Date: 14th April 2014 at 4:38pm
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The survival odds and precedence are firmly in Wimbledon’s favour after Jack Midson’s penalty winner at Southend United on Saturday hoisted the Dons above the 50-point threshold with a long-awaited finality possible over Easter.

Midson’s 58th-minute penalty, squirming through under the body of Shrimpers’ goalkeeper Dan Bentley, lifted the Dons to 52 points and 14th place with four games (and 12 available points) still in play.

It was a gratefully received three points, not wholly anticipated away to a playoff-chasing team, but nonetheless absolutely crucial in swinging the pendulum Wimbledon’s way in the arm wrestle for safety. At the final whistle the 664 travelling Dons supporters were in full voice: “We are staying up.”

While not mathematically sealed, the Dons now have historical precedence on their side for League Two survival. Barnet went down last season on 51 points, which was significantly above the previous 10-season average of 44.8 points in the league.

Wimbledon are currently six points above Northampton, who occupy 23rd place on an inferior goal difference to Wycombe Wanderers; Bristol Rovers [who lost at home to bottom team Torquay United] are just one point above those two. Wycombe host Northampton on Good Friday and Rovers are away to Portsmouth on Easter Saturday.

The Dons can shut and bolt the door with a win over Newport (home), Plymouth (away), Morecambe (home) or Accrington (away) in their remaining games.

Neal Ardley has spoken about finishing above 54 points that the Dons earned in their first season in the Football League under Terry Brown in 2011-12. They can achieve that with one more win (or – ahem – three draws!!)

The signs are good that Ardley and Wimbledon can attain that. The win at Roots Hall means that the Dons have lost only two of their last 10 games. They’ve picked up 14 points in that time.

While the goals aren’t flooding in, the team is proving a tougher nut to crack. We’re getting some backhanded compliments from rival fans. A snippet off the Southend forum: “Wimbledon looked an OK side to be fair, better than last year” ……. “We lost 0-1 to a team that had nothing to offer other than play for the draw and try and catch us on the break while throwing themselves to the ground at every opportunity” …… “Wimbledon came with spoiler tactics that very weak officials allowed to dominate the match. The no. 37 (Kwesi Appiah) was a cheating little ****** who got away with everything” …. “AFC were a difficult side to break down and not adverse to a bit of time-wasting and diving” …. “AFC Wimbledon were the biggest bunch of cheats we’ve had here all season and the officials bought it every time. Shocking.”

You get the picture. We have been heard saying that about other teams (Southend?) in the past. Wimbledon can no longer be classed as wet behind the ears.

Finding a way out of League Two (especially with a constrained player budget) is a herculean task, but so too is staying there.

It ain’t aesthetic, it’s certainly not tippy-tappy, but just maybe, Wimbledon and Ardley are coming to grips with the weekly trench warfare of League Two.

A few more points (perhaps) and Ardley and his management can start working with certainty on what they can do better next season with the playing squad, their own approach and look at ways to start inching up the table and who knows from there.

“It was just what we needed at this stage of the season,” Ardley said. “Southend are a good team and they were at home and we had to do all the League 2 stuff that was required. We had to defend for our lives. Some of the blocks that our players made in the first half were brilliant. Whatever they threw at us we dealt with.”

Ardley paid tribute to the front two, Midson and Appiah, for providing a threat to Southend’s defence.

“Kwesi and Jack worked their socks off,” he said. “Jack was excellent and we looked a threat up front. They combined well for the goal.”

Southend’s manager Phil Brown, who has Premier League experience with Hull City, gave credit to Midson and Appiah.

“Wimbledon’s front two worked our central defenders, it was probably their toughest game so far since being partnered together,” he said.

It was Midson’s flick-on that fell for Appiah, but he was sent sprawling in the box by John Egan and referee Andrew Madley pointed to the spot. Not many could argue with the official’s decision.

Midson, who forged his reputation with the spot kick that kept Wimbledon in the Football League on the final day of last season against Fleetwood Town, was fortunate this time as the Southend goalkeeper was unable to stop the ball from crossing the line after getting both his hands to it.

As an aside Midson’s goal was a fitting one. Last week we received the distressing news that WDSA member Devon Womble had suddenly lost his wife, Jennifer. They had only been married for 14 months. Among the first to send their condolences was Jack Midson. His goal would have particularly warmed ‘Devon’, who has been an ardent supporter of Midson through thick and thin this season.

While Midson’s goal won it, so too was it a heroic day for the defence. Ardley praised the work of returning Andy Frampton and centre-back partner Darren Jones.

“The two centre halves, Andy Frampton, who had a bit of a niggle and I thought he might come off, and Darren Jones were faultless. Tom Richards is a young left-back and only 21, but he stood up well and was part of a great team effort,” he said.

Secret Agent also had words of encouragement for Richards: “Smaller, lighter and less experienced than the two players down their right. Apart from one misjudgement when he missed a header and let them get behind him, he did a really good job. Southend targeted him and he got more confident the longer the game went on, so much so that Jake Nicholson could move a bit further inside to support Harry Pell and Aaron Morris. Well played young man!”

It’s been a stressful time in the Ardley household, but not necessarily for the gaffer. He reckons he’s sleeping soundly, but not so for his wife, Sarah.

“I get a good night’s sleep, but my wife’s worse than me because she cares for me and my job,” Ardley said.

Not to worry, Mrs A. Another win and you will get your restful night’s kip.

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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