AFC Wimbledon’s unbeaten away record came to an abrupt halt at the Mazuma Mobile Stadium on Saturday as they capitulated against Morecambe in a horror show of a second half, which was every bit as abject as the first-half performance against Accrington.
Having conceded within a minute of the restart on Tuesday, you would have expected the Dons to follow a hugely improved first-half display with a similar effort after the break. If you had, you would have been disappointed.
Not content with repeating the trick of conceding within 60 seconds, Wimbledon contrived to find themselves three goals behind by the 61st minute.
As usual, the substitutions made little or no impact, and although Armani Little briefly reduced the deficit, Michael Mellon completed his hat-trick, and the Dons continued to nosedive towards the bottom of the table.
Here are Dave Hunt-Jackson’s takeaways from the game.
“WE LET OUR FANS DOWN”
This quote from manager Johnnie Jackson was the club’s website headline.
It is entirely accurate, and it could equally have been said about all three of the home losses this season and the two blown 2-0 leads.
It could also have been said about many, if not most, of the performances last season, bar a couple of notable exceptions like the victory over Leyton Orient.
The fact that he was unable to properly explain why his side had repeated all the errors of Tuesday night is worrying in itself.
He had called for a response to that defeat, and he didn’t get it. Three points out of a possible 15 has seen the Dons plummet from 2nd place at the start of October to now being 10th and closer in terms of points to 24th than first.
A season that was starting to show promise is in danger of unravelling completely.
THERE IS NO EXCUSE THIS SEASON
Last season, even the powers that be at the club accepted was not good enough – a litany of excuses accompanied each of the many poor displays.
A rookie manager, injuries, inheriting a poor squad, selling Ayoub Assal, and loanees being recalled, all offered as reasons for the club slipping to 21st in the table and flirting with a drop to the National League.
None of those applied yesterday or, for that matter, on Tuesday. Jackson has had over a year in charge and he should have shown some signs of learning from that experience, but he needs to show evidence he is evolving as a manager, motivator or tactician.
Only Lee Brown, who would have been on the bench at best, was unavailable against Morecambe and Jackson picked what he sees as his best team – a lack of players due to injury or suspension was actually an issue for the somewhat depleted home side rather than the Dons.
This is a squad that Jackson himself has repeatedly praised as being better than that of last season. In short, then, an improved squad and first-choice team shipped eight goals in four days and managed three in reply when they were already beaten.
The only difference between these two games and the worst of last season is that the level of underachieving is significantly higher.
WHY IS THE TEAM
Twice in four days, it has taken a three-goal deficit before the South London side have bared their teeth and taken the game to the opposition.
And in most of the matches, home and away, there has been an apparent reluctance to seize the initiative.
Substitutions change only personnel rather than tactics and whilst there has never been a Plan B, there doesn’t appear to be much of a Plan A either now.
The squad has changed substantially and for the better, so it is clear what needs to change if the Dons are to perform to their potential on a regular basis. In Omar Bugiel and Ali-Al-Hamadi, AFC Wimbledon have forwards who will trouble any defence and midfielders like James Tilley and Armani Little, who will chip in, too.
In a side playing with attack-minded full-backs and wingers, the build-up is all too often so timid and ponderous.
All too often, opportunities to run at the opposition are lost as defence and midfield exchange passes while their opponents reset their defence.
Against weaker teams, when they have the lead, Wimbledon are able to retain possession and appear better able to protect a lead as long as Little and Jake Reeves are playing.
Against the better teams and without the lead, this results in a stalemate at best, which has accounted for several goalless draws on their travels, but of course, goalless draws away and woeful home form is not a recipe for success.
REAL OPPORTUNITY STARTING TO SLIP
Wimbledon have invested significantly in their recruitment process, appointing a head of football operations and a chief scout and that has paid dividends in strengthening this year’s squad.
Their academy must be the envy of many, if not all, in League Two with Jack Currie, Aaron Sasu, Issac Ogundere and Huseyin Biler just the latest crop of talent to force their way into the first-team plans.
Currie has attracted many suitors and will surely be on his way soon. Keeping hold of Al-Hamadi, who has an extra year and a half remaining on his deal, will be a major challenge too, but replacing these two outstanding talents will be a real challenge.
As their better displays have shown this season, there is a genuine opportunity to challenge at the right end of the table for once and the long-suffering fans surely deserve for that opportunity to be taken.
It is down to those who run the club to deliver for the fans and ensure that performances and results, especially at home, improve and improve fast. Changes need to be made and for many, they are long overdue. With a key FA Cup match next week and some tough League fixtures in November, simply ignoring the problems, as seemed to be the case last season, is not an option.
Best Moment: A nicely taken goal from Armani Little, albeit for a consolation goal.
Star Man: Jack Currie looked a class above with a fine defensive display in an otherwise frail defence.
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