A 2-0 win at Accrington in early December was Wimbledon's last taste of victory. They followed that with a creditable 2-2 draw at Wycombe (they were 2-1 up until the 96th minute) which saw them rise to seventeenth place and six points clear of the relegation zone. Since then, however, they have lost three and drawn five, scoring only four goals in the process. They are back to twentieth place again - just two points from danger.
Their problems have been compounded by the fact that their leading goal scorer Ollie Palmer has been tempted away by Phil Parkinson's Wrexham shilling. The Dons banked £300k in the deal but it left them short in the striking department even though they had earlier brought in twenty year old Terry Ablade on loan from Fulham. He scored nineteen for Fulham's u18s and u23s this season but has yet to make an impact for Wimbledon. They have also recruited Sam Cosgrove on loan from Birmingham but confusingly it was Aaron Cosgrave who came off the bench to score in the eightieth minute to rescue a point on Tuesday against Cheltenham. The striking burden still rests with young Maidstone-born Ayoub Assal who has six League goals in 26 appearances.
Wimbledon's last visit to The Valley was only six months ago although it feels like it was from a different age. Nigel Adkins selected a team for the Carabao Cup tie which included Jacob Roddy, Charles Clayden and Hady Ghandour and we went down 0-1. We couldn't even claim that we had fielded a weak team as The Dons also made multiple changes.
More memorable was the last League One game in December 2020. It was the second game to which spectators were admitted and we were treated to a great second half with goals from Forster-Caskey, Williams, Aneke and Purrington providing a come back for a 5-2 win. Fans leaving feeling optimistic were to discover that the result papered over a number of cracks - our fragile defending was to be punished almost every week thereafter, albeit behind closed doors.
Only time will tell whether the sale of Mason Burstow to Chelsea was a shrewd piece of business or an example of short-term cash flow-driven thinking. His loan back at least provides some cover in the event of injury to Aneke, Stockley or Washington but his absence at Fratton Park wasn't noticed as the team produced a performance reminiscent of Jackson's earlier managerial days. The arrival of Scott Fraser undoubtedly strengthens the squad but it is hard to see him forcing his way immediately into the starting line-up given how well the team played on Monday. Quite where Juan Castillo and Nile John fit in is another question but, as the saying goes, it is a good headache for the manager to have.
Unless we score an early goal we anticipate an attritional afternoon trying to break down an obstinate defence. With some tough opposition coming up it will be important to eke out the three points if we are to avoid a bottom-half finish.