Is the miracle on? No pressure!!
As far as I am concerned a visit to the Cherry Reds Records Stadium is never a very pleasant experience with a terrible view of a generally poor playing surface and yesterday we were made to feel very unwelcome with local pubs shut, Clubhouse not available to away supporters and after arriving fairly early with nothing to do hearing stewards having their preparatory meeting and stressing the importance of a thorough search of away supporters it seems that we have all been tarred with the same brush – where are the friendly days of visits to the Conference clubs where generally you were treated as human beings?
Anyway it was a lovely spring day and the sprinklers were getting a good run out to dampen what looked the usual bumpy surface that well suits the Wimbledon “style” and then the usual sort of team sheet with four changes from the side that had won the last game with the selection of Byron Moore being the main talking point of most as well as the return to the wingback system with Lockyer, Sweeney and Clarke Salter forming a central three. There was no room in the squad for Gaffney and Sinclair replaced the injured Ollie Clarke. It is a well used saying that a team “scored too early” and that could well have been said yesterday as Rovers scored their fastest ever League goal as it read Lines to Bodin to Lockyer to Harrison to Moore and 1-0. It was a great goal that will be long remembered as no Wimbledon player touched the ball. Lockyer surged forward and hit a long diagonal cross that was superbly set up for Moore with a lovely cushioned header by Harrison for Moore to answer his critics with a superbly struck half volley low into the corner giving the Wimbledon keeper no chance whatsoever. It was another great move later that would see Bodin finish superbly after another great lay off from Harrison but what seemed like an early two goal lead was marked off for a strange offside decision , Strange because despite an awful view from the terraces it just didn’t look offside but I will give the linesman the benefit of doubt because he was in a far better position.
After the opening burst it was pretty well a backs to the wall job from then on as possession was lost far too easily on numerous occasions due mainly to the state of the pitch which very much favoured the “up and at them” approach from the home side who possessed some quick dangerous forwards especially Lyle Taylor who looked a handful; throughout but thankfully didn’t really have his shooting boots with him apart from one drive that was superbly tipped over by Lumley at full stretch.I shall take up the game with individual assessments with apologies in the marking if certain players did good things (or bad) in a large corner of the pitch where I could see nothing!!
Lumley 8 Another faultless display of handling and basic goalkeeping. The lad continues to impress and surely must be DC’s first summer signing if QPR can be persuaded to allow him to leave and of course if he wants to stay.
Leadbitter 6 Was doing well defensively until what I hope is not a serious injury that ended his afternoon before half time when shoved into the perimeter signs by Lyle Taylor. An incidence that gave the home player a deserved booking.
Lockyer 8.5 MOM This was a hard decision as the defence as a whole played well in an aerial bombardment with a bit of pace against them as well but Tom was at his best and marshalled the ranks superbly as well as hitting a decisive cross up to Harrison for the early goal. He seemed really up for the battle and held his position well in not rushing in to tackles and also getting his body in the way of a number of shots.
Sweeney 8 Another colossus of a performance against his former team mates. He really has tightened up our defence and we are no longer the soft touch of the division which we were in the first half of the season. if only the snake had not put greed in front of loyalty as surely now we would have been safely in the Play Off spots at the very least given the few goals we have conceded since Christmas. Won the majority of aerial challenges and cleared danger well. Thank god he was playing for us and not Wimbledon!
Clarke-Salter 7.5 A different sort of defender who has the touch of class if not the physical strength and gave little away in what was a very good defence.
Brown 8 Although deployed as a wing back it was very much a defensive performance for Lee and he performed superbly and kept his cool on a number of occasions when under pressure. One of his better performances this season in what has very much an up and down season. Can he yet end up the hero again?
Sinclair 6.5 Worked hard as always but it was not the day for our midfield who struggled to gain control of the ball or in fact their territory and for long periods the midfield was totally bypassed as Wimbledon knocked the ball fifty yards and we in turn repelled the danger likewise.
Lines 6.5 Just not his day and lost count of the number of times in the first half where he gave the ball away but in his favour he kept battling for possession and tried to make things happen but it was not really the day for flashy footballers on a terrible surface that was only suitable for big boot football- this is Wimbledon to a tee and it really was a case of sticking with them and battling for anything that happened to end up on the floor. Chris did manage to go on a couple of his runs with the ball and give some order to proceedings.
Bodin 7 Scored a good goal that was disallowed for offside and his clever footwork kept the Wimbledon defence busy when the ball did find its way into opposition territory. he should probably have done better when given a clear run for goal in the second half but tried to be too clever and delayed the finish which enabled the keeper to block. He really is our only real threat but I wonder if Moore can start doing this on the other side to take the pressure off Billy.
Harrison 8 Another player who I considered for Man of the Match and the only reason he didn’t get it was because this really was a strong defensive performance for most of the game and the defence was key to the result. Ellis showed good control of the ball throughout and two deft lay offs saw the ball in the opponents net twice early on, one for the decisive goal. It was good to have him back and if he can maintain this level of performance then a new contract must surely be waiting for him.
Moore 8 His best performance in a Rovers shirt, scored the goal with superb technique and unlucky not to add a second just before half time with a shot that just rose and drifted away from the target after a strong run. He looked good in possession throughout and answered his critics with the sort of display that I remember him giving years ago for opponents. Let’s hope this is a just a taster of what is to come and perhaps the fact he has a year to run on his contract is not a bad thing.
Partington 7 Came on and did everything that could be asked of him. He was changed from defender to midfield as the game went on and looked confident and good on the ball. I wonder if he is going to be the James Clarke of next season and cover the back four. I definitely like the look of him.
Mansell 6 Came on when we were under the cosh and got stuck in although by the stage he came on we really were struggling to actually get the ball onto the ground but Manse is definitely one for a battle and let no one down.
James 5 Not on long but really struggles as the one up front which is hardly surprising. Burst down the wing at one stage that looked as if he might have the pace to go through but Luke is very much the nearly man at the moment.
Referee 7 Not bad but had to put up with a very poor linesman. Certainly better than most we have had away from home.
Crowd 8 Another sell out be it only just under 800. Certainly gave Francombe an uneasy first half with constant barracking that seemed to have the required effect and he must have been delighted to get over the other side in the second half.Good to be rewarded with three points if not a great game of football.
Wimbledon 7 Horrible to watch but bloody effective at what they do. You know you are going to get a tough 90 minutes against them and they did not disappoint. I have marked them high because it is an effective system that enables you to have a lot of the ball in the opponents half and a lot of chances created and if a team finds an effective style of play that works on a horrible playing surface then fair dos to them. it can be and was entertaining if not spectacular to the eye.
DC Has he got another miracle up his sleeves? Still looks unlikely to me but who can fail to not keep believing. You could say he got everything right with both his selection and his substitutions because to get such an early lead and hold onto it for the entire 90 minutes is a tough task. Changed formations again and it worked as he made the changes to hold on to what we had rather than to liven up what was becoming a bit of a dull affair with little productive possession on our part.I really hope he goes for it a bit more at Gillingham on Friday.
So this was very much a game where the result was far more important than the performance and the performance was defensively superb and it had to be as this was a potential banana skin. So we move on to a match against a Gillingham side who are fighting to preserve their status. They have lost four of their last five games but will take a home point against Millwall yesterday as a good point. They usually provide tough opposition and it is a ground where we have not had much in the way of success over the years but the problem now is that we can’t really even afford to draw if we are to take this season to the last game. Every game is a must win but there again what do we have to lose as this has been a great season which yesterday I believe saw us equal our highest number of points in League 1 for many years and there are still 12 points to fight for.
Our goal difference pretty well means we are 5 points off a Play Off spot and that is one hell of a distance to make up with only four games remaining however the fact we have to play Millwall last game does make it very interesting as they do not have an easy run in with Northampton and Oxford at home and Fleetwood away so if we are to have any chance we need them to drop at least two points from those games. Of course there is still Southend in front of us and any chance of making it will require them to drop 4 points from Chesterfield Away, MK Dons at home, Shrewsbury Away and Bury at home – that I feel is our toughest assignment after us winning our remaining four!! it is very much a case of looking no further forward than the next “project” and then looking at the table again. UTG