Away Day No.2 (Volunteers’ Day)

 This time we actually got to see some football. Quite a lot of football as it turned out.

Once a year the club  (AFC Wimbledon) and one of our sponsors Cherry Red Records treat the club’s volunteers to a day out. I qualify because I go along to the Work Weekends. During the summer we give the ground a good clean up and a fresh coat of paint ready for the new season. Because we are a fan owned club, and not particularly rich, we rely on people doing stuff for free that other, larger, clubs would pay contractors to do. The volunteers’ away day is a way of thanking all the people who give their time and effort to help the club out.

The day consists of coach travel to the game, a pre-match meal, and a ticket for the game. This year’s day out was to see Wimbledon take on Walsall in what could be described as a relegation six pointer. So normal away day protocols were observed, that is breakfast at Fat Boy’s before catching the coach. Then onto the coach for a zap up the M40 to Birmingham. Lunch had been arranged at Caulderfields Golf and Country Club.   who put on a very good lunch for a hundred or so of us, Having been very well fed and watered our sponsor announced that while he was still keen to support the day out it had in fact  been nine years since we had last won on Volunteers Day. So on to the match.

Walsall’s stadium is a tidy smallish place, probably about 12000 capacity but was only about one third full today.
20180414_145523.jpg

Pre-match predictions were fairly positive. Walsall had not been in particularly good form of late and we came into the game buoyed up by a cracking win against Charlton on Tuesday night. Six minutes in the positivity started to slip. We gave away a free kick about twenty five meters out on the right. Normally we deal with those fairly easily, but in Erhun Oztumer Walsall have probably the best dead ball player in the League. His floated free kick found the head of his player and we were 1-0 down.

We tried to get back into the game, but to be honest we looked lethargic and disjointed. Then on the stroke of half-time we gave away another goal. Our centre backs, who are normally our most reliable players, seemed to get mixed up and both left the Walsall striker for the other one to deal with. The result was he slipped through between them for an easy goal.

We were all a bit down at half time, apart from Stevie, who was predicting that we would win 3-2. However the precedents were not good. The last time  we had come from behind to win was over a year ago, and the last time we had done it away was even longer. So far this season the rule has been, if we score first we don’t lose and if the opposition score first we don’t win.

I’m not sure what was said in the dressing room, but it was effective. Within three minutes of the restart we had a goal back. Andy Barcham was tripped inside the box. Their keeper half saved the resultant penalty but Joe Piggot (Feed the Pig and he will score) was on hand to put the rebound into the net.

From then on it was all Wimbledon. Lyle Taylor hit the post, several chances scrambled away and seven hundred Wimbledon fans make far more noise than 3500 Walsall fans. Our second goal was classic old school Wimbledon. A long accurate punt upfield from our keeper George Long found Lyle Taylor who hit it first time into the back of the net. Cue minor delirium in the away end.

It was still more or less one way traffic but the decisive goal would not come. Joe Piggot was hauled down a couple of times in the penalty area for what looked like clear cut penalties, at least from where I was standing. Finally in the sixth minute of stoppage time, George Long played a ball to Lyle Taylor similar to the one that had brought about the second goal, this time though Lyle was hauled down by their defender – penalty.

Dean Parrett took the ball for the penalty, a good decision, because Lyle had hurt himself scoring his goal, and I’m not sure that he would have converted it. He placed the ball on the spot, Fred and Barry in front of me couldn’t look, took his run up and slammed it into the top left hand corner of the net.
Cue serious delirium in the away end.
Two very happy bus loads of volunteers headed back down the M40 South West London.
“It only took nine years”

Edit 25/05
I have added this video, by one of the teams sponsors, John Green, because it relates to the game, but also because there are life lessons in there as well.

A more neutral report on the match is available on the BBC Sport website

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