Wally Downes is demanding a much sharper start at Fleetwood on Saturday after a first-half against Rotherham that fell below the standards he expects.
Highbury Stadium was a happy hunting ground for Wimbledon last season with two victories at Fleetwood, but Joey Barton’s side are expected to stage a stronger challenge for promotion this time around. The Dons triumphed 1-0 on the opening day of 2018/19 at Fleetwood, thanks to a Joe Pigott winner, and there was a memorable FA Cup victory in January at the same venue (the picture above shows Anthony Hartigan celebrating his goal in that game).
Below are quotes from both camps, plus team news, and more, ahead of Saturday’s match.
“I have good memories of going up there in the cup, it was a great game, but the Fleetwood game at home was one that made me decide that we had to play differently. It was the start of a good run after that, but it was a very disappointing result on the night.
“We were flexible with our formation last season, I didn’t start off the way we finished, but we got into a rhythm towards the end of the season and I didn’t want to take that away from the team. I have lots of options with the players I’ve got, to play different formations within the framework of the 90 minutes. Depending upon the score-line, I won’t be afraid to change the formation. If we are winning and we need to bolster the midfield, or if we are losing I can change it. I have lots of options.
“There is no point us going 1-0 down and thinking, ‘now we have to pull our fingers out’ and it’s no good us getting on a bad run and being down the bottom of the league. I’ve said to the team that we have to start the season strong and finish the season strong. It’s no good waiting for bad things to happen before we decide to start playing. We’ve got to put ourselves under pressure at 0-0, start the season with a blank sheet and have that pressure of succeeding. The onus is on us as a group to be successful.
“We will have to be as resilient as we were in the second-half against Rotherham and we will have to pay more attention to detail on our set plays. You can put a little bit of rustiness down to the first game, but that would be shelving the responsibility. We’ve had six weeks to prepare for that and to start the first-half the way we did was disappointing. In the second-half we showed we can compete with teams at this level, but we know we’ve got to be bang at it all the time.”
Clint Hill (Fleetwood Assistant Manager)
“They were a bogey team at home for us last year. We went to their place last season and played well, but the other games did not go well. We know what they are about. They will be very organised and have a good bit of legs in their team; quite quick, motivated. They will possibly play a 5-3-2 so it will be difficult for us but, every game in this league you need to prepare for because teams want to come at you, so we just set our stall out.
“We pretty much came out of the game on Saturday and the (Blackpool) friendly with no kind of injuries. The lads who have the shirt at the minute, at the moment it’s theirs. (Kyle) Dempsey has trained the last few days and he feels really good so everyone is back on the mend and on the grass. No one is in that treatment room, which is good. There are players who are a week or two away from actually trying to start games. Other than that everyone is really good.”
Wally Downes said that he will not be rushing Anthony Wordsworth (achilles tendon) back from injury and goalkeeper Nathan Trott (groin) is still out, though he is making good progress in his recuperation. Fleetwood will have Nathan Sheron back in contention after he missed the Peterborough trip through suspension. New signing Ched Evans, who has joined from Sheffield United after a prolific loan spell at Fleetwood last season, could be involved.
Last time out
AFC Wimbledon 1-2 Rotherham United
Peterborough United 1-3 Fleetwood Town
Our last visit to Highbury Stadium
Fleetwood 2-3 AFC Wimbledon (5 January 2019)
Goals from Andy Barcham and Anthony Hartigan put Wimbledon well in charge of this Emirates FA Cup third round tie, but the Cod Army scored quick-fire second-half goals through Paddy Madden and Ched Evans to level matters at 2-2. However, just when a replay seemed inevitable, Kwesi Appiah fired home a superb strike to earn a place in the fourth round of the famous knockout competition. Fleetwood avenged the defeat with a 3-0 win at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, just four days before The Dons memorably knocked out Premier League side West Ham. Relive that great win by watching the highights from that game.
Dons supporters can buy in advance up until 3.00 pm on Friday, or pay on the day. See our previous article for more details.
Match day coverage
Our WDON commentators Mikey T and Rob Cornell will be providing live coverage from Highbury Stadium. Visit our iFollow channel to access live audio commentary. Overseas subscribers to iFollow can watch the match live on our subscription service.