Up next: Wimbledon (a)


Next up, AFC Wimbledon, and the Wombles are wobbling, having lost both games on their first foray into League One in their current guise.

In one respect their poor start is a shame because the saga of rebirth which followed the shameful ‘franchisation’ of the original Wimbledon into MK Dons in 2002 is as heartwarming a story as you will find in the increasingly pragmatic world of modern football.

On the other hand Scunny are in the business of winning so, sentiment aside, we will be looking take advantage of Wimbledon’s struggle with the higher altitude of League One when we meet at Kingsmeadow, or as it is commercially and tongue-twistingly known, The Cherry Red Records Stadium and taking home all three points.

Defeats for Wimbledon at Walsall on the opening day of the season and at home to Bolton on Saturday – sandwiching a midweek League Cup loss to Peterborough – have already shown manager Neil Ardley what he already knew – that this season’s task will be a tough one.

But, he says: “We have a lot of confidence and momentum from last season because we finished so strongly and that will help us. The team is learning, we’ve got a good squad, a great team spirit. I’m up for the challenge mentally and physically and I’m ready to go to war with all of the other sides over 46 games.”

Of course, meeting big challenges was food and drink for the original Wimbledon Crazy Gang, for whom Ardley played, and indeed they are nothing new to AFC Wimbledon.

When the loyal local fans in the London borough of Merton decided to start up a new club rather than switch their allegiences to Milton Keynes following the controversial takeover 14 years ago, they were forced to forgo their league status and start from the bottom in the ninth tier of non-league, the Combined Counties League.

What fuelled their steady climb back up the ladder was an utter determination to right a wrong, and by 2011 they duly returned to the Football League, before winning the League Two play-off last season.

The new club’s ‘coming home’ could also be completed with a possible return to a new ground next to their old Plough Lane home. Plans look to be on the verge of being passed after an agonisingly long planning process.

As one would imagine, finances for players are stretched and all of Ardley’s summer signings have basically been free transfers. Among his many priorities was to sign a new striker after releasing the iconic Adebayo Akinfenwa, and Ade Azeez. So, much-travelled 6ft 3in Tyrone Barnett arrived to complement Scunny reject Lyle Taylor, the side’s leading scorer last season with 21 goals (a bad decision to let him go?).

Another former Iron man, Andy Barcham is key to their midfield and was on the end of a wonderfully constructed goal in Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Bolton. So as a team Wimbledon can be dangerous, and though we go there hopeful of taking advantage of their early season problems, the fact they are second bottom of the table will not stop Graham Alexander reminding his United players of that old adage: take nothing for granted.

Written by Matt Blanchard

Part of the team since 2007, before becoming editor in 2013. Undertaken the role of match summariser during Scunthorpe United live match commentaries for BBC Radio Humberside. Seasonal contributor to football titles FourFourTwo and When Saturday Comes and a finalist at the Football Blogging Awards in 2014.

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