Date: 28th April 2014 at 5:25pm
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Lasting impressions do count and Wimbledon’s shrivelled performance to gift-wrap another season in League Two for Morecambe soured what should have been a day of celebrations at Kingsmeadow.

The Dons had already secured a fourth season in League Two the previous Easter Monday at Plymouth and an expectant 4,000 crowd had assembled for the final festive home game of the season.

Neal Ardley sentimentally gave outgoing Seb Brown the goalkeeper’s shirt and named Ross Worner on the bench; the Player of the Season awards were to be announced and the players were to have a lap of honour after the game to thank the fans.

Instead “two absolute car crash goals” within a minute before half-time and what was supposed to be a carnival atmosphere turned funereal as the Dons let themselves and the fans down in an awful 3-0 defeat to the 19th team. It was symbiotic of the season: the highest points finish (*still to be determined by committee) yet achieved with a sense of unfulfilment at times.

Ardley revealed afterwards that he and his coaching staff had kept word of the Club’s impending disciplinary hearing over the fielding of an ineligible player [Jake Nicholson] in the 4-3 win over Cheltenham Town on March 22 from the players for fear of their reaction amidst a run of crucial games.

He said it had been an “incredibly tough” five weeks keeping it all bottled up as he and his staff attempted to extract every last ounce of effort from the squad to get over the line.

The news of mathematical safety after the 2-1 win over Plymouth Argyle was shrouded by rumours of a potential points reduction as punishment for an administrative error relating to Nicholson’s appearance in the Cheltenham game.

Nicholson scored in that game and in isolation the Dons may ONLY lose the three points at Monday’s ‘Jake-gate’ Football Disciplinary Committee hearing. At least that is what is expected, and/or a fine.

As the Dons are currently nine points above 23rd-placed Wycombe Wanderers heading into the hearing a points buffer quarantines the Club from any relegation threat, but in any case it is a needless distraction that Wimbledon can certainly have done without.

Ardley admitted he wasn’t sure how some players might have handled the news had it broken earlier and given the fragile state of the team’s confidence it doesn’t bear contemplating, given their reaction to going behind the Shrimps after dominating the modest Morecambe in the opening half-hour, with yet again no reward at home.

“My team-talk today was about finishing on a high and I think if we’d scored in that first 30 minutes when we were good that we’d go on and win the game. We didn’t and that’s the story of our season,” Ardley bemoaned.

“It’s a poor end to the season at home for us. Maybe I underestimated how much of an effect it’s had on the players. The two goals we conceded just before half-time were unbelievably sloppy, but that sums our season up really. It knocked the stuffing out of us.”

It all ended pear-shaped. The defence, which has been the strong point of Wimbledon’s season (and no guessing what has been the weakness), gave away two goals and none of them was Seb Brown’s fault.

So annoyed were sections of the home support that they quickly filtered out of the ground at the final whistle leaving just a few hundred to share in the players’ lap of the ground.

“There was no way I could stay for the lap of honour to congratulate not only the utter shit we saw today, but the season of constant lows, downs and misery that we’ve been served up since October. I just don’t know how the players could bear to suffer the embarrassment of having to parade after their dismal failure today,” scolded Singapore Don.

While Secret Agent admonished the fleeing fans… “The mass exodus after the game today was disgraceful. Okay, the performance wasn’t anything to cheer about, but I thought we were better than that as fans. Seems too many couldn’t be bothered to wait five minutes to say thanks for staying up for another season.”

Another fan had a more waspish view: “Well, that lap of honour was awkward. May have been appropriate if the players stood in the stand and clapped the fans.”

Unfortunately, that’s what lasting impressions can do. Many of those who left Kingsmeadow early will have had their last memory of the team before what is hoped is a recuperative off-season. Only a couple of hundred Dons fans will have the fortitude to venture all the way up to Accrington Stanley for next Saturday’s final game of the season.

Those who stayed behind for the players lap, may have noticed Jack Midson clapping three sides of the ground on his own after what could have been his final game at Kingsmeadow. As Ray Armfield observed: “I haven’t seen that since Terry [Brown] did it after losing at home to Torquay.”

News came through after the game that Jack’s partner Lisa gave birth to a baby boy. No wonder he made a hasty getaway from the car park.

Yes, so bitterly disappointing in so many ways. Then there was the announcement of the Player of the Season award in the bar after the game. No surprises in Barry Fuller being named, but didn’t he deserve more recognition from the Dons fans for a wonderfully committed season for the Dons?

It just seems all so flat. There will be arguments on whether there has been progress this season — after all didn’t the Dons clinch safety with two games to spare rather than with 18 minutes left in last season’s final game? — but the lethargy with which it all finished at home this season will be a concern. Sometimes it’s how you finish a season that you take into the next one.

“It’s been a really strange week. I’ve known our current situation for a number of weeks and it’s drained me trying to get us over the line,’ Ardley said.

“When I found the news out after Cheltenham we sat down as a staff and said we couldn’t go to Accrington needing something.

“Reason one [for keeping it from the team]: I wasn’t sure how some of them would’ve handled it. Reason two: It wasn’t something that we wanted to be public knowledge and didn’t want rival clubs to think they still had a chance.

“The staff and I came up with a plan and we decided to really crank everything up on the training ground and drive the players home. I think some of the players have realised now that why some of my team talks were so hard.

“Plymouth was a massive day for us to get the points and a good performance. Maybe I underestimated how much that affected the players because they looked a bit drained in the second-half.

“I’ve told the players that they have to be ready for a tough week. I will not tolerate another limp performance like that. We’ll go to Accrington and try to win the game. We’ll put everything into it and I expect a good performance. I will leave the players in no uncertain terms about that.”

A shame that the great majority of Dons fans won’t be there to see the players ‘put everything into it.’

The limp performances of some players on Saturday may have already made up Ardley’s mind as he contemplates the composition of next season’s squad.

“It’s a flat ending to a season and it sums up our whole campaign,” the gaffer said. “I know what we have to address and we have to do better next season. We will start getting to work on that.

“I desperately wanted us to go out on a high today. We tried to play attacking and really go for it with three centre forwards and Chris Arthur at left-back. We’ve not given the fans enough at home this season.”

Some players are bound to be released to make space for hopefully better players, but there will be a number of Dons fans out there concerned by what they witnessed in the final home game and waiting to see what is going to happen over the summer to make for a better impression.

Written by Onyadon aka Rob Smith.

Rob writes the Wimbledon Downunder Supporters’ Association (WDSA) blog and lets us use this blog with his permission. To view WDSA – Click Here.

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