Tag Archives: Steven Gregory


Around the time of our friendly last season against Arsenal reserves/youths, a few commentators, pointing out the similarity in playing styles between the two teams, labelled the Dons as ‘the Arsenal of the Conference’. It seems the Dons recent transfer policy has taken this a little too far, having also spent the summer selling off the cream of last seasons squad.

Had we forgotten our time in the top flight, where selling off talent effectively bankrolled our survival? I have to admit an element of personal naivety… I was under the impression we would have a price for each of our players, which would bear no resemblance to what the market or any common sense valuation might price them at – they were our players, if you want to take them, you have to pay our price.

If not, the player would stay, perhaps run down their contract, maybe go off and sulk, but either way would see out that contract. There would be an element of discretion if a young player was given the opportunity to improve themselves at a much higher level, or a new otherwise succesful signing just failed to settle. Most importantly, I presumed we would NEVER sell one of our players to a rival in our own division. How naive of me…

Ahh, the realities of football never fail to disturb and depress in equal measures. In reality we can’t have more than a general policy relating to outbound transfers. Lets give an example, imagine if Kedwell had been informed he wouldn’t be allowed to join a club in the same division, and presuming he was at least aware of some Gillingham interest before the end of last season – without wishing to question the guys professionalism, how would that have affected his motivation going into the playoffs (let alone stepping up to take the penalty that won us promotion)?

Unfortunately we are simply the victims of the clubs present circumstances. We find ourselves back in the Football League well ahead of schedule, and in no position to be anything more than divisional makeweights for a couple of seasons at least. From the players perspective, ignoring the emotional tug of playing for your local team, Kedwell is looking at his final chance of earning a bit of money out of his career, the sort of cash Wimbledon just cannot afford to pay at the moment.

Is this a decent deal for both teams? Sure there are risks involved in any transfer, but there are potential positives and negatives for both sides. The question Dons fans were asking was whether Kedwell would make the transition to scoring goals in League Two… I don’t believe it would have been too much of an issue had he stayed at the Dons. He wouldn’t have been as prolific as he was in the Conference, but depending on how the team performed he would have scored 10-15 goals and that would have been more than respectable.

Unquestionably League Two is a different level to the Conference. Yet the bottleneck two up-two down means while Oxford or Bristol Rovers have more quality than Luton or Fleetwood, and the likes of Barnet or Macclesfield are better teams than Hayes or Southport, those sides at the top of the Conference would significantly increase the standard of the division if overnight someone swapped them with those treading water at the bottom. In other words, this won’t be a different planet as far as leading lights in the division below are concerned, and Kedwell falls into that category.

A much bigger risk for Keds is the transfer itself. He might have looked isolated at times last season, he might have moaned about how much work he was required to do, but at its counter attacking best the Dons 4-3-3 was pretty much built around Kedwell. Will he fit at Gillingham, if he is employed in a traditional striking partnership will they click?

As far as a replacement for Kedwell is concerned, well there is a theory that such is the difficulty in bringing in a like for like replacement, then don’t waste resources trying. For now having a bit of money in the kitty and picking up a few alternative options such as Midson or Ademeno, perhaps taking a look at one or two on trial and not worrying too much might not be a bad position to be in. Browns recruitment, despite largely being positive, has at times been questioned, and I have suggested in the past he tended to get it right in the summer, more miss than hit during January.

For that reason I’ll amend my previous observation, Brown gets it right when he has the time to weigh up his options, only when under pressure has he disappointed (Hudson and Broughton examples from last season). Given that, we might find if he is prepared to wait, eventually the right man will come along, yet this largely depends on how the Dons start the season… while I don’t think any of us are seriously worried about relegation, but a few home defeats could see early supporter optimism slip away, our ambition should be to fill the ground (at least for Saturday matches), poor form could scupper that somewhat.

Brown has already said he won’t replace Gregory, and immediately I agree with this. We already have quality in midfield, but more importantly depth. It could be suggested Porters arrival had a lot do with a presumption someone might come in with a bid for him we couldn’t refuse, they would have been more than aware of the interest in him from the volume of scouts alone. Despite this, losing Gregory has further devalued the squad, and like Kedwell he is the sort of player you just don’t replace overnight.

Again, the club had their arms twisted a little on this one. Gregory might have stated he was happy at the club, and I believe him… he seems to have a decent amount of self belief, and would have been aware if this deal had broken down, there were other suitors watching him (and will continue to monitor him at Bournemouth), the deal would have happened eventually.

Unlike Kedwell this move was more about career progression. Despite our lightening progress so far, the AFC Wimbledon project has always been long-term. Bournemouth’s current status as a League One challenger can change and change quickly – just look at Swindon to see how a season of promise can unravel twelve months later. But even presuming they do stay there or there abouts, it’s going to take the Dons years to reach that point… and that won’t just be on the field progress – we need that new stadium, which even the most optimistic of projections suggests won’t be seen until Gregory reaches the autumn of his career.

More importantly, it’s a fantastic advert for our club. Brown has set us up as the sort of club at talented young player can put themselves in the shop window, we will ask for adequate compensation should a larger club come in, but beyond that we won’t stand in their way. Like I said the other day, if you start forcing people to see out their contract, besides never getting compensated for player departures we will have great difficulty getting promising players to sign them in the first place.

As for the compensation we did receive, the fees remain undisclosed, and beyond our natural voyeuristic desire to know the full ins and outs I don’t think there is a great deal of value in publicising them. I can certainly understand why Gillingham and Bournemouth wouldn’t want people to find out, at least immediately, a fee of any sort in the current climate puts pressure on a signing. For us it’s a little but different, we can guess the club will immediately have found the coffers boosted by the sum of six figures – for what its worth I would guess £50,000 for Kedwell and £70,000 for Gregory, with potential bonuses for the latter based on appearances and future Bournemouth success.

Either way, the last couple of weeks have been unsatisfactory as far as Dons fans are concerned. Two key players left, we find we have to contest a highly annoying League Cup playoff, which itself had a knock on effect on our preseason schedule… yet as a bare minimum our current squad is still decent, mid-table at best, but filled with youthful, technically proficient footballers, with the sort of pace that would scare anyone.

As promised I’ll be taking a closer look at the squad over the next week or so, before next Saturday sees the resumption of football at Kingsmeadow. In a months time, we would have fulfilled our first competitive fixture and be eyeing up the visit of Bristol Rovers, all of a sudden a miserable summer will be put in perspective.

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Another Quiet Monday Down At Kingsmeadow

Today was bound to be huge on the news front, as I’d planned a summer mini-feature that was due to be typed up and published tonight. As you might imagine, there isn’t normally enough day-to-day news to satisfy the Anonymous Don’s thirst for becoming the Dons… no wait, the Leagues most prolific bloggers, if I can’t be the best I have to be number one at something.

Having said that I am one of lifes perennial second place men, one of my fondest childhood memories was coming second in the school skipping race, and a playing career spent in the beer leagues resulted in a fair haul of runners-up medals. Ironically, I realised the other day whilst polishing them up on the ‘football shelf’ here at ADHQ that I had lost one of the few winners medals I had earned; the fact it bothered me little is probably better discussed with my therapist than such a public forum.

Anyway, my plans for an evenings writing thrown more and more into chaos every time I checked NewsNow. Until I realised this was all Bloggers Gold, for once I don’t have to worry about fabricating subject matter… I’m not even sure where to start on a day like today, so I’ve decided I’ll approach the news on a sliding scale, from those coming to those going, with those who have simply confirmed they are staying put filling the gap.

First up, Charles Ademeno has joined from Grimsby. An interesting one this, Ademeno seems to have suffered a little last season, suffering various injuries to the point that despite still having a year on his contract, the Marriners new management team basically seem to have told him if he could find a new club he could go. The O/S was quick to point out Mike Rayner had given him one of his particularly stringent medicals, for the second time in the space of a week a player with serious question marks over fitness has been cleared to sign… although the same article advised Ademeno’s contract ‘reflects his recent injury record’.

Lets face it, if Ademeno had spent last season banging the goals in he probably wouldn’t have looked twice in the general direction of Kingsmeadow… even if we could afford him. So what are the benefits of signing such a player? Ademeno has sat on the sidelines for much of the last season, and will be keen to get back to scoring goals. We might picture strikers as mercenaries, eager to top up their pay packet by any means possible. And that’s absolutely true in the vast majority of cases, lets not be in denial about that. Yet the only way they can boost their value is by scoring goals, something Ademeno didn’t do a lot of last season. In short, the reason we signed this undoubtedly talented but injury prone forward is because we got him on the cheap, with the club bearing little risk.

Our second new signing, albeit one returning after a loan spell last season, is Chris Bush. I think if I had told you our loanee left back from last season was going to sign for us, you would have presumed Gareth Gwillim was poised to put pen to paper. And to be fair, I thought Gwillim was just about the better of the two, perhaps you did too. Yet I felt a bit of a rush when I read he agreed to join permanently… Towards the end of his loan spell I highlighted the admittedly few errors Bush made in a match report, wondering whether we could justify playing a guy who was here to make mistakes, learn his trade, but to do so for the benefit of another club.

Yet now he’s ours, hopefully we can see the tangible results of such potential. We are slightly fortunate that Brentford have quality in his position blocking his way to the first team, the opportunity to play League football must have been a huge lure, to the point I don’t think he would be here now had we lost at Eastlands. Then again, you could probably say the same about half our first team squad…

I think most of us will sleep a little easier knowing we have at least one permanent left back in the squad, even if Bush was regarded as more of a centre back at Brentford. On the subject of the Bees, apparently there is no truth in the rumour their office has been besieged by requests for information regarding where their new Development squad will play their games next season from Dons fans eager to see our stars of the future…

Oh, and how strong would we be defensively if we could also sign Gwillim up?

James Mulley has been a Don but not been a Don for the past six months… if that makes sense.. What I mean is, his non-contract status meant however many interviews he gave saying how much he was enjoying himself at the club, you still had a sneaking suspicion he might take off at the first sign of a better offer, I’m glad we’ve finally tied him down, Mulley’s goals were vital last season, if it hadn’t been for a silly dismissal at Crawley he would have played a much bigger part in the run in. At Eastlands he looked our best player when he came on, although admittedly this was amidst tired players cramping up left, right and centre.

Possibly the biggest signing of the day was Seb Brown, I’m not going to say too much about Seb… remember that feature I spoke of earlier, the one coming later in the week. Well I’m sure it won’t ruin the surprise for you to find out now Seb features quite prominently in the first part. But, yes, once again, a massive signature. Seb proved last season he was the best goalkeeper outside the League, next time out he can prove he’s the best in the lower divisions. Quite honestly, the longer we keep hold of Seb the better…

Finally on the new signings front, Ryan Jackson converted his old contract into a spanking new Football League version. I think we are all looking forward to seeing how the younger, less experienced players such as Jackson cope with the step up, especially as Ryan didn’t quite manage to hold his place towards the end of the season. Still, his dynamic start to the campaign was enough to convince me he deserved a chance, it’s probably sink or swim this time around…

Moving on to the exit door, and fortunately that has remained firmly closed of late. Steven Gregory was the subject of a third, improved bid by Bournemouth, but with previous bids reported to be around the £40,000 mark I’m hoping a negative response will end their interest, Yet this might not be the end of the story, check out paragraph eleven of this report for a quote from Lee Bradbury, or for those of you unwilling to click on links and count into double figures… “I think he has got interest from other clubs as well so we are looking to secure his services as soon as possible before those other clubs try to snatch him.”.

And what of Keds, the man who last week seemed certain to be on his way imminently? Well there doesn’t seem to be too much interest outside of Gillingham, but questions relating to their desire to pay the Dons asking price, and from their support as to whether he is worth it. I can answer that one for them – No, I don’t think he is. I can’t understand why anyone in League Two would spend a six figure sum on anyone when there seems to be so much quality floating around for free. Thats a potential extra two grand a week on a free transfer signings salary. In this climate, only those guaranteed to bring goals are worth that money.

I’m wondering whether there is anyone prepared to match the Dons valuation, whether Keds might really start the season a Wimbledon player. Maybe with interest tailing off, Erik and Terry might offer a small increase in his already generous salary (by Wimbledon standards). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel the player should be rewarded for asking to leave, just a small morale boosting gesture to get his mind back to what, deep down, we all want to see… Kedwell leading the Dons line into League Two…

Aw, who am I kidding? As soon as Gillingham’s interest dies Evans will be on the phone and Kedwell will be a Crawley player at a knockdown price. Please let me be wrong…

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News Round-Up 24/6/11 – Gregory, Mitchel-King

It’s all been about Kedwell of late, especially here on the blog. Even my wife noticed the other day, whilst leaning over my shoulder as I was writing. ‘Sometimes I think you love Danny Kedwell more than you love me’, she pondered, but I don’t think ‘No, not any more I don’t’ was the answer she was looking for…

With Keds returning from his holiday I think we all half expected a bit of news to emerge today, and news was forthcoming in the form of a club statement… but this time relating to a Bournemouth bid for Steven Gregory. This was in response to an initial, shocking report on the Sky Sports website simply advising a bid has been made. Rumour has it the bid was £50,000, which won’t even buy you a Danny Kedwell, regardless a midfielder in his earlier twenties the team was effectively built around.

As the Anonymous Don prepared to go to press news filtered through Bournemouth had improved their initial bid, yet I’m not quite sure what difference this will have made unless it was significantly higher, a six-figure sum beginning with a ‘2’ might seem slightly more appealing…

Yet we await the clubs reaction to the second bid, the money will allow us to rebuild but will mean we head into the season with the spine of the team (Brown, Johnson, Gregory, Kedwell) torn in half. Then again, its easy to forget even the Kedwells and Gregorys of this world are easier to replace than first seems.. these being no Messis or Ronaldos or Ursells.

I’m sure this won’t be the last we’ve heard of the Gregory situation, even if it is just the club telling us he’s going nowhere, in the mean time the club still haven;t received an acceptable bid for Kedwell, despite actively seeking replacements. We now know a hotlist of seven strikers exists (I’m no tactical genius, but wouldn’t all those strikers unbalance our 4-3-3?…), and some of the evidence as to who these guys might be seems to be a little more solid than a twitter account of dubious authenticity…

Firstly, the BBC themselves suggested Nathan Elder might be on his way back to Kingsmeadow. Now I’m not sure how many of you would feel about that, I’m having mixed feelings myself. He had a great start, before being sucked into the tedious mundanity that was the end of that season, at a time no-one in the squad was really covering themselves with glory. Coupled with THAT miss (remember, the Anonymous Don rarely uses capitals…), its fair to say his signing might receive something of a mixed reception.

Another man documented in the media is Alan Connell of Grimsby. Now I know he isn’t as physically imposing as Kedwell, but what we lose primarily from Keds departure is someone who holds the ball up well and scores goals. Does Connell hold the ball up well? Yes. Does he score goals? Yes. Boxes ticked were it not for the fact whatever offer the Dons might have made was considered ‘derisory’ (ignoring for a second this is probably media guesswork – if the Dons know not how much they will receive for Kedwell, how can they yet put in a decent offer for a replacement?). Either way, Connell will probably end up costing too much in what is already a hot contest for his signature.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, we finally learnt today the replacement for the right-sided centre half with Football League experience who was released three weeks ago for fitness reasons and has since joined Newport, and welcome Mat Mitchel-King, another right-sided centre half with Football League experience, the exception here being Mat was, hang on, released from his last club over doubts over his fitness… On the face of it it seems like changing a ten pound note for, uhm, another ten pound note, we can only presume the difference here being he is just better. Either that or he’s cheaper. Same difference. Trust in Terry, guys, trust in Terry…

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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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400 Minutes

Sorry for the delay in writing. The Anonymous Don is technically closed for Christmas, yet as I forgot to post a message advising that plenty of you have been returning waiting for an update, perhaps visualising me dead in a ditch somewhere…

The Christmas close down has come early as I am off to the States for two weeks two days before the Crawley game, and I have to get quite a lot of things done in the meantime. So the blog will return, relaunched in the New Year, in the mean time I will endeavour to keep as up to date as possible with intermediate updates such as this.

Last time I wrote, if you can remember back that far, was a 0-1 home defeat to playoff rivals York, and since Michael Rankine’s sixty-third minute strike in that game young Sebastian Brown has gone approximately four hundred minutes without picking the ball out of his net (including various time added on at half/full-time, for those of you who came up with 387 minutes…).

After York I really felt we had run into just the right opponents at the right time. Ebbsfleet had shown some resilience against us earlier in the season, but any fears Dons fans might have had of an embarrassing home defeat would have been put aside after only minutes. We were never going to have trouble against a side that gifted us possession so freely, even at our worst we don’t give the ball away so easily from start to finish!

Despite this I feel we made the trip to Kidderminster more in hope than expectation, but our hosts seemed to have the sort of bad day we had for their visit a month previously. With Moore and Taylor buzzing around Kedwell, the trio of Hendry, Wellard and Gregory took hold of the midfield and ran the game. Hendry has been an inspired signing, the missing piece of the jigsaw almost, and any possibility of turning this arrangement into something more permanent will only have a positive effect on Wimbledon’s playoff chances.

Although Danny Kedwells expertly taken goal was enough to settle the game, the Dons missed further chances that could have ended the match as a contest much earlier than the final whistle. How Jon Main failed to head home from yards out I don’t know, especially with hundreds of Wimbledon supporters behind the goal trying to suck it in. Either way, Wimbledon played some good football, and it was a real pleasure to make the journey to watch such a performance.

With two wins under our belts, my football (or more accurately Wimbledon) head told me the trick to Salisbury would be a lot harder than the League table suggested. I couldn’t make the game due to work commitments but it seems in tough conditions this really could have been a banana skin. Congratulations to the boys for coming home with the points, and even bigger congratulations to the hundreds of Dons fans who made the trip, despite not being too far away it was just long enough a journey for me to be unable to juggle my own commitments, so well done those of you who did.

Which brings us to Gateshead. This was a side in form against a relatively unknown quantity, and Wimbledon put them away with minimal fuss. Steven Gregory looked as though the last thing he wanted to do was strike left footed as he skipped past two defenders, if anything this probably made him think a little more about how he hit the ball. If it was on his right foot we may have seen it fly over the bar but instead his effort dipped over the keeper, finding the net via the underside of the bar.

Still it wasn’t the most watchable of games, mainly down to the referees ability to blow his whistle whenever there was any danger of some football breaking out. He cancelled out Kedwells strike early in the second half after Kedwell had brushed off an attempted rugby tackle by the last man. Fortunately even he couldn’t miss the challenge that scythed down Elliott Godfrey on the hour, allowing Ricky Wellard to stroke a free kick around the wall into the corner.

An other good day at the office for Wimbledon, but where does this leave us? We have gone from mid-table to just two points off the playoffs and above contenders such as Luton and Kidderminster in little over a week. In these circumstances it’s a shame we have to break for cup games, but thats football I suppose. If we were facing Crawley in Tuesday instead of Ash, I would have felt we would have gone with confidence and taken home the points.

Instead we have a two-week wait, and will perhaps have to regain momentum depending on what sort of side is named for the Boreham Wood game next week. Crawley is a tricky place to go as we found out when we visited for our cup game, yet I think after our ten man victory in the replay we might just have sussed them out. Another clean sheet should mean another victory, as I listen in from afar…

After the York game I think I wasn’t the only one to believe we really needed a Chris Hussey replacement but the back four seems to have gelled. We now have four defenders who could play centre half if required, meaning our full backs aren’t exposed to high balls over the top. Even when Hatton fills in at right back we look solid against an aerial bombardment. Yet this hasn’t had an effect on how we pass the ball around, perhaps fortunate that we have players such as Judge and Johnson who are as comfortable with the ball at their feet as they are attacking it in the air. Sure if a Hussey-clone becomes available in January I say we sign him, but if the right player isn’t available we should stick with what we have – and that includes making more use of Derek Duncan in this position.

It seems like Terry Browns plan is coming together. At the beginning of the season we anticipated encounters with our opponents by highlighting their dangermen, so it is good to know that sides who play us are now looking beyond Kedwell and Main (brilliant though they are!) and highlighting the likes of Gregory, Moore, even Wellard as stand out performers.

Yes, despite our recent run of form we probably won’t have the consistency this year to make the playoffs. If we do we will come unstuck against the experience of a York or Stevenage over two legs, but even missing out completely will be ok so long as the progression and momentum that has been built up continues throughout the campaign.

I remember a few scoffers writing off the likes of Wellard, Gregory and of course Hatton at the start of the season. All of those players have shown a huge improvement. In fact even the more ‘mature’ players have improved their game. Plus as a unit they are coming together all the time, as the side start to exceed the value of its parts as even the best sides should.

Moving onto the two cup games, its good to hear that Terry Brown will be taking a strong side down to Ash on Tuesday. Despite no longer technically being a first team competition, the county cups will be more than useful for giving our fringe players a run-out. With the size of our squad and the poor quality of opposition our reserves face, going all the way in both of these competitions would see two of these fixtures a month until the end of the season.

Plus the Ash assistant manager is Matt Everard. Reason if any to get yourself down there on Tuesday night!

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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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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


Inns    7

Duncan    6

Montague    6

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Tamworth 2 AFC Wimbledon 2 – A Match Report

The Dons fantastic start has increased my expectations to such an extent that coming out of the ground yesterday, I couldn’t help feel slightly disappointed we hadn’t stolen the game in the second half. Yes, at half time I had given up hope of seeing any points, especially when I saw the two substitutions as the players came back out.

But we Dons have been spoilt by our team, as I have said before. And Tamworth really didn’t look anything special, which perhaps sums up our poor first half performance Plus some moronic MK chants from a section of the Tamworth support really made me want the lads to ruin their day with a winner.

It had started off, erm, cold. Tamworth is a grim looking place, with the stadium stuck on what looked like a piece of waste ground. They have done their very best to turn it into a Conference standard stadium though, aside from a horrendous slope from left to right (as seen from the away end). On the whole the locals were friendly (ignoring the MK stuff), yet a piece in their programme bemoaned the lack of locals turning up to watch the team, spending equivalent amounts of money watching games in local pubs.

The addition of a few hundred extra supporters and the money they will bring is probably all Tamworth need to stabilize as a Conference club. Not that they will have many problems staying up this season, especially after the start they have made this term.

The Dons fans travelled in their numbers once more, packing out the admittedly small away section and visitors seats, with a few more in the home section of the stand boosting numbers slightly above the 645 that officially entered. You wonder how Tamworth will cope when Luton arrive, with numbers in four figures rather than the high threes, yet the same could be said of a number of clubs – perhaps ourselves included.

Wimbledon fielded a slightly weakened starting lineup, with Luke Moore at the top of the diamond. No Derek Duncan meant Kenedy Adjei kept his place, moving to the left side of midfield, with Hatton and Gregory completing the quartet. It seems Steven Gregory had suffered a family bereavement during the week, for which the players wore black armbands in respect, and he showed a great deal of bravery stepping out for the team on an occasion when no Dons fans would have begrudged him spending time with his family instead.

Defensively, no Judge or Lorraine meant a first start this season for Alan Inns at centre half. As usual Jamie Pullen took his place between the sticks, yet unbeknown to us supporters was carrying an injury that he picked up during the warm-up, something that may have played a part in his erratic first half performance.

The players took the field to the strains of ‘Let Me Entertain You’, which was cringeworthy enough to provoke groans from Dons fans around me. That, and the overenthusiastic PA man, are a curse seemingly every club in provincial towns up and down the country seems to have fallen for, capped by the local village idiot parading round in full Tamworth kit and a lambs head (and since when have lambs taken to wearing keepers gloves?).

Wimbledon looked uncomfortable right from kickoff. Maybe it had something to do with the slope, or the changes made to the team, either way it didn’t look like it was going to be our day at all. Nick Wright created Tamworth’s first chance for himself on three minutes, cutting inside Alan Inns before guiding a tame effort into Pullens arms. It should have been a wake up call for the Dons, but just lead to more chaotic defending and misplaced passes.

Wright has been called up to the forthcoming England C squad along with team mate Alex Rodman, and it was Rodman that spurned the Lambs next chance, mishitting his right foot effort that still beat a scrambling Pullen, rolling just wide of his left post. I have to say, despite Rodman and Wright causing us problems today, if they are the England C benchmark then the likes of Luke Moore and even Sam Hatton should consider themselves unlucky not to have received a callup.

It seemed only a matter of time before either Wimbledon sorted themselves out defensively or Tamworth took advantage, and sadly it was the latter. A throughball was heading back to Pullen, and although he seemed in control of the situation, Jake Sheridan was chasing up to put pressure on the Dons keeper. Pullen seemed to have made his mind up to pick the ball up, yet at the last moment changed his mind and kicked it.

Maybe if Pullen hadn’t been thinking of his injury he might have realised the ball was on the edge of the area, and if he had just dropped on it and smothered then he could have made the best of a bad job. Instead his kick cannoned off Sheridan and flew in the bottom right corner of the net. On another day it would have flown out for a goalkick, but following our early season good fortune our luck seems to be turning after Oxford somehow escaped Kingsmeadow with the points last week.

Wimbledon finally created a chance on the quarter hour. Some persistent play by Jay Conroy saw him work a shooting opportunity from twenty-five yards, but his firmly hit strike flew straight into Tamworth keeper Danny Alcock’s arms. At the time, Conroy had just resumed full back duties after a spell at centre half after Alan Inns had to leave the field following a nasty gash to his head.

Unfortunately although Inns would gladly stick his head into a cement mixer if it meant there was a chance of defending the Dons goal, he isn’t made of stone (we probably forget that sometimes, and Inns himself definitely does…). A patched up Innsy returned to the field sporting a replacement or his bloodied shirt and a huge head bandage. And it only took one more commanding header to see that bandage slip off.

Really Inns should never have returned to the field. I would imagine his insistence to return was probably the reason he did, although he didn’t give the impression that he really knew where he was. There was always a danger he could have seen Tamworths red shirts, thought he was back playing for Trumpton and started challenging Dons players in the air. Innsy was eventually removed from the action, to a rousing reception from the Dons fans and good appreciation from the Tamworth supporters – despite the chanting later which was only from a minority of fans, it was good to see the majority of them know bravery from a footballer when they see it.

Lewis Taylor replaced him, with Sam Hatton moving back to fullback and Jay Conroy at centre half once more. Conroy really impressed me after the switch. He is a brilliant fullback, but has a defensive brain that he could probably apply to any defensive position. Knowing Jay can play this position must be a huge boost to Terry Brown, who seems to have run out of centre halves after having four at the start of the season.

Despite this setback things started to look up for the Dons, a short spell of pressure followed featuring our best chance of the half, a scuffed Kennedy Adjei strike seemed to be completely misjudged by Alcock who just watch it rebound of his right post and back into open play. Then on the half hour Gregory found space to fire a shot that seemed destined for the bottom left hand corner until Alcocks last minute intervention diverted it round the post.

Both sides played out the remainder of the half with some pretty shocking football. I’m not sure either side had any excuses, the Dons just couldn’t get their passing game going and were relying on long balls to Kedwell which may have been more effective if they were directed anywhere near the frontman. The players must have taken a small amount of hope from the fact their hosts were only slightly better than them, and you got the impression that if they could just get it together there still might be a way back into the game for them.

Not that it looked likely, especially following the use of both remaining substitutes during the interval. Pullen was removed from action having suffered a shocker (including being mocked by the Tamworth goalkeeping coach… obviously big Jamie wasn’t actually there to witness this, the guy being a coward and all…), being replaced by Sebb Brown.

Regular readers will know Browns performances in what should have been his trial period left me with little faith in the kid, and when he signed I promised to back him 100%… well I never expected him to actually get onto the pitch! Fortunately all Sebb had to do was the one thing he appeared quite good at during his trial period – kicking the ball clear.

Steven Gregory was also replaced by Elliott Godfrey. Gregory hadn’t actually had too bad a game. He gave the ball away a couple of times, but there probably wasn’t a Dons player on the pitch who hadn’t also. I can only imagine he had been affected by recent problems more than he thought he would.

Naturally with all the changes I saw the best case scenario as keeping the score down, and maybe notching a consolation goal that kept our hopes up until settling for a battling defeat. Yet, something clicked. Wimbledon immediately started looking dangerous. The ball found its way to Hatton on the right, who somehow worked space for a cross down by the corner flag. It was a delightful ball that found Danny Kedwell in plenty of space to guide his header across Alcock and into the far corner.

It certainly sparked the Dons fans into life (although the support was already pretty impressive, just perhaps a little resigned to our fate). The Dons were looking good but still in danger of being caught on the counter, Michael Blackwood striking straight at Brown. Then Wimbledon levelled the scores thanks to Kedwell again. A brilliant Hussey corner found Kedwell, who had lost his marker and had the easiest job of slamming his header into the back of the net.

I have to say I’m really proud for Danny Kedwell right now. When he joined last year he started with a flood of goals, before finding he was better at creating goals than scoring them. After that he seemed lose his scoring touch a bit, and he was never prolific at this level with Grays, so to see him second in the scoring charts right now is a pleasant surprise to us all. Maybe he won’t bang them away as frequently as he is now for the rest of the campaign, but by then perhaps our midfielders will discover their goalscoring touch…

If either side was going to win this game, Wimbledon now looked the more likely. Kennedy Adjei blazed an effort over seconds later. Then on the hour Sam Hatton found a shooting opportunity from a tight angle on the right, but couldn’t find the target. Elliott Godfrey found Lewis Taylor on the right who cut inside two defenders before lifting over and wide. Of course, perhaps it was better that none of these efforts made their way towards goal for fear a midfielder might actually score this season…

Luke Moore doesn’t count. He may have topped the diamond today, but his two strikes against Salisbury were both notched while supporting Kedwell up front. Today from his midfield position he couldn’t hit a milk producing animal with a medium sized stringed instrument. He lead an incisive break from his own half, and as the Tamworth defence backed away could only drag his shot from twenty yards wide of the left post.

Wimbledon had to stay switched on at the back, particularly to defend their inexperienced keeper. Jay Conroy in particular pulled of a couple of magnificent last gasp challenges to prevent Tamworth players a shot on goal. It was this type of danger that prevented the hosts from really threatening the Dons goal, although they did have a lot of possession as the game wore on.

Mostly it was wasted, the ball returned to a Dons player, and on a couple of occasions we saw a promising Wimbledon break halted early thanks to some quite cynical challenges. These drew yellow cards from the referee, but succeeded in negating the threat of these potential counter attacks.

Wimbledon have been awarded a few penalties already this season. The reason for this has been our speed of movement in the opposition penalty area, and outstanding close control confusing defenders, drawing fouls. While not all of those awarded this season have been clear cut, all of them were earned and deserved.

The problem is I don’t believe referees actually like giving penalties. Even the guy at Grays really didn’t want to give them, we got two because they were so obvious the linesmen were able to confirm what he had seen yet didn’t give the third – the most obvious of the lot. Perhaps the official who took charge of yesterdays games had noticed this statistic? He certainly didn’t seem to want to give us one at Tamworth.

Firstly, Elliott Godfrey burst into the box at pace, only to find himself dumped on the ground thanks to both of his legs being removed from under him. I have to say I wasn’t expecting a penalty to be given, it was borderline whether the offense was inside or outside of the area so thought the referee might give the benefit of the doubt and give a free kick. However he decided on this occasion he had seen a dive, and booked a clearly shocked Godfrey.

The second one was maybe more clear cut. Lewis Taylor weaved his way into the area only to be bundled over. This time the referee allowed play to continue. I’m not sure what he thought he saw, but he can’t have seen this as a Taylor dive as no yellow was forthcoming. So what then? Did Taylor just fall over? Or is body checking an opponent now a legal challenge, even when the ball is nowhere near?

It was around this time we heard those MK chants. As I said previously, not all Tamworth fans were a bad bunch, but still couldn’t they self police? After all, as I have said before if any Dons fan acts like a dick around me I don’t have a problem (kindly) bringing it up with them where necessary. The MK chants signal a lack of class, self respect even. It’s pure jealousy, and the majority of Tamworth fans don’t deserve being tarred with that particular brush.

While we are on the subject of Them by the way, it was great to see they threw away the lead at home to Huddersfield on Saturday. I’ve always liked Huddersfield, even more so as one of their supporters chose to come and support us rather than enter the Winkiedome. That’s another reason why Tamworth were ill advised taking the MK option (after all I’m sure there must be other, more original, chants that might hurt us equally badly…), that is that neutral eyes don’t look kindly on it either…

The game ultimately petered out in a serious of attacks and counter-attacks from both sides that threatened much and delivered little. Wimbledon failed to strike the killer blow when they had the momentum, but its was a fantastic effort to take a point from a game Tamworth didn’t deserve to lose due to their organisation and persistence in the first half.

Wimbledon now head into a free week, undoubtedly we shall drop a few places while the rest of the Conference have a full match week, and return to action against Cambridge next week looking to complete the visit of a trio of big hitters with a win against a side bang on form after destroying Forest Green 7-0 at the weekend.

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Grays Athletic 2 AFC Wimbledon 4 – A Match Report

We all have our reasons for hating the bloke who compiles the fixtures. As a club, we could have been given the August Bank Holiday Monday fixture anywhere. The Cathedral city of Salisbury, for example. Down the seaside at Eastbourne. Even the University towns of Oxford or Cambridge.

But no. On one of the only days in the year when you can guarantee good weather (along with Cup Final day), we ended up in Grays. In Essex. Ugh…

What a scorcher it was too. I made the mistake of wearing my five year old Dons tracksuit top, the reason being it has enough pockets to hold my camera, notebook, phone, and the like. I originally bought it because it looked like the kind of top that might be cool in the summer yet keep me warm in the winter. In reality it does neither. Thanks Tempest.

Sunny Grays...

Sunny Grays...

After wandering around the away section of The Rec, I noticed the stewards had opened up more seating. So I went and got myself a seat. Not only did I have a great view, but it was cool, much better than standing on what must have been hellish conditions on the terraces!

What a game it turned out to be. Right from the kick off both teams went for each other. Wimbledon created the first chance, the ball bouncing nicely for Wellard to deftly side-foot a volley towards Kedwell on the right side of the area, who beat two men in the air and nodded towards Jon Main, all alone in the centre. Mains diving header was too close to Grays keeper Preston Edwards who did well to push it round the post.

A couple of minutes later Grays created a really good chance of their own. George Beavan powered a header towards goal from a corner than Jamie Pullen somehow kept out. Straight up the other end, and Ricky Wellard was enjoying getting involved in a game from the start, striking a fierce effort that would have caused Edwards problems had it been a yard either side of him.

After some uncertain Wimbledon defending, the lively Daniel Charge found himself tight on the Dons touchline to the left of goal, cutting inside and blasting from an acute angle that Pullen once again did brilliantly to keep out of the net. The game was only nine minutes old, yet with better finishing it could have been 2-2.

Dons fans file in before the game

Dons fans file in before the game

It only took a minute for the deadlock to be broken. A Chris Hussey free kick from the right was curled in towards the near post, where Brett Johnson made no mistake from a header that beat Edwards for pace. Johnson this became the first Dons player to score who didn’t happen to be Main, Kedwell or Moore (i.e., a recognised striker…).

It was all about Husseys delivery, and he appears to be full of confidence right now. I’m not sure what he needs to do to work his way into Paul Fairclough’s England squad after missing out for the forthcoming Hungary game, although if he keeps up his current form I’m sure he will get the call sooner rather than later. It was Hussey who had the Dons next chance on 17 minutes, firing a low effort across goal and wide, just ahead of a number of forwards looking to divert it into the net.

A much better Dons chance came along a minute later. Luke Moore slipped in Jon Main who rounded Edwards, over running the ball to the left touchline. Managing to keep the ball in play he squared it across the face of goal to the only Dons player currently suffering worse luck than him, Elliott Godfrey, who somehow managed to squirm the ball wide of the far post.

Wimbledon stepped up the pressure, with another effort seconds later. A Hussey free kick bobbled around the area, and with Edwards looking lost, Main tried to head the ball over him. Unfortunately he beat not only the keeper but the bar as well. But Main wouldn’t have to wait long for a much better chance to fall his way.

The lads line up

The lads line up

Main once again rounded Edwards following an impressive through ball from Wellard, yet this time the goalkeeper pulled him down. Edwards received a yellow card for his trouble, and Jon Main received the ball on the spot twelve yards out for his. If Jon Main is having trouble putting the ball away in open play, he still looks extremely confident given the ball from the spot. His firmly struck effort to the right sent Edwards the wrong way, giving Wimbledon a two goal cushion.

Despite the game being only twenty minutes old, it was hard to imagine Grays finding a way back into the game. Surely the Dons defence would tighten up, allowing our attacking options to pick Grays off. Another Hussey free kick kept the pressure on, this time central and curled around the wall, sadly not having enough to take it inside the left hand post.

Yet apart from looking woeful defensively, I always felt they had a lot going for them when attacking. They really unsettled the Dons back line, and I can’t work out why. It could have been down to Adjei replacing Gregory in the holding midfield position – while Kennedy had a good game individually he did find himself getting caught out of position now and then, perhaps inviting pressure onto the back four.

Paul Lorraine is beaten in the air

Paul Lorraine is beaten in the air

It lead to Grays best chance of the game on 26 minutes, as Dons players backed away, Kenny Davis strode on, belting a 20 yard effort that beat Pullen. Fortunately for the Dons it slammed against the inside of the post, as the Grays fans celebrated it bounced along the line and away. The Grays supporters wouldn’t have to wait long to celebrate…

When Glenn Poole picked up the ball wide left, cut inside and drilled a low shot wide of Pullens near post, it looked as if the danger had passed. Unfortunately the referee noticed the ball had clipped a non existent Dons heel and awarded a corner. When this was not properly cleared the ball found its way back in to the box, where Sam Gaughran was on hand to firmly head past Pullen.

Two-one now, and time for Wimbledon to worry. Just moments later Poole was given too much time to shoot wide of the near post on the right side of the box. Plus all of a sudden Wimbledon were making all the wrong choices offensively, summed up by a lame Kenny Adjei effort that dribbled wide of the near post when he should have picked out a team mate in a better position. And giving away possession meant Grays could come again…

Wimbledon didn’t just see out the half, they created a couple of chances of their own, Kedwell knock down for Wellard to release a thunderous half volley that Edwards did well to take without causing himself an injury, and an Elliott Godfrey volley that was lifted over.

Derek Duncan looks to intercept

Derek Duncan looks to intercept

Terry Brown was obviously eager to get his side in at the break and give them a talking to, however if he thought it would tighten up the leaky defence he wouldn’t be proved right immediately. When a Grays cross wasn’t properly cleared, the ball was played in again for Danny Charge to lash into the roof of the net. Poor defending again by Wimbledon, unusually so for this season as Grays became the first team to score more than one in a game against the Dons.

Although Grays would remain a threat to Wimbledon’s goal, they didn’t create another chance as good as their earlier efforts, and slowly but surely the Dons took control. A Moore ball to Kedwell gave the big forward too much to do, only able to head over. Then Hussey wasted a free kick in a good position before Jon Main found himself in the clear only to arrow an effort from twenty yards just over and wide.

On any normal day those chances would be worthy of describing in greater detail, but the sheer volume of chances Wimbledon were creating made it difficult to even make a note of them all. On fifty-seven minutes Godfrey found Ricky Wellard on the left side of the Grays area, the midfielder turned his man and struck a shot that would probably gone wide, only for Kedwell to get a toe-end to it that just diverted it over the bar.

Danny Kedwell points the way

Danny Kedwell points the way

Wimbledon just didn’t stop, Hussey found room on the left, cut inside and drilled a shot that Edwards did well to get down to low to his right. Then finally on the hour came the moment that not only gave the Dons the lead, but probably won the game once and for all.

A huge ball over the top was misjudged by Grays defender Cameron Mawer, allowing Danny Kedwell to get goalside of him and gain control of the ball. Entering the area, and with Kedwell about to pull the trigger, Mawer seemed uncertain exactly what to do next. With no way of winning the ball cleanly, he panicked and settled on taking a chunk of Kedwell’s shirt. Kedwell could only stretch and prod the ball into Edwards arms, the referee didn’t look that interested until the linesman flagged, and after a little chat sent Mawer from the field.

Nothing controversial there, although anyone missing the incident itself may have wondered as several Grays players chose to question the decision. None of this was putting off Jon Main, who replicated his first half penalty to give the Dons the advantage. So despite not finding the net from open play all season, Main now found himself on a hat trick and with three goals to his name. Looking at the numbers, Mains one-in-two strike rate is good enough, but how desperately he wanted to score during his remaining time on the field…

Shortly after Wellard and Godfrey were replaced by Gregory and Hatton. With Adjei moving up the pitch the midfield looked a lot more solid once more. Stephen Gregory is the sort of player you can tell is quality when he is on the pitch, yet for some reason you only realise how much he contributes when he isn’t there. While I think that Kennedy Adjei is a hugely talented player, its fair to say we missed Gregorys positional sense, the way he picks up loose balls in our own half. I don’t think Adjei or Dwayne Lee quite managed that last season and we found ourselves under a lot of unnecessary pressure because of this.

A huge Pullen clearance reaches his opposite number

A huge Pullen clearance reaches his opposite number

Wimbledon continued their siege of the Grays goal on sixty-four minutes. Jon Main’s hat trick quest proved fruitless once more as he tried to turn and shoot. His effort was absolutely hopeless and looked as though it would pose more danger to the residents of the flats next to the pitch, until a Grays defender needlessly stuck out a leg, diverting it over the bar for a corner.

On the subject of those residents, I always wonder whether they send someone round to see if they want a programme? I always pondered that about Leyton Orient when they built flats in the corner of their ground. Plus I noticed only three of the balconies were in use, do those residents who don’t watch go round saying ‘Grays Athletic do play outside my back window, and I do close the curtains…’ Plus did we have a Searchlight intrusion of our own at Oxford? I heard a few chants from the Tempest about ‘Pikeys on the roof…’? I couldn’t see, I was in the John Smiths…

Anyway, back to the corner. It was played short to Hatton who hit a great cross towards the back stick, headed wide by Kedwell (or it could have been Johnson…). A minute later Mainy got a bit overexcited once more, firing in a shot shortly after being called for offside. He might have got away without a yellow card if the ball hadn’t ended up in the car park…

I always wonder what goes through referees minds when they have already given a couple of clear cut penalties to a side, how do they cope with further appeals? I think this guy made up his mind he wasn’t going to give Wimbledon another no matter what happened… and what happened was Luke Moore broke into the box, and a Grays player swept his legs from under him. The referee realised his linesman wasn’t going to help him out this time so waved away Wimbledon appeals.

Elliott Godfrey looks to break down the defence

Elliott Godfrey looks to break down the defence

He didn’t book Moore, but the Dons striker clearly took this as some kind of insult, as if the referee had made a statement about his honesty, as he was still discussing the intricacies with the official a good two minutes later. By the way, for the bloke sitting behind me in the stands benefit, it is ok for players to talk to the referee! He wasn’t swearing at him, he was talking in a reasonable manner to the official, who had absolutely no problem answering him. Lets calm down shall we?

That was perhaps the only down point to sitting in the stand (as well as loss of atmosphere… but I’m used to that… I have a John Smiths season ticket…). A couple of Dons fans reacted to any loss of possession, indeed any pass that went anywhere except forward, in the same manner I would if I walked into my living room one morning and found a bear, a shark and a crocodile waiting for me. Wimbledon were pretty comfortable at this stage, and I know anything can happen in a game of football, but I didn’t really need a high pitched commentary consisting of advice such as ‘Get rid of it!’, Pass it forwards!’, and the all time classic ‘I wish they wouldn’t doooo that!’.

Seriously, it was like sitting in front of a group of people who had never seen a game of football before but were warned they would be kneecapped after the match if Wimbledon didn’t win… Its almost enough to put me off ever sitting to watch a game again! Strank Standers, are you all like this? I don’t know how some of them get through a game, never mind a season without heart failure, or having to call the nurse to give them their bedtime medicine and tuck them up in their special jacket…

Sam Hatton in action

Sam Hatton in action

Hmmm. Jon Main found himself dragged off once more, replaced by Derek Duncan, yet this seventy-first minute substitution was bookended by a couple of Sam Hatton chances. Firstly, he drilled a strike from twenty yards into the keepers arms (have our midfielders been practicing shooting by aiming at a cone placed in the middle of a goal I wonder?), before finding himself scuffing across goal with his left foot when through on goal wide right.

Wimbledon’s most fluent move of the game came with fifteen minutes to play. Hussey and Duncan combined down the left to find Luke Moore in space in the middle, who played a quick give-and-go with Sam Hatton. Unfortunately his shot was deflected wide, but the Dons were bringing some of their best football to the table. Another chance went by the wayside, as Hussey decided to ignore Kedwell in the middle after another run down the left, poking across goal and just wide with the outside of his left foot.

That’s not to say Grays had given up on an equaliser. Despite being down to ten men, one of the reasons Wimbledon had so much to operate in the Grays half of the field is Grays were still going for it at the other end. They hadn’t created anything worthy of note (otherwise I would have noted it…) but the danger was any slip by a Dons defender could be catastrophic, and every Wimbledon chance that went begging seemed to emphasise this a little more.

It was at this stage that Brett Johnson decided to drop a short back-pass to Jamie Pullen. While the worriers behind me shrieked in a frequency thankfully only audible to dogs, and presumably wet their man nappies, Pullen didn’t panic. In fact he didn’t even clear it, he took it round his man and calmly passed it away… although I have to say even my heart jumped just a little when he did that!

After netting the winner, Danny K heads for the toilets...

After netting the winner, Danny K heads for the toilets...

It was almost comical heading into the last five minutes, as Wimbledon missed more really decent chances than some sides get in an entire game. Moore broke down the right, and picked out Kennedy Adjei. Adjei fluffed his big chance by trying to allow the ball to cross his body and side-foot in with his left, only for the last Grays defender to get a challenge in that made Kennedy trip over the ball, lying prostrate as Edwards picked up the pieces.

Finally Kedwell, had a couple of chances from a tight angle right of goal, both teed up by Steven Gregory. The first slid just wide of the left post, whereas finally, finally, the second effort nestled in the bottom corner. No more than Kedwell deserved for his performance, no more than the Dons deserved, but maybe a little earlier next time please Dons?

For those of you keeping count of all the Dons chances, well done. And for those who didn’t, it was twenty-eight chances (eleven on target, seventeen off target, stat fans…), so congratulations for getting this far and reliving those twenty-four missed opportunities. Its definitely no exaggeration to say it could have finished 9-3…

So the Dons move on to a tricky but winnable trip to Tamworth. Its not within the realms of impossibility that we could take seven points from the next three fixtures, and if we do that… we have twenty points from our opening ten games. A target a well known football manager said last season was a good springboard for a promotion push…

(For more photos, see http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=100914&id=73526524635&l=7ffb260ff1)

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AFC Wimbledon 2 Fulham XI 1 – A Match Report

This game wasn’t really men against boys… perhaps boys and some men against boys. Although Fulham keeper Pascal Zuberbuhler, with experience of World Cups and Euro Championships under his belt, probably pushed the average up a few years. However, Zubi was the only recognizable name on the field… at least as far as Fulham were concerned.

Wimbledon had two men who were in the last chance saloon as far as a contract is concerned. Big Callum Willock actually turned up for training on Monday, so was rewarded with an hour tonight to show what he can do. Now we all know what I think about Sebb Brown, who was due for a half hour turnout, so in a completely one off feature called SebbWatch I decided to record his every involvement in the game. I had the impression that Brown was as an accident prone goalkeeper who had somehow bumbled through three trial appearances without making an error that lead to a goal being conceded.

ffc 005But Terry, and presumably his goalkeeping adviser (Still Paul Priddy?) seemed content enough to give him another chance tonight, and it only required an accident free evenings work to gain a contract via the back door. Perhaps there was something I was missing, something he had shown plenty of in training but for some reason just hadn’t translated itself during his match appearances?

Of course an Anonymous Don match report wouldn’t be complete without an update on my own personal circumstances, and I won’t disappoint. To be honest it had been a completely normal day with the exception of lunch time when I somehow snapped the filling on my front tooth while biting into a plum at lunch. A quick call to the dentist revealed that not only do I have to spend £££’s getting it fixed, but I have to wait until the 6th August until I can get it done.

The problem is, I am currently growing out my wavy hair, and it doesn’t always work. Plus I’m going through a ‘chubby phase’. Then there’s my beloved beard. And I wear clothes that look like they have been picked out at random from Oxfam (but are surprisingly expensive…). None of these on their own would be a problem, but the combination of all of them together, plus the chipped tooth, makes me look… how can I put this? Well, on a bad day I could probably pass for a Bromley fan…

The local midges know a pikey when they see one, and made a bee-line for me as soon as I entered the ground, before somehow realising their mistake and leaving me alone. Either that or I mistook flykiller spray for my deodorant… They did spend a great deal of time hovering in the lights in front of the John Smith Stand, almost hypnotising really, if there hadn’t been a quite decent football game going on beyond them.

Midfield Action

Midfield Action

Fulham’s young side were eager to keep the ball on the deck and play to their strengths, whereas Wimbledon played a hybrid game to begin with, working the ball through midfield with some excellent movement, but also looking to make use of Willock’s aerial ability. With an excellent touch for a big guy, Willocks was to be a thorn in Fulham’s side from the off. He was to create the Dons first opening on ten minutes, some nifty footwork taking him inside a defender before a left footed finish which was tame at best, flying harmlessly into Zuberbuhlers arms.

At this stage the young Fulham were already on the back foot, and only fashioned their first chance of sorts approximately fifteen minutes in when their number 6 (sorry, no names again tonight for the Fulham boys…) let fly from distance, curling harmlessly well over the bar. If Fulham thought this was a rangefinder that would help lever them back in the game, they were mistaken only minutes later as Wimbledon won a corner on the right. Chris Hussey trotted over to take, and fed the ball to Sam Hatton, level with the edge of the area. The change of angle fooled Fulham, and Hatton curled an immaculate ball onto Willock’s head, the big man rising unchallenged to bury his header.

So far so good. It served for a mini-fightback from Fulham, their striker no. 9 found himself clear in the box, blinked, and found Jamie Pullen on top of him. The Dons stopper spread himself well to deny the panic stricken finish that followed. A couple of minutes later their number 10 found himself clear in the right channel, only to direct his shot wide at the near post. Willock showed his aerial strength to divert a clearance into the path of Lewis Taylor, twenty yards out and to the right of goal. His early shot was a good idea and firmly hit, but sadly too close to the Fulham keeper who saved easily. Still a great move and a great example of the strength Willock has, although interestingly he sometimes appeared to hold a lot back in challenges – perhaps as a response to referees calling fouls against him in the past? As far as niggly fouls were concerned in this game, it was Fulham who were giving them away left, right and centre – and usually down to their inability to control Willock.

After some more delightful football from the Dons, Taylor was released down the right and his tantalizing cross just evaded Ricky Wellard who seemed destined to score and was millimetres away from making contact. The Dons defence had remained alert throughout this spell of dominance, until of all people Ben Judge tried to do a little too much and the Fulham 10 robbed him, before racing away down the right channel. Pullen was alert to this, and shut the chance down, again forcing a striker into snatching at an effort which he easily blocked.

Willock scores... causing some blurring...

Willock scores... causing some blurring...

Yet more build up work from that man Willock created a chance for Gregory, who struck a low shot from twenty yards that took a deflection before nestling in the left corner. I haven’t really said much about Gregory, however that’s probably more for what he hasn’t done than what he has. Holding the midfield together has been a problem position for us, even last season where Adjei seemed likely to win the spot by default, despite gifting the ball to the opposition far too often. Steven Gregory made that mistake against Wycombe, but has quietly got on with his job since then, winning the ball, moving it on without fuss, and generally allowing more attacking minded colleagues to get on with it.

An incident just before half time, led to a Fulham chance, a cross came over which was volleyed into the ground by their 14, before the number 10 stabbed a foot at it sending the ball just over. What was important was how the chance came about. A ball into the right corner was a 50/50 between Hussey and his man, in fact Chris even looked a slight favourite if he had just attacked the ball and sent it safely into the stands. He seemed reluctant to do so, instead trying to get himself into a position to block the cross (which at best would have given them a corner). Hussy’s decision making in defensive situations draw attention away from his obvious talent going forward.

It was certainly something I dwelt upon at half-time, as I decided where to stand in the second half. I realised it would be my last chance to stand on the Tempest for a good while, so took up position there. I only lasted five minutes, there wasn’t the same atmosphere you get on a matchday anyway, and I needed my elevated position at the newly raised rear of the John Smith terrace to view the game. Its strange how I always seem to be drawn to that position, ironically a similar view to the one I had when I first watched a Wimbledon team at Plough Lane.

Similar to the first, Willock had the first decent chance of the second half, getting under another great Hatton cross and heading over. This was the only chance in a scrappy opening spell before the substitution. Among those heading off was Willock, given a few cheers of encouragement by some supporters. I had so much hope when planning this article. Would Willock prove to be a decent shout for a start against Luton? How did he compare with Kedwell? Sadly, this was to be the last we will see of him in a Dons shirt… for now at least. I really think Terry knew he had no chance of getting Callum for the money he was offering.

Put yourself in Willocks shoes. He is a career footballer. So he would have been used to earning a certain amount of money. If you had a job on, say, £800 per week, and your bills were £600 p/w, would you be satisfied to take a job for £500 p/w which offered no guarantee of long term security? Or would you take your chances and hold out for a deal that will pay your bills? I have complete sympathy with Willock, in fact judging by Terry’s insistence on him training on Monday and playing last night, perhaps he is entitled to feel we have fucked him around a little bit?

The lads prepare for kick off (in other words a filler as none of the other photos came out on my crappy camera...)

The lads prepare for kick off (in other words a filler as none of the other photos came out on my crappy camera...)

At the same time Jamie Pullen made way for another triallist in a make or break situation. You will have read that I have already lost patience with Sebb Brown. I considered him a goalkeeper capable of making mistakes, albeit one who hadn’t actually made one yet. This being Browns fourth pre-season appearance, I began to doubt myself in the run-up to the game, so decided to pay special attention to him for the last half hour, or SebbWatch as I decided to call it. I’ll come to that at the end of the report…

Main and Kedwell took some time to get into their stride, despite the creative influence of both Godfrey and Moore behind them. If anything they were a bit too keen, Main especially finding himself caught offside all too often. It was only twenty minutes before the end that the Dons really looked like adding to their lead. Two identical chances came in quick succession. Crosses from the right were headed away but only to Dons players lurking on the edge of the box. Firstly Main caught his volley sweetly but sent the ball wide of the left post. Next Gregory hit one firm and low but pretty close to Zuberbuhler, still the fierceness caused the Swiss keeper to require two attempts at collecting .

Into the last ten minutes, and Kedwell drew plaudits including from hi manager after a single touch from a tricky dropping ball saw him turn away from nearby Fulham men, before sending his drive just wide of the near post. This was to be Wimbledon’s last clear cut chance, however they kept the pressure up to the last minute, closing out a well earned victory.

Back down the other end for a review of the last half hour from Sebb Browns perspective, and to be honest, he didn’t have much to do. I was planning on picking out a few dodgy kicks, but they were more than made up for by some excellent distribution, especially from ground kicks. And when he was called on, from a dangerous deep cross, he cleared out an onrushing forward and defender to punch well and far from danger, before the referee blew for a Dons free-kick.

In fact it seemed like he could have earned himself a contract almost by default, when with the last action of the game that error he had been threatening to make came along at the worst possible moment. A poor Fulham effort was bobbling wide, though Brown attempted to collect anyway. Unfortunately he never quite got hold of it, managing to scoop it into the path of a Fulham striker to tuck into the empty net.

Now I’ll never hide the fact I thought it would have been a bad decision to give him a contract, but my heart went out to him at that moment. To produce such an error, wiping out all the good effort he must have put in during training sessions, and to see his dream taken from him ten seconds from the end of his trial period… well you wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

If he had earned that contract he would have had time, away from the spotlight, to work on his game. He could have stepped up when required and rammed the criticism from the likes of me back down our throats. Still, it will be correct to send him on his way now, give him a good reference and hopes he finds a route back via a Ryman League club perhaps…

As the last pre-season game at Kingsmeadow passed into the night, another great performance will raise spirits prior to the Luton game. However right now Terry must be pondering how he found himself back at the beginning as far as the search for a target man and back up keeper are concerned. One positive is at least this time he appears content to wait for the right men, even if this may mean we start the season without them.

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