Recovered from the shock of winning a game yet?
To be honest, I don’t think even we would have got away with limping away from Sixfields with a point or less. And the reaction to this win has been quite an interesting one.
Before that, STTA was there to witness history:
Let’s start with the positives. He changed the formation and the personnel, couple of weeks late but we finally ditched 4-3-3. Replaced it with what looked like 4-2-3-1 to me.
Darius returned in the centre of defence next to Will, Soares and Trotter played in front of them. Then we had 3 across with Barcham left Kaja right and Harry tucked in behind Lyle, who played up top on his own.
And it was an improvement, not a huge one but our defence looked less likely to concede and we had forwards playing close enough to each other to actually link up successfully, if not very often.
But we still reminded me of an old car with a stripped down engine that a trainee mechanic is trying to put back together. We have some decent parts but they’ve not been put in the correct places so we splutter and misfire our way through the journey.
And we’re lucky the game at Sixfields was the equivalent of an afternoon drive in the country. Yes, they were garbage, by a distance the worst team I have seen this season. They are missing numerous first team players including their only goalscorer, and it shows.
So let’s not dress this up as the start of our ascent up the table. The truth is we scraped home against an abysmal team by 1 goal.
All the game has confirmed to me is that we are going to spend the season battling relegation, but also – as long as we avoid injuries to key players – that it’s a battle we should win.
There are going to be many more disappointing afternoons than good ones. We are going to get beat regularly but if we can win games like this against the Northamptons, Oldhams, Plymouths and Gillinghams of the league we can avoid the trap door back to League 2.
So we set up slightly differently and brought in a few fresh faces. Most important was Darius, he’s a massive player for us and whatever the formation we need to keep him fit and at the centre of our defence. He’s a natural leader and we had noticeable more fight in the side with him on the pitch.
Egli Kaja also got his chance. Maybe unlucky to be up against the only decent player Northampton have in David Buchanan, their left back. He did well though and for me deserves another shot on Tuesday.
The other change was Harry. I heard in the week he’s not been exactly over doing it in training, which explains why he’s only now starting a game 6 weeks after arriving.
His main focus on a Saturday is where he’s drinking and what lucky girl is receiving his alternative set plays. However, the lad does have ability and it probably summed up the quality on show that a half-fit Harry won the game more or less on his own.
Plus points: a goal, ditching 433, Darius back in defence.
Minus points: Deji on the bench while Fuller plays. Trotter stuck in 2nd gear. No place for Hartigan.
The referees a…: decent enough sort. Dealt with a couple of rough challenges by Andy Barcham and John Joe O’Toole, both rightly yellow carded. Home fans didn’t like him but that reminded me of us at KM, plenty blaming the ref when the problems lie elsewhere.
Them: awful, I was worried when they appointed JFH that he’d turn them round and we’d have to look elsewhere for 1 of the 4 teams worse than us.
On yesterday’s evidence he’s got his work cut out. They carried even less threat up front than us (yes, I know) and if last weeks result is anything to go by they’ll concede loads.
Point to ponder: You learn a lot about people in a crisis so the last few weeks have been an interesting period.
What’s clear is that despite yesterday’s result there are plenty of supporters who don’t want Neal Ardley in charge any more, even if we won 3 straight they’d still prefer we were looking for his replacement.
The football hasn’t been particularly enjoyable since he arrived but what has tipped the scale to the point where he now seems out of favour with the majority?
He’s stubborn which irritates people. On more than the one occasion he’s been condescending to the point of offence when talking about fans understanding of football. And then there was the pally behaviour with Karl Robinson.
All easily avoided and no doubt contributions to the swing in feelings.
But I think the clincher is abandoning our identity as a football team to go in search of ‘progression’ by playing a fast tempo slick passing style that we’ve not seen in decades of supporting the Dons. And did we want that sort of team anyway?
When reflecting on our current position I considered a hypothetical situation, would I prefer AFC Wimbledon to be playing under Wally Downes management – playing a direct style, being a bit nawty, having a big lump or 3 and playing mostly long ball, territorial and set piece stuff?
I’m not saying Wally is my next choice for manager but for reasons of identity I’d be tempted by that scenario. I’d certainly look forward to attending games more than I do now. Not for the spectacle of football that would await but because it would feel more like my club.
We’d be inhospitable, particularly so when the franchise or Charlton manager were in town. We wouldn’t have tweets from our vice-captain saying it was good to see the away crowd, we wouldn’t have the first team coach chatting to Lewington on our pitch or our manager embracing Karl Robinson at the end of a game.
We’d be Wimbledon and having fuck all to do with them.
I don’t know if the answer lies in this direction but I do think a by-product of abandoning the club’s identity is you lose some of what the supporters attach themselves to.
When I read fans views over various social media channels I sense that separation and I’m not sure results on their own can rectify the damage.
Anything else? Yes actually, fucking Lyle Taylor. He can sprint about putting challenges in to stay on the right side of the crowd but what about jumping for a header occasionally?
Every time a ball comes towards him in the air instead of jumping he arches his back into the defender. 9 times out of 10 the referee awards a free kick against him and every time without fail he waves his arms around like he’s been hard done by.
This is one of those problems that lead many of us query what the strikers coach is doing. Have we even got one and if we have why don’t they teach Lyle to jump for the ball and win a header?
And finally…: so up next it’s two home games against Rotherham and Plymouth. I expect us to lose Tuesday, we always do after a win and Rotherham will be sufficiently organized to deal with what we have on offer.
But I think we’ll sneak another 3 points next Saturday. Luckily I will be at Barcelona v Malaga instead but I’ll be watching from afar and if we are to stay up this season it’s a game we need to win.
So, was it worth it: spoze so
In a nutshell: we scored a goal
A win is indeed a win, and this weekend does feel a bit nicer than other recent ones. Certainly the ones after Blackburn away.
And you have to say, it makes going to KM to watch Rotherham on Tuesday just a bit less tense. Certainly there’ll be questions beforehand, like can we record a second win on the bounce? Or – shock, horror – keep the same formation for a second game in a row?
It was good to find out Harry Forrester was a) starting, and b) scoring. Goals, that is, not what he got up to in a Northampton nightclub.
I don’t think he’s a bad player at all, and those sort of players you often have to indulge a little bit – turn a blind eye to how well (or not) they do in training, and what they can do where it really matters instead.
After all, would we have got those lovely three points yesterday without him?
Darius returning in his proper position is always going to make a difference, in a good way too. In a team that sorely lacks characters throughout (and not just on the field), he’s a bit of a beacon in that regards.
I’m glad we resisted the temptation to put in Paul Robinson instead. Just as I’m glad we didn’t stick with the failed 4-3-3 bollocks. I think that might have been an act of stubborness too far.
But the mood is slightly better than it has been recently. The trouble is, winning yesterday was a minimum requirement and nothing more…
We may revert back to awful type on Tuesday. In fact, many deep down will be shocked if we don’t. And the same comments will get made, the same frustrations will come out, and the same conclusions we’ve had for so long will be reached.
Yesterday could have been a League Two fixture, and if it had been you wouldn’t have been surprised at either the result or the gameplay. As it is, it was a L1 tie between two sides with varying degrees of shitness.
And that’s why I think there’s been a lukewarm reaction to it.
Sure, three points is nice, regardless of who you get it against. It’s good the formation was finally changed, that players were (starting to) get played in their right positions. But as somebody put it last night, it’s like being hungry and settling for a McDonalds’ cheeseburger.
I was going to give NA a bit more slack this morning, because he did at least change things. Whether he simply had to we’ll never know. And while his post-match comments showed he was obviously relieved, he wasn’t going overboard.
Tuesday certainly gets more pleasant (or at least less unpleasant) for him, and not just because of that pre-game hospitality announcement thing** he has to do.
** – I can’t imagine he likes doing it, and Terry Brown certainly didn’t, so why do we continue with something like that?
And if the support had finally turned on him, not only would there be no way back for him, but it wouldn’t have been a nice ending to his tenure.
He’s been given a reprieve, but STTA’s comments above about him are very interesting…
It’s definitely true that there were plenty of people yesterday saying “oh great, we’re stuck with him” after we won. Even those more supportive haven’t become emboldened, and started to crow about him again from the rooftops.
It’s also definitely true that this season has damaged him, perhaps permanently – a stubborn choice of tactics that are poor and an almost (if not actually) dogmatic approach to transfer dealings can’t be ignored when you’re simply not scoring goals and winning games.
Questions that haven’t been asked before are now getting aired. Like is it true our strikers coach is Simon Bassey? If so, why? We’re told his biggest asset is scouting, so he should be doing that full time rather than teaching Lyle Taylor how to jump.
But what’s become the biggest truism of all is this – many people haven’t fallen out of love with Neal Ardley, because they were never in love with him to begin with. And now that’s clearly showing.
Sure, he’s definitely respected for what he did when he took over. We are a much more professional outfit on the field because of him, something definitely noted by those on the DTB and others in the club’s hierarchy.
There was obviously Fleetwood, where he deserved to stay up as much as anyone, and of course Wombley and promotion to L1. But the criticisms of him have always bubbled underneath the surface, and they’ve been much more aired in public this season (and last).
And one is left with the very real feeling that if there’s a club statement on the OS, thanking NA for his work and wishing him well for the future, the majority of people will not be upset.
This “disconnect” isn’t anything new. Even when he was playing for WFC, I don’t think he was universally beloved. One needs to pick up a few copies of Yidaho or Go Jo Go (remember them?) to suggest that things haven’t changed that much.
Also, this week your editor came across a draft of something I wrote in 2014, where I said that people were falling out of love that season with our current manager.
The reason for that was a boring style of play that stifled things, and a approach to everything that could have come from some academic think tank rather than a football club. Yes, I could have written at any time since about January this year, and probably well before that.
OK, I can understand his pally act with Kunt “Karl” Robinson, primarily because managers and coaches do have to be cordial with each other away from the field. Though the optics of doing that in public look bad and tone deaf.
I’m not going to state whether Harry Forrester’s training should keep benching him, although as said above if he’s playing well and scoring goals then he shouldn’t be. NA wouldn’t be the first manager to not handle such players, and he won’t be the last.
But things are definitely different, or perhaps more telling returning to what they were before we suddenly hit form in late 2015/early 2016.
The identity thing does have a bearing on it, especially at times when the “Wimbledon Spirit” is nowhere to be seen. Granted, it’s not 1986 any longer, and a lot of the 1990s was definitely un-Wimbledonesque.
But at the very least we should be showing a lot more bottle than we have done, and simply going “fuck you, we’re Wimbledon”. Too often we don’t even get that.
People will continue to give NA verbal support, but I suspect they do that because he’s AFCW’s manager and not NA himself. That’s what I sensed at Oxford, before the reality on the field bit in its soul-destroying way.
If Alan Reeves, or Chris Powell, or Nigel Adkins, or even Karl Robinson himself became our boss, you know what? They’ll just start chanting for them at their first game instead. OK, maybe not the current Charlton boss, although my warped sense of humour would find it quite funny if he did.
But STTA is right when he says that even a good set of results won’t change the minds of a lot of people now.
Yes, the club will want him to stay, and yes – it wants him to lead us out at NPL if that ever happens. But increasingly, they may be in a minority who do…