The manager's message to young Dons
Neal Ardley has challenged AFC Wimbledon’s young professionals to put in the hard work that will earn first-team opportunities next season.
Match-winner Chace Jacquart, Tom Beere, George Oakley and Will Nightingale all played a part in a 2-1 win against Sutton United last night. Centre-back Nightingale, who joined the Dons when he was just nine years of age, has had plenty of game-time alongside Andy Frampton due to the absence of Mark Phillips.
And Neal spoke enthusiastically after last night’s game about Nightingale (pictured above) and his young team-mates making the step-up.
“The pre-season games are giving these players good experience,” said Neal. “If Alan Reeves (Under-21 coach) can move them onto the next level in the first couple of months and we are looking around for players in their positions then I want to use them. But it’s up to these players to show me that they are ready to make the step-up.
“Will started a little bit jittery, but as the game progressed last night he got better and better. He became more comfortable and he is aggressive. Alan has already spotted a lot that he can work on with Will. Alan and Neil Cox will get to work with him on his positioning. If Will can get his positioning right then he will hopefully step-up to the next level.
“We take the Under-21s very seriously and we’re working really hard to get a good ground for their league games next season. We hope that the fans will support it and come along to watch the games.”
Neal added that it was very important for Wimbledon to earn a first pre-season win last night – and he praised his substitutes for treating it like a “Cup Final”.
“We could have been two or three up after the spell we produced in the first-half, but we lost our way a bit and I was annoyed with that,” said Neal. “In the second-half our attacking play was good, but the finishing touch was lacking. We’ve not really worked on that yet though. I said to the substitutes before they came on that ‘we have to win this game’ and they responded. They treated it like a cup final and I was delighted with the attitude from our players.
“Sutton looked very good and it was a proper game. At the end of it I was pleased to get a win and a good work-out for the players. We can take a lot of positives from it. Ade Azeez showed positive signs and I am delighted for him in getting his first goal. He showed why we signed him. Ade is very quick and if he can get that aggression into his game then he could be a handful.”
The Dons travel to Kingfield Stadium this Saturday (3.00 pm kick-off) to face Woking with the following ticket prices: Adults £8, Concessions £4, Under-16s free.