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Fitness check on Paul

31 December 2015

Manager hopes to include defender v Cambridge

Neal Ardley said he will tomorrow check on the fitness of Paul Robinson before selecting his squad to face Cambridge United on Saturday.

The experienced centre-back (pictured right above) suffered a knock towards the end of Monday’s win at Exeter City, but the manager is hoping he will have recovered in time to play against Shaun Derry’s in-form side.

However, there are no fresh injury concerns at this stage following two games in three days over Christmas.

We ummed and arred about the team selection for the Exeter game after such a tough match against Bristol Rovers, but I think we got it about right. Speaking during an in-depth interview for Dons Player, Neal said: “Paul took a whack to the knee and it is a bit swollen, but knowing him he will do everything to play. We will give him as long as we can because I think Cambridge is the sort of game when we are going to need him. Everyone else has come through fine since Monday.

“No one has come away with an injury and hopefully we can go into the Cambridge game fresh. Then we have a two-week break and I have to get my head around how we go about that. It did not work out very well last time as much as we planned it. We have to make sure in the second half of the season that we pick up points.”

Former Cambridge United striker Tom Elliott produced an impressive performance after being restored to the side at Exeter and Neal added that he has a tough choice to make for the forward berths on Saturday.

“Tom came in against Exeter and he did what we hoped he would do,” said Neal. “He is a big, strong lad and Exeter could not cope with him. He was outstanding in many ways and it’s great because hopefully the goal will have lifted his confidence. Against Bristol Rovers Bayo played like two up front and his work-rate was phenomenal. Bayo and Lyle Taylor work well together. All four of our strikers are looking around now and thinking they have to play well to stay in the team.”

The Dons face a Cambridge United side bang in form with manager Shaun Derry having guided his side to five league wins out of six. Neal knows it will be a tough test on Saturday, but he believes the Dons are not far away from showing play-off form too.

“It is a great record they have and they went away to Plymouth and won,” Neal said. “I do my homework on the opposition and from what I have seen they work extremely hard. They have always been a big, strong and physical side, but they are working their socks off for each other. I think that’s the starting point on Saturday in that we have to match the physical side and work as hard as them. We have to do that before we can even consider being the better team. It will be tough, particularly from set-pieces, as they are very good at them and we found that out at home.

“After the Exeter game I looked back on our form. People like to micro-manage your form and say things like ‘you have not won in four’ or ‘you have picked up only four points in six’, but over the last 11 league games we have won four, drawn five and lost two. A total of 17 points from 11 games is a reasonable return, considering we feel it’s been a sticky spell.

“When you look over a longer period of time, it is close to play-off form. We need to keep that momentum going and maybe start turning a draw or two into a win. We have a lot to make up to give ourselves a chance of the play-offs and we need to hit the ground running.”

 The full seven-minute interview with Neal Ardley is now on Dons Player and an extensive interview with Lyle Taylor will follow tomorrow. 

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