The game might not have been an epic. But the result was close enough. One which might read as a fairly straightforward, “job done” game against a side without a win in 19 league games going into it. But one which has fairly seismic consequences, one that brings the U’s to 15 points clear of the drop. With 7 games to go. And all but the security of League One survival – and we haven’t even said goodbye to March yet.
Listen to the latest UTAS episode here, for an in-depth look at the Wimbledon game and a preview of Ipswich:
To take the game in isolation, the first half was about as exciting as the offer of a root canal. Necessary, but painful. Bonner said in post-match presser that the squad had been hugely delayed by traffic and didn’t arrive at the ground until just after 2pm, giving a hugely shortened warm-up and hampered mental and physical preparation going into the game. Playing against a side absolutely fighting for their lives who needed all three points here, it was always going to be them applying the early pressure.
But you could quickly see why they are where they are. Any sort of what might resemble “dominance” didn’t threaten Dimi in the United goal. A few flashes of half chances, but nothing troubling. In fact, for both sides, the best bit of the first half was when the referee decided he was also suitably bored and blew for the break.
As the second half was due to get underway, another delay: this time, one of those bizarre football moments. One of the assistant referees had injured himself and was unable to continue, so the tannoy call went out for any qualified refs who could step in so the game could continue. Wimbledon, notably, came out a lot earlier than United and were made to pass balls around for what felt like around 10 minutes, while the U’s stayed behind in the changing room for a while longer until the game finally got underway again. Presumably just to discuss how best to get the ball to Adam May around 25 yards out.
And it didn’t take long for that plan to come into effect. Not 2 minutes had passed by the time Joey chased down a loose ball into the box, laid it off to May, who really didn’t need a second invitation from range (but got one anyway with the huge “shoooooooooot” from the away end). Shoot he did, and despite it seeming for all the world like the keeper had done enough, he tipped the shot onto the post and into the net.
From this moment on, it must have been a seriously tough watch as a Wimbledon fan. The amount of balls that were just sprayed off the pitch, nowhere near finding their target, was astounding. The lack of any sort of way of playing, creative influence, goalscoring threat, was equally remarkable. Apart from the classic football fan’s paranoia of watching their own team, it was a procession from that point on and Jones and Okedina dealt with everything with ease; in fact, had we grabbed a second from either of Smith’s decent chances (one of which was cleared well off the line), for my money we would have gone on to make it three or four.
The game won’t live long in the memory. The performance was exactly what was needed to get over the line. But we can now go into April with our feet up. Enjoy these games, savour the aways, make the most of the big days out without looking at the table – because there’s no pressure, and next season we might not be so lucky.
Man of the match: Harrison Dunk continues to defy all expectations. In a tricky first half, he was solid and committed to absolutely everything, and in the second half he didn’t put a foot wrong. Could have gone to Jones for the same reasons.
Soundtrack of the match: Another Number – The Cribs