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Footlights 1 Wimbledon Drama Society 4


Bloody hell, where did THAT performance come from?

I have to hold my hand up here, I genuinely didn’t expect us to even win that yesterday, let alone give somebody a gubbing. And away from home, too.

We can pick holes in it, SW19 style, but here’s two reports from people who were actually there. Firstly, Doughtmeistergeneral:

Prior to the game, the 2 hour journey took us to the Wrestler’s Inn 5 minutes from the ground where a couple of pints of Glamorgan ale (strange bearing in mind we were in Cambridgeshire) were downed.

There was sadly no female mud wrestling ongoing (as hoped) but 4 H’s, SA, KS, JG, myself and my great friend CJ caught up with tales of football, Xmas food excesses, and high street retailing in Cambridge.

A wonderful performance from everyone in a blue shirt (nb last week’s programme had said we’d be playing in white but SA approved of the blue strip as there was no colour conflict with the Cambridge amber strip)……apart from Francomb who seemed well out of sorts and was giving the ball away continuously, though he did provide the cross for the first goal. KS later described him as ‘an enigma’.

We conceded a lot of free kicks but as KS observed this was in part due to the fact we were getting thoroughly stuck in throughout…..with a desire not often seen this season. The boys have fire in their bellies right now.

The travelling army numbered just under 700 and were in great voice throughout. When the scoreboard signalled 5 extra minutes to be played at the end of the game, this clearly struck a chord with the massed ranks of Wombles who chanted ‘we want 5’, which could have been construed as wanting 5 extra minutes, or a 5th goal…..we will never know.

At one nil, we broke down the left and Andy B raced through to slot a lovely strike between the sticks. Shock horror the ref/lino (they should have gone to Specsavers) blew for off-side. Andy B had picked the ball up in his own half so how could he be off-side ?

Ards went mad from the bench – for several minutes, berating the blind lino. Apparently the ref later conceded he’d called it wrong.

Then the Cambridge equaliser which from all accounts should not have been a free kick against Meades. The cross comes in and a replica of our first goal. I thought at the time Shea should have come for it……and the video suggests this view is correct – the cross was virtually into the 6 yard box – surely a goalie’s patch – but Shea often does not dominate – possibly due to his lack of height albeit Wikipedia has him at 1 m 8, and the club website at 1 m 88…….but I think he is nearer 1 m 3.

The ground is a good old fashioned lower league type set up (ie a cow shed style home terrace behind the goal/old main stand/terracing down one side)…….apart from the Dagenham style new stand behind the goal that houses the travelling armies. Nice of these clubs to give their best section to visitors but I wonder why.

SA was very happy with the environment… well as the performance and midway through the second half he was able to comment ”this literally is like watching Brazil”. He is now preparing for the trip to Notts County another ground duly notched up.

For those not at the game wondering why Lyle had words with Son Of Lurch Beasant after our second goal, this followed a bizarre free kick given against Taylor 5 minutes earlier during a corner situation.

Taylor circled/ran round the keeper repeatedly before the corner came over to try and disorientate Beasant, though there was no physical contact. The ref penalised Taylor. KS from the stand exclaimed ”ref when did circling the ref become an offence ?”

Later to our right near the main stand, Taylor was trying to keep the ball with 2 U’s players grappling to get it off him. At one point he appeared to lose possession and the home fans cheered furiously and mocked……but they were premature as Lyle won it back cheekily.

We roared our approval. Lyle then just smiled at the now silent home fans. Sweet. This boy is some player, some athlete.

At the end of the game, Beasant turned to the away section and applauded us which was a nice touch and possibly referencing the earlier chant in honour of his dad….”when Dave went up to lift the FA Cup”…..

At 2 one we are looking really good……Barry’s skinning of the hapless U’s left back for the cross for the 2nd was a thing of beauty.

The 3rd, a sweet cross from Francomb and lovely finish by Meades.

The grande finale though – a hopeful punt upfield by Robbo and then Azeez flying through past the U’s defender – it was like watching Usain Bolt cruising to the finish line – Azeez duly skips around the keeper and slots the ball into the onion bag (just).

RH states that a year ago Azeez would have fired it into Row Z but he is now a different player, full of confidence and arguably worth £1M if ever transferred (ditto Taylor).

What a great day out it was…….and as KS rightly stated en route home, we were not even going to have to suffer the wretched Strictly all evening… our living rooms could be returned to us following the end of that disgusting series. Oh joy of joys.

And next, from Simmie Womble:

I seriously did not expect Yellow Bacardi 1-4 Plough Lane Ale. To be honest, I don’t think anyone else did either. Put it this way – my voice still hasn’t recovered from celebrating/shouting at the referee.

This kind of result goes in the ‘well fought victory’ category, and by gosh did we fight. Although Akinfenwa’s attempt at decking the referee at half-time had to be prevented sadly.

Do you know what’s even better, we won this while playing well for the majority of the 90 minutes. Cambridge never really looked like troubling us too much in defence, and every time we went forward with the ball we could have scored.

And yes Barcham’s goal should not have been called offside. It seems like Ardley has found the perfect match between clever technical tippy-tappyness and brute-force league 2 football, and I tell you what – I really like it!

Although it might be nice if Ardley teaches our wingers how to play as wingers and not as slightly wider central midfielders at times. I actually thought the two weakest performances in the team were from Barcham and Francomb. They didn’t make half the runs they should have and at times that limited our attacking opportunities.

But isn’t it very nice to be able to say that after a 4-1 victory and not after a 2-0 defeat?

The byword of the last few weeks has been character, and this is something that carried on yesterday. We harried Cambridge and never really let them have too much space with the ball.

We were clever with our set-pieces – and yes Lyle Taylors attempt at cat and mouse with Sam Beasant was both very funny and really effective as it’s what allowed Robinson to score his goal.

And what’s even better is that once Bayo and Taylor had run themselves into the ground – we had Elliot and Azeeez to bring on to cause even more problems. For some reason it feels like everything clicked yesterday. The real challenge is getting us to click for the rest of the season.

Plus points: The entire-team. Referee in the Second-Half. Could and should have been 5 or 6. Bayo in the Second Half.

Minus points: The referee in the first half. Their set-piece that scored. The wing play. Bayo in the First Half.

The referee’s a…: There’s a special kind of hell reserved for the performance he put in the first half. I’m not sure he gave us a single decision, and I’m surprised he didn’t send one of our players off in solidarity with Comrade Hill.

Saying that he responded to our ‘advice’ at half-time, and actually turned into a slightly better referee. Decisions were a lot fairer and nine times out of ten he made a call similar to what someone with an appreciation of the laws of the game would make.

And besides… we won 4-1 while the referee was mostly against us!

Them: How were they the form side in the division before this thing? The only moment of decent play came from their stupid set piece. Admittedly how the dambusters got involved in their set-piece routines defeat me but it worked. Once. Out of numerous chances they had, and yes pretty much everyone was referring to how cuntish they were as they made the move.

Ironically, I’m not sure they could cope with our closing down game. For pretty much all of the 90 – there would be 3 or 4 of our players stopping there from passing, or just generally tackling them and breaking on the counter.

They couldn’t cope with the fight that we had. Although 5,500 on the first Saturday in January with not a lot to do seems pretty shoddy to me.

Those that did turn up – well they sang and had a fair bit of atmosphere going until our first goal. Although I’m not sure what Yellow Bacardi has to do with Cambridge United.

Point to ponder: Is it me, or is Ardley’s squad starting to work for him? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Dons team work so hard to win the ball back before. Even better, most of the time – our attacks were direct and to the point.

While I could say it’s a sign we were playing League 2 football. I don’t think we were. If you can – watch the build up play for our attacks in the second half – lots of forward runs and clever passes to destroy the defence.

The kind of quality play a Championship side will pull out of the hat against a weaker outfit. The challenge is can we keep it up.

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) Winning 4-1 away from home 2) Two defenders scoring a goal and taking them very well 3) The team looking like one that wants to work for each other as a team. 4) Taking us till January to better our away record from the whole of last season.

Anything else? I took two of my university friends along with me. One’s a Bolton fan, and the other is a Luton fan – both were impressed with how we played. Admittedly Bolton fans might get impressed with a bunch of 5 year olds playing football right now but it’s still a good sign.

If we can regularly punch out these sorts of performances – I can genuinely see us being there with the play-off chasers at the end of the season. The question is can Ardley keep the players motivated for the likes of Notts County and Mansfield in the coming weeks…

For about the last two months, SW19 has often asked what’s gone wrong over the weekend. This time, the question has to be asked – what’s gone right?

By the sounds of it, everything just managed to click into place at the right time. We had actually won in the week at Exeter, don’t forget, although that may have been more flattering than the scoreline suggests.

To score four goals is one thing. To have four different scorers is something else, and it’s good that two of the scorers were Taylor and Azeez.

Though a penny for Elliott’s thoughts right now…

Unsurprisingly, NA is happy, although I’m not sure about that Evangelical Minister pose for a photo. The only thing I would question him about would be him describing Stevenage as a hiccup, because a) it had been brewing for a while, and b) we were equally as shit for the first half at Newport.

Actually, you could trace our current good play back to that horrible day in South Wales (cue joke…), and up to and including NA trudging a very lonely figure to the dugout in the second half.

To everyone’s credit, the manager included, we haven’t looked a dishevelled rabble since then. Robbo getting sent off on Boxing Day seemed to bond everyone together further, which has led to getting six points from a very tricky looking two away fixtures.

Which makes you wonder just what was said between various parties recently. Isn’t it funny (as in, strange) how things very quickly improved when that line got crossed?

I don’t doubt that part of this current run is down to players needing to secure their places, given it’s the transfer window. But also, I’d like to think that it’s the setup justifying its talent.

Perhaps finally?

We’re current in the top ten – well, tenth anyway – and just one win from the playoff places. That’s a position we’ve (collectively) said we should be for the last two to three seasons.

OK, it can take even a couple of draws to go from 10th to about 14th, but we’ve talked for so long about fulfilling our potential that it’s time we started to do so.

This particular group of players should be in the top half of the table pretty much for the whole season, as a matter of course. Especially one that you can legitimately describe as the best collection of players since AFCW got in the FL.

Granted, being legit playoff contenders is a different matter, and I don’t think in all honesty we’re going to be touching that this season. But we are at least currently showing glimpses of what we can do…

Of course, this current good run could be the usual false dawn. We have a spare weekend next week and then Mansfield at KM, so we all know how that’s going to turn out.

But this time, maybe it won’t?

At least we can walk around this next fortnight like a dog with two dicks. We haven’t had that feeling for a while, and although there’s a big danger we can hark back to Stevenage too often – it’s what we’re owed after that debacle.

Although what we’re due for the Newport first half is anyone’s guess…