As I Seen It - Wimbledon (a)

ALREET goes up the Thames

AFC Wimbledon 2 POOLS 1 League 2, at Kingsmeadow, Tuesday January 28th 2014

This was supposedly a 'home' game for me but it still involved a two hour journey across London to reach the venue. I had (no doubt deliberately) almost forgotten about the joys of travelling around London during the evening rush hour but a combination of the Underground/ Overground and National Rail brought it all back to me. 

Having been sniffed and coughed over from both sides on the train to Clapham Junction, the perpetrators stepped aside to be replaced by a couple of schoolgirls, complete with micro scooters, and the one who was standing with her back to me had a musical instrument in a case slung over her shoulder and the end of its finger board was 'tickling' my nose, presumably to stretch my nostrils to allow even better access for the germs to enter.

Having arrived at Norbiton station, a fifteen minute walk down the dark side streets and the old Kingsmeadow ground hove into view with floodlights peering out from a gap in the houses along the major road. Although part of "The Smoke", the last time I can recall being in this area was over twenty years ago when I owned an old Rover P5B and I visited a French chap, suitably attired with beret, who lived in the vicinity and who supplied me with a replacement part for the car.

The ground itself around the visitors' entrance is a hotchpotch of portakabins, housing the refreshments, loos etc. Having asked the programme seller about the location of the latter, he said, "There's one here, one there and the jacuzzi is round the corner". The one I visited consisted of just three cubicles which could clearly be seen from outside as the door was permanently open, offering a "ringside dekko at the old fella" to any woman who visited their adjacent loo (also with outer door wide open).

Pools were attacking the home end from the off and quickly got into their stride, knocking the ball about with precision and purpose. It was good to see that we were playing it on the deck from the back and we created a couple of early chances which weren't converted. Williams was making himself available and seeing plenty of the ball which he used to good effect.

Walton made a mess of a tackle but redeemed himself by regaining possession and setting us off on another foray. Walker weighed in with a couple of decent shots on target. Baldwin made a brilliant sliding tackle with the outside of his right foot on an attacker who was motoring down their right flank. Then another rare break saw a shot hit from distance which bounced just in front of Flinders and, for a nervy moment, it looked as if the ball might squirm through his legs but he retrieved the situation and the danger passed.
"We had the game in our pocket for the most part but were found wanting when they applied a spell of pressure"
Burgess looked secure and with Baldwin back to his best and providing good cover, we looked comfortable against a largely ineffective attack. Holden, however, was not above allowing the occasional cross to get in and his distribution wasn't too clever on occasions. Nevertheless, we kept our grip on proceedings and eventually took the lead when a cross from Williams on the right was headed back across goal by Monky for James to turn home. This was no more than Pools deserved for their overall play and suggested that we could go on and gain the three points as the Dons, at that point, didn't appear to have much to hurt us.

The Dons made two substitutions for the second half but, initially, it was Pools who were still controlling play and Walton hit a screamer from the edge of the box which was well saved by their keeper. Harewood outmuscled two defenders in a similar position box before powering in a left foot shot which just cleared the bar. Williams then put James through with an incisive pass but the latter, unfortunately, slipped over at the crucial moment.

A neat turn from Harewood on the right gave him room to get in a cross which fell to Monky whose low volley was straight at the keeper. Despite Pools' pressure, the Dons were beginning to gain a foothold and they made a decent chance only for the shot to sail well over for a worthy three points. James was battered on the edge of their box and spent the next minute or so crawling around on his hands and knees and looking none too bright. It didn't look good as play continued but he eventually rose to his feet and after hobbling around for a moment returned to the fray.

For the first time in the match we were now coming under pressure and the inevitable happened. A long free kick into our box was headed towards goal and there followed a double cheer before the ref gave the goal. This happened at the far end of the ground and to be honest, I couldn't really say precisely what happened peering through the mass of bodies from a distance. I haven't seen any replays but it looked as if Flinders was caught in no man's land although there still appeared to be a couple of defenders on the line. I'm assuming that the second cheer was the lino confirming that the ball had crossed the line?

In an exact replica of the Fleetwood game, two minutes later and we had conceded again. This time, their attacker worked his way through and from the edge of the area, hit his low shot across Flinders and into the net. Pools now had to rally and Harewood was replaced by Barmby. We won a free kick just outside their penalty area on the right but the resultant kick from Barmby cleared everyone by a mile and dropped harmlessly into their keeper's gloves. Holden was then put through into acres of space on the left flank and under no pressure, managed an equally inept cross which sailed high over the stand.

Baldwin collected a yellow card for an 'exuberant' tackle near the half-way line which left both him and his victim buried among both benches. Their keeper was then forced into a great save before the ball fell to Monky but his attempted right foot shot was lamentable and barely connected and his expression said it all. And that was just about it.

What a kick in the "chandeliers" that result was. We had the game in our pocket for the most part but were found wanting when they applied a spell of pressure in the second half. Apart from the goals, they rarely threatened us except from a couple of set pieces and skirmishes. Even so, we played some good stuff, controlled the majority of the game and had enough chances to have put the game to bed. 

It is obviously vital that we get that second goal and, despite our dominance, it was a game where I started to feel that they might just nick an equalizer and even a winner. I think we've all seen it before from Pools but I must stop having those thoughts! A huge plus was the performance from Williams. I hadn't seen him before but he looks a class act with energy in abundance, always looking to link up play, the ability to provide probing passes and beating opponents with a shimmy and not touching the ball. Interestingly on the walk back to the station, I overheard several comments from the home fans concerning their first goal. One said, "Personally, I didn't think it was a goal" while another added, "It was only when the crowd shouted that the linesman raised his flag".

It was just before midnight when I reached home, had a hot drink and went to bed but, unfortunately, no sweet dreams!