Brian Parish pops down to watch League new boys AFC Wimbledon take on the Daggers.
After our opening day win up at Macclesfield, we have our first home game of the season, and it’s against the winners of last season’s Conference play off final, AFC Wimbledon.
Much will have already been written about the rise and rise of the club. Formed in 2002, it’s been almost a continual upward curve for the club formed from the ashes of the original, which as I am sure that all of you are aware, were allowed to move to Milton Keynes, to form the MK Dons. For a club that has been in existence for nine years to make it all the way from the Combined Counties League to the Football League is pretty remarkable, and it’s a testament to all the players that will have pulled on the blue shirt since 2002, as well as the managers that the club has got this far in such a short space of time.
The opening day game must have been a proud moment for all those that had followed the Dons since the formation; however a last minute defeat probably wasn’t in the script, and so they will be looking to gain their first win of the season at our expense; as a Daggers fan, I hope that they have to wait just a few more days.
Since the win up in Cheshire last weekend, we’ve suffered our usual first round exit in the League Cup, down on the south coast at Bournemouth. This was our fifth straight year that we have gone out in the first round, but I suppose it allows us to concentrate on the League. Or is it a bit early for that?
Saturday 13th August, Dagenham & Redbridge v AFC Wimbledon, Victoria Road
There was a danger earlier this week that the game wouldn’t be going ahead. With the riots that started in London spreading to other parts of the city, as well as the country, the likelihood that this round of games would be postponed grew. However, on Thursday, both the Football League and Premier League were able to confirm that, aside from the Tottenham v Everton game, everything else would go ahead as planned. Always prepared, myself and Dagenham Dan had selected an Essex Senior League game at Hullbridge as our back up. However, that can now wait; we have our first choice game to go to.
In the Wimbledon team, there are two familiar faces to Daggers fans. At left back, there is Gareth Gwillam, who joined us last year, but didn’t really get a good run in the team, and after a spell on loan, joined Wimbledon permanently during the summer. The second is Jack Midson, who had a short spell with us in 2004. Like Gwillam, he didn’t spend too much time in the team before moving on. Many of us remember him scoring at Farnborough in the rain, in a 2-1 defeat when Tony Roberts was sent off, and one fan decided to kick a hole in an advertising board.
As the game kicks off, we are the team on top. Sam Williams shots over within the first few minutes, and Oliver Lee has another shot blocked. For the first twenty minutes, we are the better team, and Wimbledon are not getting out of their own half too often. Oliver Lee is looking impressive again, and you can see that his training has been at a higher level than ourselves. However, after opening twenty have been played, things start to change.
Wimbledon start to get into the game a bit more, and there is the first of a long list of penalty appeals from the visitors, when McCrory looks to have fouled Midson in the area. There is nothing given by the referee, which is to prove to be a continual source of frustration for them.
You can see that Wimbledon have now got into the game, and their best attack up to this point is a 3 on 2 break from a Dagenham corner which is wasted, but the threat has now become evident. At the other end, Lee is fouled on the edge of the area, but the free kick is wasted by Tomlin who shoots over.
Midson is starting to have a frustrating afternoon. First he volleys over just before half an hour has been played, and then manages to miss from three yards; a left wing cross by Ademeno is played almost perfectly into the middle of the six yard area, but Midson’s side foot volley goes over. It’s a narrow escape for the home side, which doesn’t last more than a couple of minutes.
In a scramble in the penalty area, the ball bounces up and hits Scott Doe on the arm; it’s a penalty, and there doesn’t look to be any real claim that it shouldn’t have been given. The kick is taken by Luke Moore and he sends the ball into the net while Lewington goes the wrong way. It’s possibly a bit harsh if the game is looked at overall, but the crucial difference is that Wimbledon have managed to score while they are on top, whereas we didn’t.
There is enough time left for a Twickenham style free kick, and Abu Ogogo to get injured, necessitating a change of full back. While the afternoon may have started brightly, it’s not going well so far, and at half time, there isn’t much talk about the game so far; most are just a bit stunned as to how the game has turned out.
The second half starts, and once again we start brightly. Jake Reed has the first chance of the half, but he heads wide of the Wimbledon goal. Reed has done well on his debut, and could be a handful with a few more games under his belt. However, the brightness doesn’t last as long as the first half, and before an hour has been completed, Wimbledon are 2-0 up. Rashid Yussuff is allowed to run at the Daggers defence, and unleashes a left foot shot which flies into the top corner of the net, giving Lewington no chance. It’s an excellent strike, and sends the away fans into raptures. Some home fans applaud a great strike, but most are not happy at all.
A minute after the goal, we have our best chance at a goal. Mark Arber is left all alone at the back post following a set-play but his side footed effort goes wide when it seemed easier to score. The disappointment is all too evident on the faces of those around me. This is not going to be our day at all.
A couple of minutes later, Dan makes a bold prediction. Just before another free kick for us, he confidently predicts that if it goes in, we will win the game. We all stand there, and watch as the opportunity is wasted. Dan looks around, and resolves not to do that again.
Even though there is still half an hour left, we just don’t look like we are going to score. We force six corners in ridiculously quick succession, and do nothing with them. Wimbledon though have several appeals for penalties turned down (and at every one, we all think that it was a probable spot kick), which is annoying for Midson as he seems to be “fouled” for most of them. The game peters out with Wimbledon comfortable winners, and us looking distinctly second best.
After the bright start last week, I don’t mind admitting that the day has been hugely disappointing. Our teams of the past may not have been the best technically, but there was always the ability to battle for everything until the final whistle, even if the game had already got away from us. However, that didn’t seem to be there. I’m sure it’s just a blip, but we have a home game with Swindon Town up next, and that isn’t going to be easy.