Date: 13th March 2014 at 10:57am
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Pride in the shirt returned at Kingsmeadow just days after one of the lowest ebbs of the season. The hard-earned point in the 1-1 draw with classy League Two leaders Chesterfield on Tuesday raised spirits and we even witnessed a goal at home! Hallelujah..

There was widespread agreement that the Spireites are the best team to visit the Dons this campaign and for just five minutes it looked as if Wimbledon would pull off a king-size upset with a super curling goal from George Francomb in the 50th minute before Chesterfield equalised and pressed for the winner.

It’s to Wimbledon’s credit that they held on stoically, no doubt helped by the return of Andy Frampton in the heart of the defence as the Dons inched one place higher to 15th, but the gap to the drop zone was cut to six points. In fact, 13 teams are within nine points of the trapdoor. The nerves will be continued to be shredded for some time yet.

Neal Ardley spoke of looking for a reaction after last weekend’s insipid 1-0 loss at home to York City. He reacted by dropping five players — Darren Jones, Luke Moore, Tom Richards, Will Antwi and Charlie Sheringham — and reuniting the much-missed Frampton with Alan Bennett in the heart of the defence, recalling fit-again Peter Sweeney and finding starting places for Kevin Sainte-Luce and George Francomb.

Yet again the Dons failed to score in the first half, but importantly kept Chesterfield goal-less before Francomb scored his first goal in the league minutes after the resumption to buoy the teams and the hard-pressed fans. Francomb latched onto a throw-in and turned inside before unleashing a superb left-footed strike that left the keeper with no chance.

But just when there were mind-racing thoughts of an upset over the league leaders, Chesterfield hit back just five minutes later with Oliver Banks equalising.

Wimbledon failed to clear a cross and Jimmy Ryan`s initial shot was palmed away by Ross Worner, only for Banks to blast home to put the Spireites level. From there it was all hands to the pump for the home side and a richly deserved point after three successive home defeats.

Plenty of pats on the back for showing the fight that was patently missing last weekend, but it’s all on again at Burton Albion on Saturday. Points are very hard to come by for the Dons (and indeed those around them on the table) and fans are eyeing the remaining games for where the points will come from to stay in League Two.

Ten games to go ? Home – Cheltenham, Bristol Rovers, Newport, Morecambe. Away – Burton, Mansfield, Northampton, Southend, Plymouth, Accrington.

Two or three wins among those might be enough, but the Dons have laid out the marker with their tenacious effort against the top team. Can they do it against those teams around them in virtual ‘six-pointers’? That will be their test in the coming weeks.

Assistant coach Simon Bassey was doing the talking for the management before and after the game and praised the work ethic and attitude of the players after the post-York City inquest.

“I’ve said to the boys in there that they are the levels that this club needs. If you put a Wimbledon shirt on then they are the minimum expectations that are required. We want a great work ethic and togetherness and we fell short of that on Saturday,” Bassey said.

“But I think the fans went away proud of a hard-working performance from the players wearing Wimbledon shirts. Chesterfield are the best team in this league by a long way in my book and we’ve given them a good game. We need to hit those levels more often though and consistency has been our problem.

“We have a good side here, but we’ve had a lot of indifferent form. No one is more disappointed with that than myself. But we will continue to work really hard and hopefully we’ll be looking up the league rather than down.”

All spoken from the heart Bassey-style, can’t fault him for that, but it’s stringing committed performances together which has been the major downfall of the Dons this season.

Fans have been feeling isolated from the players in recent times with players not mixing with supporters in the bar after home games, which has become a tradition for the “fans club”. Some long-time fans have spoken of a lack of attachment with the squad.

Another regular post-match ritual is the awarding of the man-of-the-match by Ivor Heller. It is a good way for supporters to show their appreciation of the players and get a couple of insights, but one long-standing supporter told WDSA: “The last couple of Ivor’s MOTM player interviews have been teeth-grinding.”

Another devoted supporter added: “The reaction of one player when he came out of the changing room to do a recent MOM presentation, his body language and facial expression showed that he would rather be anywhere else.”

Those episodes alienate fans, especially when the team is not doing well. It is to be hoped that the fighting character of the draw with Chesterfield and how well it was received by the fans will help pull the Club together. We all need to be pulling in the same direction.

It was reassuring to see Frampton back in the team after missing seven weeks with a dislocated shoulder.

“We also changed it at the back, to get two really experienced leaders on the pitch – our club
captain [Alan Bennett] and probably our biggest leader in Framo [Andy Frampton],” Bassey said.

“Communication levels against Chesterfield need to be very high and we thought that partnership would give us a little bit more solidity. We’ll now look to move up the table.”

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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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