BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Ollie Palmer scored his first AFC Wimbledon goal last weekend – then admitted the stop-start nature of his campaign has been a huge source of frustration.
The 28-year-old centre-forward needed surgery on a groin injury which was initially misdiagnosed by former club Crawley Town – with the Covid-19 lockdown delaying the procedure by three months.
And then Palmer tore his quad at the end of August, not long after signing for the Dons.
Wimbledon were forced to self-isolate at the start of November due to an outbreak of the virus – just as Palmer was upping his match minutes.
And now the postponement of Wednesday’s home game against Wigan Athletic means no League One action for Glyn Hodges’ side until January 16, when Sunderland head to the capital.
“It’s the most frustrating thing I’ve had to go through in my career – because of the timings,” said Palmer. “I’d started the last two games and scored my first goal and then the Wigan match is off because of Covid. It’s been constant disruptions for me.
“I’d just got the bit between the teeth and I want to get going. I’m still managing a bit of a niggle from the quad tear. It’s still giving me a bit of pain despite the muscle being fine.
“I’ve had injections in two different places to try and get rid of it, but neither seems to have worked. I’ve got to grit my teeth and bear it. I’m doing strength work to try and strengthen the area around it.
“I got misdiagnosed with my groin injury at my previous club. They were making me train through the pain, saying it was ligament damage when it wasn’t. They were telling me it was tendonitis but I had tears in my lower abdomen – it was fairly serious and needed surgery.
“By the time they sent me to the surgeon it was March and the lockdown happened the next day. I couldn’t see anyone until June 18, when I had surgery. Because of where the problem was – in my lower stomach area – I couldn’t run or do core workouts.
“I went to Wimbledon and got my rehab done, got training and then unfortunately tore my quad. I’d never done it before. It was just complete bad luck.
“I came back and was building up my minutes. I came on and effected the Doncaster game, we drew but could have won it, and then we had the coronavirus outbreak. That was two weeks without playing and I had to rebuild my match fitness again because we didn’t want to risk any injury.”
At least Palmer has hit the back of the net for Wimbledon, heading home Shane McLoughlin’s cross in the 2-1 loss to Lincoln City on Saturday.
“Of course you want to get your first goal as soon as possible,” said the striker. “Even if you have been scoring in cup games you are still thinking about when your first league goal is going to come.
“It is all about scoring in the league – because they are the goals that count and are important for the football club. And to get it at Plough Lane was pretty special.
“I can’t tell you how different it is not to have fans in the stadium. They say that fans need football, but football needs the fans.
“It’s hugely missed when you walk out on the pitch, when a goal is scored, when you are pushing for another goal or trying to hold on to a lead. If fans being there gives each player a per cent more than that is 11 per cent extra. If it gives one player an extra 10 per cent then that is 21 per cent. It’s massive.
“The emotion was still the same inside when I scored – ecstatic – but you look up to celebrate and there is no-one there.
“It’s not the same, but it is what it is. It is the same for everyone. We need to get our heads down and know that the fans are still behind us and supporting us.”
Wimbledon are just two points above the bottom four.
“We’re not blind – we can see the league table,” said Palmer. “We have to stay positive and confident. We absolutely battered Oxford for 70 minutes and were so unlucky not to score. I don’t think you’ll see a game like that again this season.
“Lincoln are one of the favourites for promotion and we should’ve definitely taken something from that game. It was down to human error – that’s nothing that a manager or player can really plan for if a player slips over.
“We’re dominating big periods of big games. We need some points to support the work that we do.
“We’ve been in a bit of bad form, but I’d rather that form is now instead of in March or April. We have got to come out the other side of it.”
PICTURES: KEITH GILLARD
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