Review - Game Four: AFC Wimbledon 4-0 Salisbury City
A short bus ride from mine took me, and keen M25er Mac, to Kingsmeadow football ground. Now the haunt of AFC Wimbledon. It was a pleasantly mild evening in which to watch the Blue Square Premier`s newest member attempt to gain three points for the first time at home this season. AFC have romped the majority of their previous campaigns with ease, often at the first or second time of asking. They have bigger gates and more money to spend on players which has helped them to put together a side too talented to languish deep in the football pyramid. That being said the Conference would be a stern test of their abilities. They have started to come up against teams with playing staff which match theirs and with 4 points from a possible 9 so far, this season may not be so easy to gain promotion from.
On the way to the ground we sneaked a quick drink in a pub named The Peel. For those who have never visited this part of the world it is a goth/heavy metal pub set within a grim and very chav council estate and has a lap dancing stage with performers running from noon till night at the back. Suffice to say we only had a drink, but the juxtaposition of it all is worth a look should anyone find themselves in that part of Kingston.
When we got to the ground it was very busy, but with 15minutes until kick off we weren`t unduly worried. However that was before we saw the queue for the turnstiles. It was as big as the blue whale model in the Natural History Museum and I started to panic. This, in my opinion, needs to be rectified as soon as possible. There isn`t much in the way of signage so a number of separate queues formed at the wrong windows and turnstiles, however the Salisbury City supporters turnstiles were free of such hindrances, biting the bullet we strolled up, paid our money and prepared ourselves for standing with the enemy!
There is only one seated grandstand at Kingsmeadow and it was a novel experience for me to stand at a football match, I am not old enough to remember anything but seating. The Salisbury support was pretty good and fairly vocal, unlike the Dons support who must have been under the misapprehension that they had come to church rather than a football match. Later in the game however sections would indeed come alive although if you want to get some atmosphere then head for the Tempest End, behind the goal. The pitch looked great and the teams kicked off to a polite applause.
The early part of the game set the tone for much of the match in fairness. Both teams were comfortable on the ball and passing was quick and mainly to feet, City were good until the final third and it seemed they were getting far too nervous or excited and the Dons defence was easily able to clean up any attacking threat posed. In fact the Dons keeper, James Pullen, had very little to do all match. AFC were no better however and despite some great runs from left back Chris Hussey the City defence looked fairly calm and dependable. Then a great moment of skill from Luke Moore who received the ball in an innocuous central position 30 yards out, evaded a challenge and let fly from 25 yards. AFC were suddenly one up, the ball punching into the top right corner of the City goal and giving keeper James Bittner no chance.
As good as the goal was it didn`t change the game and City refused to get ruffled. Both teams were well prepared and there was little between them as half time approached. Matthew Tubbs missed a good chance to test Pullen and back at City`s goal a delicate dribble into the area looked to end in a goal but the effort was pushed wide of the post.
During the half time break Mac contemplated getting a either a burger or a big kebab in a roll thing but apparently they were charging £3.50 which I thought was more than steep. You did get a decent amount of chips for £1.50 but a woman near me complained that the ketchup tasted funny, make of that what you will.
The second half started with Salisbury looking the more accomplished, but yet again not managing to actually create any clear chances, they are far too lightweight up front and I can see them struggling without a big, brash centre forward to give opposition defenders a torrid time.
A lack of bite came back to haunt them when keeper James Bittner brought down Luke Moore in the area. A harsh red card was awarded and without a keeper on the bench Salisbury were forced to put ex-AFC defender Danny Webb in goal for the remaining 20 minutes. Why do I say it was a harsh red card? I had a good view despite being the opposite end of the pitch and I thought that Bittner went in a little clumsily but that Moore made no attempt to pass him, he didn`t follow the path of the ball but allowed himself to be tagged by Bittner. I think that ref`s should try and use a bit of common sense when arriving at decisions and it was obvious what had happened.
Danny Kedwell slotted home the penalty and AFC used their man advantage well by allowing Salisbury onto them and hitting them on the counter attack. City still played their football but a combination of tiredness, a lack of strength up front, a lack of a decent final ball and being a man down meant that AFC were breaking more and more regularly and eventually both Moore, like his namesake playing for West Brom tonight, and Kedwell picked up their second goals of the game.
A flattering scoreline but AFC will be happy to record their first home win in the Conference. Salisbury will be disappointed but must be aware that a lack of strength up front will see them drop more points over the season.
Build Up - Game Five: Fulham v FC Amkar Perm
Fulham were founded in 1879 by worshippers at a local West Kensington church. They moved to Craven Cottage in 1896 but before then had some local success winning the West London Amateur Cup in 1887 and the West London League in 1893. Known as 'The Cottagers` Fulham`s rivals are QPR, Brentford, Chelsea and Gillingham. All but the last being local.
The club first wore all white back in 1903, previously having a similar kit to Arsenal and had some success in both league and cup competitions. However they still hold the record for the biggest FA Cup semi-final defeat when in the 1907/08 season Newcastle United managed to put six past them at Anfield.
Pre and post war years saw Fulham yo-yoing between the Second and First Divisions until the 1968/1969 season where, after relegation from the top flight the year before, Fulham notched up only 7 wins to be relegated to the Third Division. The team rallied a few seasons later and the best period of Fulham history was on the horizon, ex-QPR manager Alec Stock took the helm and led Fulham to their only FA Cup final in 1975 when they played the most games ever, 11, to reach it. They lost to West Ham in the final, their twelfth game in the competition. They also were the first to play a league game on a Sunday when they played away at Millwall in 1974.
In 1980 Fulham founded what was to become Harlequins rugby league team, they played at Craven Cottage until 1984. The late 80`s were dark days for Fulham and in 1987 there was nearly a merger between themselves and local rivals QPR however this was abandoned due to fan pressure. Back down in the Third Division the club took part in possibly the longest ever penalty shootout when they played Aldershot in a Freight Rover Trophy match.
In 1997 Mohammed Al-Fayed bought the club, when it was still in the Third Division, and subsequently spent money on assembling the most expensive squad outside of the top two divisions. The team managed to get to the Premiership in 4 years, which was a year better than the five Al-Fayed had promised upon taking control of the club.
Despite surviving some very close run in`s with relegation they recorded their best ever finish of 7th in last years campaign and in doing so have qualified for the Europa League, or UEFA Cup as we all know it! This is only the second time they have been in Europe, the first being the 2002/2003 season.
Second Division/First Division Champions 1949, 2001, Runners-up 1959
Third Division (South)/Third Division/Second Division Champions 1932, 1999, Runners-up 1971
Third Division Runners-up 1997
Southern League First Division 2 1905-06, 1906-07
Southern League Second Division 2 1902, 1903
FA Cup Runners Up - 1975
Anglo-Scottish Cup runners up- 1975
Intertoto Cup 2002
West London Cup 1886
West London Observer Cup 1891
London Challenge Cup 1910
Malaysian Touring Cup 1968
By tube; Putney Bridge station is on the District Line (Wimbledon branch) and is a 15 minute walk from the ground.
Hammersmith station is served by the Hammersmith & City, Piccadilly and District Lines and is again around a 15 minute walk from the ground.
From Kingston take the number 85 bus to Putney Bridge.
From Hammersmith - Catch either one of the following buses which run down Fulham Palace Road: 190, 211, 295, 220.
From Putney - Catch either the 74, 430 or the 220 to Fulham Palace Road.