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Monday, 03 December 2012

The View Outside The Premier League - Dons rock AFC Wimbledon and Bolton struggle


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Sqf hugh larkin

The Championship shared top billing with the FA Cup Second Round this weekend with just a handful of League Two games scheduled. The waterlogged pitch at Barrow that caused postponement signalled that we’ve reached that time of the season when it pays to check the radio before setting out.

Bolton Wanderers might have wished that a heavy fog had descended on the Reebok. After taking an early lead through Mark Davies, Dougie Freedman’s team contrived to lose to a recovering Ipswich Town squad.

The same defensive frailties that bedevilled the club under Owen Coyle are ruining this campaign and it's becoming more and more likely that their stay at this level will be more than one season.

Although this was Freedman's first defeat since he took over at Bolton the team are still languishing in 18th and the Tractor Boys are now only five points behind after their dreadful start to the campaign. With players of the qualiity of Michael Chopra to come on from the bench, there's no reason the Suffolk club can't escape the drop.

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Sunday saw the grudge cup match between MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon. It all ended in heartbreak for the fans who decided to travel from South West London as they saw their detested 'franchise' rivals notch the winner in injury time.

It wouldn't have been so bad if the goal in question hadn't been a complete fluke. John Otsemobor is destined to appear in a host compilation programmes after he casually flicked a backheel at a mis-hit shot and and sent it arcing over Neil Sullivan.

For AFC though, there should be confidence to be gained from a sterling defensive display and in truth, most of the fans and players will be glad to get this game behind them and concentrate on survival.

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Accrington Stanley and Oxford United fought out a real cup thriller at the Crown Ground - typical of thje vagaries of cup football. Oxford hammered Accrington 5-0 back in October but Stanley thought they’d won it 3-2 when they scored in injury time, only for the visitors to peg them back with the last touch.

The highlight of the game was a screamer from James Beattie who really seems to have the appetite for goals since he arrived in East Lancashire.

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Cardiff City's home form took them back to the top of the Championship as one goal was enough to see off a brave Sheffield Wednesday. That makes it 10 home wins out of 10 this season and it keep them just clear of Crystal Palace.

But Malky Mackay won't be fooled. Five defeats on the road already is far too many and though the home efforts will please the bulk of the fans, he knows that improved away form is vital to lock out an automatic promotion berth.

Wednesday's loss sent them down to one off the bottom and there's speculation in South Yorkshire about the future of Dave Jones. He will be only too aware that his predecessoor got the boot last season when the team were comfortably in a play-off place.

Next Saturday's game at home to fellow strugglers Bristol City is a critical fixture. The general view is that the Owls aren't playing too badly- one mistake cost them at Cardiff - and Jones will probably get the chance to turn things round.

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Hugh Larkin

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