Could there be a defensive conundrum brewing for AFC Wimbledon?
After their bright start, which has many fans both relieved and rejuvenated, there is a new belief around Plough Lane sparked by the player’s performances. It seems an age away from last season when fans would leave the ground with nothing but frowns and feelings of dread. After a win on Tuesday night at Colchester United, which backed up two good draws against opposition touted to do well this year, the Dons are seemingly on the up.
Yes, it is of course far too early to predict where this season will go, but the league form has also seen a come-from-behind win against good-calibre Championship side Coventry City, which has landed them a potentially lucrative trip to Stamford Bridge to play the free-spending Chelsea.
The form so far has not been built on a score-at-will style, although the build-up play has been promising, and the strikers will, by their admittance only get better. It has been the solid defence that has kept Wimbledon in games, and that is the foundation of any successful side. The more impressive note is that they are doing it without their more preferred full-back options of Hus Biler and Jack Currie. The pair are currently sidelined with injury, and in some ways, this has shown the strength in depth that wasn’t there for a large part of last season. Biler is trying to shake off a hamstring strain during the preseason.
They have also lost the services of two long-serving centre-backs. Paul Kalambayi, still recovering from knee surgery towards the end of last season, and due back in October, and the loaned-out Will Nightingale who bleeds yellow and blue and is now plying his trade in the Scottish Premier League with Ross County.
What the Dons have been able to do in the summer is address the defensive side of the game by bringing in Joe Lewis on loan from Stockport County, in the centre of the back four. This has been a very smart move as he looks every part of the League Two defender. The club have signed Ryan Johnson, also from Stockport, and although his trade is centre-back, he has more than capably deputised for the missing Currie. Isaac Ogundere is covering for Biler right back, both players though are still learning their trade, with Biler most people’s favourite to get the nod ahead of his teammate.
Alex Bass has come in on loan as well and is the first-choice goalkeeper in the league so far. It has been a while since New Zealand international Nik Tzanev has had stiff competition for his place between the sticks, and when he did play in the Cup he was named Man of the Match, proving that he is being pushed now, and that is also beneficial.
When the players come back into the reckoning it could be a headache for manager Johnnie Jackson, but one that he will welcome as the options are good ones. This may of course depend on the form going forward in the next month as this could make the decision easier. For now, though the defence is holding up just fine, and the players that are being rotated in, Alex Pearce and Lee Brown, are doing enough to justify their involvement in the squad after a summer of upheaval.