Manager delighted with first away win this year
Neal Ardley saluted his side’s second half response after he delivered a half-time rollicking to the players during the interval at Crawley Town.
AFC Wimbledon appeared to be heading towards a third successive defeat after 45 minutes and the manager revealed afterwards that his players were on the receiving end of a stern rebuke at the break.
Speaking during an interview for Dons Player, Neal Ardley said: “First and foremost, I wanted to find out once and for all whether this group could execute the 3-4-3 formation we played in pre-season. I looked at the first 25 minutes of the Plymouth game and that was how I imagined us causing problems for teams. We did not do it in the first half and we were all over the shop. You can talk about systems, but we lacked energy and we were second to a lot of things. Five minutes before half time I made my decision and unfortunately Tom Elliott was the player to make way. It could have been anyone at that point.
“There was a tactical change at half-time, but I also challenged the players and really laid it down to them. I think a few of them were not happy with a couple of things I said. They responded in a big way. In the second half the pace, tempo and good moments that we created got us in front and we ended up with a win. I have learned now. I was brave to play it (formation) again away from home and brave to make the substitution, but the boys responded brilliantly. They are the ones who deserve the credit.”
Match-winner Andy Barcham earned special praise from the manager for his swashbuckling performance, but Neal was also keen to single out Jake Reeves as an unsung hero.
“When you see an exciting player who works his socks off for the team and delivers an end product everyone is going to like him,” Neal added. “I have liked him now for two-and-a-half years and I finally got him over the line during the summer. He is showing us why we worked so hard to get him. Anyone who is not excited by Andy should not be watching football. The work that Jake Reeves did for the second goal was breathtaking. He outran someone in midfield, before sending a lovely ball through for George Francomb. That teed up the whole move.”
The full five-minute interview with Neal Ardley will be on Dons Player later tonight. Interviews with goalscorers Bayo Akinfenwa and Andy Barcham will follow on our premium channel tomorrow.