So, how did we manage that escape? Here’s the analysis of where we bucked historical trends to secure our first division future (above the scum).

So, in our last six games, our results were expected to be:

  • Charlton: draw 1-1;
  • Walsall: most likely lose 3-1;
  • Oldham: also draw (0-0);
  • Wigan: lose 1-0 – the standard home win given as we have not played there before;
  • Doncaster: lose 1-0 (see above!);
  • Bury: win 2-1.

The Charlton game turned into a win: a great start boosting us two points up.

Then, the key game that I think turned our potential into actual survival, the dramatic win at Walsall – 3-2 in stoppage time, in front of all those volunteers on their day out. Pure bliss (Alexa? – Ed).

Oldham we see should have been a draw and in the end was, although there was a feeling of missed opportunities having led twice in the game.

Such negativity within the fan base, tempered by the idea of a ‘free hit’ at Wigan since they were effectively promoted and ready to celebrate, saw the old WFC spirit surface and we gained another valuable extra point in our quest.

And then Doncaster, with the given statutory home win, saw another sterling performance that gained us the valuable extra point that secured our safety.

Although drawing against Bury proved insignificant in terms of our final placing of 18th (other results dictated this), we were down to win 2-1 but again, as so often this season, we failed to take our chance. In many ways, it was symptomatic of our year overall.

So there is that bit to the analysis. But the other variable to play a part was the performance of the other teams around us. In the end, we topped that mini-group of final prospects for the drop and so our survival was assured. Over the last six games, if we compare form:

Team Pts with six games left Final pts total Pts from last six
Wimbledon 43 53 10
Rochdale 42 51 9
Northampton 40 47 7
Bury 30 36 6
Walsall 47 52 5
Oldham 45 50 5
Pigeon Cocks 42 45 3

Firstly – apart from ourselves, Rochdale and Northampton (just) – none of the other teams managed to exceed that ‘unwritten’ one point per game average final target, which might see you avoid relegation. Ultimately, Northampton and Bury were just too far behind.

Walsall, after our surprising win over them, steadied enough to win against Northampton, which proved to be critical to them surviving and the Cobblers going down. Oldham’s inability to convert draws (five!) into wins, like with Northampton, saw them fall through the trapdoor, with 50 points not being enough this time!

And as for the scum … well, apart from a win at resting Shrewsbury, their form here, and further back, mirrors ours of last year. Will they arrest such a decline? Who cares?

So we survive to fight another day. These stats will tweak the averages a little more as we look forward to next season, but stats – as Neal Ardley has seen – aren’t always everything. Remember last year, Shrewsbury finished 20th – and look at the season they have just had!

We live in hope don’t we, and at present we can safely say the hope is not killing us anymore – until August, at least.

// Jim Potter


So, since the last review at the beginning of November, is our ‘indicator’ – based on past history panning out – predicting our future survival in League 1? Another three months gone, 15 more games down, and it’s time we look at what occurred and what is in store at the ‘business end of the season’.

The loss against Northampton should really not have come as a surprise to anyone as, along with Oxford over the years, they have been one of our bogey teams. This was a banker home loss on the indicator as we have only had three decent results against them ever since we reformed – two draws and a win.

But looking back over the last three months, the surprises on the pitch have definitely correlated to be the surprises we find in the table of expected and actual results. Overall, we have performed pretty much as expected: over this period, we were expected to get 10 points – and that is exactly what we got.

What is interesting, though, is a fair portion came from games where we were NOT expected to get them. Bradford away is the shining example of this, as the expected result was a 3-1 loss. To win was good; to win that way was exceptional. However, we have to temper this by pointing out that at home, the indicator says that we should have won, albeit 3-2.

Southend are another team we have a poor past record against, and the home game with them was another we were expected to lose. The win was not only welcome, but very important. Bristol Rovers away is, also, a totally unhappy hunting ground (I am still trying to work out why Meades played right-back when I went there to watch once), with an expected 2-0 loss pencilled in by the indicator, but again, a turn-up for the books and an impressive 3-1 win.

But outside of these, there is the nibbling tendency to undo all this good work by losing or not drawing games that we should have. Losing to Walsall at home when we should win; not getting the expected draw away at Portsmouth, followed by not winning when we should have at the Gills. However, the draw at the shit bowl meant we gained a point there on prediction, which was only to be negated at Bury, where we were expected to draw, but lost.

The other games, such as Peterborough, played to form, although the Wigan result – where having not played them before, I used the default score of a 1-0 home win – was an exception to the rule.

  • Click here for a full breakdown of predictions and results

So what comes next? Well Plymouth is an expected away win (1-2), so if we do achieve that, I claim the glory; Bristol Rovers at home should be a draw; Peterborough away is also a predicted win; and Blackburn at home, which completes our February fixture list, should be an easy win (using the default score as we’ve not played them at home in the past).

Looking further ahead, to the rest of the season, and we are predicted to pick up 22 points from the remaining 15 games. During this run-in period, it is found that teams that go down usually average only about a point per game. On the basis of the table after Northampton, the probable line for relegation will be drawn at about 46-47 points.

And whilst we all quite enjoyed January, this month has well and truly started with a vicious bite, and we need to somehow turn results around, otherwise it is quite easy to see us having a dry February in place of a dry January. In theory, things will change in line with the predictions over the next three games.

But as we have seen earlier in this article, this side never does what is generally expected of it: it always seems to do something different. I guess it’s why we still hope, but the hope continues to slowly kill us.

// Jim Potter


Strange how certain events in football can change a club’s course. Everything in the AFC Wimbledon garden seemed rosy up to that point Freddie Ladapo took a call from Chris Powell halfway through his medical at Kingsmeadow.

The way we handled that situation received widespread criticism and looking back, maybe the negative vibe created by publicly saying he’d legged it at the eleventh hour was the catalyst for our downturn in fortunes.

Events at the end of the January painted us as an unattractive proposition. Ladapo preferred Southend, and there was a whisper that Lyle Taylor had confirmed his future lies elsewhere, as he pencilled a deal for the summer.

Not the ideal window then: we failed to secure an exciting winger to bolster our options, and our star player took somewhat less interest as to what league we’ll be playing in next season.

From having a lot of positivity and momentum after Bradford, we seemed to be thrown off course – and just when we needed to show a bit of strength, we lost our captain. Unfortunate timing, but bad luck that was compounded by the manager replacing him with a player now past it at this level.

Lots has been said about team selection, formation, and tactics for both games this week, which I won’t repeat here. I agree with much of it, but what worries me most, having witnessed 90 minutes at Gigg Lane and 70 minutes at Kingsmeadow over the past week, is how we’ve been out-battled by fellow relegation strugglers.

Northampton are a big ugly side with players like O’Toole and Crooks in midfield, but we also lost all our battles against a Bury team of average stature. So what I’ve seen on the pitch this week indicates it’s mentality, rather than physicality, that’s letting us down.

And I wonder if that comes from the manager. Because when we win or pick up a few decent results, there is a slight air of arrogance that comes across: taking the credit for our good performances with, crucially, an undertone that we knew we were pretty good all along and have just been waiting to climb up to our rightful position in the league.

Does that transmit to the players? I hope not, because the reality is that we’ve got a bang average squad for this level – and we need to fight and scrap with 100 per cent effort for every point.

We didn’t take to the pitch at Gigg Lane looking like a team thinking that way. The home team did, and they put us on the back foot from the referee’s first whistle.

If we had the approach Bury demonstrated – that we can’t afford to leave anything on the pitch in any game between now and May – I think we’d have picked up a couple of results and be sitting comfortably in mid-table.

But we only seem capable of showing the necessary fight when we slip into the relegation places. Maybe an alarm bell rings in the players’ lounge; maybe the management get them fired up. But whatever happens, they put in one or two battling performances that drag us up and out of the bottom four again.

So no matter what lies behind our inconsistency, it’s put us right back in the relegation battle, and if we don’t sort it out, there is a danger of us going down.

That said: I’m not going to panic just yet.

With the wonderful work franchise are doing, there’s probably only one relegation place available to us and with the right mentality, we should be able to finish above one of Fleetwood, Blackpool, or Oldham. Clubs like Northampton and Southend are already pulling away from trouble, leaving us and the above-mentioned to fight over that last place in Division 4.

Anyway, as I’ve got this far into the match report without mentioning the Northampton game, I’ll deal with it very quickly.

The positives were Robbo returning to the bench, and that we scored from a set piece. The negatives were every other set piece, Northampton scoring three, and how easily Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had the better of Neal Ardley tactically. They seemed to be strolling through the middle of us second half – well, certainly for the 25 minutes of it I hung around for, at least.

My MOTM I’m going with Liam Trotter again. Had a decent game and put that early chance on a plate for Pigott – what a different afternoon it might have been if Joe had provided the finish it deserved.

Player Ratings Long 6; Fuller 7, Oshilaja 6, Charles 7, Francomb 6; Forrester 5, Soares 6, Trotter 7; Barcham 5, Pigott 5, Taylor 6.

Up Next Plymouth on Tuesday may see even fewer of us in attendance than the 131 at Bury. I’m going to predict a 4-0 home win, because you know what we’re like when everyone expects we’ll get hammered, and we could really do with a surprise point or three to stop the rot.

// Andy Dixon – @andydixon975


Some games you know very early on you’re not getting anything and, five minutes in, Saturday felt like one of those days.

I travelled not expecting much and a chat in the pub with a Millers fan did nothing for my expectations. He described a well organised team that are working really hard for each other: not a team with any star players, but a hard-working group on a good run and full of confidence.

Neal’s pre-match comments suggested this was a good opportunity to find out how far we’ve come as a team and how we’d measure up against one of the better sides in the division.

And there’s no doubt we’ve made significant progress in recent weeks, but when pitted against a team challenging for promotion, we got a bit of a reality check.

It’s not that we played badly. We were well organised, full of energy, and matched them in many departments – it’s just that we lack that little bit of quality that you need to get something from games like this.

In tough away games in February, you need performances from your big players. We didn’t get one and it may be just me, but is Lyle starting to look like a player in his last few months with the club?

We set up in our now familiar 3-5-2; the only change from Valley Parade seeing Robinson wheeled out in place of Barry Fuller, who was missing because of calf injury.

I had my doubts about Robbo when we got the team news. He didn’t have a bad game but his distribution would have been more at home at Twickenham. Jon Meades hasn’t been in the best of form, but I’d still have preferred him to come in for Barry.

The cynic in me wonders whether Neal feels he has to justify Robbo’s contract with the odd appearance. It’s well known they are close mates and many of us were surprised he got another deal.

Hindsight make us all wise of course (and I haven’t forgotten Robbo played a massive part in our promotion), but he’s not League One quality now and those wages could have been better spent elsewhere.

Anyway, we started okay at the New York stadium, but Rotherham took the lead on 14 minutes. A clever ball to the back post found Michael Smith isolated with Andy Barcham; Smith got the better of him and slotted home for 1-0.

I didn’t fancy us to get back in it.

Lyle has been great for the club and scored some fantastic goals. None of us will forget the one at Wembley, the individual brilliance at Northampton, or that one against Franchise at Kingsmeadow.

But on a cold February day in Rotherham you need a hard-nosed centre forward who will roll his sleeves up and get stuck in. We’ve got a prima-donna with half an eye on what deal might be coming his way in the summer.

Don’t get me wrong: Taylor will score more goals this season and play a crucial role in keeping us up, but I look forward to replacing him with someone whose first priority is the team – not himself. I think a Tom Elliot type would have given the Rotherham defence a better workout and I hope Neal can develop Joe Pigott or work his magic again in the summer transfer window.

But it’s not only Lyle. Andy Barcham looks dangerous against bottom half clubs, and Cody McDonald proved what he can do against a struggling defence only last week. But when they come up against decent teams at this level, we just don’t trouble them. With the exception of Harry’s scuffed effort late on I can’t remember one really dangerous situation for us, or their keeper having to make a save.

I’m not criticising the players or the manager, that’s the quality our budget gets us and that’s how it will be until Plough Lane revenues increase our spending power.

So we never looked like scoring, but we did have decent possession and territory in the second half, and you could argue we had the better of that period. So although the second goal on 92 minutes was disappointing, I don’t think there was any doubt that Rotherham deserved the points.

The Oppo Lots of good qualities I’ve mentioned and two ex-wombles playing well for them. Smudger got a lot of stick at Gigg Lane, but it’s hard to perform at your best on a sinking ship. I thought he looked much better in a Rotherham shirt and will score the goals needed to keep them in the top six. Semi Ajayi looked a bit green in his loan spell with us, and I can’t remember exactly how that ended. Was he one of those that mysteriously disappeared back to his club mid-loan? Well, he’s filled out a bit now and looked very accomplished at the centre of the Millers defence. I’ve seen most clubs in the division and I think Rotherham have an excellent chance of the play-offs: they may even win them.

My MOTM Jimmy Abdou gets my vote this week. Another excellent performance in midfield in which he reminded me of Dannie Bulman at his pestering best, but with that extra bit of quality when he gets on the ball or makes a pass. I’ve seen people question why Jimmy didn’t get a run in the team sooner, but he’s had an injury, a suspension, and international duty. As soon as he’s had a regular start he’s shown why Neal brought him in. He only became available after the Liam Trotter deal was done, and I think there’ll be a contract on the table after his testimonial at Millwall.

Player Ratings Long 7; Charles 7 Oshilaja 8 Robinson 5; Francomb 7, Soares 6, Trotter 6, Abdou 8, Barcham 6; McDonald 6, Taylor 5.

Up Next We may not have had the quality to match Rotherham but we’ve proved recently that we can hold our own against the bottom half teams. If we’re up for it on Tuesday night I think we’ll have too much for league’s bottom club. There may be one or two changes – we know Neal is going to have to use the squad to get through February – and I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts this week. Kennedy could come in for Barcham, and we might see Meades given a start – either at the back or in midfield.

Joe Pigott wont have to wait too long for a start so he might play 90 minutes. That gives us the option to rest Cody and bring him on around the hour mark to give Lyle a breather.

Whilst I remain confident that we’ll pull away from trouble, these are three crucial games coming up. Northampton and Plymouth are both improving and neither will be the banker points they appeared to be a month or two back, so we need to make the most of the game with Bury – and I expect to be traveling back down the M1 with three points on Tuesday night.

// Andy Dixon – @andydixon975


I’ve seen a few people pondering what’s behind our upturn in fortunes. It’s true Jimmy Abdou has had an influence; it’s true that our defence is one of the best in the league; and it’s equally true that the 3-5-2 formation suits us very well.

I don’t think it’s down to any one factor, but if I had to pinpoint something that’s made us click, I’d say it’s how settled the side is now – and credit should go to the management team, including Jason Moriarty and Stuart Douglas, for that.

Neal is making very few changes and when he does, he’s not sacrificing quality: the players who come in are as effective in their roles as those they replace, and that’s further testament to the squad he’s got and the attitude of the dressing room.

Darius and Deji are players in very good form of course, but I also want to give credit to the third member of the back three, Barry Fuller.

I gave our captain a hard time earlier in the season: he seemed off the pace and lacking in his usual character. I didn’t think he’d come back the same player after his injury.

And it may still be his last season with us, but Barry’s proved me wrong. As part of a back three, losing a bit of pace isn’t such a problem, and his one-on-one defending is still as good as anyone in the division.

Up the other end, we got off to another great start with a goal after just 14 minutes. Lyle played his part – as he does in every other goal we score – in setting up that man Abdou to slot home intp the bottom corner.

Critical to go ahead against a team struggling for form and from the moment the ball nestled in Bradford’s net, you could sense this might be a good day.

The home side offered little threat in the first half and there was only one real scare when Dom Poleon, five yards out, failed to connect with a free header.

And speaking of our old boys, I thought Jake Reeves was pretty average. Nice hair, neat passing, and tidy link-up play, but nothing that hurt us.

Charlie Wyke, meanwhile, is apparently attracting attention from higher up. If that’s true, maybe our defenders that had him in their pocket all afternoon should be receiving similar interest.

And Mr. Poleon, who was a bit chirpy in the week about his departure from KM. In answer to what he said, I saw nothing Saturday afternoon to suggest he’d get in our team at the moment.

Second half, the home team came out fired up looking for an equaliser. And it was Poleon who looked to have levelled things up on 49 minutes. But as he wheeled away to celebrate, the ref had a chat to the lino, confirmed Dom had the last touch, and the goal was ruled out for offside. Sympathy oozed from the Dons faithful with a chorus of, “It’s all your fault” – to his old tune.

That proved to be the turning point in the game as ten minutes later, McDonald found Barcham in space in their box and he calmly slotted home our second. Cue backpacks and flasks everywhere in delirious scenes amongst the travelling Dons army.

Goal number three arrived shortly after and summed up Cody McDonald. He chased a hopeful punt up-field, outmuscled his defender, ran clear into the box, and bludgeoned his shot past the keeper. I don’t think Cody’s has had an easy time with us, but he’s put in 100 per cent week after week – and earned every goal he’s scored.

So it was fitting that he got another one to round off a memorable day. Joe Pigott made his second appearance and threaded a neat ball through, which Cody dispatched into the Bantams’ worn-out net.

So have we finally turned a corner? Many still don’t want to believe we have, but it’s hard to ignore the mounting evidence. Unbeaten in five, three wins in the last four, top six in the form table – and six goals this week.

We won’t win every game, but having witnessed the shift in momentum lately, I think we might find ourselves safe from relegation earlier than we thought.

The noises coming from the dressing room are good, and it’s notable that the squad and management discussed tactics and agreed a plan for this game. That must give the players more responsibility on the pitch: it certainly looks that way.

Plenty will say how far there is to go and a couple of bad results puts us right back in it. That’s all true of course, and we do have a fan-base that thrives on worry and negativity, but the inescapable truth is that we are a team in form that’s on a bit of a roll …

My MOTM Not a bad performance amongst the men in black, but I’m going to go with Barry Fuller this week: back in form and part of a defence that has kept four clean sheets in a row.

Player Ratings Long 7; Fuller 8, Oshilaja 9, Charles 8; Francomb 7, Abdou 8, Soares 7, Trotter 7, Barcham 8; McDonald 8, Taylor 7.

Up Next I expect Rotherham to be a tougher game than Bradford. The Millers are in great form themselves – unbeaten in eight – and looking to have a good chance for the play-offs. We’ll need to be at our steely best, but we’re a confident side and we’ll go there expecting to get something.

// Andy Dixon – @andydixon975


It’s these games that will ultimately decide our fate this season, so it was hard to come away from Kingsmeadow on Saturday feeling anything but optimistic.

Neal’s got them pretty well organised. Granted, it’s taken five months and a long overdue switch in formation, but even the Ardley haters will find it difficult to criticise our performances in these last few games.

We set up 3-5-2 for this one. Deji, Charles and Fuller playing at the back; Francomb and Barcham wing backs; Soares, Abdou and Trotter our regular midfield three; and Cody and Lyle continued their partnership up front.

We’ve played this formation a number of times recently – including last week, despite my inaccurate reporting – and the reason many were calling for it earlier in the season is that it’s a system that fits our personnel: too often earlier in the campaign Neal wanted to play a formation which didn’t seem to suit our players.

But this is no time to criticise: he’s got there in the end.

In a system the players look comfortable with, and with a little bit of confidence, we finally look like a team who can push on towards the safety of mid-table, rather than one that will drop back in to the relegation places as quick as you can say 4-3-3.

A couple of months ago, I wouldn’t have dared make such a prediction. But I do now, and mainly because we don’t look like a side that will get beaten easily.

We also have that critical third striker and one that offers something different. As many people know, we were within a gnat’s whisker of signing Michael Smith in the summer window, and how different our season might have been if we’d got that deal over the line.

But back to Blackpool, and I thought we had the better of the game for all but 20 minutes of the second half. We imposed ourselves on them in the first 45, but they were disciplined in their shape and we found it hard to create clear goal-scoring opportunities.

They didn’t commit numbers forward so we struggled to get in behind them. The shooting chances we did have were from distance, and we barely kept those in the ground, never mind anywhere near their net.

Second half, and after we got the goal, Blackpool were forced to come out and play. And for that 20 minute period I thought they attacked us with pace and movement that we found hard to deal with.

So what a relief it was to get the second goal. The fact Joe got it on debut was the icing on the cake – and a middle finger to the lukewarm reaction some supporters gave his signing.

Joe is the type of player Neal’s proved he can work with: he’s coming into his prime, he’s physically mature, has experience of this level, and is hungry to do well. Give me one of those over Tyrone Barnett or Carlton Cole every time.

Once we’d got that second goal, the game was over and we could enjoy the last ten minutes whilst keeping half an eye on events at Sixfields.

And I make no apologies for rejoicing in the misery of the franchise. To rise up the table out of the relegation places is always very welcome, but to do it at the expense of them lot makes it all the sweeter.

January 20 could go down as the day the wheels finally started to come seriously loose for the league’s most hated club. The day they lost to their local rivals, the day we rose above them in the league, the day they took up their place in the bottom four and also the day their best player received a straight red card in injury time. If Carlsberg did Saturdays …

The football Gods don’t like cheats and something about that club seems mouth-wateringly cursed.

What would relegation to League Two mean for them? I don’t know, but it’s a delicious scenario to ponder: sacking their new manager (one of the brightest young talents in the game, snigger), reduced crowds (yes they could dwindle further), an increased financial burden on Winky’s empire, and the real possibility of dropping down to non-league.

And wouldn’t that be the ultimate slap in the face for Winkelman, to spend many millions of pounds over 15 years, only to end up in non-league where he should have started in the first place.

Anyway, enough of them, where does today leave us and what can we expect from the coming weeks? Providing we can stay clear of serious injuries, I think we have a real chance to push on and turn this into a positive season.

Things change quickly in football and I felt a swing of momentum at Wembley. We knew we were on a hiding to nothing that day and being such underdogs brought us all together, the cheering of corners and unwavering support regardless of the scoreline was a timely reminder of what our club is all about.

It was an exit from the cup but rather than be a negative factor in our season, we got a great day out and an experience which galvanized the club for the relegation battle ahead. A battle we are much more likely to win with a united club.

My MOTM Liam Trotter gets my vote this week. His second goal in three games got us going, but I thought his overall performance was excellent. Liam’s showed his strengths in breaking up play, winning the ball back, and starting our attacks. Sometimes this work goes un-noticed, but he plays a key role in winning the midfield battle and to consistently improve his performance in the face of ongoing criticism from the fan base is admirable.

Player Ratings Long 7; Fuller 7, Oshilaja 7, Charles 8; Francomb 6, Abdou 7, Soares 6, Trotter 8, Barcham 7; McDonald 6, Taylor 7.

The Oppo For 20 minutes of the second half I thought they were excellent and maybe, like us, would benefit from having the shackles off and told to attack from the start. Well-documented problems off the pitch inevitably have a detrimental effect on it, so until ownership issues are resolved, I expect them to bounce around at the bottom of League One and top of League Two. They look to have enough quality to stay up this season: there was definitely more passion that I saw from Southend at KM and more talent than I saw in the franchise side last week.

Up Next We’ve got a tough schedule, starting with three trips up north. The first of these is to Valley Parade: not the happiest of hunting grounds for us, but the Bantams’ promotion bid is stalling badly and we’ve already had the better of them this season. I think we can go there and get something and predict a 1-1 draw.

// Andy Dixon – @andydixon975


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.

Milton Keynes seems no closer to understanding the steps that must be taken for them to become a normal team with traditional identity. As Winkelman grows his fan base, he needs a club that represents their town and nowhere else, a successful model used by around 91 other clubs in the league.

I expect deep down their owner would love to drop the Dons and ironically it might be our club that finally provides him with an opportunity to do so, as their incendiary use of the name Dons forms part of our defence at the EFL hearing.

If by some miracle the Football League themselves were to recommend a name change, Winky can play the good guy and climb down gracefully on the main issue – keeping the franchise mired in the dishonesty of its past.

Convenient timing for him as our return to Plough Lane exposes another of his lies on which project franchise was built.

This was the third visit I’ve made to Stadium MK and walking into the ground this time I felt nothing – very different from the nausea and stomach-churning arrival at the FA Cup game back in December 2012.

On this occasion we were here for a relegation six-pointer. Rather than laugh at the lack of home support and atmosphere (I’d guess five to six thousand of the 9,500 attendance were actually in the ground), I was only concerned with it making our job that bit easier.

The only worry as we took the field was George Long missing due to sickness (he should be back next week) but Macca has been in good form for the under-21s and handled the job superbly. Other than George it was our regular starting eleven in a 4-4-2.

We had the better of the first half, both in possession and territory, but as is often the case we failed to turn these advantages into efforts on goal. Taylor and McDonald both had decent shooting chances, but neither worked the keeper. Down the other end, Joe was called into action when he made a decent save tipping over a Muirhead shot from the edge of the box.

Second half we went into our shell and when Neal’s first substitution was Meades and not Forrester, you knew we were more interested in cementing the point than venturing out for all three.

But we could have nicked the win late on. A ball in from the edge of the box found its way to Andy Barcham with enough space to make himself a hero; sadly Barch produced the shot of a man with a fiver on 0-0 and that was our last chance gone.

So neither team good enough to score but having trudged away after the 1-0 defeat last time we were here, I decided to settle for that. Some have had a pop at Ardley for not being more positive, and I’d certainly agree franchise were there for the taking, but it was crucial not to lose this one.

After the positivity of the Southend win and the reconnection between squad and fans at Wembley, we couldn’t afford a moral-sapping defeat to the arch enemies. I get as frustrated as the next fan with our safety first approach, but I’m going to let this one ride in view of the enhanced effect results against Milton Keynes have.

Having said all that I almost look forward to getting into a situation where we have to win league games. I believe if Neal was forced to send this team out to win, we’d turn up plenty more results.

My MOTM Deji Oshilaja. Another very impressive display. Gave the franchise strikers very little opportunity, but he’s also become a key player bringing the ball out of defence and at set pieces (particularly the back post delivery that he heads back across goal).

Player Ratings McDonnell 7; Fuller 6, Charles 7, Oshilaja 8, Francomb 6; Trotter 6, Soares 6, Abdou 7, Barcham 6; Taylor 6 McDonald 6.

The Oppo Probably the best news from Saturday was they’re definitely in the relegation mix. Think they were missing Sow (a front man they brought in from Scotland) but other than him that was their first-choice eleven. I don’t see the fuss about Chuks Aneke, their defensive frailties will be regularly exposed against better front lines than we’ve got, and they look pretty toothless up front. A quick glance at their fixtures towards the end of the campaign suggest a serious chance of them disappearing to League Two if they’re not clear of trouble by the end of March. In April they host Blackburn, Doncaster, and Scunthorpe – as well as facing tough trips to Southend and Wigan. And should it come down to the evening (yes, a 17:30 kick-off) of May 5, we entertain Bury at KM while the franchise head to Shrewsbury.

Up Next Blackpool at KM and a game we should really be targeting to take three points from. Hopefully, Neal will refresh the team again after it worked so well against Southend: I’d like to see more of Will Nightingale in this relegation battle, and we’ll also have a target man option – that extra threat up front should see us climb out the bottom four by the end of the month.

// Andy Dixon – @andydixon975


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.

But taking emotion out of the equation, using stats to make decisions and predications, certainly seems to be the flavour of the season within our club, whether it is within the professional playing confines of the club or my fairly crass amateur way to predict.

So, to recap. At the end of the last article, where were we? Well, having played a game less than at that time last season, we were just ahead of schedule – but only just: four points from five games instead of from six. So between then (Blackpool away) and Charlton, we have taken 11 points from 11 games.

Now that is not disastrous, but any of you that know our target is about 53 points will realise that to attain that aim, we need to average a minimum of 1.15 points a game, so we have slipped into what is generally recognised as relegation form: one point per game, or under, across a whole season, and you are going down!

But what of individual games against the opposition: how did we perform against our expected results and scores?

  • Click here for a full breakdown of predictions and results

First up was Pompey, old foes from League Two and given past history, an expected 2-0 home win. So that was a bad start to the beginning of this next phase of the season and it got no better when we drew, rather than beat, Gillingham (a predicted 2-1 home win).

The win at Blackburn went against the flow, albeit any team we have not played before I treat as a home win for the home side. Then we lost to them. And surprisingly, Southend comes out as an away draw in prediction, so that was again disappointing, but then Rochdale, Oxford, Northampton, Rotherham and – yes – even Plymouth were all down as predicted losses, even if all by the odd goal.

So our wins against Northampton and Rotherham, plus the draw with Rochdale, were actually better results than expected – the Northampton game being the history changer.

So finally, finishing with the loss to Charlton, how did we do overall in the last 11 games? Well, the expected points haul was 13 and we achieved 11, so again, a tad disappointing. It leaves us in 20th place in the league, on 15 points with a -8 goal difference.

Comparing this 16 game stretch to last season, we found ourselves then in 9th place, on 23 points and with a goal difference of plus two. Better times. But at that stage, we had played different, not necessarily better, teams – just teams we might have had a better record against. In fact, comparing actual results against the predicted we find we should have had, from the 16 games we played in 2016, 23 points. Result!

So finally, before my final note about the future, I’ll make one observation about the table this time last year: Shrewsbury were bottom with 11 points. So what a difference a year makes, eh?

Looking forward shall we say as far as Christmas, what do the predictions say, and will they be enough for us to enjoy the festive period? Well, seven games are scheduled, culminating in the return of Jake Reeves with Bradford on December 23. For these we expect to get 12 points, which would put us on 27 points, but that does include an ‘assumption-based’ 1-0 to us against Wigan and despite the loss last year, a win against Bradford to finish off.

The acid question is: will we, fans and players, be enjoying our Christmas? Well compared to last year, if we achieve our target, we will be six points better off than Shrewsbury were on that date in 2016 (21 points), and would sit relatively happily between 15 and 17th place. We actually sat in 9th on 32 points, but this year the league is much more compressed than it usually is.

And perhaps our trip to Bristol Rovers on Saturday – an away game we have history of performing poorly in – will herald a change in our fortunes which, both stats wise and playing wise is proving to be hard, would be most welcome.

// Jim Potter


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.

Let’s start with the 1950s and the common 4-2-4 line-up. This is something that Steve McClaren brought in with five minutes to go during Middlesborough’s run to the UEFA Cup Final in 2006. What makes this formation so incredibly hard is that the attacking wings of the front four have to either play as wingers that track back to defend, or risk a 6-6 score line by the final whistle. Enjoyable to watch? Probably, but just as equally frustrating to observe with the team not defending. My team for this formation would be:




How do I see this formation working for us? I can’t at the moment. Fuller and Meades would have no cover and we would be battered by the flanks. But upon looking at that line-up, you can rest assured that provided we kept the ball, the attacking side of this team would pummel the opposition.

When you look at the 1960s, you cannot help but contemplate the greatest of all Real Madrid teams. They adopted (in 1960 specifically) a 3-2-2-3 formation. Yes, they had Puskas and Di Stefano in attack, but they also had Santamaria in central defence. And their possession-based game is sometimes considered the basis on which the Barcelona team between 2000 and 2010 was built. My team for this formation would be:





How do I see this formation working for us? Maybe, on a narrow pitch, this formation would utilise the ‘playing on the floor’ that Neal Ardley wants to do right now. Abdou and Hartigan would be great defensive cover, whilst Barcham and Parrett would be excellent in setting up attacking options.

If you look at the 1970s, you cannot discard England’s World Cup winning team. Sir Alf Ramsey adopted an inverted 4-3-3 formation. This is where the shape of the midfield and forwards shape an M-W shape. This was also the biggest success of the early 1970s Ajax team featuring Johann Cruyff. No-one can deny the success of Ajax in that decade with that attacking football, however Zdenek Zeman’s Foggia in Italy adopted the same formation and caused a stir in the defensive-minded Serie A. My team for this formation would be:




How do I see this formation working for us? Well, if anything is to go by this season so far, it isn’t. This formation only works if you have a dynamic and fast midfield who aren’t playing against an over-crowded middle of the park.

The 1980s brought lump-it-and-run football to those who couldn’t play like Hamburg or Mönchengladbach. The 4-4-2 diamond was taken seriously and is one of my two favourite formations. With Felix Magath on the top of the diamond and Wolfgang Rolff being used primarily as defensive cover and the central defensive pairing of Hieronymous and Jakobs, Hamburg didn’t have much of a worry against a Juventus team featuring Tardelli, Platini, and Rossi. This goes to show that if you are solid in formation with a diamond, you are very hard (pun intended) to break apart. My team for this formation would be:






How do I see this formation working for us? This is quite an interesting system. It keeps our back four in the defensive half of the pitch: something I feel Barry would struggle with, as he is constantly bombing up the wings. Same goes for Callum. But if the back four kept their shape and defensive mentality in check, we’d probably see many 1-0 victories.

The 1990s brought one word to the fore: Goooooolazo. Italian football was at its fiercest. The defensive nous of Inter Milan, AC Milan, Juventus and even the national team brought success and massive frustration for those watching due, mainly, to the lack of goals. With all of those teams mainly adopting a 5-3-2 formation, the defences shored up the goals conceded numbers but, more importantly, developed football into much more of a chess match – and if my team won 1-0 every week, I wouldn’t be moaning. My team for this formation would be:




How do I see this formation working for us? If we don’t utilise the wing-backs, this formation has 0-0 written all over it. The midfield would be too deep and Kwesi and Lyle, up front, would cut very frustrated figures.

The Noughties brought a different nation to the fore, yet again. French football took the world by the scruff of the neck, and in the case of Zinedine Zidane in the World Cup final in 2006, a head-butt to the chest. after the success of Aimé Jacquet, 4-2-3-1 was adopted by Roger Lemerre, and with the strength of having two formidable defensive midfielders who also had the ability of creating a phenomenal through-ball, their team was a tactical sensation. My team for this formation would be:





How do I see this formation working for us? Similar to the 4-4-2 diamond shape, this would be quite defensive-minded, but were Abdou and Hartigan to play one-twos around the opposition midfield, I believe that we could have a good attacking instinct. However, we’d be reliant on out-scoring the opposition.

So then we look at the 2010s. Sorry folks: I must talk about my beloved Germany here. I could write about them for hours and bore you out of your mind. Jürgen Klinsmann decided to appoint Joachim Löw as his assistant, and after Klinsi left, it was very quickly apparent that Löw was the tactician in that relationship. Jogi has adopted the 4-2-3-1 formation but created more of a 4-2-1-3 when attacking. The ability of the two forwards to revert to midfielders or two midfielders to advance to attackers proves the tactical nous available to Löw. My team for this formation would be:





How do I see this formation working for us? As I posted above: this all depends on how Jimmy and Anthony in the defensive midfield positions link up. I’d prefer to see a 4-1-3-1-1 formation, but that is too ‘middle of the park’. However, with Toby Sibbick’s defensive nous and Jon Meades’s no-nonsense defending, I believe we would just about be okay.

Out of all these formations, I believe that the 4-3-3 is not working. Why? Because our squad is incredibly midfield-heavy. We have to look at accommodating the midfielders and take the game to the opposition again. The true Wimbledon way. Personally, I don’t care if we lose 5-0 – just as long as the players actually give a shit, and put in a bit of effort.

// Mark Hendrikx – @MarkatCIFF


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