Full circle: Wimbledon (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Paul Thundercliffe

30 April 2011

Wimbledon 2 Grimsby Town 1

Last match of the season. Usually this would involve the biting of nails and checking of scores, but not today. Having been at Tranmere, Cardiff and Burton this seemed like progress of sorts.

The last time I attended a last game of the season with my southern friends Rowly and Al was a 2-2 draw against Brighton which ultimately saw both teams relegated from the second division. The intervening eight years have been interesting for both teams for very different reasons.

The late kick-off to allow 21 people to watch a Conference game on a channel nobody subscribes to meant a leisurely afternoon drinking in and around Kingston. There were pockets of Town fans everywhere, belying the team's season and lack of success.

One of the (few) delights of a Conference season has been the hospitality at away grounds. At Hayes, the club was so accommodating that they let you out at half time to go to the pub and didn't check your ticket on the way back in. At Kingsmeadow, the smart and effective ground the Dons share with Kingstonian, the well-run clubhouse welcomed all fans warmly as they enjoyed a pre-match pint in the sunshine.

As we watched the scores come in, almost bemused by the League promotion and relegation issues that will continue to not affect us for at least two years, there was a fascinating moment when MK Dons scored. Me, Al and Rowl let out a boo, expecting there to be a chorus from assembled Wombles, but there was nothing. It was almost as if acknowledging the score would acknowledge the existence of a club that had caused so much misery.

It was probably a good job Town had nothing to play for as it would have been pandemonium. How 350 fans could make the commitment to travel and pay to watch a meaningless game after suffering not only this season but the past eight is almost beyond me. The club patently does not understand how lucky it is to have this support.

Wimbledon had done their homework and worked out where the sun would shine at 5:15pm and so allocated us the corner flag end with an obscured view.

Town lined up in black and white in a 4-3-3 formation as follows: Arthur, Bore, I'Anson, Garner, Wood, Thanoj, Cummins, Coulson, Connell, Duffy, Mulready. Yet more youth blooded in the short and stocky figure of Mulready, with Coulson dropping into a roaming midfield berth.

First half
The game started and followed the pattern of long ball to Duffy, headed away by defender, passed around a bit by the Dons, launched by Garner to Mulready, headed away... until Town waited for an offside flag and Luke Moore nipped in to poke past Arthur.

More passages of long ball to Dons defenders' heads continued, as Town bypassed the midfield at will. On one occasion Duffy managed to head the ball down (it looked like he was trying to flick it on) and Mulready fired over. It was a difficult debut for the youth team protégé, as he looked more comfortable with the ball at his feet, which didn't happen often.

As the game wore on and our eyeballs felt like they were being massaged by the devil, Wimbledon passed and moved towards goal, had a chance blocked in a melée and then Arthur saved smartly. Having had no real effort of note, Town then equalised with a goal that summed up the season. An aimless punt from the back, over the Town attack who looked offside, and then there was Alan Connell, who caressed a high bouncing ball on the half-volley with his left foot and across the keeper into the corner.

A moment of rare quality among the kick and rush. A glowing ember in the smouldering ash. If Connell does leave we will be non-League for ever.

Second half
Rowly's half-time chips and Al's pie were a highlight before the last 45 of the season, and much the same pattern. Lots of height, not much finesse. A lot of Wimbledon's better stuff came down their flanks, but Arthur was equal to most of it, and when he wasn't, I'Anson cleared off the line.

From one Kenny save, the resultant corner was headed on to the bar in slow motion by Minshull. Town players stood open-mouthed as it was eventually bundled in by Johnson.

The home fans celebrated as if they had picked a penny up off the floor thinking it was a pound coin; obviously beating the likes of Grimsby was a long way down their list of priorities. This was a practice match before the real deal of the play-offs.

As the sun bore deeper into our eyes so the games became a little better, Town creating a few half chances, with Thanoj - obviously intelligent when he did actually get a little bit of the ball - flighting a corner against a bar. It was still mostly aimless high balls and free kicks glanced 15 yards wide, until Peacock came on for Duffy and not only won the headers but flicked them to a team-mate.

This seemed to spark Town into action and their most flowing move ended with Thanoj striking the bar from 25 yards with a fine curling effort. After that, the closest Town came was when I'Anson started a move from inside his own half, kept running and connected with Bore's only pass to a team-mate all afternoon only to narrowly miss the target.

Wood, with seemingly boundless energy all game, ensured some of the away contingent got frothy at the mouth when he started a minor brawl but when the whistle went it was a relief really.

The season that Promised Much, that was supposed to be the start of the Great Fightback, a return to the Holy Grail of League Football, centuries of points and goals, was a bit shit really. We never got to grips with teams coming to Blundell Park like we went to Anfield. We were the Big Cheeses and part-time players tried that little bit harder and made it difficult for us. There were flashes of brilliance and it was nice to win more than we lost, but those home draws did for us in the end.

So, another last-day defeat but this time it didn't really matter. The slide started with that draw against Brighton, and continues apace. The fact they've just won their league to return to the second division in a brand new stadium should be a lesson to us all. Enjoy the summer.