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Noah Broad, London24’s AFC Wimbledon blogger
Friday, March 9, 2012
“It has been a disastrous start to this incredibly important part of our season”
This time last week, Terry Brown and AFC Wimbledon faced a run of season-defining fixtures. The statistic being touted by disgruntled fans around Kingsmeadow is that we have only won three games in 23 matches.
Brown has a chance to prove a point by securing Wimbledon's League Two survival with a good run against fellow relegation battlers. However, poor results would see us slip in to a late-season relegation fight.
Off the back of three credible draws against Morecambe, Cheltenham and Crewe, the Dons faced Hereford, Plymouth, Dagenham & Redbridge, Bradford and Bristol Rovers, all of whom separate Wimbledon from the relegation zone, apart from Bristol who are one position above us.
In short, it has been a disastrous start to this incredibly important part of our season. On Saturday, Browns side travelled to relegation rivals Hereford and disappointingly lost 2-1.
To put this result in to context, Hereford had not won at home since the middle of October, and despite dominating the game, Wimbledon were unable to cancel out the two goals they conceded in the first half. Defensive lapses cost Browns men another valuable three points.
This result was followed by another 2-1 home defeat, this time at the hands of another team at the wrong end of the table, Plymouth. The nervous Wombles now sit just seven points from safety. If alarm bells were not ringing before, they certainly are now.
The perfect illustration of this was the 70th minute substitution of lacklustre right-back Sam Hatton for forward Luke Moore. Hatton had put in another below-par performance at right back, and Brown saw it fit to replace him with a striker as the Dons went in search of an equaliser. Again.
As this substitution completely rearranged the Dons' midfield, it would not be a change Brown would make under ordinary circumstances, moreover, he recognises the desperation of the situation, and we needed all three points against Plymouth.
The problems started off the field, as I do not feel Brown selected the right starting eleven. Billy Knott, who has been our standout performer since he signed on loan in January, started the match on the bench, only to come on and inject some real energy in to the side.
His willingness to run, positive passing and all-round enthusiasm is something we clearly lacked until his introduction just before the hour mark. Indeed, he created one clear goal scoring chance out of individual skill, but Jack Midson was unable to apply the finish as the ball flashed across the goalmouth.
Knott was brought on to replace another standout performer, but this time for the wrong reasons. Jason Euell, who has not looked fit since joining AFC Wimbledon, again failed to live up to the high expectations surrounding him. put in another disappointing display.
The standards expected of him were naturally very high, yet he has looked lost playing behind the strikers it is not clear whether he is playing as a third striker, or as the attacking point in a diamond midfield. The real problem is, I do not think he knows either.
It was also alarming to note that in a match where the Dons were desperate for a goal, our record-signing centre forward Byron Harrison only came on with eight minutes to play. Despite demonstrating some quality, especially in terms of holding the ball up and helping build attacks; Harrison has yet to pose a real threat in front of goal. However, he did open his AFC Wimbledon account with a solitary goal in last weeks 5-0 demolition of the Metropolitan Police in the London Senior Cup.
Our problem remains in defence. Hatton does not have to do much wrong to get the crowd on his back, while other members of the back four Mat Mitchel-King and Chris Bush had poor games against Plymouth. Mitchel-King made a few uncharacteristic mistakes and did not look his assured self, while Bush does not seem of sufficient quality to make it for Wimbledon in League Two. He is still young, but the rather unfashionable Gareth Gwillim seems a real upgrade on Bush at the minute.
Wimbledons poor home form continues, but with matches against Dagenham & Redbridge and Bradford will give Terry Brown a chance to prove. These are matches that Wimbledon, and unfortunately, Brown cannot afford to lose. The Dons need to record at least six points from the next three games before we face Oxford, otherwise there may be a sad end to this fairytale.