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Neal on defeat to Rovers

31 December 2016

Manager's post-match reaction

Neal Ardley said his side lacked quality on the ball today and they were beaten by the better team at Bristol Rovers.

During an interview for Dons Player, Neal said that the standard of performances from AFC Wimbledon had fallen in recent weeks and today’s display summed that up.

“I think it has been coming,” said Neal. “As staff, we work hard during the week to get the right players in the right formation with a game plan, but we have come up short today. We were big and physical, but we did not look like that today.

“In the last month we have stuttered a little bit in our form. We’ve got away with it in some games, but in matches when the opposition have been strong and in good form, we’ve struggled. Southend showed that and I thought the best team won today. We were at full stretch trying to contain them. We had a few fleeting moments in the first-half with half chances, but other than that we were working really hard to keep them out.

“Their home record has been exceptional in the last 18 months and you could see why today. They had us at full stretch; they were brave, played a front four with men wide at times, and we had to dig in to stay in the game. The big thing today was that our quality with the ball was poor. Against teams who have played a really good intensity and been physical, we’ve struggled.

“When everyone was lavishing praise on us earlier in the season I said that there would be a blip because of the quality of the teams in this league. We have to get our form back, find our mojo, or whatever it is back. Players have to take their responsibility as well. I cannot magic anything up, other than to graft on the pitch and get them doing what they were doing earlier in the season.”

Neal felt that a 4-4-2 was the best way to line-up against Rovers with Lyle Taylor out suspended.

“For this game, it was the strongest team I could possibly put out,” added Neal. “We wanted to play 4-4-2 with the players best suited to that. Tyrone Barnett has been in really good form, scoring goals, and working hard. We lost Lyle and that was out of our hands. If we had tried to fit Dean into the system we would have been playing him out of position. ‘Barchy’ has looked sharp in training so we went with players who we knew could play the system. Now we have to look at the players who can play on Monday.”

Full post-match reaction from Neal is on Dons Player and extended highlights of the Bristol Rovers game will follow tomorrow.

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