WALLS HAVE CHEERS

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Neal Ardley gets soakedTHE juxtaposition couldn’t be more starkly expressed. Ambitious AFC Wimbledon on the up and proud Portsmouth locked in a kamikaze nose-dive and yet despite it all Neal Ardley still gets a bucketing!

The Dons thumped Pompey 4-0 in their biggest home win in almost 20 months and the irony was not lost on those who have helped rebuild the club from scratch.

AFC Wimbledon have climbed five tiers to get to where they are; Portsmouth have been in free-fall since their relegation from the Premier League in 2010 having got in over their head and are enduring an excruciating transition season in the fourth tier.

This was one for Dons’ fans to savour coming after the agony of a self-inflicted FA Cup exit to League One Coventry City eight days before. The team then showed they were capable of mixing it with better company and that was only reinforced by their dispatching of Pompey.

While home fans were revelling in one of the team’s signature days of the season in a house-full Kingsmeadow, the Portsmouth players were excoriated by their 800 travelling supporters. Portsmouth match reporters called it the lowest ebb of Pompey’s season. 

Jim Bonner, writing in his Fratton Faithful blog, described the scene: “The final whistle was greeted by loud boos from the Pompey fans, probably the loudest noise they had made all afternoon with songs like “we want our money back” amongst many other explosive tirades being launched at the underperforming Pompey players.

“At least Simon Ferry had the decency to come over and applaud the fans before getting a verbal tirade. A couple of other players half-heartedly clapped but thought better of coming over to the livid fans who were disgusted with such a terrible performance, one that Ferry himself described as “disgraceful and embarrassing” and “absolute dog shit”. You couldn’t disagree with him.”

You could not help but get the feeling that there is more pain yet to come for Pompey with manager Guy Whittingham under increasing pressure to hold on to his job.

Yet the problem has its origins well before the Kingsmeadow drubbing. Pompey have won just five of their 15 games in League 2 this season and if you add in their last two back-to-back relegation seasons they have won just 28 of their 107 games.

While Pompey are convulsing, Wimbledon took another big step towards their main season priority under Ardley: staying in League 2.

The Dons now have 24 points, seven wins and are in ninth place, just two points outside the top-seven playoffs and 10 points above the relegation zone. Compare this with last season when the club had just 14 points after 16 games and were fourth from bottom.

After the recent run of six win-less games, the Dons have appeared to turn the corner with an away win at leaders Rochdale, an undeserved exit in the FA Cup to Coventry and now putting four goals past Pompey.

Andy Frampton, a key player in the Club’s turnaround, claimed a brace adding to a Sammy Moore piledriver and Michael Smith’s eighth goal of the season. It could have been more with Harry Pell missing the chance to convert a 22nd-minute penalty after Kaid Mohamed was sent sprawling.

“Andy is a proper (!!) man and he is fantastic around the club,” assistant coach Simon Bassey said. “He is a fantastic professional and if we can keep him and Alan Bennett fit then I think we have as good a centre-back pairing as there is in this league. It was no coincidence that when we had a sticky spell it was when we had injuries to those two.”

Mohamed brilliantly kept in a overhit Callum Kennedy cross from the right touchline and forced a save from Pompey keeper by Trevor Carson only for Frampton to tap in from close range on 32 minutes.

Mohamed’s pace on the left gave the Dons another attacking outlet with George Porter heavily marked on the right flank and had the Dons’ fans yearning for more as a more-than-adequate replacement for sidelined Chris Arthur.

Kaid Mohamed Tshirt
Kaid Mohamed … lively start to new loan spell with Dons.

Portsmouth’s humiliation continued on in the dressingroom post-match as they were forced to endure the commotion next door of the wildly celebrating Wimbledon players.

You couldn’t blame the Dons for raucously celebrating their win as Simon Bassey put into context what the Pompey win meant to the club.

“We have worked really hard in the last three weeks on the training ground,” Bassey said. “We have put a lot of hours in on our shape and being resilient.

“I think we have seen that the team has been really committed since the Oxford game. Coventry was an excellent performance last week, even though we lost the game. Today we have seen the end result of all our hard work.”

And it was a disaster all the way back to Portsmouth’s Fratton Park where the Club had arranged to beam back the match live to a big screen at the ground for Pompey supporters who couldn’t get tickets for the sold out game.

A Pompey fan takes up what happened: “So, I freezed my nuts off in the Fratton End watching a poor quality stream with no audio (what happened to the promised commentary!?) with about 100 other fans – mostly kids. The stream either cut out, or ran at a stop start speed (somebody nearby described it as somebody flipping a picture book), and to top it off, I ended up sitting behind a Wimbledon fan. WOULD NOT RECOMMEND AGAIN!!!”

It was a day that Pompey will want to forget in a hurry. The Premier League must feel light years ago.

And the ‘bucketing’ for Neal Ardley? Well, what a way to end such a rousing day for the Wimbledon manager as he faced the Sky TV cameras pitchside all spick and span…. 

 Read more in the WDSA match thread.

1 COMMENT

  1. Surely the best performance for the year and very timely after playing so well without luck against Coventry. Not surprisingly the main men at the back played together again and achieved a clean sheet.

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