Tag Archives: Will Hendry

Wimbledon 2 Mansfield Town 0 – Match Report 16/1/10

Before the action, Wimbledon said goodbye to one of the men that made us. Allen Batsford, the man who initially took Wimbledon into the Football League in 1977, sadly passed away after collapsing at Wimbledon Broadway tube station following the Chelsea-Fulham game just after Christmas. It was time for those who knew Allen to say goodbye, and those who didn’t but still recognise the great debt this club owed him for his fantastic work almost three decades ago. The programme carried his photo on the front cover, his former players spoke before the teams emerged and a perfectly observed minutes silence preceded kick off.

But life goes on, as does football, and the clubs playing staff had to stay focused on the task in hand. Terry Brown, the man tasked with replicating Batsford’s achievements in the seventies, has played his transfer hand this window and brought in three newcomers to the squad; Chris Hussey replacement Danny Blanchett, plus the ex-Brentford pair Glenn Poole and Nathan Elder. Perhaps with one eye on Tuesday nights crucial FA Trophy tie with Altrincham, and aware that neither Poole nor Elder can play a part in that game, Brown took the risk of naming all three in his starting line-up. In fact including Sebb Brown and Brett Johnson the Dons started with four ex-Brentford players, with Ross Montague also waiting on the bench.

It should be regarded as a good sign that we featured so many players that were part of a promotion winning side last season in the division above, but many Dons fans wondered whether this was too much of a risk against a side one place and one point ahead of them before kickoff – especially considering Wimbledon have failed to beat a side that started the match above them in the table all season.

Any butterflies were eliminated moments after the first whistle. Before the game had even had a chance to settle, Will Hendry picked up the ball in the visitors half. With Nathan Elder the obvious target, Hendry’s job was made a whole lot easier by the big forward intelligently dropping off his man. Hendry floated an inch perfect ball to Elder, who floated his header back across Mansfield goalkeeper Marriott and into the net.

All thoughts that top scorer Danny Kedwell (who has interestingly been linked with a six figure move to St Mirren very recently) was on the bench taking a rest, Elder became an instant hero and a contender for earliest goal on début in Dons history, having netted after only 117 seconds. And Wimbledon weren’t ready to take their foot off the gas just yet…

Five minutes in, and Jon Main found himself free on the right linking with Elder to send his new strike partner free. Mains ball bobbled around and never quite sat right for Elder, who sensibly decided to square for Lewis Taylor. Taylor was well placed, but seemed to rush his finish, seeing the ball deflected away and eventually scrambled clear. Wimbledon had started the way we have come to expect of them, passing the ball around nicely, always looking forward, positive and expansive in their play.

Not that Mansfield were going to sit back and take this. The visitors looked like a team lacking confidence despite their position, seemed unable to string together more than a couple of passes and were over-reliant on their albeit admirable battling qualities. Wimbledon were as solid when faced with this type of aerial onslaught as they have been all season, yet a reshuffled Dons midfield were sloppy at times, gifting the ball to their opponents on far too many occasions. A team firing on all cylinders could have punished them, yet Mansfield seemed rusty, the weather enforced mid-season break seemingly having done them no favours today.

They created chances though, the first on twelve minutes when Gary Silk wriggled free on the right side of the Dons box only to be closed down by Sebb Brown, the Dons keeper deflecting the ball wide for a corner on the right. A deep corner travelled all the way to big forward Rob Duffy at the far post, who could only direct his header tamely wide of goal. The unfortunate Duffy showed no confidence moments later when he found himself in the clear with only Brown to beat, but could only side-foot tamely into the Dons keepers arms.

Now all too aware they couldn’t simply stroll through this game, Wimbledon stepped up a gear. They thought they had doubled the lead on twenty minutes, Lewis Taylor was brought down as the ball ran on to Elder, whose expert finish was ruled out by the referees whistle. Not for a Dons free kick as most presumed, the referee refusing to bring back play even though the Dons had gained no advantage, and presumably wouldn’t have anyway had Elder been offside. Terry Brown aimed his programme notes at fellow managers who had criticised referees of late, but even he must have had to bite his tounge after some inconsistent decision-making from the man in black.

The Dons weren’t to be denied though, and they added a second goal in fantastic fashion in their next attack. Blanchett fed the ball from the left flank to Hatton on the right via Kennedy Adjei, and Hatton delivered a great ball to Elder. Wimbledon’s new hitman this time cushioned a header into the path of Lewis Taylor who swept his shot into the bottom left hand corner of the Mansfield goal giving Marriott no chance.

While Mansfield’s workmanlike forays forward were ultimately proving fruitless, the Dons went on to go close on a couple of occasions during the remainder of the half. Perhaps the best saw Jon Main flick a ball in Glenn Poole’s direction leaving him in possession on the left side of the area with his back to goal. Expertly spinning his man he whipped a shot across the face of goal, just dropping wide of the right hand post.

The second half took a little bit longer to get going than the first, mainly down to a nasty clash of heads that saw Elder receive his second off pitch treatment of the game. The frontman was rightly named the Dons man of the match by the sponsors, combining the battling qualities you would expect from a man of his physique with some intelligent forward play and, as you would expect from a Terry Brown signing, some nifty footwork too that consistently drew fouls from the bamboozled Mansfield back line (even if the referee didn’t always elect to blow his whistle for them…). Then, with the Dons first real chance of the half just after the hour, he could have grabbed his second after being played in by Will Hendry only for a fantastic challenge from Michael Brough to deny him.

The Dons had to stay alert defensively, a fantastic stretching challenge by Sam Hatton saw off a three on three Mansfield break. The visitors just weren’t troubling the Dons goal, their game plan was direct but their play was directionless. Their best player – by some way – was substitute Jake Speight, the only Mansfield player who seemed to show any inclination or ability to take the ball and run at Wimbledon. The difference between the two teams was the home side had players like this all over the pitch, and while the Dons could just about handle Speight, with the likes of Taylor, Hendry and Main among others bombing forward, Mansfield couldn’t really cope.

Hendry was withdrawn for Ricky Wellard with fifteen minutes to go, after proving what a fantastic signing he has been. Hendry seems to have almost single-handedly made the Dons midfield a more offensive unit, he slipped straight into the squad as if he had always been there at just the right time. I still think the Dons squad is poorer without Luke Moore, but Hendry is a more than worthy replacement for him.

Elder made way for Montague with seven minutes remaining, to huge applause from the home fans. Yet it was a fifteen minute cameo from Ricky Wellard that almost stole the show and gave Wimbledon breathing space. First, Montague chased down a through ball that Marriott was clear favourite for, but the Mansfield goalkeeper seemed to be distracted by one of his own defenders and mishit the ball to Wellard just inside the visitors half. As Marriott retreated, Wellard rounded an opponent, and urged on by the crowd struck a perfect dipping effort that the goalkeeper somehow managed to tip over the bar.

Then two minutes later he picked up the ball wide right, cut inside leaving two Mansfield men for dead, and smashed a left footed effort towards the top left corner. Marriott was once again equal to it, just, flying across goal and getting enough on the ball to divert it over for a corner. Marriott won this personal battle, but Wellard showed just how much more confident he has become of late. Not long ago it seemed in the balance whether he would make it at Wimbledon at all, but ever since he turned down the chance to move on loan he seems to have really come on. Yes, he will still suffer from the inconsistency of youth from time to time, but he has shown he has the ability to blossom into a Football League midfielder if he applies himself further.

In between Wellard’s attempts to steal the show, Mansfield managed to get the ball past Sebb Brown only for the effort to be ruled out for offside. Some suggested after the game that an extra goal for each side would have been a more accurate reflection of the game, this would have been at the expense of yet another clean sheet for Sebb Brown and the back four. The Dons have now only conceded once in the last eight league games, and Decembers Conference Player of the Month winner Brown has kept eight clean sheets in his eleven full games for the club.

Adjei and Conroy had twenty-five yard efforts that just cleared the bar in stoppage time, but the points were Wimbledon’s by this stage. The victory moved the Dons up to fourth, which perhaps disguises that there is still plenty of work to do – the Dons find could drop as low as seventh if sides below them (including Mansfield) win their games in hand, and until a few of those games have been played, and points are dropped by promotion rivals, Wimbledon really need to be aware that they haven’t really broken into the playoff places just yet. Stretching the gap between the clubs below them should be their first priority.

If anything the Dons playoff ambitions could be decided between now and the end of February, with winnable home games combined with some very tricky road trips, and if Terry Brown can ensure his newly reinforced squad can remain in the top five by the time March rolls around, we will know whether this is a serious promotion push or not. While Batsford loomed large on the front of the programme, the rear cover featured an advert for our sponsors new game, urging you to ‘Make History’, like Allen did, and Terry is trying to. If Brown can guide us from the Ryman League to the Football League in three consecutive seasons, well, that would be an achievement that would even eclipse the achievements of the great man himself in the seventies. And should it happen, I’m sure there would have been no prouder man than Allen Batsford himself.

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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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