The View From The Opposition: AFC Wimbledon

MILLWALL lost for the first time in six games as they went down 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday. 

They will have to pick themselves up quickly, and a London derby with AFC Wimbledon could be the perfect tonic. Dons fan Geoff Hawley takes on The View From The Opposition.

Name: Geoff Hawley

Twitter: @shoutymouse (and @RadioWDON for the club)

What made you become an AFC Wimbledon fan?: I was living a mile from Plough Lane so was going there in the 70s. That started the journey that none could predict and few would believe. It was my local club, I used to sit on top of the dugouts as a child and grew into a fan in my own right over the decades.

I've always been a Wimbledon fan and the people I stood with through the 70s, 80s and 90s are the ones who I stand with (or sit to be more accurate) now as well. It's the same people I've always known around me so the club may be legally different but the fans now were the fans then. I'm a Wimbledon fan, we are Wimbledon. (Hmm, that's catchy).

In their first ever season at this level, Wimbledon are holding their own. After winning the League Two play-off final in May, what was the expectation in the summer and has it changed now?: I thought we'd struggle.

We're not an affluent club and can't access the revenue streams to complete financially with some and I feared we'd take time to adapt and find ourselves. Neal (Ardley) made some great signings and is developing the existing squad to improve them without having to be spending on replacements.

We had a rocky start which was more frustrating as you could see we were better than before and were so close to it coming together and getting the results. Wins at Chesterfield and Charlton, in the derby, set things going and we've carried on from there. You get blips but we've got the self-belief and, more critically, the team mentality back. We're playing as a team and a squad. It's back like the old days again with the effort and passion. I think we'll finish comfortably away from the trapdoor. We couldn't make the play-offs again, could we? Could we?

You have a Millwall legend among your ranks in Paul Robinson – how has he been getting on so far?: Does so much for us in the air at the back. With him and our other centre-backs we can be tough to better aerially. He can still shift a bit on the deck when needed to and can make decisive interceptions and tackles when up against it.

With improved set-piece delivery he's also a goal threat at the other end. Against Bury in the FA Cup he showed the hidden striker inside too with a back-heel for a goal and another one square for an assist. He's a nice guy too off the pitch and has been a real addition to the squad. He doesn't half pick up the cuts though, like a boxer.

Millwall are expected to go one better than last year and win promotion back to the Championship. Can you see the Lions fulfilling their potential?: That's quite a lot of expectation to have to satisfy.

September didn't look that way as the Lions' wheels had looked to have come off in a big way. Things have improved since then and results have started to come and you're heading back up the table. I think you'd be pushed to go up automatically but I think you will be around the play-off places come the end of the season.

Apart from Robinson, which Wombles will Millwall have to watch out for on Tuesday night? Likewise, which Lions will you be wary of?:

Our forward line can cause anyone problems. There is pace, strength, skill and they work for each other. Tom Elliott has come on hugely and with Dom Poleon and Lyle Taylor in support, they don't let a defence rest.

Dean Parrett (now suspended) has come into the midfield and won a lot of fans. He's got an old school bustle and grit about him but can strike a ball very nicely too. Dannie Bulman can run all day and allow Jake Reeves to use the ball cleverly to run the show with his passing and movement. At the back you know Paul Robinson but he's got a group of excellent centre-backs to partner with in Will Nightingale, Darius Charles and Chris Robertson. Jon Meades and Barry Fuller at full-back can get forward with effect and defend strongly too. James Shea in goal has rediscovered his form and confidence once more. It's really a great time to be a Wimbledon fan.

If we can go some way to nullifying the goal threats that (Lee) Gregory, (Steve) Morison (out) and (Aiden) O'Brien pose we'll be doing well. That's the main concern as goals are spread relatively thinly across the rest of the side.

Finally, a score prediction?: I think Paul Robinson is looking forward to this. It's good to be back with London derbies again. We had some interesting ones back in the 80s and we're a huge improvement on the side that came here in the cup in 2009 so it'd be nice to see a properly contested close contest. Diplomatically I'd say 2-2 but you always want your team to win, really.

Graphic: ©ShedCreative

Mark Litchfield