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Tough choices for Neal

26 February 2015

Manager has selection poser for Hartlepool

Neal Ardley said that he faces a selection dilemma to select his starting 11 for Saturday’s League 2 match at Hartlepool.

The Dons have lost just once in their last seven matches with Neal Ardley’s January overhaul having provided better squad options at a key time.

Centre-back Mark Phillips is available again on Saturday having served a three-match suspension, but George Francomb is not yet ready to return after failing to shake off a hamstring injury.

Speaking during an interview with Rob Cornell for Dons Player, Neal Ardley admitted he has a lot of tough decisions to make, particularly at full-back with Jack Smith (pictured), Barry Fuller and Callum Kennedy competing for two places.

“I thought Jack was exceptional the other night,” said Neal. “I have got lots of problems that I did not have earlier in the season. Callum Kennedy has been excellent since he came back in and Barry Fuller has been playing his best football of the season recently. As much as Jack is a top player, I have several problems in terms of who I select at the moment, which is good.

“George’s hamstring had been quite tight for about 10 days prior to Luton and I had already made the decision to freshen him up and bring Alfie Potter into the team. Then George felt it a little bit pre-game worse than it had been so we made a judgement call not to risk him. By that time we had already named the squad. We decided to leave him out of the squad for Cambridge. It’s important that we try to get it right and Stuart Douglas will let us know next week where we are with it.”

A hectic recent fixture schedule hasn’t stopped Neal planning ahead as he plots a strong finish to the League 2 season.

“We always sit down and plan a schedule,” added Neal. “We planned ahead up until the York game and we’ve executed that as well as we can. We feel that we have good players and that always helps when we come towards game time. We have just put together a programme up until 18 April. This sets out when we are going to be in for training and what we are going to try and achieve on the days in and around games. Of course, it is subject to change, but it is important to have a plan in place.”

The immediate priority is Saturday’s trip to Victoria Park and the Dons manager is far from underestimating struggling Hartlepool, particularly as Pools have beaten Wimbledon twice in the last 17 months.

“We got beaten 3-1 up there last season,” added Neal. “It’s different now because they are fighting for survival. Their next two or three games will go a long way to deciding if they can challenge or at least give them hope. We therefore know that they will be up for it.

“From our point of view it will be tougher than Luton at home. It is going to be a big test for us. If we can come through this it will tell us a lot about ourselves, but if we don’t it will frustrate us. If we don’t get a positive result it will show us that we have that inconsistency again that we had earlier this season.”

The full six-minute update from Neal Ardley appeared on Dons Player earlier this afternoon and an interview with captain Barry Fuller will feature on our premium channel shortly.


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