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Kick off 15:00 (UK)

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09 April 2022 Venue The Cherry Red Records Stadium Attendance

Kick off 15:00 (UK)

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English Football League - League One

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Match Previews

Dons handed triple fitness boost

First-team manager previews Saturday’s game

7 April 2022

Mark Bowen was pleased to report that his AFC Wimbledon side have been boosted by the return of three players ahead of this weekend’s fixture against Milton Keynes Dons.

The gaffer offered a detailed update on how preparations are going ahead of yet another home game at the Cherry Red Records Stadium as we look to go one better after drawing against Charlton Athletic on Tuesday. 

Below is a full round-up of what was said as Chris Thorpe caught up with Mark at the training ground earlier on today. 

Q: Mark, great to see you. How is the team shaping up for the weekend? 

A: It’s a big boost to have Macca (Luke McCormick) out there training. I’m very hopeful that Sam Cosgrove will be available in some capacity – that’s a little bit complicated as he will have to wear a mask. Lee Brown has recovered from illness, so he’s also in the frame for Saturday. 

And then you look at the impact that Ethan (Chislett) made during the week. He came on and was very effective, so players are coming to the fore at the right time. It’s all hands on deck for these last five games.

Q: How do you go about managing the expectations of the younger players? 

A: I don’t want to sound like I am overcritical of younger players but the messages you get in academies are different to that of the ones you get in a first team environment. 

It’s about knowing how to go and win games. It’s almost too complicated a question to answer, it’s mainly about the mindset that you have within the game. The best players make the best decisions in games. Young players don’t always make the best decisions. Of course, some of them stay that way, whereas some progress and go on to play at a higher level. 

The staff are here to put the messages across for the players to do the right things – it helps us to put the demands on them. 

Q: What’s surprised you about the squad so far? 

A: Not a lot. I did a lot of homework before coming in. I watched a lot of games within a short period of time. I suppose what has surprised me is that the talent the squad has doesn’t necessarily match the situation we’re in. It’s hard to put your finger on why we have gone so long without a win. They started the season so well and they’ve been in a rut ever since. 

In fairness to the lads, I don’t see any fear in their faces when they’re down here training. In the two games so far, there has been a bit of nervousness on show for a few spells. When I look at the game on Tuesday it wasn’t a fear, it was more an apprehension. They  had to remember that they were playing at home in order to be dynamic and take more risks. 

They won’t hear any criticism from me if they make mistakes once or twice. They will hear some if they continually put themselves in the position to make more mistakes, or if they’re hiding and they don’t want the ball. 

Q: You changed things tactically in the second half against Charlton Athletic. Is that something you are looking to do more and more? 

A: I’m always looking for different ways that we can affect the game. During the first half you get a feel for the game and you work out if anything needs adjusting. After 10 to 15 minutes in the second half you then have to work out how you can affect things more thoroughly in order to try to win it.

In terms of going to 4-4-2 on Tuesday, they had a man sent off, so we knew we could exploit the spaces in behind them with that extra man there. Even when Henry (Lawrence) went off, you had George Marsh switching to full back and bombing down the flank. 

I’m always throwing a lot of things about in my mind, so I wouldn’t rule out changing our approach again - depending on what we’re facing. 

Q: There is a lot of history surrounding Saturday’s match. Is it a case of telling the lads to play the game and not the occasion? 

A: I’m not always an advocate of that. Sometimes the enormity of an occasion like Saturday’s game can give you an edge. I’m a big believer that teams play in a more effective manner when they’re angry. 

I want the players to step on the field and feel angry because that might give them that extra yard. It might make them more tenacious and not so passive. 

It’s about getting that balance right. It’s not a game they should be worried about at all, they need to enjoy the feeling and the edge that is behind the game. Every game between now and the end of the season is a big game for us. 

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Match Reports

Wimbledon denied after bold display

Alex Woodyard had given us the lead with a first-half strike

9 April 2022

AFC Wimbledon were held to a 1-1 draw by Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday afternoon in a match that was filled with plenty of suspense and entertainment.

We took to the task of matching a side fighting for promotion brilliantly, and our early efforts were deservedly rewarded by an unlikely hero - Alex Woodyard firing home a half volley.

This cranked the atmosphere inside our spiritual home up a gear as we continued to have the better of the play in the first 45 minutes.

Unfortunately, after we defended doggedly for the majority of the second half the visitors equalised through Troy Parrott’s finish to set up a tense final 10 minutes at Plough Lane.

In the end the spoils were shared and after the dust had settled it was clear to see that it was another step in the right direction for Mark Bowen’s men, with other results across the division seeing the gap to safety cut to just three points.

Make no mistake, this was certainly a performance that gives us the platform to build as we head into the final four games of another gruelling league campaign.

Bowen made two changes to the side which drew 1-1 against Charlton Athletic in midweek with Paul Kalambayi and Nesta Guinness-Walker coming into the starting 11 in place of Dan Csoka and Paul Osew.

Meanwhile Sam Cosgrove, Luke McCormick and Anthony Hartigan all returned to the squad, taking their respective places on the bench for this game.

A cauldron of noise greeted the two sides ahead of this game, with both knowing what was at stake at this crucial stage of the season.

Wimbledon began the stronger of the two sides and it wasn’t long until our pressure got the goal that it deserved. A free kick wasn’t cleared properly by the opposition, with Woodyard firing home a half volley that took the roof off Plough Lane.

The momentum was really with Wimbledon now and Zach Robinson was next to have a pop, with the striker working himself some room before firing in a shot that drifted wide.

Aside from the final third, we remained solid when our opponents did venture into our half, with the midfield and forward line working their socks off to support the back five.

In the end it was a half that couldn’t have gone any better for those of a yellow and blue persuasion as the teams headed in at the break.

The second 45 minutes started cagily but Ayoub Assal was quickly into his stride, showing great trickery on the left to open up the space for a cross, with Robinson being inches away from getting the telling touch.

Roared on by a packed-out South London Movers End, Wimbledon continued to hold the visitors at bay, hassling and harrying at every opportunity – leading to many passes being hit astray by the men from Buckinghamshire.

However, the away side did begin to increase the pressure on the Wimbledon backline and in the end it told as Parrott equalised with a volleyed effort from the angle of the box.

It set up a grandstand finish, with both sides pushing for a winner right up until the dying seconds.

Alas, there was to be no late heroics with the points being shared after what was an afternoon of high tension.

Next up for the Dons is a trip to Gresty Road as we take on Crewe Alexandra in another vital end of season game.

AFC Wimbledon: Nik Tzanev, Henry Lawrence, Dan Csoka, Alex Woodyard, Will Nightingale, George Marsh, Ayoub Assal (Luke McCormick), Jack Rudoni, Zach Robinson (Ethan Chislett), Nesta Guinness-Walker, Ben Heneghan, Paul Kalambayi (Sam Cosgrove).

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