After Swindon Town knocked AFC Wimbledon out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on penalties at the County Ground 11 days earlier, both teams met again, this time in the League and for the very first time at Kingsmeadow writes STFC007.
Having missed the start of an away game in London once due to traffic jams, a trip to London from Wiltshire by car to watch a football match is never one I look forward to. At best half the time is spent getting to the outskirts of London and the other half is spent in frustrating stop-start traffic to get to the end destination.
Today was no different, but there was good news: the sun was out, Swindon Town had sold all their ticket allocation and surely the Swindon team had learned from the mistakes 11 days prior when they failed to capitalise on the large amount of chances they created.
It was my first time at Kingsmeadow where the facilities haven’t been able to keep up with the speed of AFC Wimbledon’s meteoritic rise through the leagues. They aren’t quite Football League standard especially if you consider that there are schools in the Netherlands that have bicycle sheds that are larger than the terraces at The Cherry Red Records Stadium.
After listening to a sponsored play-list consisting of Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison, the Swindon Town team sheet, when it was announced, created some discussion among the supporters.
Despite Kennedy having a good game at left back in the 4-1 FA Cup demolition of Huddersfield Town, Ridehalgh coming in to replace him was not unexpected, but Risser retaining his place however, was somewhat of a surprise. A tough AFC Wimbledon side surely would require some battle hardened players in midfield and Smith would clearly be a better match to counter this physical thread.
The referee, inconsistent with his decisions throughout the match, allowed from the start several rash challenges to go unpunished, playing into the hands of a physical Wimbledon side; what they were missing in technique and footballing ability, they made up for in endeavour and work ethic though.
During some lively opening exchanges, AFC Wimbledon created the better chances and somewhat fortunate went 1-0 up in the 6th minute. A cross from the left was completely miss-kicked by Risser and a deflected shot by Hatton, which wrong-footed Wes Foderingham, found the back of the net. This scuppered any chance of the loanee goal keeper achieving a 6th successive clean sheet in the League and equalling Peter Downsborough’s 1968/1969 record.
Town were not allowed to get into their stride by Wimbledon who seemed more eager and quicker to the ball than Swindon.
Town were closed down and put under pressure the moment they were in possession causing simple mistakes when trying to pass the ball to a team mate. This resulted in Swindon’s midfield being often overlooked as the long ball was used trying to find either Connell or Jervis upfront. Despite Connell’s obvious height disadvantage this remained Town’s approach for most of the match rather than trying to re-create the 1st half of 11 days prior when through passing football Wimbledon were made to look a very average side. Ferry was searching for an outlet but had to rely too often on the full backs coming into play which was limiting Town’s options to keep possession and to vary build-up play.
Town though created several chances and if Connell would have been more clinical and accurate with his finishing, Town could have been up at half-time. As it stood, Wes Foderingham with some fine saves, kept Swindon in the match going into the break. Reflecting on the first half during the interval, it reminded me of the Burton Albion away game earlier in September, where Swindon were bullied into defeat.
The second half was better from Swindon. Gabilondo who came on for the somewhat ineffective De Vita before half-time posed more of a thread on the left hand side. A number of blistering runs weaving between players with some good crosses created some of the danger.
The best chance after the interval fell to Connell. After Jervis was hacked down once again, this time at the half-way line, the referee allowed play to continue, a good cross found Connell, whose somewhat weak and miscued shot bobbled eventually against the far post. Luck seemed not on our side, especially after the referee waved play on after a penalty appeal, when Connell was clearly pushed to the ground – both push and player clearly much better suited for the Twickenham stadium up the road.
Esajas replacing Ritchie midway through the second half started to create more space allowing finally an outlet for Ferry to combine with and when Smith eventually replaced Risser, some 70 minutes late, Swindon were starting to apply pressure and becoming more dangerous in search of the equaliser.
When it finally came, there was initially some confusion as to who scored it. The traveling support didn’t care; Jervis took his shot well and was deflected into the goal by Connell. There was now renewed belief and Swindon could have made it 2 not long after, had Flint managed to make contact with the ball as he tried to volley a cross into the net at the far post.
Play was now end to end as both teams tried to force the winner; With 5 minutes remaining Cadis went on one of his trademark runs down the right hand side. Having passed most people that were presented to him, he was about to shoot on goal with only the keeper to beat when his legs were taken out from underneath him by Jake Midson. Instead of the referee pointing to the spot, he decided to award Cadis a yellow card for his efforts to the dismay of most people in the stands, and later disbelief of Jack Midson and Dons boss Terry Brown. This decision though was totally in upkeep with the referee’s performance thus far – well below adequate.
With only injury time remaining, Swindon were now in the ascendancy and their vocal supporters continued to urge them on whilst Wimbledon seemed happy with a point as they tried to run down the clock with a couple of injury treatments.
On reflection, a draw may well have been a fair result, but when the final whistle went I could not help feeling that we had left 2 crucial points behind, confirmed by the match stats later; if only Swindon had been a bit more accurate and clinical with their finishing with the 8 shots off target, we would have left Kingston Upon Thames with all 3 points, and not lost any ground with the teams above us in the table.
However, still plenty of games to play for, still in a Play-Off position and the unbeaten run continues!