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Case for Dons defence

19 August 2016

Captain confident points will come ahead of unbeaten Northampton

Captain Barry Fuller knows the Dons face a tough test at unbeaten Northampton Town tomorrow afternoon, but feels that gaining a first point in League 1 isn’t that far away.

The Cobblers, last season’s League 2 champions, changed manager during the break when Chris Wilder took the manager’s job at fellow League 1 side Sheffield United. Although Northampton have drawn their opening three league fixtures of this season under new boss Rob Page, they’ve extended an unbeaten run that stretches back to an impressive 27 games.

“They’ve earned that record last season by going on a run and going on and winning the league by quite a fair margin,” said Fuller in a lengthy interview to Dons Player. “They’ve come into this season and knuckled down and stayed unbeaten, but it’s been a tough start for them. I know our form isn’t great, but we still believe with confidence we can go there on Saturday and get the three points.”

On route to League 2 Play-off final glory and promotion, the Dons last meeting with Northampton at the start of March was a classic. Even though both sides finished level at 1-1, it was widely acknowledged as a great advert for football at that level of the game.

“It was a tough game,” added the Dons skipper. “We both went into that game on really good form and with our good away form last season we went there believing we could cause an upset. At the end of the game, I think the draw was a fair result and there was a lot of entertainment, but it maybe a different game on Saturday.”

“They are unbeaten and they may think we are down in the dumps, but that isn’t the case. We know we’ve got to be better, but we’re still confident.”

“We won’t let it knock us and we’re disappointed with the results, I don’t like losing games – I don’t like losing five-a-sides in training, let alone league games – but we’re confident and if you look at all the league games we haven’t been all that far away, to be honest.”

“We have been punished and we have come under a lot of scrutiny as a defence, but it isn’t just defensive mistakes. Maybe as a unit we need to work harder when we haven’t got the ball. Everyone keeps saying how well we do when we’ve got the ball and are going forward, but it’s not just the defence and Ryan Clarke in goal – we need to be a bit more ruthless in both boxes,” analyzed the right-back.

“We’re in League One, we want to score goals so we have to commit at least one of our midfielders to go forward and we’d like to see them get more goals. It’s not just them though, if we’re attacking down the left then the right-hand side need to come round and make things secure and vice-versa. We want them to score goals, but we’ve got to be disciplined in who goes forward and at what times. I’m pretty sure we’ll get the balance right eventually and that the midfielders go forward and get us a few goals, while we’re still secure at the back,” he added.

“Three of the defenders this season were part of that successful play-off side last season and we have got an understanding. It isn’t just the back four. We’ve just got to be a bit more solid and ruthless and maybe not too pretty if we have to clear our lines in an ugly way and we will do that.”

“Obviously it’s nice to get those first few points on the board as it settles everyone down, but we’re not going to beat ourselves up too much as we know we’ve got to do better and we’re going into this one full of confidence even though results haven’t gone our way.”

Fuller, together with George Francomb, have been an attacking influence down the right-hand side of the pitch for the past few seasons, but while he has had to do without his midfield partner he feels new addition Chris Whelpdale is fitting into the role well.

“George was unfortunate to miss the great day out we had at Wembley and for any team to miss a player like him is disappointing and what he offers the team, in terms of set-piece delivery and wide crosses. We’ve been together now for three years working down the right, but ‘Whelps’ has come in and settled in well and is getting to grips with what the manager wants.”

The ever-present defender is also well aware of the vital role the travelling Dons fans can play in Saturday’s fixture and is determined to reward their loyal support.

“The fans have been turning up to watch their team and not get results and obviously as a fan that hurts and they love the club and the players love the club and we are putting on the shirt and trying to wear it with pride. I know the results haven’t been right, but on Saturday I'm pretty sure we'll take a great following and when they turn up they just need to be patient and hopefully we can give them something to cheer about at the end of the game.”

The full eight minute interview with AFC Wimbledon captain Barry Fuller and an interview with long-serving coach Simon Bassey are both available to Dons Player subscribers.

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