Skip to content

Tick tock

AKA it’s a results based business…

I was planning to go to Sarfend last night, but instead I got asked to go to Brentford instead. As seems depressingly predictable, I think I got the better deal. STTA braved the Dartford Crossing, though…

I’m always interested to see the players and manager’s faces at the end of a game.

What I saw when they came over at Roots Hall told me two things; Neal’s not sure what else he can do to get us a result and the players don’t look like they believe they can turn this around any time soon.

The problem is we played well, we were the better side for long periods of the game. But we’ve come away with nothing, again.

We created a number of clear goal scoring opportunities, we even looked dangerous from set pieces. From our best dead ball delivery we hit the post and then in turn Cody, Deji and Darius all missed glorious chances to bag us a point.

So this is Neal’s conundrum, his players are playing well and the system in which their deployed is creating chances, but our finishing is diabolical.

The imbalance in the squad is clear but I don’t think that’s a reason for our decline to become terminal. We just need to put away one or two of the chances we’re creating.
So why can’t we score a goal?

I wonder if our strikers have lot a bit of identity. Lyle was a centre forward when he arrived (remember the hat-trick in his first appearance) but is it his responsibility to score goals now or is he a right winger?

Cody has always played off a target man but now finds himself alone, feeding off scraps and trying to create his own chances rather than working off a supply of flicks and knock downs.

It was noticeable how much more dangerous he looked when Darius came on to partner him up front in the latter stages of last night’s game.

I mentioned in an earlier report that we appear to have signed three of the same striker. Appiah, MacDonald and Taylor could all play well in a front 2 with a target man but don’t seem very effective playing in different roles across a front 3.

Because our strikers have been put in unfamiliar roles they appear to be taking a while to find their feet and as we create fewer chances than they’re used to the pressure increases to convert the ones that do come along.

One thing is for sure if we continue not scoring goals results like last night will continue to happen. We played a poor Southend team who apart from the first 15 minutes barely troubled us. I haven’t checked the stats but it felt like we had more possession and created more chances.

But as usual we gave them a helping hand with their goal, failed to convert any of our chances and ultimately walked away with another defeat.

That’s becoming a habit and habits are hard to break.

We need to do something different. I’d like to play a front 2 on Saturday, whether we do it in a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 others will know better but we need to change things up top.

Our front 3 have contributed 4 goals in 10 games, if we keep that up over the season we’ll get 18 goals from them and be heading back to Mansfield next year.

Plus points: Will replacing Robbo. Parrett’s creativity.

Minus points: the first goalkeeping blunder, our dreadful finishing, that sinking feeling.

Point to ponder: I heard someone pose the question will we soon be forced to start Darius up front.

There are a few problems with this. Firstly although I’m sure he’ll do it for the team Darius wants to be a centre half. He didn’t enjoy being used in 3 or 4 different positions by Stevenage and was looking forward to establishing himself in one role when he came to us.

Secondly starting a central defender up front means Neal holding his hands up and saying I’ve fucked up. Is he ready to do that just yet, and indeed should he – not for me.

And thirdly that means 1 or 2 of our other strikers sitting on the bench, that’s a lot of wages sitting on their arses waiting to play in turn alongside Darius.

Anything else: we badly need a result on Saturday. I see a bit of doubt in the players, understandable now we’re 10 games in. The last thing we need is the ‘scoreboard pressure’ of dropping into the relegation places.

Last night’s results have bunched things up at the bottom and a couple more poor results could see us cosying up to Plymouth at the foot of the table.

Was it worth it: good atmosphere in our end

In a nutshell: cows arse and a banjo

While doing the usual casual glance at various social media outlets before writing this, I came across this very sobering stat off Twatter. I forgot who posted it, but it should make even the biggest sycophant sit up and take notice:

League One Top Goalscorers 2017-18:
8 – Marriott
8 – Moore
8 – Pitman
7 – Cole
6 – Beckford
5 – AFC Wimbledon

Scared? You should be.

Actually, it was quite interesting reading post-game reaction, as there were one or two very pointed comments towards the club itself from people I would have put down as “loyal”.

You see, it’s all very well to say we’ve created chances, but didn’t put them away. In isolation, that happens, and it’s one of the annoyances of football – especially seeing Long’s mistake on SSN this morning.

But this has been going on since about November 2016. And the credit in the bank has finally been drained dangerously low.

Forget “luck”. You make your own luck anyway, and you don’t go on bad streaks of it for too long. If you’re constantly struggling, then it’s because you’re poor, not unlucky. Besides, TB’s last games had more than their fair share of “bad luck”.

Come to think of it, there’s a definite similarity between September 2012 and September 2017. The odd good result standing out almost embarrassingly amongst a storm surge of shite. We may not be freefalling this time, but it’s been replaced by a slow strangulation.

And just like five years ago, there’s a definite sense of where the fuck do we go from here?

I sense the club would rather not sack Ardley, but it has to look at results first and foremost. And also ask why it’s gone backwards very quickly again after Gills and Blackburn – that suggests a problem fundamentally much deeper than “only” putting it in the back of the net.

One wonders if we’re about to experience this again, though preferably not airing our issues out in public this time. But you’d have to be firmly tunnelled up the club’s arse to believe there isn’t massive change needed.

This may sound a bit like tinkering around the edges, but as STTA suggested in his Franchise report, there’s two things we should do with immediate effect.

The first is to get a proper strikers coach in. Doesn’t even have to be a full time one, although it would be better if they were, but somebody who actually knows where the goal is. More importantly – they’ll need to get inside the head of Cody, Taylor and others so they can do it themselves.

We have one for a goalkeeper, so why do we undervalue it for something that needs urgent surgery?

The second is to get in a Shaun North type individual on the first team coaching staff. If the club wants to keep NA in his job, then he’s got to be told by somebody with some gravitas that his ideas aren’t working any more.

North did that when he was with us, and we were better off for it. Even if you just promoted Alan Reeves, although I would much rather somebody without any ties or connections to AFCW or Wimbledon FC.

Our collective obsession with trying to recreate the past with people we grew up watching doesn’t do us any favours, and just makes us insular. AFC Wimbledon is a professional football club, and not a Wimbledon Old Boys social club, although sometimes it’s hard not to think it’s the latter.

And don’t give me the “but it will undermine the current coaching staff” bollocks. The results alone are doing that already, and right now, we don’t have much choice.

We’re in a cycle of failure, and it will take a fierce jolt or two to break it. And break it we need to do, because although it’s only September we’re sleepwalking to a relegation battle. And a fight I don’t think we’ve got the bollocks for.

That said, I do not believe that relegation is inevitable this season. I believe to go down this campaign, when there are so many other teams not much better than us, would be an act of vandalism.

Nor should we accept going down anyway. We worked fucking hard to get to L1, yet without changing things we’re waving the white flag already.

Rochdale is going to be pivotal, and even then it might simply be buying a little bit of time but not much more. But Saturday evening will be one of the most interesting for some time.

Oh, and the comments section is back open again. It’s cheaper than therapy, although unlike phoning the Samaritans you won’t get a sympathetic voice on the other end…


  1. Tudor Tudor

    Clearly the answer is for NA to get another ‘ball-playing midfielder’ in on an emergency loan ;P

  2. Sir Mason Dixon-Line Sir Mason Dixon-Line

    Oh Mr Ardley!
    What shall we do?
    You wanted to play like Arsenal but
    You’re taking us down, League 2
    You didn’t sign a big man
    To lump it up the park
    Oh Mr Ardley!
    What a silly man you are!

  3. Malman Malman

    There are so many things wrong with this squad/balance. 4-3-3 with a plethora of identikit midfielders for 3 positions….and 3 strikers, one sponsored by sellotape….for 3 positions. Disjointed defence.
    My overriding thoughts of Ardley are that by and large the team that he sets up plays dross. At least 60% or what we’ve watched over the last 5 years is turgid.
    For an ex academy manager, loaded with badges, 30 years in the game….in 5 years nearly every player has gone backward on his watch. Hell, even Tom Elliot looked woeful by the time he left.
    We’ve had one purple patch in 5 years.
    I sincerely hope that the board have been chalking up a contingency in the last 2 weeks because if this continues and we do pull the plug, it is the entire coaching staff that need to go and we don’t need to be playing the same Papal game as Ardleys recruitment and a 3 week saga.
    I read iplough lane last night whilst watching the game. The team works hard but is drained – lacks a spark, the ability to cut a team open with 10 seconds of great football or 10 seconds of athleticism and muscle.
    There were comments of who would be better than Ardley, what strikers are available – an acceptance that we are slowly (8 months of shit) sinking but a nervousness of change.
    So, 3 options.
    1. Silence, fingers crossed, give the management more time.
    2. Shake the coaching up – new set of eyes and someone attack minded to help Neal (and as the man said – fuck whether that treads on toes) and grab a non contract striker. Yes it will cost but this may be the compromise gamble and fuck me, at least we will of tried.
    3. Man up. Accept we are not the ugly teenage geek of 5 years ago. No oil painting but far more attractive than in 2012 and we will attract better calibre management than novice academy managers. Put Reeves and Mark Robinson in interim charge and get an experienced manager on board. Yes-it will cost – but our home gates have dropped below last seasons lowest attendance and can we have the revenue hit of L2 with NPL imminent?
    And we’ve had in over £300k in transfer fees.

    “what strikers”. Dexter Blackstock, Leon Best, Rickie Lambert, Matty Fryatt, Ebbanks Blake,local boy Darius Henderson, Grant Holt? All looking for a club/game time – hell even pay as you play.

    “what managers”. Brian McDermott, Chris Powell, Justin Edinburgh, Alan Irvine and this time round they’ll be plenty of others

    Tick tock indeed.

  4. Sir John Harvey-Jones Sir John Harvey-Jones

    If there was such a thing as a football troubleshooter, he or she would surely spot a number of things wrong about AFC Wimbledon under Neal Ardley.

    They would notice Lyle Taylor, a striker who has proven he can score goals at this level, is playing out wide and well out of scoring range.

    They would see Cody McDonald, who is also proven at this level, playing effectively on his own up top and being starved of service.

    They would see long balls to an isolated 5ft 10 striker up against centre halves much taller than himself.

    They would question why New Ardley believes strikers as better wingers than wingers in the first place.

    They would ask why wide midfielders aren’t being used to provide the much needed service for the strikers.

    And they would question why a right footed midfielder is playing at left back when tried and tested alternatives are fit and available.

    Ultimately they would question whether Neal Ardley is competent or whether someone else should be given the job…

  5. Noggin Noggin

    Well, last time I mentioned on another website that Bassey isn’t an “optimal” coaching candidate for league 1 football, I was shot down. But I feel that time is right for someone with experience at this level or higher. The same could be said for NA but I’ll give him a few more months and feel it’s definitely a make or break winter for him.

  6. TheDon TheDon

    Agreed we have massively mucked up in our forward line recruitment this summer. Seeing us lose at home to franchise was grim and I understand why most are so pi**ed off. However, sounds like again we played some decent stuff last night but suffered because at the minute we are completely toothless up front. I do though have some sympathy with NA when he says at least we are creating chances and we are certainly not being turned over this season on a regular basis like in the dying days of Brown – I was at the 1-5 debacle at Bradford away! I know many won’t agree but I think we massively over achieved getting promotion and for that Neal deserves a bit more credit and some slack at the present time. Certainly if we only pick up a couple of points in the next 4-5 games or are in the bottom 4 at the turn of the year then all options need to be considered. However, as you rightly say 5th from bottom at the end of September is far from a hopeless position. Keep the faith – at least until 5pm on Saturday!

  7. Stephen Ward Stephen Ward

    In Neal’s post match interview on the BBC he said he thought we’d score 2 or 3. With our goalscoring record that made me wonder what planet is he on. He also sounded like he’d burst into tears at any minute which really isn’t good.

    The fact Ardley is a Wimbledon man is clouding the issue of how poorly he’s led us over the last 18 months or so. Everyone wants him to succeed because he’s a good bloke but he’s led us to this dark place and I’m not sure he can lead us out of it.

    I think our problems in front of goal stem from our manager’s style. He’s so desperate for us to do well that it transfers to the players and then they tense up in front of goal. I think that’s why it’s been a recurring issue for Ardley. He’s a very uptight manager and the players feel under a lot of pressure.

    For me personally, I’d sack him now and move the club on. It’s just my opinion. I can’t see us going any further under him. He’s had his 5 years, taken us up a league but he’s hit the wall by trying to become something that he’s not.

    The club don’t want to sack him. Most of the fans don’t want to see him go but how far in this pit of despair do we go. We are pretty deep in right now and we can’t keep saying next game it will change.

  8. Wendover John Wendover John

    We are going to keep huffing and puffing around the opposition box until we manage to sign a target man.
    In the meantime the reality of the situation is that Neal will have to temporarily convert a centre back, with Darius Charles being the obvious choice.
    Another possible option would be to try Trotter or Soares
    Last night as per most of this season we lacked presence up front.
    Darius Charles caused problems when he came on at Southend last night, but it was a case of too little too late.
    Speaking of players playing out of position, Lyle had a cameo role as a centre back late on in the 2nd half.

  9. R Don R Don

    When NA took us up, and we stayed up, I’m sure there were a few clubs looking at him. He’s made some mistakes, and yes he needs to take a chill pill sometimes, but I think he’s still got the players behind him. The worry is, if we get someone new in and it doesn’t work out, we could be in serious freefall. The change in style, when we have been such a target man team, was a probable error with the players available. There’s no shame if he decides fuck it, lump it to a new big man, we just need results. We are in a scrap. Hopefully the ex- millwall contingent will get over leaving the dark side, and not think it’s payday, wind down time. It’s not good when people are lamenting letting Tyrone go ( personally I thought that deeep down there was something there, but hey ho ). Who knows, maybe we’ll get six on sat….

  10. Kobedave Kobedave

    Will NA walk first I wonder? Every time I hear or see him speak these days he looks like the weight of the world is on his shoulders….

    My two cents says it’s better to stick with him until at least January

  11. Yorkshire Pudding Yorkshire Pudding

    Yorkshire Womble on the WUP has some ideas for a target man but he can’t reveal them. He can’t reveal them as he is a proffesional scout. Did people know that?

    I do believe that Ardley will turn it round but baffled by recent selection choices. It’s wierd how he works out a decent formula for playing and winning then changes it again.

    • Poor Old Neal Poor Old Neal

      I spent 5 fuckin years knocking my nodder out and all those years I had a genius under my nose that can get me a journeyman lump from Cowshit United of the Northern Whippet League for a bulls eye?

      Why has this turnip been so modest/hidden his light under a bushel?

      FFS, Jesus wept, what a rick, all in my honest opinion iyswim

  12. JamPot JamPot

    I thought we would lose at Southend but the manner of the defeat if the reflection of play is correct is damning.

    So that is 8pts from 10 games.

    You need in excess of a point a game to stay up plus a couple more for comfort.

    So we are already behind schedule and safe to say one of a number of possible relegation candidates at this time.

    Most of what is said above is true to anyone other than the management.

    Oh for a Meet the Manager at the moment; I want to hear NA justify his selection, his playing style and what he sees is wrong.

    Then let us politely have our say and see what he says back.

    Of course that would not happen but as someone above said you need someone outside the goldfish bowl to look in and say what is happening because as has been said, NA will not change.

    I firmly believe in giving the manager targets and him hitting them. If he does not then its only fair he goes, either under his own steam or the dreaded vote of confidence bullet.

    So by that measure I have to accept NA until the end of the season.

    You should not wish ill on people but just like players get injured perhaps NA could suffer a slight injury that keeps him away for a short while so something else can be tried because it sure as hell is not working.

    Rochdale on Saturday…. not a great home record is it? We’ll see.

  13. Neal Eardley Neal Eardley

    I’m available if you want me

  14. Slow Train Slow Train

    On the target man discussion I haven’t seen a name suggested yet that would interest me, As for the idea of an ageing pro who’s best years are behind him, don’t we have enough of those already?

    Ikpeazu at Cambridge is the sort of player I’d like us to go for, big powerful Wimbledon-type player, 22 years old and 5 goals to his name this season. He’s contracted until the Summer so January could be the time to move.

  15. R Don R Don

    All hail the target man, for he is indeed the messiah, and will surely lead us into the promised land

  16. King of Groove King of Groove

    I blame myself for how the team is doing! Being a bus driver I haven’t been able to make a home game this season but will be there on Saturday when we play Rochdale! The team have seriously been missing my ‘vocal encouragement’!! Come on you Dons!

  17. JohnnyH JohnnyH

    He definitely isn’t the whole problem, and I’m not suggesting we give him the heave, but how many other teams at our level have a First Team Coach whose playing level was as low as Simon Bassey? Having someone else who has *ever* played/coached in the top two divisions on our coaching staff would surely be a wise move. And might liberate Bass to continue to contribute to the Wimbledon FC culture we have, doing what he does best as part of an enlarged coaching team.

    • JohnnyH JohnnyH

      – but if I’m right about playing experience mattering so much, what are Neal & Neil (who have it in spades) bringing to the party? Do we need wisdom, a target man or just a the rub of the green (*commences search down back of sofa for Don Howe, John Fashanu and a leprechaun*).

  18. Dave Dave

    I said on here, before the season kicked off that Nil Ardley had created a virtual repeat of the Terry Brown “Death Knell” situation prior to his departure. I stand by what I said – no replacements in key positions, signing players bereft of matches, players with long term injury problems etc. I also said that Ardley could not wipe the slate clean with his and the Dons record since the Sutton debacle because the problem was likely to carry over into the new season and that’s exactly what has happened.
    As I see it, we have a Manager who cannot and will not admit when the problem is of his own making and a backroom team without the balls to challenge him. As for the poor goalscoring record – I outlined in another post on here his atrocious record of “Nils” throughout last season and, in particular, from March onwards.
    There are those on WUP maintaining that we have been unlucky!? – unlucky since last March?
    Let’s face it, Mr Ardley has been in a rut for far too long, uses all sorts of excuses for terrible inept performances and has no real answers to appease his critics. He is, and always has been an ultra defensive, overly cautious Boss prone to regular fall outs with our better players and youth products of which most, if not all, leave the Club. How much longer can this go on? How many more home defeats and nils are the Fans expected to put up with before the gates drop even further or we end up at the bottom of the table? Something has to happen soon or it could be too late!

    • Kentish Don Kentish Don

      Good post.

      Not sure why you’re having a pop at WUP for somehow being complicit in Ardley’s self-deception. Very few maintain five goals in 10 games is merely down to bad luck.

      Ardley is dangerously close to losing the fans and defeat to Rochdale tomorrow could be the tipping point. A must-win game for several reasons.

  19. Big Ben Big Ben

    After the Southend game it was the first time I thought to myself has Ardley taken us as far as he can. That disappointed me more than the result itself. I would love it if he led us out at NPL. Reading some of the comments above i do wonder if expectations are a bit unrealistic. “How poorly has he led us over the last 18 months or so” answer – promotion and comfortable survival in L1 (it was frustrating how last season fizzled out I agree on that much).
    Only 4 teams have conceded less than us this season and we are creating chances. Goals will come, I’m sure of that, once the strikers get their confidence back.
    Here’s hoping for 3 points today and a couple of goals scored!!

Leave a Reply