SOMETIMES it’s instructive to look back for context. This time last season we were despondent after shipping six goals at Burton Albion as a harbinger of doom. The mood was pessimistic, fretful of what was to come.
Whirr fast-forward to Saturday at Kingsmeadow and the mood is purposeful, optimistic .. and dare say it, actually enjoyable! Wimbledon’s 1-0 win over Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe Wanderers preserved the team’s unbeaten start to the season and if you have a squiz at the table you’re in for a pleasant experience: seventh place with four points and a POSITIVE goal difference!
The Dons may/should have scored more than one against the Chairboys reduced to 10 men after a 34th-minute red card, but it was the manner of the performance that gives confidence that Neal Ardley is on the way to turning around the team after last season’s relegation chills.
Wimbledon may have won by the same margin over Chesterfield on last season’s opening day at Kingsmeadow, but comparisons with the latest win are like chalk and cheese. The Dons simply deserved this one.
And it’s pleasing and therapeutic to report that the new beefed-up back five kept a clean sheet as a hopeful pointer to a much improved contribution from the defence this season.
Fans actually had a debate over who should have been the man-of-the-match given the large pool of contenders, showing the all-round contributions across the pitch. So much to be encouraged about two league games in, yet with undoubtedly some challenges and obstacles to come.
Some games last season it was a struggle to name a MOTM but today there were so many contenders (including the WW left back) #afcwimbledon
— Niall McGarry (@BarcaWomble) August 10, 2013
“First home game I knew there would be a little bit of expectation our fans might have because it’s a new season with new players and we could end up being deflated. I was a bit worried about that,” Ardley said.
“Now we have four points and are undefeated and we want to make sure it stays that way.”
— Phil Catchpole (@bluntphil) August 10, 2013
Longest-serving Don Luke Moore, who prevaricated over renewing his contract during the summer for a fifth season at Kingsmeadow, got the eventual winner in 37th minute. That’s his second of the season after scoring at Millwall in the League Cup and his 28th career league goal at the Club.
Left back Callum Kennedy, signed in the off-season from Scunthorpe United, provided the teasing cross for Moore to nod home emphatically.
That came minutes after Wycombe skipper Stuart Lewis was sent off for a hefty high challenge on George Porter, who was lively in the early stages.
One fan described the agricultural challenge: “Porter went to bring the ball down as it came to him from a high angle. Their lad also went for the ball but far too late and with his knee and studs leading. Caught Porter in the stomach/abdomen far too long after the ball had gone.” Another Dons fan said the referee had given Lewis a stern warning after a similar foul earlier.
— George Porter (@Georgeporter15) August 10, 2013
Both team bosses thought the incident was reckless, rather than malicious with former Wimbledon favourite and Wycombe manager Gareth ‘Wild Thing’ Ainsworth protesting:”It was not a sending-off in my opinion, but mine doesn’t count and the referee’s does. All of my players didn’t think it was one and I’ve spoken to Neal Ardley and he said ‘very harsh.”
But Wimbledon were good value for their first-half goal. “I thought that we were very good in the first-half,” Ardley said. “I cannot remember them having too much of it before the break. That was before the sending off and it was good timing when we scored because it stopped them from sitting back too much with 10 men.
“We were the best team in the first-half and could have maybe been 2-0 up. We could have added to it in the end, but we will definitely take a win in our first home game of the season.”
There were many pleasing aspects for the Dons fans and remember last season’s corresponding match the Dons tossed away three points with a late defensive glitch.
George Porter, on a season loan from Burnley, had a terrific battle with Wycombe’s impressive left-back Callum Dunne, who was being watched by the Ireland Under-21 manager.
“You can see why bigger clubs are looking at their number three Dunne – quality player,” WDSA columnist Ray Armfield said, while another fan added: “Porter did okay considering the Wycombe number three seemed to have him in his pocket. Porter didn’t give up and got the better on a few occasions against a very good left-back.”
Porter acknowledged his rival Dunne when he was subbed by Chris Arthur with nine minutes left.
Great win for #afcwimbledon the Crewe fan loved the fact we do MOTD presentations, particularly Ivor. Doesn't happen up north apparently.
— Pierpaolo Barrett (@PierBarrett) August 10, 2013
Loan striker Michael Smith, partnering Jack Midson up front, was another to get the thumbs up and had several efforts saved by Wycombe goalkeeper Matt Ingram. Wimbledon will be looking to get more out of target man Smith once his teammates get familiar with his hold up play.
Peter Sweeney, who was sorely missed with an injured foot during last season’s relegation run-in, was also a key contributor, screening the centre backs, doing the unobtrusive dirty work, getting to the loose ball and making three crucial blocks in the closing stages.
Barry Fuller proved his value as a no-nonsense right-back, Ross Worner was sound in goal and Harry Pell won the official man-of-the-match with his energy in midfield.
— steve leahy (@steviedon) August 10, 2013
But it’s not quite going right for Midson at the moment. A substitute for the opening two matches, last season’s leading scorer started this time but was brought off for Charlie Sheringham with 16 minutes left. Charlie’s father, former England international Teddy Sheringham, came to Kingsmeadow on his motorbike to watch his son!
So next weekend it’s off to Devon again and Exeter City where the Dons lost 2-0 last season. Another good opportunity to scrutinise the team’s credentials and interesting to note that in last season’s corresponding third league match Terry Brown’s team were road-kill in a 5-1 demolition at Bradford City.