AFC WimbledonSport

Dave Hunt-Jackson’s four takeaways from AFC Wimbledon’s 1-0 defeat at Doncaster

AFC Wimbledon’s claims to be a play-off contender were made to look laughable as they turned in their worst performance of the season on the back of three poor displays to leave them gaining just one point and scoring two goals in their last four games, all against teams below them in the table at the time.

The second half of this season is starting to mirror the disasters of last season, and the decision to offer a contract extension to a manager who marked his 100th game in charge with more inept substitutions and a complete lack of tactical awareness from start to finish is increasingly hard to fathom.

Here are Dave Hunt-Jackson’s takeaways from The Eco-Power Stadium.


Far too often this season, Johnnie Jackson has blamed his players for below-par performances, of which there have been, as last year, far too many.

This is very worrying because it speaks to a lack of self-awareness.

Against Doncaster, he dropped James Ball, who had rightly earned the sponsors’ man of the match against Crawley. He seemed unable to contemplate playing Ball, Jake Reeves and Armani Little in the same starting line-up despite it being such an obvious solution to the problem caused by having his fourth choice centre half and a left back at the heart of his defence.

Given neither Lee Brown nor Alex Pearce are suited to the high tempo, playing out from the back approach that has served the Dons well all campaign putting a defensive midfielder in front of them to offer protection and an easy out ball would have allowed the South Londoners to play their natural game.

Instead, the tactic was to lump pointless long balls onto the heads of the Rovers’ centre-backs or to play the ball back to Alex Bass for him to lump it forward instead. In doing so, neither winger was able to get much of a look in, although Jackson ended the match with four wingers and one hopelessly out-of-form striker failing to remotely trouble the home defence.

If that wasn’t bad enough, having conceded in the third minute and created no chances whatsoever he waited until the 71st to make a change. That change was to stick a winger in the centre-forward role in place of Josh Kelly, much to the derision of the travelling support.


Josh Kelly is 5′ 9” and his strengths are his pace, his excellent football brain and his ability to run at defenders. Hoofing balls up the middle, where he is swarmed by League Two centre-halves, is unlikely to bear much fruit. If proof were needed, although it truly shouldn’t be, it was there for all to see again on Saturday.

John-Joe O’Toole was signed from Mansfield late on deadline day as defensive cover. Despite this, he has been kept on the bench by Saturday’s pairing and before that by Kofi Balmer, making him presumably the sixth choice at centre half, albeit still, it seems, ahead of Paul Kalambayi. O’Toole has gone from warming Mansfield’s bench to warming Wimbledon’s.

At least John Kymani-Gordon was played on the wing when he came on on Saturday albeit to be the fourth winger coming on to replace the only target man in Omar Bugiel.

Perhaps the idea was to confuse the opposition, because it certainly confused everyone else.


For all the failings on the pitch in recent games, the failure to recruit adequate cover for the first-choice central defence was always likely to prove costly, and so it has. Despite bringing in any number of midfielders in the summer, including Ryan MacLean, who was soon sent out on loan, and Charlie Lakin, who hardly got a look in, there was no apparent attempt to bring in a third centre-back to challenge the two main starters.

Their ease on the ball was a big part of the passing game that got the Dons so high up the table and none of the understudies have that attribute. If the plan was to play out from the back, then surely another ball-playing defender was essential.

Assuming Alex Pearce, if not Kalambayi and Will Nightingale are off the wage bill next season, one, if not two centre backs need to be high on this summer’s shopping list. Ethan Sutcliffe, of course, might be one of those two.


With a play-off place looking increasingly unlikely and an annual budget gap to plug, there are two very good reasons to use what’s left of the season to have a look at the homegrown talent. Aaron Sasu should be handed a chance to impress against Milton Keynes. Sutcliffe should not have been sent out on loan will such little cover at centre-half.

With Roman Curtis only signing until the end of the season and James Tilley and Josh Davison out of sorts, there should be opportunities for the next batch of academy graduates to step and help Wimbledon salvage something from what looks like another disappointing season.

Best Moment: The fans’ reaction to Josh Neufville replacing Josh Kelly up front.

Star Man: Issac Ogundere: An assured performance yet again on a day when it was very hard to play well.


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