By Jon Harries
Saturday saw 3rd v 2nd in the league in a must not lose game for either side both locked on 73 points. The first half saw a nervy edgy start to the game with both teams feeling each other out. The best chance fell to Callum Lang who was brilliantly picked out by Humphrys, a better first touch would have seen a great chance to take the lead, fortunately though the ball squirmed through to Cumming and safety. The Dons were struggling at times to beat the impressive Latics press but once broken we looked dangerous on the break without really testing Amos in the Wigan goal.
Half time and honours even.
The second half started with Wigan dominance keeping the Dons pinned in their half and the pressure finally told. A free kick was played into the box and after a bit of pinball it landed at the feet of Tom Naylor who calmly slotted away in front of the delirious away fans. There was complaints of offside but viewing the match back I feel Harvie did not push out quick enough for the offside to be triggered. The Dons again had a lot of effort to try and force the equaliser but a combination of poor passing and strange officiating to say the least made it feel like it wasn’t going to happen.
Corbeanu and Kasumu were brought on and added energy to the team, Theo in particular causing issues down the right. His endeavour forced the first of 3 successive corners which finally provided the breakthrough. Harry Darling forcing the ball in off his back from the third corner taken by Twine who incidentally becomes the first player in League 1 this season to complete the double/double, (Double figure goals and assists) with the actual figures being 14 goals and 10 assists.
They were hungry for more, but Wigan were more than happy to time waste and settle for a point and that’s how it ended. A point that didn’t do anything for either side, but the Dons are still within striking distance even after Wigan and Rotherham both won their game in hand midweek, but we still have a fantastic opportunity at automatic promotion if one or both of them falter. Keep our unbeaten run going and it’s possible.
This Saturday sees Manning’s Men travel to Cambridge looking to keep the phenomenal away record that we have earned throughout the season against a Cambridge side that have overall possibly exceeded expectations.
Currently 15th after 37 games, Mark Bonner has made Cambridge hard working, organised and overall competitive. They caused an FA Cup upset away at Newcastle in front of 50k supporters, but since then their form has slightly dipped but relegation this season is way off the cards. Two wins, 3 losses and a single draw in their last 6 league games isn’t great but they have played 4 of the current top 10 in that run beating Plymouth at home but succumbing to heavy defeats v Oxford, Wycombe and Sheffield Wednesday, Mark Bonner graciously accepting the 6-0 loss at Hillsborough in his post-match interview.
Dimitar Mitov has impressed in goal throughout the season, and you know what you get with former Don George Williams. They have struggled for a consistent CB partnership with Harrison Dunk being the mainstay in the backline. In midfield Harvey Knibbs has chipped in with goals since the turn of the year and Wes Hoolahan is a cheat code in L1. Give him time and space at your peril. Shilow Tracey is an explosive energetic winger and up top the 12 goals of Joe Ironside have contributed massively to their success this season.
THE MAN IN FOCUS – SAM SMITH
The Man in Focus this week is striker Sam Smith (the footballer, not the famous singer). Only one goal behind Ironside, the former Reading academy product struggled to find his feet in men’s football, firstly struggling at near neighbours Oxford in 2018 on loan before loan spells at Shrewsbury and Tranmere. Cheltenham Town was the loan where he settled the most before going for free to Cambridge in the summer. Mark Bonner has built his confidence to a point where at the turn of the year he was undroppable. Able to play up top on his own, as part of a two, number 10 or wide left his flexibility is crucial. He can manipulate space in the box, is physically strong and certainly a danger on his day. Plus, when you have Hoolahan in your side chances will be created.
Predicted Line Up
Kesler – O’Hora – Darling – Lewington – Harvie
Kasumu – Coventry
Corbeanu – Parrott – Twine
After their impressive cameos off the bench, I expect both Kasumu and Corbeanu to start. Theo and Kesler could be dynamite down the right and Kasumu can be the enforcer in midfield. Up top Parrott can be our physical presence, with Mo and fingers crossed Wickham in backup later in the game.
I’m predicting a 3-1 away win. Parrott, Eisa, and Corbeanu with the goals I’m expecting a reaction at the Abbey Stadium from Cambridge who will try and play their football, leaving themselves exposed at the back which if we are at our ruthless best we can certainly exploit. Case in point was the 4-1 walloping we dished out earlier in the season where Watters and Twine were absolutely deadly on the day.
All we can do for now is win and let the top 2 know we are not going away quietly. We saw in 2014/15 what pressure does to teams above us. No reason why it can’t happen again.