I haven’t written an Away Day blog for quite a while. Since the last one back in August (our trip to Barnsley) our form has taken a bit of a dip. That much of a dip that we currently sit firmly at the bottom of League One, ten points away from safety. Since then I have failed to report on:
- Burton Albion – Good pub with good beer, rubbish performance
- Gillingham – no pub, only lager available at the ground, reasonable performance came away with a 1-0 victory.
- Accrington Stanley – I was on holiday so missed it, but by all accounts pretty miss-able.
- Plymouth – Five hours on the coach, decent pub, Steve found a beer called The Beast which he said was pretty good, but it was about 6.5%. Surprised he stayed awake for the match. We had an excellent pasty on the way back to the ground. Abject performance, five hours on the coach back to London.
- Blackpool – Got the train up, missed out on a donkey ride, decent beer, another rubbish performance, on the train back Steve and I decided that he day had cost us about £100 each and was it worth it?
- Haringey Borough – FA Cup first round, the first of the boycotted games. Watched it on the telly, horrible wet night, glad I missed it, good whisky, comfortable sofa, dire performance, sneaked a win. Neal Ardley’s last game as manager.
- Doncaster – Looking after my niece while my sister and hubby went to a party, so I had an excuse, apparently a decent performance, but we still lost.
- Halifax – FA cup second round. The boycott ended. Free Coaches (we are easily bribed). Stupidly early start, I picked Steve up at 5:30 to get to the coach for six. 12:30 kick off, played reasonably against National League opposition, won 3-1. Long coach trip back but arrived home at a reasonable time.
- Chelsea U-21’s – Find a Dodgy Plumber Trophy, easier to get to than Kingsmeadow, Wally Downes first game (sort of) in charge, almost empty Stamford Bridge, lost.
- Charlton Athletic – No coach because every one (more or less) who gets the coach has a freedom pass. Spoons at Victoria before the match, didn’t play well, Lyle Taylor scored against us, Mitch Pinnock got sent off, debut for Tyler Burey, looked promising. Still lost.
- Wycombe Wanderers – Drove up (therefore no beer), because I was going to my sisters with Christmas presents afterwards. Met Steve up there. We played well and WON, even more amazing Jake Jervis scored.
- Portsmouth – New Years Day game, missed it because I didn’t get a ticket and it was advertised as an all ticket game, apparently played reasonably, Appiah scored with a worldie, Lost.
- Fleetwood Town – FA Cup Third Round, didn’t go on the basis that I had been up there already this season. Won 3-2 with a last-minute Appiah winner.
- Coventry City – coach up, didn’t have time to find a pub because the coach driver got lost, didn’t have a beer because the beer selection at the ground was appalling, Bovril and a Balti pie instead. Played reasonably well, Jake Jervis scored again, came away with a 1-1 draw. First time this season we have been back early enough to go to the Watchman for a post game meal and analysis.
Some of you may be asking ‘How can a team that beat a fairly strong West Ham side 4-2 be ten points adrift?’ The problem is the same team that beat West Ham also lost abjectly 3-0 to a middle of the table Fleetwood team that we had already beaten twice this season. A performance that Steve described as the worst he had seen in fifty years of supporting Wimbledon. Which brings us to Sunderland and the Stadium of Light.
I had decided that I was going to make a weekend of it, because I had spent three years at college in South Shields, which is just up the coast, forty and a bit years ago. I travelled up on Friday, the rest, including Steve, were just coming up for the day.
The Stadium of Light is a fully fledged Premiership Stadium that happens to belong to a team that are currently stuck in League One. Sunderland have had a few problems with owners recently and as a result of cumulative bad decisions were relegated from the Premiership two seasons ago, went straight through the Championship last season and ended up in League One this season. They are one of the strongest teams in the division and have the biggest crowds and the biggest playing budget by a long way. However I wouldn’t bet too much money on them going back up this season. They are not doing quite as well as they should. I think that if they do go up it will be via the play-offs rather than automatic promotion.
We had a pie to help us recover from our climb up what felt like Ben Nevis. The pies were surprisingly good. We found our seats high above the goal. It has to be said that the sightlines were excellent.
To sum it up; we played well enough but still managed to lose. A simple mistake by our right back let Aiden McGeady in behind the defence to score the only goal of the game. We had a few chances in the first half but unfortunatly two of them fell to Will Nightingale, who has many admirable qualities as a footballer, but consistently putting the ball in the back of the net is not one of them. Anthony Wordsworth almost scored from our own half. He spotted the Sunderland ‘keeper off his line and tried a lob from about sixty yards. There was a lot of furious backpedalling but their ‘keeper managed to get enough fingertips on it to push it over the bar. Late in the second half we were denied a penalty, when Scot Wagstaff appeared to be dragged back as he shot. That wasn’t a surprise, we are never given penalties. So the game ended Sunderland 1 AFC Wimbledon 0
You have possibly noticed that a guy called Steve gets mentioned quite a bit in this and the other AwayDay blogs.
A bit about Steve, or Stephen Dale to give him his full name. I have mentioned that getting involved with AFC Wimbledon really helped me after Grace died. I met Steve at a volunteers day and we quickly became good friends. We didn’t have all that much in common apart from a love of a good beer and AFC Wimbledon, but that was enough. We stood together on the terrace at the Chemflow End, we ate breakfast at Fat Boys before getting the coach to away games, we celebrated together and commiserated together.
I arrived in Sunderland about five o’clock on Friday, after I had settled into the hotel, I sent him a text telling him I had arrived and asking if he wanted me to find a pub for a pre-game drink tomorrow. I got a text back almost straight away, which surprised me, because Steve could take a week and a half to respond to a text. Only it was from his brother telling me that Steve had passed away during the week. I was, still am devastated by the news. I had been with him at the West Ham game, he seemed to be a bit under the weather, a bad cold I thought. Our friend Peter had given us a lift back to Sutton, I got out the car at the station, his last words to me we “See you at Sunderland”. My only consolation is that the last game he saw was one of the finest AFC Wimbledon performances ever.
Rest in Peace Steve
I was glad that my brother Jim had decided to come down from Scotland to watch the Wombles for the first time. I met him at the station and told him the news, so if we were a bit subdued he would know why. The train that Barry, Fred and Alex (and Steve should have) were on was arriving about ten minutes after the train Jim was on, so we waited for them. They already knew what had happened. We found a pub that Steve would have approved of and drank a couple of beers to his memory.