Neal Ardley says that striker Paul McCallum deserves a second chance to show what he can do in a Wimbledon shirt.
Despite being sent off on his debut at Morecambe, the 19-year-old striker has had his Wimbledon loan extended until 19 January after serving his suspension, and he could return for the Boxing Day clash at home to Northampton.
Speaking to Dons Player after today’s Christmas Eve training session at Tooting and Mitcham, Neal Ardley confirmed that McCallum is in the frame for Wednesday’s visit of The Cobblers with Byron Harrison (back) still struggling for full fitness.
“We have never really got to see Paul and you cannot really judge him on one performance when we did not play well as a team and he got sent off,” said the Wimbledon manager. “During the last couple of weeks he has trained really well. He went back to West Ham to play in a behind-closed doors match and we have also worked him hard here.
“Paul will hopefully give us qualities that we need. We are not flush in the striking department with Charlie Strutton and Byron both injured and Jason Prior having only just come back. It made a lot of sense (to extend his loan) and hopefully he will reward us with goals.”
The Dons have no fresh injury problems after Saturday’s scheduled match at Port Vale was postponed. Jim Fenlon is suspended for the match and that means Warren Cummings is likely to be restored to the side, while Rashid Yussuff and Brendan Kiernan could earn places on the bench after impressing in the Surrey Senior Cup.
Neal Ardley has warned his players that they must not be “bullied” by a physical Northampton side with a robust edge in attack. The likes of in-form marksman Adebayo Akinfenwa and Clive Platt will make it a tough afternoon for Wimbledon’s defence, but Neal Ardley says his side will be prepared for it.
“Northampton are in the top-half and are a very good team,” he said. “They are very strong, physical and good at what they do. If you do not match them and battle then they will bully you. Christmas is one of those periods when you can get a run going or you can have a bad time of it. They are all tough games, but we will go out there prepared and to work extremely hard for each other. If we can do that and add a bit of quality then we will have a chance.”
Dons Player subscribers can view the full video interview with Neal Ardley and the thoughts of Paul McCallum on his return by visiting our premium site.