West Leigh Park, Havant
[I did intend to have some pictures here, and some were taken that, whilst not brilliant, gave a flavour of the larger than usual crowd. However, I managed to delete them before downloading. You’re probably thinking “he’s a bit of a knob”, and you are right to think this. Dave Haines was there as usual though and I reckon this one's very good]
“You don’t turn your nose up at a point against the run away league leaders” Shaun Gale told the Non-League Paper after this game. Perhaps so but despite my uniform default to positives-truffling after a game, and having expect so so much less prior to, I somehow feel a little glum.
Perhaps it was because of my imagining, at the start of this season, that this game would have a significant bearing on us departing from this division next season. To a certain extent it does, but not in the way we’d imagined. This weekend saw our team, the one we believed would challenge for the title, against the team that are looking as though they will actually win it, and the gulf between them at the top, and us in 19th, was all too evident. Their touch, their passing, their understanding - all were far superior despite the fact that they were clearly not pulling out all the stops here. If they can rediscover their ruthlessness and hold off the challenge of Hampton & Richmond’s bunch of toughs, they will certainly be worthy champions.
However, with Alan Devonshire’s ampersanded mob putting on a gallop, AFC fans are, rightly, not resting on any laurels just yet. Hampton have cantered past a Chelmsford side (whose balloon, if not burst, certainly has a tiny pinhole in it causing it to begin that long atonal whiney deflation) and have the momentum to challenge AFC. As such many will have left West Leigh Park and headed back to South London cursing their inability to finish us off as, frankly, I doubt we’d have scored if we’d made the first ad break in Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway the agreed cut off point.
Although perhaps I am being too unkind given that I had anticipated a thorough working over prior to kick off, and as such this was a result if not beyond my wildest dreams, then certainly contained somewhere within the one where I am chased repeatedly around Swindon’s magic roundabout by Raymond Burr riding a mauve gazelle.
After taking a three goal cosh to the back of our collective skull at Kingsmeadow back in October, I expected little better, if not a little worse from today’s game. Others were more positive, but even then of the “any points today will be a real bonus” variety. Yet a seemingly popular opinion amongst the AFC Wimbledon support in the build up was that they would be held to a draw. Perhaps the fact we usually raise it for the bigger games and with an extra thousand people in the ground today, most of whom had come with the Dons, lulled them into a sense of insecurity and, as it turned out, not a false one.
So, we can criticise the aimlessness of our passing and the fact that, at times, our players appear to have such little awareness of each other, you might assume they’ve all been given x-ray vision and yet, at the same time, encased in lead. However one cannot fault their application and willingness to battle and, in this respect, Paul Hinshelwood, Gary Elphick and Jay Gasson get the dubSteps cap doffed repeatedly.
Gary Elphick always gets nuff props from this site of course, and not just because of the fact we part-sponsor his get-up; he is the epitome of total commitment. This was particularly the case today, given that he had to have his head bandaged three times, like a scratched DVD of Terry Butcher playing against Sweden in 1989 (albeit with slightly less gore). He also got through four shirts, numbers #5, #18, #19 and a blank one which meant he could not only re-take his place on the field, but also act as a surrogate for any of the letters in Scrabble.
The re-bandaging occurred as his dressings kept pinging off after big headers, the first time another red-spattered substance dropped to the floor as he trotted off. Most likely it was a piece of gauze although for a second or two it looked as though he might have left some of his skin behind. They’ve always said that about him though, wherever he’s gone, “Aye, some’ll run through walls for the cause. That Elphick though, e’ll rip half his face off for ya”. As he got up from the challenge, we noticed that Nicolas Cage had suddenly replaced him at centre-half.
It was the day for that kind of effort though as AFC have not exactly been quiet in terms of goals. For a start, they have Jon Main who couldn’t be more red hot up front if his nipples were on fire. Thirty he’s already got in the league this season, but added no more today, and he was replaced with thirteen minutes remaining. Several Dons did miss solid chances; Leberl, Davis, Godfrey, his sister Dolly, all going close, but not as close as they perhaps should have done.
Some of the AFC fans joining me on the train back to London certainly appeared impressed with Gary’s wholehearted showing, but clearly felt they should have taken all three points. We Hawk fans on the other hand will probably feel two things, happy with the point considering our expectations but also feeling that nothing was shown in midfield or up front that suggests the goals we will need [cliché warning] in the fourteen cup finals we have to play in the next two months [you were warned] are in any way guaranteed.
Previously, on dubSteps
21oct08: AFC Wimbledon 3 Havant & Waterlooville 0
Havant & Waterlooville website
AFC Wimbledon website
Twohundredpercent report on the game