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Ardley Time

You know that strange feeling you’ve had this last few days? No, not that one, the other one. That’s called having a little bit of confidence in the performance of AFC Wimbledon.

I know, it’s an odd one to have considering the last couple of months. Anyone would think we’ve currently stopped fucking about, starting to HAFSOG and prove a point in the process…

Our ability to score beyond the 90th minute in the last three games has got us to this point, which does at least show how fine the margins are in this division.

It could have easily been one point from nine, rather than five, and I expect some boffin has calculated how much we’d be shitting ourselves if we had…

Still, it’s a good trait to have if you’re otherwise ordinary at best. Although by all accounts about the Northampton game, we started off well and dug in when Midson was red-carded – getting something we probably deserved.

Which given our record against struggling teams is a step forward in itself.

Actually, scoring late on is pretty much de rigeur these days. The next time we win a game in ordinary, regulation time will be a bit anti-climatic. Although I suppose anyone whose Golden Goal ticket says “90+” will be a bit pissed off.

Anyway, Tuesday was an important one, especially against a relegation threatened side who are a) on a little run of form, b) fighting for their lives and c) managed by arch nemesis Chris Wilder.

We started off well, and finally got that 28th minute monkey off our back. Although I trust the Footballing Gods weren’t punishing us for doing that when Midson got sent off and we went 2-1 down.


To prove you can make stats say anything, we have now only lost once since the back end of February. That’s eight games, and even if we lose tomorrow it’s still been a reasonably good return, results wise.

Of course, our confidence hit the floor after York, but we did draw against Chesterfield and Burton. Though would it upset a few delicate souls to say our upturn in form has coincided with the HAFSOG movement…?

We’re in touching distance of playing in the League Cup and JPT next season. We will struggle to get the 50 points before Easter, because whenever we’ve got an easy enough chance to get that we never take it. I fully expect to lose at Mansfield tomorrow, because it’s a game where we can pick up a point or three and we won’t do it.

That said, NA seems mindful about the need to focus, as he’s set a target of beating the 54 points and the previous best of 16th position. It has to be said, I had forgotten we’ve never finished above 15th since our return to the League, but it’s easy to forget how woefully underprepared we were for the previous two seasons.

With this in mind, possibly, we’ve got in Kwesi Appiah from Palace until the end of the season. He pretty much tore up Conference defences when he was on loan at Cambridge this season, netting ten in 14 outings. Although as Sheringham and Strutton prove, it’s a lot different playing and scoring in League Two…

Still, he will be useful enough, as I’m sure most have forgotten Charlie Wyke is going back to Smogland at the end of next week. Which is a shame, because it’s no co-incidence when he and Midson played we looked a lot better up front.

It’s pretty annoying that for many games recently, we could have played them together, but obviously the disdain for playing Midson by somebody in management denied us that opportunity too many times.

And who knows, maybe if they had done that, we would have been properly safe by now?

That ain’t going to happen now, although signing Appiah is an interesting one – he’s been on loan a helluva lot, and he’s only 23 so that hints nobody quite knows what to do with him.

However, he’s been on our radar all season, apparently. Just like Wyke and Hylton were as well, if memory serves me correctly. I don’t think we’ll see Wyke again, even though he’s out of contract, because you expect a Northern club to nab him in the summer.

But could we be seeing a try-before-you-buy here?  If we do play Hylton and Appiah, and they look like they could cause L2 defences damage, maybe something more permanent will happen in the summer?

It’s not like Palace or Rotherham want them, and especially in Appiah’s case I doubt if Palace will be upset to cancel his contract. You never quite know what deals are being planned already, and if it all works out…

Then again, we’ll probably see both of them at other clubs when they find out refuse to pay more than minimum wage.

Anyway,  we are in that nice position where we can start working out how many wins we need to be safe. There will be a couple who think we’re home and dry already – after all, teams fighting for their lives are down there because they don’t win games.

Ask Northampton fans.

Despite our recent upturn in form, goalscoring and confidence, one can never rule out a catastrophic collapse by us. Lest we forget that up until the 68th minute last Saturday we were as dire and lifeless as any of our shittiest performances this season.

So we’re not out of the woods just yet. Plenty are saying we need one more win, and that will take us past the magical 50 point mark. I think we need two to probably make sure, although two wins and a draw will definitely do it. Even if mathematically we’ll need something from t’Stanley.

I suppose we’re still scarred by last season, and the season before that, if truth be told. Looking at it rationally we would have to put on a set of results that would have to surpass the worst of NA’s 3-5-2 idiocy.

In addition, a quick glance at the fixtures of those fighting for their lives suggests some of them have to play each other. Assuming things remain as they are down the bottom, Northampton v Pompey on Easter Monday will be a very interesting one.

The scrap to avoid having Alan Alger writing dull previews on your website next season will produce some desperate stuff, especially if you consider Pompey and Brizzle Rovers are proverbially too big to go down.

Pompey sacked Ritchie Barker yesterday, as we all know, and while I was writing this Rovers have moved John Ward upstairs. There’s going to be some kitchen sink throwing in the run-in, and it will only get messier.

So with all that in mind, two more wins should definitely do it, and that’s what we should be aiming for. Especially if we get them when those fighting it out don’t pick up points themselves.

We’re still a way off where we should be, and I don’t expect some players to stick around after we play t’Stanley, but at least it now sounds that we have a bit of fighting spirit and, just as importantly, we’re slowly becoming more of a unit.

And we are capable of getting beyond the 54 point mark. We are capable of finishing the job and giving us a really nice and relaxing April. Because if we aren’t, we shouldn’t be in the Football League.

How we approach the remaining games is yet to be seen. Perhaps the stress lifting somewhat means we won’t be so tense? There are most definitely a couple of winnable games in all of that, and if the straightjacket that has crippled us too often is getting loose, we might be in for quite a good end of season.

Although when Mansfield stuff us 4-0 tomorrow, I reserve the right to change my mind…