By Fan of the Year – Jon Harries
What a solid start to the season so far. Going into last Saturday’s game v Portsmouth, the Dons were five games unbeaten in all competitions under the stewardship of Liam Manning with the “playing with purpose” mantra starting to take effect. Portsmouth were aiming to bounce back after their first defeat in the league away at Wigan.
The home side dominated the first half with Parrott, Darling, and Twine all brilliantly denied by Gavin Bazunu in the Portsmouth goal. Portsmouth’s best chance was a downward header from John Marquis that bounced over the bar. It was all square at the break with the home fans wondering if it would be one of those games where we would rue our missed chances.
Indeed, the second half started completely the opposite with Portsmouth making two early substitutions in quick succession that turned the tide. Portsmouth were happy to press and force mistakes and created chances for themselves, Ronan Curtis with the best opportunity when the home defence switched off and the Irishman was allowed to break clean through, but denied by the left hand of Andrew Fisher with a very important save.
Just when Portsmouth thought there was only one winner, they were struck a massive body blow from their own corner. Parrott collected the ball from the Ethan Robson clearance, worked enough space to ping a fantastic ball to Twine, who drove at the Portsmouth defence. He picked his head up and spotted the lung busting run of Robson who calmly slotted home, counter attacking at its very best. From then on there was only one winner with Parrott having another opportunity to extend the lead, one goal was enough though and the Dons finished the game in 5th position, promising signs so early in the season.
Saturday sees a trip to Kent and the Priestfield Stadium to face Gillingham who have so far had a slow start to the season. Their squad was hit by Covid in pre-season meaning two weeks away from the training ground. Manager and big personality Steve Evans did a very reasonable job last season, guiding the Gills to a solid mid table finish after flirting with the play offs in March.
You know what you are going to get with an Evans opposition, grit, hard work, and commitment. It may not be the most pleasing football on the eye but it’s very effective and I have a lot of respect for that.
They have two very good goalkeepers in Aaron Chapman and Chelsea loanee Jamie Cumming. Max Ehmer has returned to bolster the defence that has Jack Tucker and Rhys Bennett in it. The loss of Connor Ogilvie has been replaced by David Tutonda at left back from the start of the season. In midfield Kyle Dempsey, Danny Lloyd, and former Dons favourites Ben Reeves and Stuart O’Keefe that provide the grit and spark in equal measure. Mustapha Carayol is the man tasked with replacing the assist king Jordan Graham who moved to Birmingham in the summer. Up front John Akinde and Charlie Kelman will be tasked with supporting the danger man and the one to watch.
With 17 goals in 39 appearances last season Vadaine Oliver enjoyed a fruitful season in front of goal. The big target man is certainly physical and guaranteed to win most of his aerial duels on Saturday so second balls will be key to win. He also is quite handy with his back to goal allowing runners off him from deep. Stopping crosses will be key alongside giving away minimal free kicks and corners, as give him a header and he will hit the target. With two goals already this season if he can repeat his form from last season who knows what is possible.
Predicted Line Up
Kioso – O’Hora – Darling – Lewington – Harvie
Robson – O’Riley – Boateng
Twine – Parrott
In our corresponding fixture last season, I felt after a great start we played into their hands in terms of “game management” and allowing the opposition to get into our heads. I feel under Manning though the early signs are promising with Charlton and Accrington two prime examples of our improvement in that department. I’m going with a 1-1 draw. Gillingham is our bogey ground in recent times so anything is a bonus. It’s all about building a solid foundation throughout the season so this wouldn’t be the worst result. If we match their work rate, our threat could see us through.