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Ipswich Town 2 v 2 AFC Wimbledon
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 28th August 2021 Kick-off 15:00
We Are the Resurrection, We Are the Light - Notes for AFC Wimbledon
Saturday, 28th Aug 2021 09:18

With Town still looking for their first win of the season as AFC Wimbledon visit Portman Road, TomTheWriter assesses the mood in the opposition camp.

Despite the performances picking up over the last few games, Ipswich Town are still looking for their first victory of the new season.

Saturday’s visitors, AFC Wimbledon, have taken a new approach to their transfer business this season, opting for younger talent from Premier League outfits to guide them up the League One table.

The Wombles will be hoping for a much-improved season this year, finishing the last campaign in 19th place with 12 wins, 15 draws and 19 defeats. Wimbledon start the new season with fresh ideas and fresh hope for the year.

Joe Pigott was the driving force up front, scoring 22 goals last season. Academy graduate Ayoub Assal kicked life into the legs of the side, providing energy and spark from the midfield. Loanee Ryan Longman offered pace and power out wide, with Will Nightingale being the central figure at the back.

Mark Robinson

“Looks, and sounds, like [Mark] Robinson is still trying to work out his best team”, “I can firmly say I’m totally buying into everything that Mark Robinson (and co) are building. Given time, I really think we’ll be going places. Exciting times ahead”, “Mark Robinson seems altogether more clued up than any manager we’ve had in a long, long time.”

Former academy boss turned first-team manager Robinson replaced Glyn Hodges at the end of January last season after a poor run of results for the latter. He was tasked with turning around the team’s fortunes, but struggled to do so until the final two months of the season.

“For Charlton and Gillingham, Robinson picked 'the three-at-the-back team' and Doncaster and Bolton 'the four-at-the-back-team' with very different personnel in each”, “Robinson said he went 3-4-3 because he believed that formation would hurt them but - by his own admission - it didn't work and changed it”, “Robinson was clear that our ‘barely legal’ squad strategy is club policy - to crank up a production line of sellable young players - rather than because he’s a former academy manager and that’s all he knows.”

Robinson’s history with the Wombles academy means he has experience with dealing with young players. It came as no surprise then when his transfer business started to lean towards the new generation of talent available to him.

Late Survival

“Only three weeks ago and a goal down to [Accrington Stanley] after only four minutes and we were definitely headed down”, “There is nothing any coach can do with the players we have got for this league”, “After nearly 30 years without a ‘home’ game, it would have been terrible to get relegated in our first season back.”

Wimbledon’s rollercoaster end to last season saw them occupy bottom of the league after a 0-0 draw away to Bristol Rovers in mid-March. They only had a handful of games left to salvage their season, otherwise they would be heading down to League Two.

“Limped over the line but full credit to MR and the coaching committee”, “Massively turned around the performances and while today was a fizzle we survived because of a hugely impressive run of form in the last five weeks”, “Well done MR. All credit goes to him as he was the only change that saw us survive - no budget, no transfers.”

Despite finding themselves bottom of the league, Wimbledon’s side picked up their form heading into the business end of the season, losing only one of their final eight games to finish two places and four points above the drop.

The Squad

Robinson has acted quickly to change the direction of the club this season with more than a dozen departures and signings this year.

“Best of luck to Pigott”, “Pigott [has] been excellent, good luck to him.” Star man Pigott left at the end of last season to join Town after his contract expired, with talented centre back Terell Thomas ending up at Crewe Alexandra.

player imageJoe Pigott in action for Wimbledon

Blues academy graduate Shane McLoughlin and Shayon Harrison joined newly-promoted Morecambe with academy talent Archie Proctor leaving for Accrington Stanley.

Luke O’Neill and Callum Reilly were released by the club at the end of last season with the former providing four assists last season. “Thank you, Callum Reilly, for your service - surprised by his goal ratio in the end.”

Lots of younger talent departed for pastures new, with Robinson opting to bring in his own prospects from higher up the pyramid.

Compared to the squad that ended the 2020/21 season, eight of the starting XI from Wimbledon’s 0-0 draw with Lincoln City are still with the club, including one of the substitutes.

In terms of the strength of the squad, a large portion of the fanbase are excited about the direction the squad is going in. “It's definitely the best I've felt about a Wimbledon team for years”, “I believe it’s absolutely right to attempt to recreate the outstandingly productive youth development machine that allowed us to compete in the top flight for so long”, “No surprise a former academy head has gone with youth, it’s what he knows.”

However, there are some supporters who aren’t convinced the club has what it takes. “I do worry about having the mental strength, grit, fight, ability etc to get stuck in”, “I suspect we won't have the squad strength to perform to MR's peaks for extended periods”, “I'm very excited by how we'll do this season but every time I look at the table I struggle to find too many teams I'd be confident of finishing above.”

Northampton 0-1 AFC Wimbledon

“Needed that. If we’d gone out [of the Carabao Cup], I felt the balloon of optimism would’ve been punctured”, “Sounds like a fortunate win but we will take it after the last two games”, “Doesn't sound like we played very well though”, “Well I have to say we really didn’t play very well tonight but you can’t beat a 94th minute winner.”

“I do love an undeserved, last-minute winner...”, “Thank heavens for [Anthony] Hartigan. Apart from the goal he was the one outfield player that enhanced his reputation tonight”, “Best player on the pitch by a mile and deserved his goal as he was the only one to shoot on target with any force.”

Wimbledon boss Robinson made eight changes from the defeat to Sunderland last weekend, bringing in some of his younger talent for the cup victory over Northampton Town. Midfielder Hartigan struck late on to win the game for the away side, setting up a third-round tie with Arsenal.

Sunderland 1-0 AFC Wimbledon

“Not our day today. We have been a bit unlucky in the last two matches with regards to the actual goals”, “Pretty even first half but they bossed the second, the goal was coming for 10 minutes”, “No complaints about the score”, “We give teams far too much room down our flanks giving the opposition loads of space to get telling crosses in.”

“Sunderland had that little extra edge to their play and scores with a lucky deflection”, “Some quality players in that Sunderland team”, “I thought Sunderland were average at best, but you have to take chances and have some lick. Too much tippy-tappy from us, wallop the ball”, “Sunderland had a rookie goalkeeper, you need to test him more.”

In Wimbledon’s 1-0 defeat away to Sunderland last weekend, Robinson adopted his favoured 4-2-3-1 from last season, changing from the 3-4-3 set-up used in the 1-1 draw to Gillingham the game before. Across his six games this season, Robinson has elected to play three different formations.


Goalkeepers

“My only real concern with [Nikola] Tzanev is that he tends to come a long way out of his area when we are attacking”, “Tzanev is clearly number one choice for coming season”, “When he had time on the ball they were impressed at how we utilised him as additional outfield player.”

player imageNik Tzanev

First-choice goalkeeper Tzanev took the reins from Connal Trueman last season after his recall by Birmingham City, going on to have a fairly successful spell in goal, registering the second-highest save percentage for League One goalkeepers, behind only Town’s Vaclav Hladky, then with Salford City.

player image

“I think [Zaki] Oualah has been training with us for years”, “Too short and not young but he helps out where needed”, “Zaki Oualah was the replacement keeper. An Algerian who plays for Leatherhead. Think he has been linked with us before.”

Signed from non-league Leatherhead, Oualah had been a training goalkeeper at the club since 2014. Short in stature, Oualah makes up for that with his incredible athleticism. After Matthew Cox’s departure to Premier League outfit Brentford, Oualah will act as the second-choice this season.

Defenders

“[Daniel] Csoka looks like an accident waiting to happen.” Hungarian centre-half Csoka joined Wimbledon in 2020, playing the role of a supporting centra; defender in case of any injuries. “My one concern at Charlton was Csoka who looked slow and mistake-prone”, “I actually think Csoka would be fine as a full back but not good enough for wing-back or to play centre-back in a wing-back structure.”

“[Cheye] Alexander looks well out of his depth”, “I'm still not convinced about Alexander, some good, a few very good bits but some big defensive gaps that cost us goals”, “Robbo needs to tweak it a half-time as Alexander is getting abused by their left winger and doesn't know whether to stick or twist.”

Right-back Alexander, capable of playing on both sides of the defence, arrived from Barnet at the beginning of last season. He has severe competition from Henry Lawrence this season, so will need to step up his game.

“Anything that came into our box was dealt with usually by [Ben] Heneghan who I thought was immense today”, “Heneghan at centre-back looks so comfortable he may fall asleep”, “I saw Heneghan as the ‘lead’ centre-back yesterday and was gutted for him when their goal went the way it did.”

Heneghan joined Wimbledon midway through the first half of last season. Composed alongside Will Nightingale last year, he looks to be continuing that this campaign.

player imageHeneghan up against former Blue Oli Hawkins

“[Paul] Kalambayi seemed comfortable carrying the ball and playing wider.” One of Wimbledon’s breakthrough talents, Kalambayi will be looking to break the partnership of Nightingale and Heneghan this season. “Kalambayi was excellent tonight. Distribution best of the defenders”, “Kalambayi is a future star. Makings of a Championship player.”

“[Paul] Osew isn't a left-back and I'm still not entirely sure he isn't another [Michael] Folivi and possibly a level above where he'd succeed”, “Osew still isn't taking on defenders down the left”, “Love this kid. Seems to be staking a place when I thought he was on his way out last season.”

Left-back Osew, who spent a lot of last season rotating between full-back and winger, looks to be behind Nesta Guinness-Walker as the starting left-back this season, but with Alexander staking his own claim on that side.

“I believe the player returning is Darius Charles”, “Darius Charles for cover and coaching, will bring character and experience to the dressing room”, “Was pleased to hear we have brought him back in when it was announced”, “Just the kind of head the young and hungry need around the place.”

Signed this summer, Charles returned to the club he spent two years with before departing for Wycombe. Identified for his experience and leadership, Charles will be a key member of the dressing room for the younger talent breaking through.

“Welcome to Henry Lawrence”, “After looking him up, I'm guessing Lawrence will used as a marauding right wing-back in the Nesta Guinness-Walker mould”, “Just enjoy him while he is with us - proper star quality”, “Lawrence looks a lot better that our full-backs – even after a couple of games you can see he’s a higher level.”

Young full-back Henry Lawrence has arrived at Wimbledon on a season-long loan from Chelsea. He has already impressed the fans this season, and looks to be one of their danger-men for the game this weekend.

Full-Back

“My only gripe was that [Guinness-Walker] should have gone off sooner”, “NGW is developing and learning, I still think he's a better wide midfielder than full-back”, “Guinness-Walker looks like he is slowly returning to form”, “He has already improved loads under Robbo and has huge potential.”

Guinness-Walker, another breakthrough talent, looks to be the leading man for the left-back/left midfield position this season. He will need to keep improving on his game with Alexander and Osew pushing him.

player image

“Both Osew and Guinness-Walker are fine in their attacking roles but their defending leaves a lot to be desired”, “Guinness-Walker isn’t a natural defender, we already knew that. Being an attacking side has some downsides, I suppose”, “The problem for NGW was that he had no cover or support from any midfielders in front of hm.”

Guinness-Walker was the goalscorer for AFC Wimbledon in Town’s first home victory in League One two seasons ago, his first goal for the club.

Centre-Back

“[Will] Nightingale last night seemed happy and comfortable bringing the ball into the centre mid space when options were blocked off”, “There seems to be no patience for players developing as we have shown to the likes of Nightingale”, “Nightingale is our second-best player this season.”

Star academy graduate Nightingale has been with Wimbledon since the age of nine, joining the club two years after their resurrection. The club captain looks to continue in the centre of the defence, alongside either Heneghan or Kalambayi.

player image

“Nightingale out of pre-season friendlies with chipped bone in arm.” The key worry for AFC Wimbledon fans so far this season has been the fitness of their captain. He missed a decent chunk of pre-season,and they will be hoping he can stay for the rest of the season. “Christ, Nightingale is always injured”, “How much of pre-season will Nightingale miss?”

Midfielders

“Hartigan is benefitting from the way we’re are playing now”, “He has also worked hard on the defensive side of his game this season and it is showing in his performances”, “It’s good to see Hartigan having a couple of cracks from distance and scoring with his second attempt.”

Having spent the last few months of the previous season out on loan with League Two Newport County, Hartigan has returned to Plough Lane to stake his claim for a competitive centre midfield spot. His goal on Tuesday will do his chances no harm at all.

“He's a red card waiting to happen at the moment so watching from the sidelines for a one game ban might be a good experience”, “[Ayoub] Assal needs to learn from his petulance which had a role in time being added at the end”, We’d hate him if he played for anyone else. He is going to spend a lot of time suspended if Robbo doesn’t take him in hand.”

player imageAssal

AFC Wimbledon’s version of Armando Dobra, Assal is both technically-gifted but also naive. His poor game-management led to Wimbledon’s late concession of a goal at home to Bolton Wanderers and looks to be on thin ice each game.

“Luke McCormick seems a good signing and someone who can make an instant impact.” Signed from Chelsea this summer, Luke McCormick spent last season on loan with Bristol Rovers in League One and was one of the shining lights in a very poor Rovers team as they suffered relegation to League Two. “McCormick definitely looks like he will chip in with goals”, “McCormick looks like he is trying to hard but his time will come.”

“[Ethan] Chislett can't hit the target from inside the six-yard box, I'm not convinced he's going to be a source of goals”, “Chislett was closest to scoring in the first half when his shot was millimetres wide”, “Chislett is older than [Longman] and light years from him in terms of threat.”

Eligible for the South Africa national team, Chislett joined AFC Wimbledon last season from National League side Aldershot Town. With the breakthrough of Assal and the signing of McCormick, Chislett will need to kick into gear this season to nail down a midfield spot.

“Quality signing is [George] Marsh”, “A tenacious, tough-tackling holding midfielder who can also play in the backline”, “I like George Marsh, decent player we have there”, “Marsh is your standard issue hard-working neat and tidy central midfielder with good technique and who likes a tackle.”

Marsh’s season last year was with the Tottenham Hotspur academy, having spent the 2019/20 season out on loan with Leyton Orient. After his release from the North London side, Marsh joined Wimbledon and looks to offer some grit to the midfield.

Winger

“[Jack] Rudoni has been below par this season”, “He's been so quiet so far this season I forgot he wasn't even playing the other night”, “I thought Rudoni was excellent up at [Doncaster Rovers], very busy player”, “He is one player that has been very underwhelming so far this season (given what we know he is capable of).”

Another young talent to come through the Wimbledon academy, Rudoni featured on 39 occasions last season from the wide areas. He struggled under Hodges, but shone under Robinson at the back end of last season.

player image

“We know how good Rudoni and Assal are, so can’t wait to see a bit of chemistry developing between them”, “Rudoni was very involved first couple of games, I think people may be confusing his performance with the fact that there's a lot of eye-catching players now”, “I tell you what, Rudoni really stood out yesterday, he was busy and involved.”

After showing his ability under the new manager, Rudoni will be looking to continue that good run of form this season. The wide areas are lacking depth for Wimbledon currently, so it should be another season of week-in, week-out football for the youngster.

Centre Midfield

“I was very critical of [Alex] Woodyard last season but I've been really impressed by him in the first few games”, “I thought his tackling, control and composure last night were very good, and he was good on Saturday too”, “Has been excellent so far, constantly breaking down the opposition and linking up play in the middle.”

player imageWoodyard battles with Blues forward Armando Dobra

At the age of 28, Woodyard finds himself as one of the oldest players in the AFC Wimbledon dressing room. Another who joined the club last season, his experience could be key in a midfield that could include a few players under the age of 23.

player image

“While he worked hard, I feel he needs to be more positive”, “Woody’s been a pro for 10-plus years so should have experience of leading the midfield”, “I think there’s an appreciation for how much Woodyard has changed from liability to a core part of how it works.”

Someone who hasn’t pulled up trees in his career, Woodyard looks to be a key component of Wimbledon’s side this season. With his willingness to crunch in tackles, he might be eyeing up Kyle Edwards on Saturday if he marauds in the middle of the park.

Attack

“Pressley is a Womble.” Brentford’s Aaron Pressley looks to have ‘completed’ youth football after his impressive spells in the Brentford B team. Now venturing into senior football, he will be hoping to take that goalscoring-prowess to Plough Lane.

“Pressley has struggled a bit physically but he’s making good runs and taking up good positions”, “Pressley looks like he is running treacle whenever he has the ball.”

“[Dapo] Mebude is a promising yet unproven player dropping down from a big club academy to lower league men's football”, “Mebude is single-minded but useful and should score a few goals”, “If Mebude is the fall-back option how good was the first choice?”

Another loan signing for Wimbledon this season, Mebude spent last season out on loan with Queen of the South, originally from Rangers. He was signed in the summer by Watford, who immediately sent him to Wimbledon for the season. A fast, direct attacker, he should offer a different option off the bench on Saturday.

Striker

“[Ollie] Palmer was immense when he came on, physically strong and got properly stuck into them”, “If we can have a fit Palmer this season then it’s like having a new player and he brings the league experience albeit at a division below”, “Palmer the main man up front by a mile.”

player imageOllie Palmer

Palmer joined Wimbledon last season after a successful spell with Crawley Town in League Two, but injuries affected his season with the Wombles. Now, after a certain departure, he looks to be the man tasked with leading the line for the club this season.

player image

“Only concern is there is no back-up for Palmer”, “I think what we are lacking is a target man, a real goalscorer like Pigott. Think we may well struggle as Palmer and the Brentford guy [Pressley] don’t look prolific”, “From what I’ve seen Palmer is strides ahead of Pressley, not really comparable in terms of contribution.”

With Pigott leaving this summer, Palmer and Pressley have been earmarked as the pair to score the goals that he put up last season. With this being Pressley and Mebude’s first spells in the EFL, and Palmer’s lack of goals at League One level, they will need assistance from across the pitch for goals this season.

AFC Wimbledon fans on ITFC

“Ipswich fans calling for a new manager three games in”, “Ipswich had the third lowest goals for last season, only two of the relegated sides were lower. They're not some Suffolk-based Barcelona”, “There’s something a bit messed up with Sheffield Wednesday vs Ipswich Town as a third-tier fixture next season”, “I see Ed Sheeran is sponsoring Ipswich shirts next season, maybe we will be announcing the Mumford & Sons Stadium some day?”

“The way those Ipswich fans are going on about Pigott you'd think they had signed [Lionel] Messi”, “Ipswich have got a damn fine player for nothing”, “I’m wondering if Ipswich didn’t realise that Pigott wasn’t creating his own chances and needs good feeding to score? They maybe had some odd idea he’d turn up like Messi and solve their goalscoring issues without anything else needed”, “Ipswich appear to have made the beginner’s mistake of playing Joe Pigott as a lone target man.”

Expectation

“I expect the first 10 games will be inconclusive - probably a few deeply uninspiring draws/defeats, a proper battering, one or two slim victories and hopefully one or two performances reminiscent of 'the four.”

“There’ll be a slightly more vibrant brand of football with MR and, to be fair, it’s overdue. But he’s still handicapped by budget and over the years some of his decisions have been a long way from golden.”

“I think it is only us supporters that think mid-table will happen this season”, “I think the club that can actually see the balance sheets are setting more realistic expectations to the recruitment and final position.”

Websites

There is only one forum for a die-hard Wimbledon fan, and that is the Womble Underground Press. A detailed account of all things AFC Wimbledon.


Photo: Matchday Images



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SamWhiteUK added 15:54 - Aug 27
“Ipswich fans calling for a new manager three games in”

What?

“The way those Ipswich fans are going on about Pigott you'd think they had signed [Lionel] Messi”

What?

"They maybe had some odd idea he’d turn up like Messi and solve their goalscoring issues without anything else needed”

What?
7

vanmunt added 15:57 - Aug 27
Nice one Tom.
5

FrankMarshall added 16:49 - Aug 27
Great article!

Some of the comments from their fans are unbelievable. Must be getting that information from somewhere though.
3

JewellintheTown added 18:53 - Aug 27
@FrankMarshall

Probably Danny Cowley.
3


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