Tag Archives: Watford

AFC Wimbledon 2 Watford 1 23/7/11 Match Report

Firstly, this match report will be published two hours later than I previously expected, this is partly… no, wait, this is entirely because I picked up my season ticket today, and the normal procedure is for me to then sit there flicking the pages like a flip book and smelling that new season ticket smell. I’ve held a season ticket for twenty years now, yet the excitement of receiving my book, if anything, gets bigger every year.

Jamie Stuart organises the back four

But moving onto the game… I really think we needed this win, Watford brought a big, strong side and for the first ten minutes or so I really feared they would give us a bit of a demoralising spanking. Yet the Dons managed to battle their way into the game and played some really good football in the quarter-hour before half time and for half an hour in the second, and deserved the win. Preseason games are largely meaningless, but this was an important performance, that will give squad and supporters hope going into next weeks Carling Cup opener with Crawley.

As I mentioned, Watford looked good in the opening exchanges, and with plenty of talk over the Dons striking options of late we could only look on in envy as Chris Iwelumo dominated up top for the visitors. The game only balanced out as a contest when Iwelumo was withdrawn, but before that poor Jamie Stuart had all sorts of problems trying to deal with him. It didn’t matter whether he tried to go over, around, or through the big Watford frontman, Iwelumo wasn’t budging.

By the time Iwelumo hobbled off clutching his hamstring, Watford had the lead. Seb Brown was forced to turn a bouncing effort over his crossbar at the near post, and from the resultant half-cleared corner John Eustace volleyed from the edge of the area into a crowd of players, a deflection giving Seb Brown no chance with the ball nestling in the bottom right corner of his goal.

Jack Midson

All over the pitch Dons players were having to feel their way into the game. We mentioned Watford’s front man, but Jack Midson was anonymous early on, finding himself dropping deeper and deeper to get involved – much as Kedwell had to last season when isolated, although we forget our former skipper was as much of a passenger as Midson was early in this encounter on many occasions. Eventually Midson’s hard work started to pay off, and he almost got himself on the scoresheet with a fierce drive palmed wide by Watford keeper Gilmartin.

The Watford keeper wasn’t so fortunate a few minutes later, Luke Moore cut in from the left and fired into the right corner, Gilmartin getting a hand to it but the fierceness of the strike proving too much. The Dons were back level and taking the upper hand, playing some decent football… the commitment to passing the ball taken to the extreme of their own penalty area, even six yard box on one occasion that would have been nerve shredding had this been a competitive occasion.

The Dons now had a handle on Watford defensively, although this was mainly thanks to some committed defending from new skipper Stuart, putting his head in against opposition boots on more than one occasion. In midfield Max Porter was performing the Steven Gregory role with a little more fan-pleasing steel in the challenge, and just in front of him Yussuff and Wellard were both on top of their game.

The start of the second half continued as the first finished, Wimbledon looking impressive, and scoring a second goal from a move of the highest quality. Sam Hatton picked out Christian Jolley down the right, who flicked the ball inside and played a ball towards Midson. The Dons new forward intelligently left the ball to Lee Minshull, bombing forward from midfield, who in turn had Luke Moore haring up on the left of him. Minshull found Moore, whose effort had too much pace for Gilmartin and found the bottom right corner.

Watford did come back into the game after the Dons had made a few substitutions, the most interesting of which saw Charlie Ademeno come on. It would have been nice to have seen Charlie start and see what sort of impact he would have made, but by all accounts he’s got a bit of a problem with his ankle that needs to settle down. He impressed me with his cameo, immediately taking the role down the centre, with Midson moving to the left to accommodate him. Unlike Midson, he held his position and provided an outlet, not being the tallest he isn’t a traditional target man, but is strong and aggressive, and once he got himself between the ball and a Watford defender he gave them real problems.

This victory won’t provide any tangible value come next May, but the victory, and more importantly the performance, have given us a springboard to attack the opening few weeks of the season. Its going to be tough, a cup tie at the favourites for the title, followed by three games against sides playing their football in League One last season… and only one of them at home…. If we find ourselves with four points in the bag going into the Hereford game I’ll be more than happy.

This week on the blog I’ll be building up to the first game of the season. Now some of you will consider the Bristol Rovers game the ‘true’ first game so I’ll be giving that an equal, if not bigger build up the week after – in other words I’ll be keeping myself busy over the next couple of weeks!


Bedfont Town 1 AFC Wimbledon 1 22/7/11 Match Report (And Watford Mini Preview…)

I’m going to get all talk of planes out of my system early in this match report. Although I worked at the airport some ten years ago, and am fully aware just how big and how loud they can be, a trip to Bedfont is always a bit of an eye opener. As I mentioned in my news article, the planes themselves are nothing new to me, but standing in a football ground, trying to concentrate on whats going on in front of me while they are taking off in the very near vicinity is a weird experience.

As I had my back to the airport in the first half, it was just noise, yet I still found myself craning my neck to look when a big one took off… and those big ones need to use all the runway to get off the ground, so were barely off the ground by the time they passed us. The second half on the pitch was nothing worth writing home about, and as I now found myself facing the runway it turned into a full on forty-five minute planespotting session.

As for the game, the Dons took the lead in the seventeenth minute, Chris Bush firing a shot from fifteen yards that the Bedfont keeper got a palm to but couldn’t stop it nestling in the bottom left corner. Bedfont were level ten minutes later when the Dons suffered a disjointed moment, gifting possession in a dangerous area of the field and allowing Bedfont to work a two on one, before the ball found its way into the net under Jack Turner.

I have to write briefly about Jack Turner, as it doesn’t look as though he will be going out on loan after all, which is a real disappointment. You never know, a Conference side could lose their keeper early on and Jack might find himself sent on loan to cover, but playing out the whole season elsewhere would have been invaluable, letting him make his mistakes and learn his lessons.

He only made one last night, missing a corner which lead to Bedfont turning the ball into the net, but fortunately via one of the opposition players showing off his handling skills. That was the last meaningful action in the half, in fact of the game (although I vaguely recall a Bedfont player shooting into the side netting deep into the second period).

The young Dons performed well technically, lots of nice passing moves and possession football, but much like the first team at times there was no real sign that anyone wanted to take responsibility for finishing in dangerous situations. It was almost as though in the absence of any desire to shoot, their prefered method of scoring was to pass the ball into the net.

This is all well and good in preseason as a training exercise, but as they seemed proficient at keeping the ball already, it would have been nice to see someone take responsibility in the box rather than knock the ball around until someone decided to let fly under pressure, losing the ball over the low terrace in doing so. This is probably clutching at straws, the young players will hopefully learn in the development squad next term and those getting the chance to step up will be better players for it.

With the game finishing level, there needed to be some way of deciding who lifted the John Morris Memorial Trophy, and in time-honoured pre-season fashion that was via a half-hearted penalty shootout. It was almost surreal watching a Dons side step up post-Eastlands for penalties in such relaxed circumstances – no clenching required here, I doubt many Dons fans cared either way.

The shootout was initially interesting in a Womens World Cup Final kind of way, in that it didn’t look like either side were capable of scoring, the Dons leading 1-0 after two penalties each thanks to two good Jack Turner saves – the second coming from Bedfont manager and Dons record scorer Kevin Cooper. Turner showed the way himself with a calm third penalty to put Wimbledon in the driving seat, before Chris Bush finally finished what he started with the winning final kick to give the Dons a 3-2 victory.

Not much learned as far as the first team is concerned, for what its worth we remain unbeaten in this shortest and simplest of pre-season campaigns, with Crawley just seven days away as I type. I think we are all hoping the stiff test of a full strength Watford side will tell us more about our team, and TB has announced a starting lineup that is probably 80% strength.

Brown seems to be in discussions with a couple of strikers with League experience, yet it doesn’t sound as though a deal will be struck until later next week. Presumably whoever he brings in won’t be a season changer, more adding to our strength in-depth and providing a different option to Midson and Ademeno, who will presumably join Luke Moore in a front three. If it is a major signing, for selfish reasons I kind of hope the news comes through very late next week, as I just finished a season preview for a national Football League blog and don’t want to have to rewrite it…

As for our visitors Watford, well I’m sure their supporters are quite happy to see us back in the League as well, especially the manner we clinched promotion at Eastlands. I’m planning on heading to the bar early, not only to pick up my season ticket, but to see if any Watford fans are interested in showing their gratitude in the form of beer…

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Dons Icons #3 – Marcus Gayle My Lord

When I was at school there used to be this kid, Marcus, who was always good for a laugh – not always intentionally either. For example one day he managed to bang his head on the floor while still sitting on a chair (you needed to be there), much to our delight (don’t worry, he didn’t get hurt, we weren’t evil…). Anyway somewhere down the line he picked up the nickname Mungo (I think it was originally Mongo, but as I said he was a good guy so we toned it down a bit).

Around this time Wimbledon signed a strong young forward from Brentford called Marcus Gayle. He made his debut a day after he signed, so naturally one of my friends christened him ‘Mungo’ too, shouting ‘Go On Mungo’ as he roared around the field much to the bemusement of the Dons fans around us. Eventually it stuck, as far as we were concerned anyway, and I continued to refer to him as Mungo until his £1m move to Rangers in 2001.

Marcus started his career at the Bees in 1989, making 158 appearances, as well as 22 while on loan to Finnish outfit KuPS while learning his trade in 1990. Its fair to say Gayle is as much an icon to Brentford fans as he is to us, and fortunately he got to bookend his career with a spell at both clubs, making 30 appearances for them in 05/06. They apparently had a song based on him that went along the lines of ‘Marcus Gayle, has a fucking huge cock…’. Not sure how they knew this for sure, it sounds a bit like lazy racial stereotyping to me, but I could be doing the great man a disservice!

gaylerMarcus song at Wimbledon was as per the title of this article, perhaps due to his religious convictions, perhaps his name just lent itself better to this tune (Wimbledon fans aren’t that clever, or they weren’t in those days. I remember when we stole a Cantona chant from Man United to use for John Fashanu- complete with French national anthem. I mean we could have been clever like we are these days and fitted it to ‘God Save The Queen’ in reference to Fash’s England caps, or even found out how the Nigerian anthem went…).

I vaguely remember an early Gayle game against Manchester United where his strong run down the left wing left whoever was playing right back for United that day for dead, delivering a perfect cross for Fashanu. Fash seemed to be preoccupied by his physical tussle with Pallister, and if he got a touch at all it was probably an arm – but a goal it was. Of course Marcus carved his name into Wimbledon legend for a rather more important goal against the same opponents a few years later…

Gayle was the first of the new wave of players that came through in the mid to late 90’s, big, strong and quick, but withgreat ability to go withit. Combined they played fast counter attacking football combined with an unbeatable spirit. There’s no coincidence that Gayle’s ‘career season’ was probably the greatest in terms of football played we ever saw from a Wimbledon side in the Premier League, 1996/97.

Plus he scored in that memorable 4-2 win at Stamford Bridge. Yes we had taken great pleasure in battering the Blues 4-0 and 5-2 there in the old Division One days, but this was New Chelsea. Gayle put the icing on the cake, the result only tarnished by the dodgiest of dodgy penalties given in the last minute for a non existent foul outside the area. But the pace and movement of Wimbledon’s performance, especially Gayle and fellow front-man Efan Ekoku, meant Wimbledon had earned a place at the top of the Premier League, even if league form was to slip away after that.

But the Dons were to prove their worth in the cups as well, reaching both semi-finals. In the League Cup Marcus made a habit of beating dozy keepers at their near post from a tight angle, smashing the winner against Aston Villa in the 4th round, before repeating the trick in the semi-final second leg against Leicester. Heartbreak was to follow as the Dons crashed out on away goals (just rubbing salt in the wound – we didn’t actually play a ‘home’ game for nearly fifteen years during that period). The season petered out after a 0-3 surrender to Chelsea at Highbury in the FA Cup Semi-Final leaving us only with memories. But what memories they were.

Plus lets not forget Marcus, along with Robbie Earle, was one of the first Dons players to see action at a World Cup. Although Robbie gets a lot of attention for his goal (and Robbie will get the ‘icon’ treatment himself one day…), lets not forget Marcus did more than just make up the numbers in 1998.

My personal favourite Marcus moment was set against the backdrop of unpleasantness. I found myself close to the front of what must have been C block in the HolmesdaleEnd, only to my horror to find myself sitting next to a Liverpool fan who not only felt he had the right to be there, he had the right to loudly support his team as well. Naturally, I was slightly annoyed, and this lead to several arguments with the plastic scouser, an argument witha steward, and worse still an argument withmy dad, for taking my argument with the previous two too far.

Just as I was about to snap, Wimbledon won a free kick shortly after, and Gayle floated it into the top corner, bouncing off the inside of the post and into the net after travelling across the goal line and off the opposite post. An absolutely brilliant free kick, and our joyous celebrations persuaded our illegally positioned Liverpool friend to find a different seat for the second half!

If anyone deserved a move to a big club it was Marcus. Sadly Wimbledon were desperate for money by the time he left, post relegation in 2001 to Rangers, and its probably fair to say they were the wrong club at the wrong time. He moved back to England with Watford, and it was here he made the transformation to centre half, a move that effectively extended his career by several seasons.

Normally a pace merchant will leave the game the moment their legs go, but Marcus was always too good a player for that to happen. His footballing brain was put to use at the heart of the defence of not only Watford, but Brentford, Aldershot (where he finally managed to score his first hat trick after coming on as a substitute against Kidderminster), before finally returning home to Wimbledon last season.

He didn’t have the pace that made him a Premier League star, but it all seemed a bit too easy for Gayle at times. To have him with us just for one season was a dream come true for most Wimbledon fans, one last link to the glory days. Our playoff win must have been a brilliant way to finish a career, walking off the pitch, knowing your job was done.

Except Marcus Gayle wasn’t finished with Wimbledon just yet. He took over the running of the reserves midway through last season, placing an emphasis on youth and guiding the side to a Suburban League Cup win over Bedfont, a game they dominated despite facing a stronger and more experienced side in the final. In future it will be his job to bring promising young players from a successful youth programme, and turn them into footballers. What does the future hold for Marcus Gayle? He has mentioned previously it is his ambition to become a manager, and there is no reason why he can’t move through the ranks at Wimbledon, as first team coach, assistant manager and perhaps even as Wimbledon manager himself one day?

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