I arrived at the away end just as a marauding army of franchise chavs came round the corner chanting, “We’re the real Wimbledon”. I don’t find that sort of thing offensive, although my mind did wander to what Stanley Reed would have made of the strange sight in front of me.

Expect he’d be as confused as the vast majority of the wider football community because the very essence of football supporting is following a team that represents your home town and your community.

A point that seems lost on their customers. But when you look around them carefully and spot Arsenal, Tottenham, and Chelsea badges amongst the weirdos, dribblers and generally challenged, you can understand why.

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Back in early September, the 9yrspodcast ran an article about past performance perhaps being an indicator of future performance. Well, another two months on, 11 more games down, how are we doing against ‘expected results’ – and should we be worried?

The final game for this update was the 1-0 defeat away at Charlton – a game we were expected to win, according to the analysis – so it was a particularly bitter pill to swallow, as they are our nearest rivals. As my daughter and her boyfriend made a rare away match, I await their match report.

But for all the analysis that can be done on these last 11 games, and the five before, nothing gives a flavour on how we played, our luck or lack of lack, or the formation and players; it just coldly analyses the result as three points, one point, or none at all.

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I saw a picture, on Twitter, of Malta warming up before their match against Scotland. The photo depicted 10 players in a line going the entire breadth of the pitch, and the text below stated that they were preparing for their formation already. Amusing? I tittered at the caption.

This got me to thinking about formations and their evolution over the past few decades, and how we would line up if we would adopt different tactics with our current squad – should everyone be fit. For my examples below, I will not touch on the goalkeeping position, as George Long has that role.

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In finance, we are often told that past performance is no indicator of future performance, but does this hold true in football? Crunching the historical numbers might just give us a confident indicator as to how we will perform this year . . .

So, as I write this at midday on the first new Saturday of the season, we proudly sit atop of the League One table, due to it being categorised alphabetically before the first ball is kicked. We achieved what we needed to achieve last year – survival – but where to now?

I usually do an analysis of some sort at the beginning and end of a season to try and garner an idea of how well we may do, and where we may end up. It’s almost become a pre-season superstition or ritual for me now: an omen of relative success, whatever the measure.

Coming into our second season in this league, there has been a lot of trepidation about how we will fare. Whilst an occasional exceptional season can and does occur, generally, in the longer term, the law of averages imparts on a team’s performance, season in and season out.

In our case we have, certainly since the Conference, been bang average. The rapid climb in our earlier years has now been offset by a slightly more negative performance, in that we have lost more than we have won – although we have also drawn quite a lot.

Indeed, apart from the amazing run that resulted in the play-off final win, we’ve won a few and lost a few – which was exactly what we were doing until the MK win last year, when our season then totally tailed off.

In averaging terms, that was possibly expected (balancing out that great run last year) or, being positive for this coming season, it could be a ‘credit’ for us, a sort of ‘in the bank’ extra that might compensate for a poor run of form: balance in the universe and all that.

Anyway, to this year’s analysis, which follows the path of previous years (and last year’s table – included in the total so you can use it to update as the season progresses if you wish!).

I’ve averaged the history of results, home and away, against each team in this division, and come up with a predicted result and score. Where we have never played a team before, I have assumed each home team will win 1-0.

I have taken into account last season’s results as well, but in long term scenarios, such as our matches against Oxford, last year’s success, though welcome, has had minimal impact, as our form against them has been so poor in the past – and we still have a bogey team to beat, in Northampton Town.

Last year we were predicted to achieve 61 points in the season: winning 49 at home and 12 away. In the end, with that awful end of season performance, we fell just short of that total, with 57 points (32 at home and 25 away). Just turning a couple of draws into wins would have seen us achieve this and have been elevated to 12th place in the division.

The facts and averaging do not lie, but it always seemed at the outset that the away form would be better than just the equivalent of four away wins all season, and so it proved to be: the percentage split of 56 to 44 is probably closer to what most people would guess it would be. Mine would be 60:40, if pushed for a breakdown.

So to this season then, and the first positive: the stats suggest we should gain more points than last. We’re now up to 64, which last season would have equated to an 11th place finish. With Sheffield United having garnered an exceptional 100 points last year, and therefore being the stand out team, the general consensus this season is that the division will be a lot tighter, so such a total may move you further up or down the table as it finally pans out.

Again, our form is heavily biased towards a great season at home and, as a season ticket holder, I hold out hope for that, but our away form this coming year looks more realistic compared to last season’s actual form. We’ll have to wait to see what the impact is of a change in playing style with the current personnel, and the effect of the new ‘Chelsea-style’ pitch at KM . . .

So if the stats are to be believed, we are again on for a bang average season within League 1. But then, the stats themselves are based upon the average, and it’s the exceptions the prove the rule of change.

The unknowns are those that have come up and those that have come down, and therefore a couple of teams we have never played before in this current form of a Wimbledon football club. Some like Portsmouth we have reasonably good records against overall, but will their promotion momentum make them an unstoppable force this year? And will the likes of Rotherham be able to halt the slide down the divisions? We wait to see.

The first five games

As before, when this analysis has appeared in the WUP fanzine, the podcast team are going to let me update and evaluate this analysis as the season progresses.

So, almost exactly one month into the season, how are we doing? Well, in the real world: better than this time last year. Just. At this time on this date last season, we had played six games and had four points: this season, we have four points from five games: a slight improvement!

Last year, we had drawn at Northampton and Rochdale, won at home to Chesterfield, but lost to Walsall, Bolton and Scunthorpe. Predication-wise, we were down to win at home to Bolton and Scunny, lose at Northampton and Walsall, but win at Rochdale and Chesterfield.

But against the teams we have played this year, we have only ‘achieved’ our forecast result against Doncaster (though with a better score of 2-0). We were down to win at Scunthorpe (which by all accounts we should have) and probably drawn at Fleetwood, where I think they beat us for the first time. Likewise, Shrewsbury’s first win at Kingsmeadow upset the apple cart, whilst Blackpool, as a new team, was predicted to be the standard 1-0 loss we ‘achieved’.

So from a potential 15 points, we expected 10, but achieved only four. Not the most auspicious of starts then.

So on a process that looks at averages over the long term, it is naturally a bit dangerous to hypothesise too much going forward. However, having more on the board than this time last year certainly should support the players with a touch of confidence, something that seems so crucial to how we perform.

We’ll have a fair few tough games to play until the next podcast update, so like me, maybe keep updating your table to see how things are going.


// Jim Potter

Courtesy: Paul Edwards

There was a touch of Championship-level class about Wimbledon’s first win of the season – and their first in League One since March.

Kwesi Appiah’s return to Kingsmeadow in the summer was much heralded by Dons boss Neal Ardley, who believed the Ghana striker should be plying his trade in the second tier of English football.

And the goal with which Appiah opened the scoring with in this victory would certainly grace a higher division.

With his back to goal, the 27-year-old forward flicked the ball past Doncaster’s Andy Butler, span the other side of the centre-half, and calmly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Ian Lawlor from 12 yards.

The finish was of a quality so far removed from the hour of football that had come before it, as neither side could find any energy or inject any impetus in the late-summer heat.

A particularly insipid first-half, in which neither side managed an attempt on target, offered no indication of the ability Appiah – or any of his team-mates, for that matter – could provide.

Indeed, it would have been a most optimistic Wimbledon fan to predict, at the half-time break, that the Dons were going to end their 437-minute wait for a home league goal.

But once Appiah injected his moment of class, a previously morose Kingsmeadow stirred, and Ardley’s men found their zeal.

Just three minutes after the opener, Andy Barcham doubled the lead, dribbling from deep at the heart of the visitors’ defence to fire home a low shot, off Lawlor’s right-hand post, from 25 yards.

It was a deserved goal for the forward, who was Wimbledon’s liveliest player throughout, and ended his own search for a goal, having not scored since February – and not at Kingsmeadow since August 2016.

But despite the Dons’ lack of goals of late, with just one scored in their last 900 minutes of League One football, Ardley was never worried about a lack of firepower in this squad.

“I have every confidence in the forwards we have scoring goals,” he commented after the game. “My job is to get the team enough of the ball and in good positions to create chances for them.”

In the second-half of this encounter, he certainly did his job, although Barcham, who Ardley described as “a real menace”, was key to this.

The 30-year-old’s display, linking nicely with Taylor in and around the 18-yard box, was just lacking with the final pass, in keeping with much of the Dons’ season so far.

It has been poor decision-making in the final third that cost Wimbledon in their first three games, as decent performances at Scunthorpe and Fleetwood were not reflected in points gained.

The lack of service to the industrious yet frustrated Cody McDonald meant the summer signing from Gillingham was unlucky to find himself on the bench for this game, and until his goal, Appiah’s return to the side did not appear merited.

His, and the team’s, improved second-half came likely as a result of a slight tactical change, in which he and Taylor played much closer together as a front-pairing.

Ardley’s preferred 4-3-3 system was still very much in evidence, but with Barcham hugging the touchline and George Francomb offering width on the right from his usual midfield berth, spectators can be forgiven for thinking a more traditional 4-4-2 was in effect.

The fluidity allowed Wimbledon to take charge of affairs, and Lawlor did well to block Barcham from scoring again with 20 minutes to go.

Not that it ever looked like the home side would need another goal to secure their victory. Doncaster, who had won their previous two away games at Blackburn and Bradford in league and cup respectively, could not find any intensity in their play, with George Long only once called into action in the Wimbledon goal.

That said, Callum Kennedy did manage to beat Lawlor, but his shot from a free-kick on the edge of the box hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced clear.

And while a third wouldn’t have flattered the Dons on the evidence of the second period, the home faithful were more than grateful for the two goals they were able to celebrate.

“It was very nice for the team morale to get a clean sheet, a couple of goals, and three points,” said Appiah. “It was nice for me to get a goal and we can push on now.”

They will do so away at Blackpool this weekend. Having ended their search for a win, and a home goal, Wimbledon will now look to secure their first three points on the road since February.

The free-scoring Tangerines will be a test, but under the marshalling of the outstanding Deji Oshilaja at centre-half, the Dons might just need a single goal to really get their season motoring.

  • Report originally written for the South London Press newspaper. Photo: Paul Edwards.

    // Nick Draper – @ngdraper