Date: 10th March 2014 at 7:31pm
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It’s becoming a broken record. Neal Ardley slating his players after another wretched soulless home performance which is embittering the fans and further straining their allegiances.

Saturday’s 1-0 loss to York City was the Dons’ third straight loss at home and disgruntled supporters have yet to see a Wimbledon goal scored at Kingsmeadow since the last win over Hartlepool United on January 28.

The chronic inability to find the back of the net — no matter who plays up front — is undermining Wimbledon’s season, but perhaps more crucially, it is eroding the supporters’ faith in the team, as summed up by Dons fan Richard Brown BEFORE the York City debacle.

“I now dread home matches. The fans expect more and the pressure of making a mistake gets to the players. Scoring a goal at home before the opposition would be a pleasant bonus,” Brown posted on WDSA’s match thread ahead of the game.

Not only did the Dons again fail to score, but woefully the team did not have one shot on target in the whole game. And as expected a night of bitter recriminations ensued on the fan forums, while the players were conspicuously absent on Twitter after the game.

Fans had expected more from their team after four hard-earned points on the road at Newport County and Fleetwood Town, giving the impression that Wimbledon, with key players returning from injury spells, were finally turning the tide. The Minstermen’s mincing certainly put paid to that.

Ardley has made a habit this frustrating season of emptying out on his players.

…… “It was awful in every possible way. I had 10 players turn up and they did not look like they had any intensity in their games,” Ardley after the 2-0 home defeat to Torquay on January 11.

…… “Disappointed doesn’t even scratch the surface. I’m extremely annoyed and I’ve let the players know my feelings.” Ardley after the 3-0 loss at Bristol Rovers on November 30.

…… ‘I don’t mind losing games. You’re not going to go through the season without out losing games, but it’s about how you lose. The players got scared, didn’t want to get on the ball and pass it.” Ardley after the 2-0 home loss to Northampton on October 5.

And now comes the latest rant. “I’ve just told them in there that it’s not good enough. It’s so far from good enough it’s ridiculous,” the gaffer fumed after the York schemozzle.

“We’ve got three days to get ourselves together. There won’t be many players who can knock on my door this week. I feel let down personally, and that’s not me passing the buck, I’m the manager of the football club but I can’t win the battles on the pitch for the players.”

Ardley must now act, otherwise his reproaching words will be just be seen as “cry wolf.” He has painted himself into a corner. It’s time for determined deeds, not words, to retrieve the shredded confidence from the supporters, who were again left empty by Saturday’s wretched effort.

“If players don’t put in the brave performances and energy that we need then they will not play. It is that simple because someone else will get their shirt,” Ardley thundered.

“We’ve got the strongest squad that we’ve had all season and players are playing for the shirt. I expect a response on Tuesday [against leaders Chesterfield] and I think the fans should too. There are no excuses because we were not good enough. I felt let down by the players and I think the fans will too.”

Secret Agent said the players were locked in after the game and he heard “a string of expletives coming from the changing room.”

“All in all it was the worst performance I have seen this season in the league and I’ve yet to miss one!” Secret Agent said on the WDSA forum.

“Too many of them were off their game today and the end result was car crash football. We lacked leaders on the pitch today, which was disappointing given Fuller, Jones and Collins started.”

It’s simply not a case of Ardley ‘must be sacked’. On the latest WDSA poll, only seven per cent of respondents, are advocating his immediate sacking, so clearly NA still has the support of the great majority of Dons fans to stay.

But the future of Ardley as a football manager will be largely defined by how he handles these final months of this grim, no-frills campaign.

Ardley has the players he wants. The fans have been putting their hands into their pockets to donate funds to help augment his player budget as evidenced once again by the admirable efforts of the ‘We Are Wimbledon’ volunteers at the ground, drumming up more direct debits from supporters this weekend.

But clearly some of the players are not measuring up to the lofty appraisals. A case in point. “He will be a big player for us during the rest of this season,” Ardley said of striker Danny Hylton after signing him on loan during the January transfer window.

Hylton scored the winner on debut after Hartlepool, but has fired blanks in his next seven appearances, with another couple of scoring opportunities against York City, including a one-on-one with their keeper.

Charlie Sheringham is another chronic non-scorer and despite Ardley’s belief that “I know he will score goals,” the fact remains that Sheringham has scored just once this season.

There are those who hold out that Jack Midson will be our goal saviour. Yet he had another 30 minutes as a substitute on Saturday and failed to add to his three goals in 31 appearances this term.

So the question begs: who IS going to score the goals Wimbledon need to fight off the challengers? With just 34 goals in 35 games and boring the punters rigid, that is what confronts Neal Ardley, or the Dons will continued to be sucked into a relegation vortex.

And facing criticism that he constantly tinkers with his team selections, the York defeat came on a day when Ardley named an unchanged team for the first time since November!

“The game was won and lost at both ends of the pitch. Their two centre-forwards were excellent. They ran hard, bullied our two centre-halves, ran them, pressed them and got in their faces when they needed to,” Ardley said of the Minstermen.

“Ours did not run in behind them or hold the ball up. It started in the first 10 minutes where they gave the ball away every time they got it and in the end your back players drop deeper because of it.

“Even when we did get behind them and get our spare man in we went backwards and tried to do it again when we have worked all week on getting behind the lines and hurting them.”

The winning goal came off a disputed 41st-minute free-kick which presented a free header for Michael Coulson. Goalkeeper Ross Worner initially came to collect, stopped just outside of his goal, allowing Coulson to nip in past a static defence and head home. It was all in stark contrast to the last time the teams met.

York City should have won by more. With 20 minutes to go Ryan Bowman missed a yawning open goal after Worner fell over trying to clear a Will Antwi back pass and Coulson unselfishly squared the ball, only for Bowman to butcher it.

And it gets no easier for the Dons with leaders Chesterfield heading to Kingsmeadow on Tuesday. Obviously for whatever reason playing at home is more a hindrance rather than a help.

It’s seriously bad when long-time (and rational) supporter Ray Armfield offers this: “Genuinely not looking forward to Tuesday night. Probably the first time I’ve felt like this post-2002. Can you see this team scoring against Chesterfield? I can’t.”

Have your say on Neal Ardley in the latest WDSA poll – Click Here.

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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