Football is back! Kind of… Thinking back through my supporting life, I’ve probably been to a good sixty or seventy pre-season games, and they never fail to disappoint, so long as you have very low expectations to begin with. At least you’re normally alright for some good weather. I remember burning myself on jaunts to Bognor and Sutton a few years ago, although the Sutton incident was partly down to my own stupidity, attempting to sit on a piping hot barrier in shorts. Perhaps they should have put up a sign – Caution, barrier gets hot when exposed to direct sunlight.
No chance of that yesterday. Although warm, it was very muggy and wet, meaning I had to bring out my rainy day clothing, in other words the same old waterproof that I managed to collect a series of strangely coloured beetles on a trip to Cobham a few years back while attempting to take a short-cut back to the station. Not that it put me off. I need my football fix, becoming sick of waking up on a Saturday morning with no plans, spending hours asking each other ‘What shall we do today?’ before eventually settling on going down the pub.
But the Wycombe game held equal importance for me as it did for the players. Pre-season games don’t just help the players get up to speed, they help amateur reporters like myself get back up to speed. The last time I wrote a match report was my epic London Senior Cup effort on the short lived Control>Shoot blog, gratefully received by approximately a dozen Hendon fans, yet this was over two months ago. The season finished at a bad time for me, I was at the height of my writing powers, and two months of updates along the lines of ‘Erm, we signed someone today, I don’t know too much about him…’ have made me go stale.
So it was with great excitement I stepped into Kingsmeadow, partly because I’m an absolute football geek, and seeing an extra step in the John Smiths and the newly re-profiled KRE, as well as The Wall, drove my excitement levels to a factor even the release of the fixtures could not match. There was one downer – as I took my place on the terrace I noticed a portion of chips, barely touched, had been left on the ledge.
Now as those of you who know The Anonymous Don, even if just by sight will know, I have put a little bit of weight on. Now my wife has been ‘encouraging’ me to return to my formerly svelte physique over the summer, and I have been doing quite well, but the project has been hindered by the fact I need lager, curry and the like to make me feel good. Extended periods of healthy eating depress me, but I was trying to be a good boy yesterday, so I limited myself to one treat, a full fat bottle of coke. Seeing those chips sitting there, mocking me, was too much. I could almost hear them whispering to me ‘Come on fat boy, you want some of this don’t you’…
Now obviously I’m not from Bromley, so wouldn’t have dreamt of taking the cold unwanted chips, but it took a great deal of self control to not carry my podgy self round to the tea bar to pick myself up a portion. I suppose the moral of this tale is, ‘Throw your unwanted food in the blue bins in case it tempts fatties to eat unhealthily’. Although I suppose it could have been a masterful piece of marketing by the club to encourage higher food sales…
All thoughts of chips went out the window, as what appeared to be a game of football broke out on the pitch. Plus who was this lining up for Wycombe? Well it looked like former Dons prodigy Carl Cort, indeed the tannoy even announced him as such. But this couldn’t be our Carl Cort, surely? Our Carl Cort was a pacy, alert, agile striker, hungry for goals. This impostor just seemed to wander around, occasionally sticking his leg out at a loose ball, never really getting into the game and when he did, never looking threatening. In fact he was probably only given a trial for a laugh, as Peter Taylor attempted to field the largest team ever to set foot on a field. Seriously, Peter Crouch would feel normal lining up with some of these boys.
Not that they looked entirely dominating to begin with. In fact the biggest early threat to the Dons goal was triallist keeper Sebb Brown. I would imagine through the warm up Brown was telling himself internally not to panic, to stay calm and relaxed. Sadly he looked almost asleep when miscontrolling a back pass, before hilariously losing sight of the ball despite the fact it was just behind him. Brown was robbed of the ball after what seemed an eternity, and to his credit he refused to follow the secret goalkeepers directive in this situation of immediately giving away a penalty in order to take everyone’s mind off the error, instead smothering the ball at the feet of a Wycombe player, presumably with a great amount of relief. Brown would go on to make several fine saves, but found touch with a couple of kicks, to the point I was inspired to write ‘He’ll do for us!’ in my notebook.
Wycombe had the better of the first half, creating the games proper opening chance, their 24 slamming the ball over the bar. Now I have to confess, it was hard enough keeping track of our new boys, and we were only advised of Wycombe’s 1-11 before the game, meaning even some Wycombe fans near me couldn’t identify him. In fact, seeing my camera and notebook and perhaps mistaking me for someone slightly more professional, they even asked me who he was. Oh dear.
The Dons weren’t outclassed, they just weren’t creating chances. There was still some good interplay, especially when Hatton and Luke Moore combined down the right for Sam to knock a decent looking ball over that caused Wycombe keeper Shearer all sorts of problems, sadly the ball was ruled to have curled out of play. Moore really impressed me during his 45 minutes. He always seemed to want the ball, and knows what to do with it when he receives it. I don’t think he will really become a fans favourite if only because there’s something about him which reminds me of Martin Randall for some reason… perhaps just in the looks department?
At the back, Wycombe had a better quality of ball in the final third, and with Browns lack of height preventing him dominating his area from crosses, Paul Lorraine had to stay alert to flick a ball away under pressure at the back post. Then on 28 minutes whoever the Wycombe number 23 was… lets just calls him Wycombe 23, slashed a volley across goal and wide at the second attempt. Plus the Wycombe number 2 (hang on, I know him, that was George Daly I think…) was giving Chris Hussey a torrid time in one on ones, always finding a way past the youngster to knock a decent ball into the danger zone.
Finally around the half hour mark, The Dons fashioned a chance. Young striker Peter Rapson was sharp enough to pick up on a Wycombe error at the back before skipping across goal, beating two men on his way. He laid the ball off to Lewis Taylor 25 yard out, who perhaps could have let fly but instead intelligently picked out Danny Kedwell with a chipped pass. Kedwell could have perhaps guided his header across goal, but instead planted it straight into Shearer’s arms. Sadly this was the only time Wimbledon even tried to break the Wycombe defence down in the first half despite looking good on the ball entering the final third, especially down the right.
Wycombe took the game back up the other end, Leon Johnson crashing the ball against the near post from 25 yards from the left channel, the ball ricocheting off Brown for a corner. Then from the same position a minute later, Wycombe 23 hit a rasping dipping volley that Brown did brilliantly to palm over. The keeper did his confidence no harm by pulling off a smart save from the resulting corner. I still think he’s a bit short though…
Towards the end of the half Wimbledon had a couple of chances, the impressive Rapson mishitting his volley wide from 20 yards, before Kenny Adjei tried his luck from further out only to see the ball fizz over the bar. This brought the half to an end, wholesale changes meaning the second half would be almost a completely different game.
The Dons could take plenty of positives from the half though. Lorraine and Judge looked impressive in the air at the back, plus the midfield three, plus Moore in a roaming role, looked good with the ball. The standout performance came from Lewis Taylor. He showed great confidence and awareness with the ball at his feet, rarely getting robbed and consistently picking out colleagues with a range of passes. No wonder Terry Brown has been waxing lyrical about his standards in training. Taylor was one of the few Dons completely unfazed by playing a higher standard of opponent, to the point we must start to think perhaps if Wimbledon don’t manage to make it to The League in the next couple of years Taylor will on his own. Next season will tell us all we need to know about the lad.
Another huge positive was the performance of Peter Rapson. He really didn’t look out of place lining up alongside Kedwell; with Moore just behind, and while not the extra striker Terry Brown has been looking for is certainly one for the future. We saw the kind of player Brown wants in his squad in the second half, the previously mentioned Kelvin Bossman. Bossman has been listed in the programme for the two games it covered (Brighton being the other) suggesting he is going to be on extended trial with the club. He took the field alongside Main, neither wearing a shirt number yet neither really needing one, with Elliott Godfrey just behind wearing his familiar number 20 shirt…
In fact the only player to survive the half time cull was Jay Conroy. The new new keeper was a guy called Kieran Thorp, and we saw debuts for Brett Johnson (partnering Inns at the back), Derek Duncan, Gregory, Wellard and Cheeseman as well as the aforementioned Bossman. The large striker found himself up against Wycombe triallist Michael Duberry, who you will be relieved to hear still has a massive head.
Wimbledon looked much the better side in the second half, creating a chance immediately when Jon Main found space in front of the Wycombe defence before striking for goal. Unfortunately he completely mishit it, only to see it turn into a defence splitting pass for Elliott Godfrey, clear on the right, to screw his effort across goal. Derek Duncan, at left back, seemed to be having few of the problems Chris Hussey had in the first half. Facing up to a Wycombe man on the right edge of his own area, he expertly stole the ball of his foot before haring forward down the left. He then had the vision to pick out Bossman, clear down the left but with no one in support, only to side foot at the keeper when lashing it high towards the near post would have been a better option.
In fact Bossman and Duberry seemed to cancel each other out in a series of aerial challenges, meaning unfortunately that was all we saw of the man they are already calling The Tank (perhaps because he seems to be wider than he is tall?). Although he did have a freekick unfortunately blocked later in the half by the unfortunate Derek Duncan, meaning we are still unsure of quite how deadly he is from set pieces. Bossman will probably get chances to show what he can really do against Brighton, but he blew his chance today to earn himself a contract. The more time that passes until he does, the more time Terry Brown has to pick out a better option.
Prior to that Jon Main had a call for a penalty turned down (although as Jon Main always seems to find himself on the floor in the box I’m not quite sure how good it really was). Main found himself sent clear by Godfrey shortly after only to see his effort well saved by the replacement Wycombe keeper. Wimbledon were well on top despite Johnson having to match Lorraine’s effort in the first half of heading away under his own crossbar.
Of course this was when Wycombe showed their class when they needed to. If you were only watching Brett Johnson and Matt Harold it would have appeared as though Johnson had stepped forward perfectly catching Harold offside. Unfortunately ‘a Wimbledon defender’ (possible Ryan Jackson at right back) had dawdled, allowing Harrold a clear run at Thorp, who almost did enough to push Harrold wide only to see the man who gunned us down in the FA Cup last year to net the winner from an angle.
It was tough look on Wimbledon and tough on Thorp, who really had little to do in his second half turnout. As far as goalkeepers are concerned I suppose it’s now down to Thorp to prove himself in training, as presumably Pullen and Turner will take their positions on the Isle of Man.
Ricky Wellard still had time for one more Dons chance when, 22 yards out and central, he smashed his effort over the bar. Elliott Godfrey made way for the reserve teams baby faced assassin Matt Harmsworth to enter for a short cameo, before the game ended. So an unfortunate defeat for Wimbledon set against the background of early preseason. Wycombe looked slightly stronger as you would expect due to their full-time status, but Wimbledon didn’t embarrass themselves. In fact there is much to look forward to. Jon Main looked dangerous, especially when linking up with Elliott Godfrey who himself showed he isn’t going to settle for a place on the bench for Luke Moore’s benefit.
Terry Brown has some tough decisions to make, but judging by the very little we have seen so far, this can only be regarded as a positive. Now for some team bonding in the Isle of Man before Brown faces the task of turning this group of twenty-odd footballers into a team. And I face the task of remembering how to end a match report properly…
As you all know, Bossmans nickname is not ‘The Tank’, that was allocated to Damian Spencer who trained with us last week and has now signed for Kettering. Thanks to Old Isthmian on the Guestbook for pointing that out. This is what comes of having no internet for a week and failing to do my own research by turning up at training…