Jack Off Gill

Better performance. Worse result?

If truth be told, after Possibly Going Down 1 Probably Going Down 1 last night, I’m in at least two minds over the whole thing.

I genuinely can’t decide whether it was great we finally looked like a fighting unit who just lacked that little bit of luck at the wrong time, or if we’ve proven how shit we are that we can’t even win this one.

Your editor saw the goals on SSN this morning, and apart from the presenter saying “Gillingham were held to a 1-1 draw by AFC Wimbledon” – yes, really – I’m annoyed at how easily we let them back in the game.

It’s as if we lost our heads after their man got sent off. And yes, it’s two dropped points against a team likely to be in L2 next season already…

But to our immense credit, we came out and looked like we wanted to win the game for once. If just one more effort had gone in, and/or one less brainfart at the back, then it would be a much more relaxed morning.

As somebody (semi) joked, we had more efforts in the first fourteen minutes as we have in the previous fourteen games. OK, that may be an exaggeration, but if it is, it’s not a particularly big one. And you know what they say about truth being spoken in jest.

It’s as if we went out with a point to prove. We were certainly playing like we were unshackled (and read on to figure out the very reason why), and when we scored, then when we had the old skool bundle right before the break, this was the AFCW we all wanted to see.

Unfortunately, it fired Gillingham up, they equalised before the break, and the AFCW of recent times returned.

I’m going to put our failure to score down to just not having that bit of luck, because we certainly gave it a go. And let’s face it – we would have got more points from previous games if we had applied ourselves in them like we did last night.

Needless to say, there are some outstanding issues which will continue to haunt us until January at least. We know what they are. That’s the bed that has been made, and it’s going to be an uncomfortable time for the next fourteen weeks.

There’s always the nagging doubt in the back of my mind that if we can’t beat ten-men Gillingham, who can we beat? Yesterday’s performance will mean jack shit if we revert to type at Ewood Park and the must-not-even-play-badly-let-alone-lose next home game.

But we did at least see a glimpse of what we can do. It’s just a shame it’s taken us a good month to finally realise that…

Plus points: We didn’t lose. Much more committed. Hartigan. Forrester. Some (relatively) better crossing. HAFSOG is back, a couple even on target.

Minus points: We didn’t win. Two points dropped. Their goal. Still too many weaknesses.

The referee’s a…: Sent off their bloke and kept Taylor on, so that was good of him. Anyone else think he blew up too early at the end when we were about to launch one last attack?

Them: Likely to go down, and the most important takeaway from last night is the probability of us joining them. Though they haven’t got the quality even we’ve got…

That said, I didn’t think they were significantly worse than Blackpool, and history has shown crap teams have pulled out of relegation places before. And them going down to ten men was supposed to galvanise us – not them.

Weren’t so many of them as previous seasons, though we didn’t take many more to Priestfield last season either. At some point, people just end up saving their money rather than bother traipsing around the M25 to watch toss.

Oh, and thankfully their “shit Andy Carroll” was sufficiently rubbish enough to not rub our noses in it after our chants…

Point to ponder: Whither Neal Ardley?

He’s been put through the proverbial wringer since Saturday, although in truth that’s been building up for a good while. And the performance, if not the result, will have pleased him as well.

But you do have to wonder if the change we saw last night has deeper roots. His comments on the OS afterwards are intriguing, and they’re worth quoting:

We needed to get back to what we are about and I had a look at myself. I don’t think I have been as down as I was at the weekend about where the team was at and what part I was playing in it.

And:

Maybe I have tried to put too much into the process of playing a bit of football; drawing people into holes and getting quality into good players in the right areas.

And:

There has been too much information and today I just said that I would pick a system that allowed them to run hard and play high intensity football.

And:

I had not enjoyed watching us play at times this season and I have to take responsibility for that.

Rest assured, he is certainly not alone in the first part of his sentence. Anyway, to cap it off:

We tried to get back to our roots today and it was good.

Why does this mea culpa stuff feels like it happens at least once a season with NA? More to the point, why does he never seem to learn from it?

It’s been said on here before, but Ardley’s biggest failure as a manager is that he tries to be too clever, and too ideological, and he eventually has to backtrack when reality strikes.

Micro-managing is part of that, that letting (some decently talented) players just get on with it has to be smothered, for the sake of the system.

It’s nothing new, and as just said it happens with a disturbing degree of regularity, but we’ve always been able to change it because there was enough in the squad to do so.

But this season, that approach has finally caught up with us. The problems have become very obvious, and more importantly damaging to our prospects of staying in L1 this campaign.

Yes, the shackles were off last night, but the recruitment miscalculations in the summer are still blatant.

Take the whole target man thing. No, we might not have been able to afford Michael Smith. But I also don’t believe we couldn’t have got somebody in – if we wanted to.

If it’s true that Cody McDonald isn’t nearly as effective without one – why did we sign him to begin with? Even if you take the claim that we couldn’t afford a big guy up front at face value, then you adapt your style to something more practical.

That’s not misfortune, that’s simply poor scouting on our part. And for the second close season in a row as well.

For this reason, I think that’s why NA hasn’t got the praise I genuinely thought he would receive this morning, particularly from people who previously haven’t ground the axe. Despite last night, they still see the big holes, and they no longer stick their heads in the sand.

Dropping two points is always disappointing, and if we can keep up the intensity shown then we’ll probably be OK until January. But but one suspects NA is going to have to take more of a step back to keep people onside…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) A sub-4000 crowd. People voting with their feet? 2) Francomb. Now sponsored by Wahl clippers.

Anything else? Dunno, really. Anyone else notice Mikey T didn’t announce who our next home game was against? Not that I blame him.

So, was it worth it? Yes and no.

In a nutshell: A step forward?

 

16 thoughts to “Jack Off Gill”

  1. A second sub 4,000 crowd of the season, I think there was only one last year, and the season was effectively over by that point. There is certainly a reluctant acceptance that we’re going to see a great deal of dross this season – and a bit of apathy as a result. There was still excitement at this stage last season despite the tricky start. Agree that it looked a bit more like the Wimbledon of old last night – but I fully expect them to revert to type at Ewood Park. We desperately miss those that have departed. Appiah isn’t Poleon, that gaping hole up top isn’t Elliot and Trotter certainly isn’t Jake Reeves. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an answer with the current squad at our disposal – I can’t see them scoring too many more than Oldham last season at this rate (30 odd I think it was?) They remain in League 1 though. If that’s true of Wimbledon this time next year it’s genuine cause for celebration and Ardley should, without a shadow of doubt, still be in his job. Moving to NPL as a League 1 club is success and it’s then that the club can really push on.

  2. Being positive, perhaps this will give Neal some traction and hopefully he can contain himself and not shackle the players.
    It’s whether we can not humiliate ourselves at Blackburn, get dicked by the football damned (who appear thankfully to be as poor as us) and then pick up at least 3 points from the next 2 games.
    If we don’t have some continued positive football – even in the 2 15 minute bursts it happened last night is enough to win you a game – and pick up 4 points from the next 4 games without a 4-0 gubbing then he can stay.
    It’s that black and white for me. There’s his target (its pretty low). The rest is semantics.
    Fail and we need a new manager. Fuck sleepwalking into League 2 with NPL on the horizon.
    Neal has no sentiment in retention/release and that is the same clear decision that we must take if 4 points are not achieved.

  3. For what it’s worth, my take on yesterday… we were ‘unlucky’ to lose. We’ve also been ‘unlucky’ in previous games, in the sense that chances that should have gone in didn’t, poor (appalling even) refereeing decisions and generally not getting the run of the ball when it mattered. But it is true that to a large extent you make your own ‘luck’. In previous games our performances overall have not earnt any ‘luck’. The Portsmouth game for example was an abysmal performance and generally we have not had the ratio of chances to goals scored to suggest that we deserved any better. Last night was different… we were truly ‘unlucky’ and should have scored more than a couple with a vastly improved performance that had the pressing tempo, aggression and style of play that was far more exciting to watch and deserved a positive result. I don’t want to focus too much on individuals but Hartigan was excellent (only young so consistency may be an issue and needs care that we don’t waste his undoubted talent). Long has been excellent in goal from the very first game. Forrester showed what he hopefully will bring to the team. Taylor must start every game if fit. And we have still to get Darius back fit and Meades (if he ever truly will be). How much the change was due to having two more mobile centre backs in Deji and Will I’m not entirely sure, but even when Robinson is declared fit I think we should persevere with last night’s pairing. But over and above individuals, although the way we played with quick sharp movement to Taylor and Barcham out wide could be the Plan A that would work longer term, the balance of the squad is still not right. Their number 9 was derided as being a shit Andy Carrol, but as Ambadad pointed out on WUP, there must have been a good few who would have been happier if he had been ‘our’ shit Andy Carrol. The squad would certainly look more balanced. He was ok with the ball at his feet, held the ball up well, was aggressive and won headers. Players like that are out there who could have been available… perhaps we should have had him and McDonald as a job lot. Just as an aside, I did not think that Gillingham were any worse than a few other teams we have seen. So where from here? We’ve got to keep performance levels up to this standard, get a couple of players back to fitness… and get a Big Lump in January. Until then it’s going to be tight at the least. (Sorry this post has been rather overlong… but if you get to this point, I’m not sure ‘luck’ is the right word, hence the inverted commas, but hopefully you understand what I mean.)

  4. We didn’t lose last night! Re franchise game – as usual wimbledon football club making it hard to buy tickets. And communication around this non existent as usual.

  5. Jondy – Re Darius I spoke briefly to his Mrs in the bar; he was hoping to be on the bench last night but although back in training he hasn’t had any match time. He is playing for the development squad Monday and all being well he should be available for selection v Franchise.

  6. There’s no doubt Ardley has messed up his recruitment big time this summer but these repetitive patterns that Rob points out are more frustrating now as we’ve had 5 years of it and he doesn’t really learn that much. He’s just a very middling manager who’s very lucky that the likes of Erik support him. They make him a better manager than he actually is.

    The other issue is that he was the best person we could get when he became our manager back in 2012. If we advertised the job now we’d get some excellent candidates to replace him & push the club onwards so he should be under pressure.

    Let’s face it. We didn’t beat a team that worse than us & was down to 10 men last night. We are in trouble as we can’t score goals and that’s because of Ardley’s decisions. If he can’t turn it around by the end of the month, the club should move him on as we need to stay in League 1 this season and there’s plenty of potential managers out there.

    1. Ardley certainly has his short comings. However, I’m struggling to imagine these better than “middling” managers you suggest would be keen on the job. One of the weakest squads in League 1 (as it was last year – we were carried by the likes of Reeves, Elliot, Lyle and at times Poleon) with one of the lowest budgets to boot. Can Wimbledon really hope for anything more than a middling manager at present? Ardley also cares deeply about the club in a way we would struggle to find with another managerial option. There’s a line; if the Dons are looking like relegation certs or get smashed for several consecutive weeks we would have to look elsewhere…but that’s not (yet) the case. Give the man a chance – he’s taken us from the depths of League 2 to here after all.

      1. I think you’d be surprised how many managers would be very interested in the job should it become available. There are just so may potential managers out of work.

        As for time, he’s had 5 years. Enough time. I know he cares about the club but it’s about results. I’m not prepared to see us get relegated just to hold on to a manager and you’ve got to be careful. Sometimes clubs get relegated not because they get smashed every week but because they just keep losing or drawing. He’s still got time to turn things around but not much.

  7. I totally agree with Rob about NA being ideological. Clearly he wants us to be an attractive ball-playing side that few League 1 sides can afford the staff to be. I’m sure it worked a treat when he was working with Cardiff’s bright young things, but their youth budget is probably bigger than our first team’s and we just can’t finance the quality of players that can play like Ajax circa 1988 in every position.

    If we are going to be a ‘play from the back’ kind of side, then Robbo may have had his day. By all accounts, Deji/Nightingale seem to be a better fit for that system and I would argue that they should be starting regardless.

    NB. Loads more chances and better crossing might not have anything to do with Francomb playing full back, but nonetheless, the midfield sounded considerably more pro-active than in recent games, so it probably does. Sounds like a better position for him.

    1. Isn’t insisting Wimbledon has to be a long ball side until the end of time equally ideological?

  8. Excellent point Corbynista. It’s not strictly true that you have to play a more direct form of football to do well in this league with a small budget. Crewe managed it for many years playing tiki-taka possession. Do our youth teams play to a particular footballing philosophy ?

    1. Pretty sure it’s not hoof it up the field vaguely in the direction of a shortarse forward…

  9. I’m a bit fed up with pre season bullshit talk. I remember when all the talk was of turning Harry Pell into a centre back. What was that about. In the spirit of Andy Townsend maybe Ardley is too good a speaker. (He’s almost hit that to well) I think we will be ok this season whatever style we play . Maybe my support is a bit like when liam Gallagher spouted off before every new album after morning glory “this is the best since our first” I ALWAYS used to believe him! I’d be disappointed but every album had one amazing song that would keep me coming back. We still believe (loving the 90s reference tonight)

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