Swindon 2 AFC Wimbledon 0: The start of a Happy New Year!

It might not be the most intellectual headline ever seen but, it’s what we wanted wasn’t it? And so we may as well get to the point and celebrate the start made in 2012 writes Adam Johnson.

It was one of the less enthralling games seen in the 2011/12 season but two goals, a clean sheet, three points and 4th place is fine.

Goals from Paul Caddis and Alan Connell gave Swindon the deserved victory against a side that I expected more and better from. AFC Wimbledon are many fan’s second club, hoping that they do well after the debacle of MK Dons and Pete Winkleman…spit now AFC Wimbledon fans.

However, I was left disappointed as my eyes had to really strain to see if any of their players had any other agenda than ‘hoof it and kick it’. By ‘it’ the first time I mean ball, the second time I mean player. The only player I saw with any football ability was their first substitute Kiernan.

Anyway, this is a Swindon Town site, so let’s enjoy what we got from the 2-0 victory. Three quite predictable changes were made from the last gasp win at Northampton as one spine of the side was taken out and replaced. Out went Joe Devera, the suspended Oliver Risser and Lukas Magera and in came Aden Flint, Simon Ferry and Alan Connell.

Those three replacements stood out as well as others who put in a decent shift against a side who made it hard for Di Canio’s men to play their usual style of home football. To be fair, that has to be a credit towards The Wombles as their setup made it hard but other than a decent save from Wes Foderingham and a flicked on header going wide, it was a matter of if we could score, and score we did.

The free kick from Paul Caddis came after some good work from Raffaele De Vita, who managed to keep the ball in and win a free kick. Caddis stepped up and curled his shot against the post but it fortunately hit it right and relieved a lot of the tension in the County Ground.

The second was another goal from Alan Connell, who puts in a decent shift on most occasions and it’s great to see him get his second in two games with two decent finishes. Good work on the left, this time from substitute Lander Gabilondo, led to a pull back to Connell who rifled into the roof of the net to make it 2-0.

It’s surprising that both goals came from the left hand side of the pitch, as most fans and myself were once again impressed by the right flank combination of Caddis and Ritchie who gave AFC Wimbledon’s left back a torrid afternoon. Credit to Kennedy and De Vita though who both did their jobs effectively when required and pushed us on our way to another home victory.

The win was deserved, and could have been sealed in the first half as Town dominated the majority of proceedings with a quick start, getting a corner and according to the Rolex clock on the Stratton bank, nearly scoring before 3pm.

Swindon continued to be pushed on by the midfield but neither Alan Connell nor Ronan Murray could take advantage, as Wimbledon’s brick wall defending was being found tough to break down.

As the half went on, Town dropped down to Wimbledon’s level, with more long balls and tough tackling, which would probably have been part of Wimbledon’s plan. The half fizzled out as chances were few and far between and the football turned less attractive.

The second half started the same with moves being restricted to three passes or less and free kicks. It was the awarding of a particular free kick that gave Swindon the lead and as soon as Town got one you felt comfortable, as long as we could seal it and keep up the hard work, the three points would be ours.

The debut of Paul Benson also added more excitement to the result as the recently signed striker showed us a glimpse of what’s to come. Some will correctly point out that he did miss two one on one opportunities but for a player who hadn’t played competitive football in three months, the runs he made to create space is something we’ve lacked this season. The goalscoring instinct will come but to see those runs and movement this early, it’s obvious he’s a natural poacher, playing right on the line of the last defender.

The second goal then sealed the victory as Connell made it two in two for the former Grimsby striker, thereafter leading to the old cheer of every pass around the ground as Town controlled possession. However, don’t let the cheers of every pass though make you think it was a simple job done well.

It was a tough game and Swindon had to adopt, change style and match their opponents to make sure we took advantage of other League Two results going our way.  The neat pass and move went out of the window as every player had to be tough, stand up to their marker and be clever. Patience was required and that is what us fans mostly lack.

The defence had little to deal with except long balls, which were dealt with effectively. As it has been for most of the season, Swindon have built from the back and that was the impetuous to another victory as confidence in the defence meant the attacking midfielders in De Vita, Ferry and Ritchie could get forward to support all attacks.

The midfield did well to break attacks and did have a lot of work to do as Swindon are reluctant to play long ball and so having to go through the brick wall of Wimbledon meant the midfield had to be creative in trying to get round them, rather than through them.

Connell and Murray both played well but once again, I run out of plaudits for Connell. I’m a big fan of working hard strikers, and I’m glad that now the goals are also flowing. Both goals in recent games have been good finishes and a strong partnership with Paul Benson looks likely. Murray though had good movement and was being a nuisance but didn’t get many clear cut chances or breaks to test Wimbledon keeper Seb Brown before being substituted.

It wasn’t the classic Swindon Town home performance, but a win is a win and in League Two, tough tackling football is expected. We rose to the challenge, kept calm and as Alan Pardew said last week ‘sometimes, you have to just wait for the win to come to you’.

So watch out Crawley, Cheltenham and Southend. Paolo Di Canio’s side is coming for your automatic promotion slots.

Swindon 2 AFC Wimbledon 0

1-0 Caddis 58′

2-0 Connell 76′

Your Man of the Match – Simon Ferry 31%

6 comments

  • Wimbledon fan here – interested to read your take on the game as it is obviously a less emotional take than any of our blogs/reports.

    Our starting line up had a big element of 2nd string about it, with several players rested or recovering from the busy Xmas fixture list. We do normally knock it around nicely but yesterday was the 12th game without a win in the league and confidence looks an issue. We’ve also been caught out on several occasions passing it out of defence so can understand when things weren’t coming off that players resorted to trying to knock it long.

    I disagree with the comment suggesting there was plenty of needle in the challenges. Didn’t strike me as that sort of game. We’re certainly no Oxford or Stevenage in that respect and from my perspective, we often get bullied out of games by those kind of sides.

    The ref did love a home decision though. I cannot see what the freekick was given for but despite that, we weren’t good enough on the day and once you got your noses in front, it could have been a lot worse from a Wombles perspective.

    Kiernan impressed me too – he’s only had 10 mins here and 10 there – when we are at full strength, we have a few players ahead of him but I’d like to see more of him out there. Sammy Moore was also really good for us in the middle – he’s been the player who has made the transition from Conference to L2 the best and he will be our player of the year by a country mile.

    Other than that though, there wasn’t much for us to cheer in the away section. The reality is biting hard in this division but I’m still hopeful we can turn the corner. Our run of games over Xmas was very tough (Oxford, Southend, Swindon) but we do need some fresh blood and possibly a change in the system

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    • As Adam Johnson says in his article, AFC Wimbledon are many fans’ second club. This is certainly true as far as I am concerned. I have the greatest respect for everything done at the club and your rise into League 2 has been thrilling. The current crisis of confidence has much to do with a reality check, but I’m sure you will rediscover your touch and return to the no nonsense attacking football you have beome reknowned for.

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  • Hi Guys, Adam Johnson here.

    Thanks for your comments on the game and report.

    In reply to the comment about the long ball and tough tackling, i was just disappointed. In the reverse fixture, we had a mare of a first half but Wimbledon did play some neat football at times on a small and not so great pitch. I was expecting a similar approach as to the JPT game where you’d break on the attack with pace but like you said, with several players rested, this can be what happens.

    Even though we may disagree on the tackling, I felt this wasn’t a bad thing as such as in L2, this is just how it goes. Our side is one that isn’t that physical and i think it was a tactic to try and take us off our gameplan and it worked. We struggled to create decent openings and it took a free kick to break your defence down. It’s almost a compliment i’m giving.

    Everyone wants to see Wimbledon do well but yesterday i didn’t see much enthusiasm and like you said, this is probably down to confidence. Hope you stay in this league and have a good 2012!

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  • Cheers for the kind words on the club chaps – the delight in what we’ve achieved isn’t dimmed by the current run in the eyes of most supporters.

    Terry Brown said after the game that he didn’t have any options to change it after going a goal down but I was a little disappointed we didn’t pair Ademeno with Midson rather than replacing him. That said, I fully believe in Brown as the right man for the job.

    As for Swindon, having seen you twice this season now (JPT away not easy for a midweeker) plus brief highlights on the FLS each week, you look like a side that is slowly but surely getting it together. Caddis proved a real threat down the right and combines well with Ritchie, who looks a real player. I really like Alan Connell – we tried to sign him when he left Grimsby – and he is a threat whenever the ball comes to him in the box.

    What does surprise me is that you have a tendency to nick games by the odd goal here or there rather than winning that comfortably – obviously there are exceptions but I suppose that possibly stems from being a big side in this division and most sides keeping it tight I suppose.

    Di Canio’s criticisms of the side seem unnecessarily harsh at times (certainly from an outsider’s perspective anyway) – at this level you expect mistakes and I think his expectations are probably set too high.

    Result and performance aside, I enjoyed The County Ground although £25 is a scandal for the ticket price. Seems a good set up, can’t fault the stewards (what a rarity that is by the way) and an away bar is a nice touch although I do miss the carefree mingling in club bars of non-league days and low-profile games at Kingsmeadow.

    All the best for 2012, and hope you stuff Crawley again!

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  • Funny how the Wimbledon fan thought the ref was a homer–we thought they were dreadful, especially in the first half. A few times they got throw-in calls wrong just because players in yellow put their hands up! Suppose he made up for it with the free kick, but it was past due with the amount of wrestling the defenders were getting away with!

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  • If the Ref wasn’t a ‘homer’ and we weren’t impressed by his performance seemingly favouring the Dons….perhaps he was a neutral to the proceedings…?

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