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If you’re planning to enjoy yourself on Saturday….

… then you may need to reconsider.

Some rather startling news this morning from the treatment table. Cue TB and the Surrey Herald:

AFC Wimbledon face defensive crisis for Altrincham clash

Oh great. Nothing like a nice, fluffy headline on this sunnyish-if-slightly chilly Thursday morning.

The Dons were without all four centre-halves for Tuesday’s Surrey Senior Cup win at Chipstead, with Brett Johnson (injured) and Jay Conroy (suspended) already out of the Kingsmeadow clash against the Robins.

Tell us about it. Last time I saw anything part that readily, it was the Red Sea. Or the buttock cheeks of a Franchise fan whenever Wankie takes those blue pills from Canadian pharmacies.

Anyway, we could now be without Quiche and Ben Judge too. So, in other words we get “treated” to the same back line that managed to concede three goals against a R1S side a mere couple of days ago. And that was only because Chipstead’s attack was inaccurate.

OK, this could be TB just bluffing, he has form for this as we all know. How many times did DK die before a crucial game last season? But even if just one of those players return, we’re in for a pretty rough afternoon on Saturday. It may put a serious dent into the more optimistic of Womble viewpoint, who genuinely believes that we are playoff material. If you hear Ryan Jackson, SH, Blanchett and Derek Duncan getting read over the PA, get your mortgage on Alty.

A few thoughts are going through my head right now, ones that don’t involve suicide. Yet. How come we always seem so messed up with injuries like this? We’re lucky that we “only” get crocked players, and that our general discipline has helped us this far – yes, I know some people grumble that we’re bottom of the dirty play league, and it’s “unWimbledon”, but we’d be in a lot worse shit if we had more than Jay Conroy collecting fines.

Earlier on in the season, it looked like we’d cracked the defensive issues – BJ and Quiche looked imposing, with Garrard/Conroy and Hussey/AN Other sorting it out on the flanks. It’s all gone wrong again, and now in the worst possible way. We haven’t really looked that imposing even with a full(er) strength back line.

Who can we get in? Emergency loans don’t work for positions other than goalkeepers. We might as well play DK and Nathan Elder in defence, rather than see Tuesday’s back line again. Is Marcus Gayle registered as a player? Is Jason Goodliffe a free agent? OK, they have a combined age of 232 and are as mobile as a broken down Ford Capri, but at least you can rely on them for sheer effort if nothing else.

Hell, get Matt Everard out of retirement. Give him a new pair of knees if need be, preferably those belonging to a 20 year old.

There is a more serious issue here, and it’s one that SW19 bangs on about to the point of tedium. This proves why we seriously need to get our reserve sides up to scratch. Insert comments about Football Combination, full time, Wednesday afternoon games at QPR etc. But let’s face it – you wish that was the case right now.

True, we may throw Ryan Jackson in on Saturday, but where are the other defenders from our second squads? Are they too young? Too inexperienced? Likely to get destroyed against a BSP attack?

I’ve been trying to ween myself off using Learning Curveâ„¢ for a while, but this is another consequence of it. In the past, we would have just got somebody on loan for a week/month, almost at the click of a finger. Now we have to be more self-sufficient, and we’ve found we haven’t got much in depth when we really need it.

If we put in our second XI’s centre back pairing just for this one game, then the worst we could do is lose 3 points. I doubt if they’d be worse than Sam Hatton and Danny Blanchett. And who knows, they might have a blinder, look solid and mature beyond their years, and we’ve suddenly got a new set of heroes to worship. After all, we did exactly that with Seb Brown and some bloke called Chris Hussey…

As far as SW19 is concerned, this season is written off now. Situations like this and Oxford away make me realise just how much more we need to do. As much as we need to consider whether we can afford to pay Nathan Elder, we need to get the path from the kids doing kickabouts before the game up to them making a heroic first team debut sorted.

We may be able to get away with it for another season, but after that, we have to be properly set up. By “properly”, I mean bring people up to a standard throughout the setup where they can emulate a Chris Hussey. I’m fully aware that the AFCW era is still making baby steps, and it’s not nearly as straightforward as I’m making out. But we have to do it, and pretty quickly too.

Whenever I’ve watched reserves or youth team games this season, I can’t help but think we put loads of youngsters in for the sake of it. It’s as though we get them in but not quite know what to do with them afterwards. Also, they may not be as good as we want to believe – I saw us in the FA Youth cup against Bournemouth, and despite the one division apart first-team wise, their youth were far above ours. Painfully so, too.  That’s a big problem, and one that can have an effect on the first team as well.

Anyway, to Saturday. Chances are Ben Judge will be on the Lemsip enough to play, and we’ll scrape by as we always seem to do. But if we want to progress, one thinks that we need to start doing better than considering Sam Hatton at centre back………..