‘Delusional’ – Wimbledon Media Selling Team Short

Some people are delusional‘ said AFC Wimbledon boss Mark Robinson after yesterday’s game. He’s not wrong.

I don’t usually comment on the opposition, but this morning I’ve been going through some of the reports and comments from yesterday’s game, and I’m seriously worried for the Wombles. I don’t want to be; in a scenario where we win League One, they’d be the team I’d want to finish second. If we stay up, the only other team I feel strongly enough to say ‘I hope they do too’, is AFC Wimbledon. There are a few reasons; I think the romance of their rise to the First Division in the eighties is a big factor. I loved the old Crazy Gang, not least because John Fashanu, a former Imp, was part of it. Of course, their recent history also appeals, not only the battle back from nothing, but their return to Plough Lane; there’s something inherently appealing about it. To me, they are what football is all about. I’d wager there are a few Imps, like me, who don’t have a second team but feel warmth towards Wimbledon they don’t feel towards Fleetwood, or Gillingham, or Crewe. There seems to be a huge number of other teams that give you a reason not to like them, and those three I’ve just mentioned might be right up there.

Finally, and you can call me what you want here, I want them to stay up for Alex Woodyard. I still like the lad today, he was Player of the Year when we won the National League, and whilst he might not be getting a statue outside Sincil Bank, when he stops playing we’ll talk about him in the same way we talk about Bobby Cumming, or John Finnigan or even Peter Gain. Well, I will, at least. If you watch his antics after the Brooke Norton-Cuffy incident, he plays a key role in getting the lad sent off; so much so he’s almost congratulated by their players after doing so. It’s interesting, everyone else tries to separate the players and scuffles a bit, he’s straight into the referee. Whilst it was against us, and not ideal, you have to admire that from a captain.

McCormick seems to congratulate Woodyard after BNC is sent off

However, having read their official report, and the comments of their manager, I’m afraid there’s an element of delusion around the club which isn’t good in a relegation battle. They’ve not won a game since December 7th, they only won two in the league since they beat us at Sincil Bank and instead of fostering a ‘can do’ approach to the battle (which I feel Michael Appleton did a few weeks ago), there’s a victim culture there that I’d find worrying.

The first comment has to be about their ‘goal’ from Jack Rudoni. I didn’t mention it in my report, but their official report, and their local reporter, remember it like this:

“Jack Rudoni had the ball in the net in the 79th minute, but referee Carl Brook disallowed the goal and pulled play back for a Wimbledon free-kick just inside the Lincoln half.” – London News Online.

“Wimbledon then had the ball in the net through Jack Rudoni, but to everyone’s surprise the play was seemingly pulled back for offside, before the officials awarded a free-kick the way of Robbo’s side, as mass confusion was felt around the ground.” – Official Site.

The second one I find concerning, as it shows a real lack of understanding of the game. If you watch the moment back, the Imps commit a foul, the referee waves play on, then the player is flagged for offside. That means there is no advantage, and play is pulled back for the free kick. What’s confusing about that? Genuinely? I can maybe understand the OS not quite reporting in a balanced manner, but the local press? Baffling.

In a one-on-one bout, I reckon BNC wins this

The OS report isn’t great at all. They speak about how they “simply didn’t catch a break from the referee Carl Brook and the officials during a game of mass frustration” which really isn’t true. What about the controversial sending off of Brooke Norton-Cuffy, by a referee who is eighth out of 60 for yellow cards per game, and second out of 60 for reds per game, joint top for number of reds? It’s not like he gets tougher games either; he’s 33rd out of 60 for fouls per game. So, they didn’t get a break, but for the second time this season, he sends off an opposition player at Plough Lane, making him top of the ‘red cards per game to away team’ stats in League One, with a red almost every three games for away teams. I think they caught a break, especially having watched back the incident with Norton-Cuffy. There might be the slightest head movement forward, but is as harsh as you’ll see, especially when their lad has flung Brooke towards the hoardings by his shirt. If anyone comes out of the game aggrieved, it’s us. I’ve watched the ‘penalty’ back in slow motion as well, and maybe in real-time, it looks like a penalty, but their forward is already jumping for the foul before contact is made. Yes, Jordan Wright does contact their attacker, 100%, and he doesn’t get the ball, but they’ve lost the penalty, rather than won it, because the player has already started to dive before the contact is made.

Then there are the comments from their manager. One really stuck out: “This isn’t defending me, but there aren’t managers out there giving a 19-year-old his debut as a forward. We had two forwards, I lost both of them, and I thought that the performance, under the circumstances, was excellent.” This isn’t about his assessment of the performance, actually, I agree to a certain point. They didn’t play as badly, or as negatively as Gillingham, but his comments about giving a 19-year-old his debut just isn’t true. We know this because, for a while, we weren’t just giving him his debut (Freddie Draper), we were playing him from the start in League One matches. When we did that, Michael didn’t complain, he said things along the lines of ‘all clubs have injuries’, and they do. Yesterday, Oxford played with a back three that included John Mousinho, a midfielder, because they have nine or ten out. Sheff Weds came to us last weekend with 11 out. I get that Wimbledon have a smaller squad than those teams, but there are managers out there giving youngsters their debuts, one was in the opposite dugout yesterday.

Dive, for my money

I like Wimbledon, I do, but when you read some of the stuff coming out of their official site, and the rhetoric their local press puts out, I can’t help but feel there’s a degree of insulating going on in readiness for their drop back into League Two. They’ve been knocking on the door for some time, but like a splinter, they keep getting pushed up to fifth from bottom, or higher, and keeping their third-tier status. I really believe they’re good enough to stay up; they showed more fight and endeavour than some clubs who have visited us in recent weeks (Gillingham and Doncaster being two who were poor and took points off us), perhaps even a bit more quality than Morecambe who we beat. However, the mentality has to be right, and when you’re six weeks or so from the end of the season, a victim mentality will get you nowhere at all.

By the way; they were the better side yesterday. They created more shots, off and on target. They had a higher xG (albeit still below 1), were more accurate in their passing, attacked more, won more of their defensive duels (despite losing more of their aerial duels) and forced us into 22 clearances, compared to the 12 we forced them into. However, what went against them wasn’t a bent ref, it was simply the cutting edge to finish chances.

Perhaps if their local press and OS focused on that, as Michael Appleton has in recent weeks, I wouldn’t have felt driven to write this piece. However. I stress, I respect the club and I hope, from the bottom of my heart, they stay up. Just not at our expense.