WHO’S GOING TO TELL BAYO?

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Adebayo Akinfenwa celebrates MK winner with George Francomb
Adebayo Akinfenwa .. time to find a new penalty-taker?

A game of missed penalties. Bayo Akinfenwa misses his second spot kick in a month and James Shea keeps out Cambridge United’s effort to give Wimbledon a point for their 11th clean sheet of the season.

Two points lost or two points saved? And another one to ponder: if the Dons get another penalty do we take the ball off Bayo and give the spot kick to someone else?

Penalty-taking is all about confidence and keeping your nerve. After two fluffs — he also missed one in the 2-0 home win over Newport County on February 7 — maybe even The Beast’s gargantuan self-confidence has taken a hit.

The missed penalties were the main talking points out of the Abbey Stadium stalemate and while The Beast’s lackadaisical-looking approach to rolling home spot kicks rather than blasting them may infuriate, who else in the Wimbledon team should now take them?

Some say skipper Barry Fuller, given the characteristic ‘bottle’ nature of his football or the experienced Dannie Bulman or even seen-it-all David Connolly, despite his cameo appearances, should take on the responsibility. Bulman and Connolly were both on the bench when Bayo ambled up to take his abortive penalty at Cambridge.

What we also shouldn’t lose sight of is The Beast’s immense contribution to the Dons this season. Thirteen goals and tireless and selfless work up front. As Connolly puts it: “Adebayo takes a lot of physical hits. Imagine all the hits he gets.”

It’s one for Neal Ardley to sort out. It didn’t cost the Dons any points in the Newport win, but it may have against Cambridge, particularly after Shea’s wonderful full-stretched save to deny U’s penalty-taker Robbie Simpson some 12 minutes after Akinfenwa’s botched effort just a minute after the resumption.

James Shea 2
James Shea .. will the Dons be able to keep hold of him?

Referee Gavin Ward adjudged that Sammy Moore had handled a cross and pointed to the spot. Shea pulled off a brilliant stop to deny Simpson with a full stretch save to his right…. two points lost or two points saved?

Shea’s glowing performances this season have made last campaign’s custodian Ross Worner redundant and the Club has moved quickly to tie down the one-time Arsenal youth teamer.

“I was over the moon to sign a new deal at Wimbledon and it’s something I could not have imagined a year ago,” Shea said ahead of the Cambridge game.

“Sometimes it’s the best thing to have that escape from a big club and play games at a lower club. You enjoy your football again and moving to Harrow Borough was the best decision I ever made.

“I played games and got experience. It’s all worked out really well for me so far since I joined Wimbledon.”

More performances like the one at Cambridge and Wimbledon may find it difficult to keep the 23-year-old Shea from the clutches of clubs higher up the food chain.

The point lifts the Dons to 45 points — seven points and six spots higher than this time last season — and in 10th place, their highest position since the 3-2 win over Bury at home on October 11, more than four months ago. It further illustrates the strides Wimbledon have made this season.

Another pleasing side of Wimbledon’s season continues to be the emergence of their home-grown youth players and Tom Beere got an extended 76-minute run before he came off for Sean Rigg.

“Tom came in at right midfield and had an excellent game,” Ardley said. “He got into some great positions.

“In the long-term I think Tom is going to be a better central midfielder, but he can certainly play this role well. Tom has come into a good team with good players.”

Ardley’s assiduous work in the transfer window continues to get its rewards with Alfie Potter growing in confidence since his move from Oxford United last month.

Tom Beere1
Tom Beere … Neal Ardley praise for home-grown midfielder

“I thought Alfie Potter was outstanding tonight,” the gaffer said. “Some of our play down the left in the first half was exceptional as Alfie and Jack Smith carved them open time and time again. It was just our final ball and finishing that we were lacking.

“When I signed Alfie I knew what I was getting.  I knew he had suffered from a lack of confidence. I watched his last couple of games at Oxford and the fans were getting on his back a bit. You could tell that he was not enjoying it and that he did not have the licence to be the player that he is.

“When you are a wide player you have to take some risks and try and make things happen.

“I said to Alfie after he signed that I would never have a go at him for trying things as long as he worked hard for the team. He’s really enjoying it. Alfie looks a quality player.”

While a win would have been handy as the Dons flirt on the outskirts of the playoff places, there is hope that they might finish with four points from their two away trips in five days at bottom team Hartlepool United on Saturday.

The Monkey Hangers are fighting for their lives but the Dons do carry an attacking threat and if the defence can stay firm around another of Ardley’s impressive window recruits Deji Oshilaja there are possibilities, as long as they don’t have to rely on a penalty.

Read more views on the WDSA forum match thread

Plenty of more great reading in the latest Wombles Downunder #210