down and play it – there is a time and a place for desperate clearances or measured balls over the top – but the fact that two Dons novices turned up and immediately noticed it says quite a lot about our style. I wonder whether it was more noticable because of previous Dons teams having earned a reputation for direct football, or just because Crawley took every opportunity to knock the ball up field as quick as possible.

So have we found a couple of new supporters? Well, probably not. My cousin will attend a few games but has to juggle being a new dad with following his team, Ipswich Town. My dad is based in Doncaster these days, and will accompany me to a few northern away games, and spoke of perhaps alternating trips to see Rovers play with adopting a Non-League side closer to home, either Brian Little’s Gainsborough or Retford. Neither of whom play the ball about like the Dons do, I would imagine…

More to the point, both will be telling people about their visit on Tuesday night. About how Wimbledon play fast, exciting football, and how good it is for the money. Which perhaps shows the importance of bringing other football fans to our games. It’s not just them, it’s the good reports they will spread after their visit. Let’s remember that this wasn’t exactly a vintage Dons performance either… perhaps the club should introduce a ‘Bring a Mate’ night for an evening game in the future… Grays possibly?

Ultimately, those floaters not impressed by just the football are motivated by results. Which was why we had an impressive attendance (hopefully a benchmark for evening games…), as we have only lost two so far this campaign. However I would imagine Terry would take the view that we should have taken more than four points from these four games.

My view is, although I’m satisfied with the results, I can’t help but think that on the whole we have come closer to losing these games than winning them. Is our league form, specifically the small number in the ‘loss’ column, disguising something? Especially as it would have been more valuable to us to have won two and lost two… Well, again this is my personal opinion, but I find the never-say-die attitude the team showed against Tamworth and Ebbsfleet as a fantastic positive to have. These were two points that had gone at half time and on 90 minutes of the respective games. Yes, they couldn’t use it to turn Tuesday nights game into a win, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying.

So… the players. Well my first reaction to watching the highlights after writing my match report was – ‘Actually that challenge on Chris Hussey really darn looked like a stonewall penalty’. When I first started writing The Anonymous Don it was my intention to describe the games as accurately as possible to those who cannot make it. Now I can imagine some far flung Dons sitting there reading, then watching the highlights and thinking ‘Frickin’ Hull Anony Don, that was a nailed on spotter and make no mistake…’ All I can say is I say it like I see it. If you watch the incident again you can see the exaggeration in his fall, and even if you aren’t buying that I was describing what I saw from my angle, which was not a great deal of contact.

Now I’m a little pissed that I made a big deal of it, yet barely mentioned the two penalties we could have had. Big Fat Tug on Taylor in the box, and Great Big Shove on Gregory. I was half joking when I mentioned a conspiracy as the reason we weren’t awarded those two, which of course means I was half serious as well… I cannot believe we won’t get a penalty for the remainder of the season with the tricky forwards we have, but then again every referee should be aware of the amount of penalties we have received so far. And rightly or wrongly he will consider this when he makes his decision. Not consciously. For all but the strongest willed referee though it will play a part in their thought process.

I haven’t spoken about Sam Hatton’s performance yet. I did mention his switch to right back, and this got me thinking. My theory is this. Playing any other position apart from the centre of the park, you have points of reference. A touch-line to the side of you, a bye-line in front or behind. Strikers can look behind them aware they only need to know where the defender behind them and the goal is. Defenders look forward and see the game play out ahead of them. In theory full-back is one of the simplest positions on the park. You can see everything ahead of you and you always have a touch-line to the side of you to get your bearings.

So of course Sam Hatton is going to find it easy dropping to right back. He isn’t a natural, Conroy is far superior in terms of tackling and using his natural defensive mind to fill gaps in the middle, but Hatton can do a job. He can pass better than Garrard, and he looks much better going forwards (I love Luke Garrard, but I think his days at the club may be numbered… I dearly hope he can prove me wrong…). Compare this with the difficult job a midfielder has.

Even the most perceptive midfielder gets caught in possession occasionally. So a young midfielder will find himself getting robbed more often, right? But Adjei and Gregory don’t get dispossessed that often, and there is a reason for this too, they tend to sit off and pick up loose balls. Put them further upfield, as Stephen Gregory did on many occasion on Tuesday, and all of a sudden they don’t look so impressive.

Not satisfied with that answer? Ok, think about the performance of the Crawley central midfielders on Tuesday (or even better, watch the Histon midfielders tomorrow…). How many times did they receive the ball from a team mate behind them? Most of the time the ball bypassed them on the way forward, they only really got involved trying to win the ball back, or if the ball was won in the middle of the park.

Now think how many central midfielders have gone on to be crowd favourite at AFC Wimbledon. Bolger? A cake walk in a division he was way too good for. Gell? A combative midfielder who won the ball deep, passed easily, and got forward when it suited him. Now think about the likes of Rob Quinn… Jon-Barrie Bates…… Barry Moore……… Nick Roddis…………

All players who came to us with a huge reputation. All played under a manager who liked to see the ball knocked forward quickly (like just about every other sub Conference club), so should have been able to fit in well. Sam Hatton has earned his place in the Wimbledon midfield for over two years now. It would be a disgrace if as just a young player he found himself hounded out of the club by those too ignorant to remember their own playing days… if they actually bothered to step out for a club at all… So imagine how I would feel if that happened and I stood by and said nothing? The kid is only twenty-one years old. Midfielders should start playing their best football between 25-30 years old as an approximation. Hatton has improved year-on-year. There will be a few people eating their words in a couple of years time…

Yet Hatton had a poor game on Tuesday. I was disappointed with him. But thats going to happen, not just with him, but with all our young players. I get back from a game and read some Dons fans opinions, and quite frankly laugh at them. I hear people begging for a ‘big tall centre forward’ when its obvious we just aren’t going to play that way. We have our ball winning forward, and its Kedwell. Then you get so-called experts, people who actually get paid to translate what is going on on the pitch for the layman, claiming that we needed an experienced midfielder. Ignoring the lessons of the past, thats just damned ignorant. If we were looking to win the League this season, perhaps. But if you think this side has no chance of progressing into a title-winning side, after the start they have made…

Yes, one or two of the current side aren’t going to make it. Sam Hatton could be one of them. But he has shown enough promise to deserve to be given a chance. I’m glad we have a strong-willed manager who knows that success this season will be measured on a top half finish. Who will ignore the mindless minority. Terry Brown has a plan, and the vision to make it become a reality.

In reality, I’m less of a Hatton fan than a Terry Brown fan. I trust Brown is right about Sam because all of my instincts tell me he is. I sense that Browns success or failure rides on Hatton more than any other player. I have faith in our manager, perhaps for the first time in the AFC era. Eames sucked up to the right people but was never the right man for the job (and would have won us promotion first time out if he was…). Nicky Whatshisface was in the right place at the right time. I thought DA was great, but only as a figurehead, as a personality, he was right for AFC Wimbledon in all aspects except management of the club. But Brown? He’s a proper manager.

Pullen    6

Garrard    5

Hussey    8

Adjei    6

Lorraine    6

Johnson    7

Hatton    5

Taylor    5

Kedwell    8

Gregory    5

Moore    6

SUBS

Duncan    6

Montague    7

NB – For the two people who used these questions in a search engine to find their way to my blog;

Why Did Danny Kedwell Throw His Boots In The Crowd?

Kedwell has arranged a transfer to Oxford in January, but its a secret for now, don’t tell anyone! Or… maybe his boots had just split.

Why Won’t Terry Brown Pick Jon Main?

(Cough). No goals from open play despite being given plenty of chances…

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AFC Wimbledon 0 Cambridge United 0 – A Match Report

I made the mistake of reading the report Sam Elliott wrote in todays NLP before writing this. I normally avoid all reports of the game until I have completed mine, but as the NLP has a wider audience it has to cater for I thought, what the heck! And it was a good job I did, as it appears Sam had read my mind and gone for the ‘Two Leading Scorers Involved In Goalless Draw Shocker’ angle. So I best steer clear of that…

The other angle I was looking at that does deserve comment in this little introduction is the performance of our rookie backup keeper Sebb Brown. As those of you who stuck with me through pre-season will know, I had little faith in Brown during his trial period, and was amazed Terry signed him on a contract. Yet despite having three excellent goalkeepers at the club we did need someone to act as cover, as big Andy Little won’t be fit until December at the earliest and Brown T has made it clear that our promising reserve keeper Jack Turner needs another season or two in the reserves until he gets thrown in at the deep end.

Naturally I was worried about Brown S being trusted with his first start, although there was little choice in the decision. Turner really doesn’t have the experience, and Sebb was presumably signed on a short term contract until Little is back. I would imagine that Brown T saw him as the best available with the money he had left in the budget, after all there were much better keepers who would have been prepared to sit on our bench, albeit for a price…

cambridgeh 002So how did young Sebb get on? He must have done ok, as he kept a clean sheet right? I will answer this question at the end of this match report, which is coming up… well, now.

The visitors created the first opportunity of the game as Robbie Willmott found space in the left channel and fired over from twenty yards. The Dons responded with some crisp passing football which lead to Chris Hussey finding Ricky Wellard in space, and once the promising midfielder had got the ball from under his feet he blasted just over the top corner.

The game was only four minutes old at this stage, and seemed likely to pan out as the script had suggested. Yet an example of the brilliant defending that kept the Dons clean sheet in tact was about to occur. A Cambridge forward to a shot that was blocked, however Brown had reacted to the shot and found himself lying helpless on the floor. Another (unidentified) Cambridge player found the ball at his feet with the whole of the near post to aim at on the right side of the area, yet delayed slightly. As supporters in the John Smiths stand prepared to take a sharp intake of breathe as the ball hit the Dons net, Brett Johnson came out of nowhere to divert the effort away for a corner.

Johnson went on to claim the sponsors Man of the Match award, and rightly so despite some stiff competition from the rest of the back line. I have been very impressed with Johnson since his summer move from Brentford. He complements Paul Lorraine well, and although Lorraine may take the plaudits for being pretty much unbeatable both in the air and on the ground, Johnson is also a rock at the back yet combines this with an excellent football brain that puts him almost in optimum position to clear any danger with minimal fuss time and again.

Cambridge obviously came with a game plan that involved putting pressure on the young keeper, especially at set plays. Unfortunately this also involved a number of occasions when free-kicks were, erm, ‘earned’ by the visitors who had a number of players displaying great fondness for the Kingsmeadow turf. While these came in dangerous positions they were expertly dealt with by a Dons back line intent on protecting their vulnerable custodian.

There was nothing the Dons defence could do seventeen minutes into the half, however, as Brown attacked an overhit long ball before realising it would sail over his head. Danny Crow had the jump on both the retreating Brown and Paul Lorraine, yet after deciding to control the ball before slotting home from an angle he somehow contrived to allow Lorraine back in to challenge, not even winning a corner for his troubles.

cambridgeh 003For the second time in the game the Dons were able to breathe a sigh of relief after Cambridge fluffed their lines, yet both chances came with an element of luck rather than intensive Cambridge pressure (professionally won free kicks disregarded). The Dons showed they wouldn’t be allowing their playoff rivals the run of the game (lets face it, Oxford should ease away with their headstart…) with some consistent pressure for the remainder of the half.

Hussey in particular was causing Cambridge some concern down the left. Yet it was fellow survivor of the Ryman days Sam Hatton who created the next opportunity from this flank, whipping over a deep ball from a freekick that found Kedwell at the far post. Yet the Dons top scorer was given too much to do with a defender in close attendance and could only guide his header over the bar.

A moment later Luke Moore floated a dangerous looking ball towards Derek Duncan that was well intercepted by a Cambridge man and sent out for a corner. The eventual flag kick was part cleared only as far as Wellard, who scuffed a shot that trundled through a crowd of players before bobbling wide of the right post.

The Dons were really turning the screw on the visitors as just seconds later Luke Moore brilliantly blocked an attempted clearance allowing him a run on goal from the left touchline. Moore squared for Hatton waiting at the far post for a simple finish, yet somehow a Cambridge defender was on hand to turn the ball away.

Sam Hatton drifted a freekick right-of-centre wide of the left post later in the half, but it was still the diving ways of certain Cambridge players that was upsetting Terry Brown the most, at one point during injury time he yelled ‘Your just giving them the game!’ towards the official after yet another tame freekick was given the visitors way.

At half time we were treated to the spectacle of a Womble and a Moose firing penalties at each other. I couldn’t tell if it was a European Moose or one of the Eastern Moose that I’m used to seeing on my regular trips to New Hampshire, but either way I didn’t realise they were also natives of Cambridgeshire… I’ll be sure to check out the ‘Brake For Moose’ signs that undoubtedly surround the roads heading towards the Abbey Stadium. Having said that, back in June I wrote this…

As well as this they have something called Marvin The Moose as their mascot, who according to their website wears ‘oversized antlers and preposterously large boots’ – make sure they bring him to Kingsmeadow then as it sounds as though he could be someone Haydon could actually beat in a penalty shootout!

Whether Haydon did in fact win the shootout I don’t know, largely because, for the second game running, the John Smith Stand regulars were treated to a shower as the pitch watering hose thingy came off its attachment and sprayed water over a large group, shooting upwards like a geyser. Still, it washed away the lingering smell of piss… and its been a while since I had a shower myself…

Back on the pitch, Martin Ling must have emphasised the need to keep the pressure on young Brown. Whether the Cambridge players took this a little too literally or the instruction came from the manager himself we will never know, yet directly from kickoff the ball was rolled to Danny Crow who fired an effort that dropped out of the sky towards te top corner. Sebb looked like a small animal in the glare of a trucks headlights as he positioned himself under it, requiring a last minute lung to the right to tip it over, colliding with the post as he did so.

My first comment about this is why Crow required a rolling ball to strike rather than just hitting it from a dead position. Its been a few years since the rules have changed and I can’t think of anyone who as scored direct from a restart since then, so you would think Crow might have tried his luck at that record while trying. Surely its easier to hit a dead ball anyway?

cambridgeh 004Secondly it led to a spell of pressure by Cambridge straight from the off. A couple of corners had to be cleared before the Dons could get in the game. Perhaps if you had a couple of players who could consistently hit a ball on or around the crossbar it might not ba a bad way of starting a half. It certainly beats whacking the ball out for a throw as far into opposition territory as you can…

Wimbledon struck back as a Sam Hatton flick-on sent Jay Conroy behind on the right flank. Conroy laid an intelligent ball across the six yard box which was just missed by a sliding Luke Moore, who could only get his studs on the ball and divert it wide.

It took another ten minutes or so until we saw the games next chance as the chance ratio went quiet for a little while. It took Cambridge centre-half Wayne Hatswell to shake the game from its slumbers, as he moved forward and hit one from distance. Unfortunately for the visitors the ball ended up high in the Tempest, but it did spur the visitors into action to actually get the ball in the net a couple of minutes later.

Well, I say put the ball in the net, but the effort barely deserved the tag ‘disallowed goal’ as the linesman had his flag up well in advance, and the Dons defence seemed to have stopped such was the extent of the offside. Still, the referee seemed to run towards the half way line vaguely pointing towards the centre circle (or was it for a free kick to the Dons). Eventually he ran to his assistant, strangely doing so backwards and not looking at his colleague until he was next to him.

cambridgeh 008It was at this stage that experienced Dons watchers such as myself started to worry. Despite the obvious illegitimacy of the effort, it wouldn’t have been beyond belief that this particular refereewould award the goal. He eventually signalled for a free kick in a manner that suggested he was trying to let us know the delay wasn’t caused by him losing the plot, he just did things like this sloooowwwwwlyyyyyy.

He was back up to speed before too long, and the Dons management team were getting frustrated by Danny Kedwell. They were under the belief that the official would start giving fouls the Dons way sooner rather than later to redress the balance. The problem was the big forward wasn’t getting into positions to receive the ball in order to be fouled. It was a different Kedwell we saw in the second half, making us wonder whether someone had dropped something into his tea during the break.

It could have been substitute Ross Montgomery, the most likely player to replace Kedwell. Either way Terry Browns regular sixtieth minute substitution involved Wellard being removed for Lewis Taylor to add some width down the right. In the sixty-seventh minute came the dons hallelujah moment, a free-kick awarded in a good position on the right flank.

Hussey delivered an inswinger deep towards the far post. U’s keeper Danny Potter strayed towards the ball before deciding against it, and found himself out of position as Lorraine got round the back and nodded the ball over him. With no keeper between the sticks Johnson got up to meet the ball from six yards out but under pressure, and with players on the line, could only direct it over the bar.

It probably counted as Wimbledon’s best chance of the game so far, but more chances were to follow. Another Hussey free-kick found its way to Johnson who could only flick well over the bar. Yet Cambridge were creating as well, a U’s forward seemingly having a clear shot on goal until the King of Blocks himself, Jay Conroy, threw himself in front of the ball.

cambridgeh 009This lead to a bit of a scramble during which Cambridge’s Jai Reason did himself no favours, firstly by throwing himself unconvincingly to the floor, then chasing Derek Duncan after the Dons forward had tried to help him up (admittedly by yanking him by his shirt until it got stuck over Reasons head…) and pushing him with some force. Of course the referee had apparently seen none of this, despite cautioning Johnson and Moore early on for nothing challenges, this assault proved unworthy of the referee’s attention.

Brown T had finally seen enough on seventy-three minutes and decided to introduce Ross Montague. It was Danny Kedwell who found himself withdrawn after seeing himself increasingly cast as an onlooker as the game had progressed. Montague looks a similar type of target man to Kedwell, despite not looking as though he is as good in the air as the Dons top scorer he still gave the impression of being the sort of player who doesn’t mind receiving the ball with his back to goal, feeding team-mates.

He was in the action straight away launching a break, and while his shot was blocked the ball fell nicely for Lewis Taylor on the right, who could only drag his shot across goal and wide of the left post. Luke Moore was the next to come close, as he found space in the left side of the area but could only drill low straight at Potter.

Browns last throw of the dice saw Derek Duncan replaced by Jon Main, looking to exploit the tiring Cambridge defence. With five minutes to go Mains persistance won a corner on the right. Hussey hit his usual inswinger, met at the near post by Sam Hatton whose flicked header flew across the goal and drifted wide of the far post, with no Dons forward on hand to turn the ball in.

Then with about ten minutes to go Montague fed a well weighted ball into the path of Luke Moore, setting him free down the left. Moore’s first touch was heavy, giving Potter the chance to close him down, and in the end Moore had to stretch to reach the ball first, seeing it bobble off the keeper and roll away with Moore still on the deck following his effort.

The Dons final chance came after a scare in their own box, with Hatswell firing over. A free-kick was awarded on the left in prime Sam Hatton territory. Hatton had been the victim of some abuse from a guy standing near me who I identified early on. He had a cap on which I think was hiding ginger hair, a wispy beard and… looked like he had never kicked a ball in his life. So I was all ready to get right up in his face when the ball flew into the top corner (as has previously been discussed on a certain guest book, he pays his money to spout this crap, therefore I have the right as a paying customer to lay into him if I chose to…). 

Unfortunately Sam blazed over. Which kind of summed the game up. And in the very unlikely event that Sam reads this, I can’t really stand up for you when you have had a poor game. However, and bringing the report back to Sebb Brown who I thought looked out of his depth, while critical of the decision to sign him, at no stage did it strike me that it would be a good idea to shout abuse at him. I wasn’t screaming for Terry to haul him off and bring Turner on, as this would have obviously been the wrong decision to make regarding both players.

And thats my opinion. Sebb isn’t a Conference keeper at the moment. Not that it’s really relevant, as Jamie Pullen should be back for the Ebbsfleet game, and with Andy Little returning it could have been his last game for the club. But as for his performance yesterday… ignoring the error, which wasn’t punished, he did as well as he could have been expected to. He made a couple of routine saves, and despite not seeming confident enough to catch the ball he did come and punch a couple of crosses clear. In other words, behind our admittedly strong defence, he didn’t concede for a game and a half. And that if nothing else deserves at least a little credit.

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Second Thoughts… Tamworth 5.9.09

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, on to the ratings;

Pullen    5

Conroy    8

Hussey    6

Gregory    6

Inns    6

Johnson    6

Hatton    7

Adjei    6

Kedwell    8

Main    5

Moore    6

SUBS

Godfrey    6

Brown    6

Taylor    6

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

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

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AFC Wimbledon 1 Luton Town 1 – A Match Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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