In a campaign that started with so much promise, AFC Wimbledon now sit just one place and two points above the League One drop zone.
Impressive early season wins over Oxford United and Morecambe had Dons’ fans full of optimism for Mark Robinson’s first full campaign as Head Coach.
However, the initial momentum has long since faded as Wimbledon are currently on a club record 15-game winless run stretching back to December 7th.
Robinson has set his stall out from day one in the way he wants to play – dominating possession and using clever, intricate passing to break opposition down.
With a clear focus on youth development, it’s been a refreshing change from previous managers who have leant towards having players behind the ball and stealing a goal on the break.
And while the quality of football has improved on the whole, the problem is when it doesn’t work, there hasn’t been any real alternative.
With last season’s top scorer Joe Pigott leaving for Ipswich Town on a free transfer in the summer, Wimbledon have also struggled to convert this free-flowing football into the crucial end-product of goals.
The situation was then further compounded by the departure of Ollie Palmer to non-league Wrexham for an eye-watering £300k in the January transfer window with Dons’ fans less than impressed with the forward’s potential replacements.
While the loan arrivals of Sam Cosgrove, Terry Ablade and Tomas Kalinauskas were not the attacking options most fans wanted, the permanent signings of left-back Lee Brown and goalkeeper Nathan Broome provide a significant squad upgrade.
Wimbledon’s poor form has naturally led to some sections of the fanbase calling for the club to part ways with Robinson.
Although a new manager might bring an initial boost which puts much-needed points on the board, AFC Wimbledon is a long-term project which needs continuity in it’s backroom staff to build the club into what it needs to be.
Having the third lowest budget and youngest squad in the league underlines the serious lack of resources that is holding Robinson back.
Wimbledon’s model youth development is key to building a foundation of a strong squad but with that comes inexperience – evidenced by the Dons having dropped a number of points this season by failing to see out games.
Tuesday night’s game against similar strugglers Gillingham was a ‘must-not-lose’ and in this respect Wimbledon did their job by coming away from Priestfield with a goalless draw.
However, Saturday’s home game against another relegation rival Doncaster Rovers puts the onus on Wimbledon to find a way to win.
A huge positive for the Dons will be the return of both Ayoub Assal and Jack Rudoni – the former back from a two game suspension while Rudoni comes back after injury kept him on the sidelines.
If Wimbledon are to find form it has to be now – another loss or draw and the 2022/23 League One campaign hangs in the balance.