AFC Wimbledon once again suffered from their Plough Lane jinx as the 50th game at home in the league since the start of their relegation season two years ago, could not produce a win, which would only be their tenth in that time. Add to this the worrying trend of throwing leads away, and it adds to a frustrating time, one that leaves staff, players, and fans wondering how this can continue to happen, and what can be done to stop it. For the fourth consecutive League Two game, the Dons have taken the lead, only to let it slip. Three of those four have resulted in draws, two of those from 2-0 up, the other ended in a loss to Stockport County. Three of those games have been at home.
Better Squad, Same Mindset
There should be no argument that on paper at least this is the best set of individual players that the club has assembled in that period. The recruitment process has been thorough, and even though analysis will be used, the way it is implemented is far different. This is now a squad, that is very much Johnnie Jackson’s. The players he wanted have all arrived and they look to have all the attributes of a decent team.
On Saturday they took the game to Crewe Alexandra, a team that had been scoring for fun, and gave them little space to create anything. And in turn, they created many opportunities to score. The Dons were 2-0 up at the break and that could easily have been three or four. It was arguably the best half that the team has put together this season. But as in seasons gone by, you cannot win games with just one good half of football.
There is an argument that seems a little conflicting that a 2-0 lead is the worst one, at a goal up you are still playing on the edge, whereas three or four and the game should be won, At just two, the opposition sees a way in, and any team playing Wimbledon over the last couple of seasons have acted on that. Get a goal back and heads drop, the inevitable has then happened. It was this lead then at halftime that was vulnerable and when Crewe snatched a goal back soon after the restart the doubts crept in. To their credit, the Dons got over the next few minutes and grew back into the game, but as the half went into its latter stages you could see the players tiring. Substitutions were made, but Crewe could sense there was something in the game for them.
There was a confusing period as the game ticked to the 90-minute mark, Jackson was making his last two changes, the fourth official then did not show any time added on, the referee consulted and a time was agreed but this was not fully displayed or announced. This was no excuse though, and as Crewe piled forward they thought they had a dramatic equaliser in the 97th minute only to be ruled out for offside. They were not to be denied though and Elliott Nevitt latched on to a through ball which two Dons defenders went for, to pass the ball home.
“Five minutes at the start of the second half and five minutes at the end out of the 100 odd minutes have cost us. The other 90 we were the dominant team and we had a lot of chances to put it to bed. We didn’t kill the game off. You’ve got to see it out – whatever it is to see the game through you’ve got to do it. We’re not far from being a really good team but if we’re not going to score enough to put them out of sight we leave ourselves open to this. The lads understand that those moments of sloppiness have cost us.” Jackson told the club’s official website after the match.
With the home win still eluding them, the Dons will perhaps be thankful that three of the next four games are away from home. Their only two wins so far have come in four days over a month ago at Colchester United and Sutton United. Two teams that aren’t exactly firing right now, so where the start Wimbledon has had looked promising, is it masking some fragility of mindset? The play is good, but the ruthlessness and conviction are lacking. They are still missing key players in midfield but with the players visibly tiring, it could be argued that the likes of Armani Little and Jake Reeves would’ve made much of a difference late on. Though they could of course help with adding to the lead early on, if the Dons are relying on being three or four goals up to see a game out, that is a big concern.