JohnPullin's Blog

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Come on you Dons, Season Four

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The day before the start of the football season (proper stuff, none of that Premiership malarkey) is the day for unrealistic optimism. That day is today. All things are possible. Your team, whoever it is, is currently unbeaten, unbloodied, unbowed. That may not be the case in 24 hours’ time.

Actually, from my last three seasons of watching AFC Wimbledon pretty regularly (I think I’ve missed half a dozen home games) I can report that, more often than not, the first day of the season is a pretty poor guide to how it will all turn out.

In Wimbledon’s first game back in the Football League in 2011, we were 2-0 down to Bristol Rovers in about half an hour, and though we rallied we still lost 3-2 and wondered whether promotion to the League only nine years after formation might not have been a step too far. It wasn’t. We were fine almost immediately, third in the table in September, and safe for most of the rest of the season despite a long sequence without a win.

The following year, our opening game was on the hottest day of the year against one of the promotion favourites, Chesterfield. It was too warm to run around, and Chesterfield did so even less than we did, so we won 1-0. But then we conceded 11 goals in the next two (away) games, the manager was on the way out and most of the season was spent in the relegation places. We escaped on the last day of the season.

So no great predictions for this season, and none tomorrow either after our first game against Shrewsbury Town. But I do have one small request.

Last season, in all matches, we scored 49 goals: not a big tally. But of those 49, only seven or eight came in the first half of a match. In fact, aside from the 14th minute goal in the away match at Northampton which I didn’t see, the earliest we scored in any game was the 28th minute. Our opponents seemed to have no such qualms about scoring early in the game, with the result that we were often, even usually, chasing the game after half-time – sometimes exhilaratingly: we came from two goals down to win against both Scunthorpe and Cheltenham, and there were several other victories coming from behind.

And it’s not entirely true to say that we failed consistently to score early on in matches. There was hero Jack Midson’s goal in the home game against Exeter; unfortunately, it was an own goal. We won that one coming from behind as well.

This season, please, I’d like it to be different. Some of us arrive at the ground quite early so we can get our places on the terrace unobstructed by the giant spectators who can arrive just before kick-off and still get a decent view. We’d like the players to turn up early this season as well: or at least before half-time. We’d like the manager to give his half-time talks, which are patently extremely motivating judged by the second half performances, before kick-off this season, and to make his telling substitutions before the match starts.

In short, we’re happy with 41 or 42 second-half goals, but if we had the same number in the first half too, then we’d be in with a shout of promotion. And at this stage of the season, that kind of optimism is what it’s all about.

Postscript: Well, it finished 2-2 and, wonder of wonders, AFC Wimbledon scored after 26 minutes, a full two minutes earlier than anything we’d managed last season at home. The manager was very pleased to point that out to the crowd behind the dugout, where I stand. And it was good and entertaining stuff throughout. I think I’m hooked back in again for the new season.

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Written by johnpullin

August 8, 2014 at 11:49 am

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