Fan’s View 2020/21 – No.48 – Wimbledon away

Article by Paul Beasley Tuesday, April 20th, 2021  

SEASON 2020/21 No.48: WIMBLEDON AWAY

Pre-match

Since Sunday when the announcement was made, the big talking point in the football world is obviously the European Super League. I suspect everyone who writes professionally or just because they love the game as I do could rattle off pages and pages of bile directed at the owners of the clubs involved. (I confess to being a bit confused about Barcelona given they are a fan owned club but suspect the Executive made the decision. The fact that they are a billion Euros in debt and the JP Morgan cash will help out enormously probably has a lot to do with it).

What is left when fair competition is sucked out of a sport? What is left when there is a tiny closed shop? Absolutely f*** all. An empty husk. I have very little interest in the bloated Champions League as it is. No relegation. An absolute joke. Dead rubber after dead rubber. I assume it has been calculated that the Asian market don’t care. That’s the target audience not your loyal Manc from Salford, Trafford or Moss Side. They don’t care one iota for Scousers of the red kind.

Now let’s look at EFL One. That’s a 24 club division with a 27.1% churn each season. Four down and three up. As one of these three comes via the play-offs, four teams remain standing after the main set of fixtures is done with and right up to the final day x number may well be battling to get into the top six. There’s nearly always something to play for.

Yes, we have another game of high stakes. There’s a complete L1 set of matches tonight. Only the Fleetwood v Crewe game has no meaning with regard to either promotion or relegation issues.

We all know our position.

After losing at home to Fleetwood on Easter Monday, Wimbledon were third bottom, albeit with some games in hand. Since then they’ve won three on the spin, as have we, and are on 45 points in 19th place with five games, including this, remaining. Fifty points is not always enough for survival and they’ll be targeting at least two more wins. Wimbledon teams do not go down divisions or on the day without putting up a real fight.

Once more we’ve got our work cut out.

Give me the EFL over the ESL every day of the week.

 AFC WIMBLEDON 2 OXFORD UNITED 1

Football gives and football takes. We received that beautiful gift of those two Sam Long goals on Saturday in such a short space of time. Today in an even much more condensed time period it took. And how.

From a goal up and looking quite comfortable to a goal and a man down in two minutes. Excitement for the home fan. Drama for the neutral. Hollow dejection for us Yellows. We still had half an hour to turn things around, whether that meant getting a point or being super heroes and getting all three. Truth be told though we didn’t ever really have them rocking and lacked the power or craft to inflict real damage.

So, just about season over.  100 to one shot says I without looking at the other results. Might as well be the ESL for our remaining three games. Oh well, we made it this far despite our horrendous start and some woefulness such as Swindon at home and Northampton away. (Still hard to let that go).

With the game hardly begun Wimbledon got a throw-in and in true Gillingham style it was slung into our penalty area but the similarities ended there.

Both sides were going for it and playing good quick football. There was nothing cagey about this. None of the feeling each other out to see what it was all about. I soon knew I’d seen worse sides than the Wombles against us recently.

Cameron Brannagan seemed intent on hitting long passes, none of which came to anything and most of which ended up in the safe keeping of New Zealander Nikola Tzanev.

In the 37th minute after a very good move I thought we were denied a stonewall penalty when Mark Sykes went down. Eddie Odhiambo thought otherwise but what does he know? He’s only played the game at a way much higher level than me and managed at Southern League level.

We were now beginning to show tiny glimpses of extra class that just might turn the game our way. That and possibly luck. A Long long shot/cross had to be tipped over by Tzanev.

Wimbledon had quality of their own forcing Jack Stevens into a save in the 39th minute.

Then some brilliant Elliot Lee played ended with Matty Taylor being adjudged offside.

They knew how to play us as evidenced when pressing won a corner three minutes later when we were playing it about at the back with keeper involved a few minutes before the break.

At that break I was thinking what a good watch this had been, very end to end, very entertaining. Forget that though, I’d very much settle for a scrappy or fluky win.

The second half was only six minutes old when it looked as if we may have got that win thanks to playing decent stuff. I thought the move had gone but Sykes managed to get the ball to Olamide Shodipo and his pass to Josh Ruffels was side-footed home through a crowd of players. A full-back scoring, we expect nothing less. Shame our strikers are not as prolific.

In the 58th minute it could have got a whole lot better. Brannagan hitting a free-kick from inside his own half that Tzanev had to tip over once more and this time it was in a rather more desperate fashion. If that had gone in we would all be feeling very different right now.

Then it all went wrong, terribly wrong. A determined run of considerable distance from defender Nesta Guinness-Walker ended in a corner for Wimbledon. Will Nightingale headed towards goal and on the line the ball was kept out by James Henry’s hand. The referee, ex-player Andy Davies, correctly followed the laws of the game by dismissing Henry and awarding the spot kick which was converted by Joe Pigott.

I remember the old days when the sight of a defender diving full length, arm outstretched, to prevent a ball from entering the net wasn’t that uncommon. Penalties would be awarded but I can’t remember the would be Gordon Banks even getting a booking. Bring that back I say.  I’ve always thought that double punishment is unfair in this instance as there’s no nastiness inflicted on an opponent. Ah, but what if the penalty is missed comes the counter argument? In rugby they have penalty tries, why not penalty goals in football?

Given the choice I would rather have had eleven players on the pitch and been drawing than winning with ten. A tough call though.

In hindsight Henry would have been better to have left alone but if it was, as suspected, pure instinct then what can you do? Coach it out of players?

JH has now got this key moment to add to the not shooting at Wembley moment.

Once this had happened we were vulnerable. A bit shell-shocked there was no-one galvanising the troops and giving the instructions to dig in and not concede another whilst we took stock on how we might make progress at the other end of the pitch.

Their second came with relative ease.

After that we saw game management coming into play and why wouldn’t it?

Davies now appeared to me to be favouring the home side. It was the usual why give them a free-kick for that but not us a free-kick for this? Truthfully this was possibly a combination of the obvious yellow bias I have coupled with knowing the season was rapidly trickling through my fingers like grains of sand.

I’ve not ended up in a frothing ball of anger. There’s no reason to get like that. We didn’t play badly. But for that one incident and lack of experience that followed it, the narrative here would be completely different. That said we didn’t on this occasion have a man stepping forward to take the accolades as SL had done on Saturday.  It was someone else’s turn and no-one stepped up. No-one had a bad game but six out of ten type performances from individuals, and there were quite a few, was not enough.

If I said I wasn’t disappointed though I would be lying.

 

 

 

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