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Neal delighted with squad

13 February 2016

Manager's reaction after emphatic win v Luton

Neal Ardley said he is delighted with the options in his squad after Wimbledon brushed aside Luton Town today.

Wimbledon had to do without experienced centre-back Karleigh Osborne due to injury with 18-year-old Ryan Sweeney filling in and Jake Reeves had to depart injured after just 20 minutes, Sean Rigg scoring after his introduction.

Speaking during an interview with Rob Cornell for Dons Player, Neal said: “We are just trying to keep all the players happy. Players have come in and dropped out and they are all massive to us. I’ve told them that time and time again. Ryan has come in today and done really well and it’s been the same with David Fitzpatrick, Sean Rigg and Callum Kennedy in recent weeks. This is vitally important. With all these games we have coming up we’re all looking forward to them. We can pick any two of the four up front and I don’t think it weakens us.

“With the system we’ve got with our Under-21s they train with the first-team regularly and that makes the transition quite easy. Last season when Will Nightingale came in he had been training with the lads for three or four months, marking Bayo and the other strikers in training, and Ryan has been doing the same. When you are marking those types of forwards every day in training you can only get better. I’ve no doubts that Ryan is ready, but you have to look at it sensibly. With seven games in three weeks and maybe only two fit centre-backs – one of those an 18-year-old – we may have to strengthen.”

Neal felt it was far from a complete performance against Luton today and he believed that the return of Dannie Bulman in midfield after injury was pivotal.

“I am hard to please and it was not a perfect performance,” added Neal. “I thought we gave them a little bit too much possession, particularly in the first-half. We did some work on that in training. The distances between the units became a little bit too big, particularly between the midfield and forwards. They were able to knock it around at the back, find their midfielders, and dictate a bit of the play, even though we were firm and they never looked like scoring. We wanted to get on the front foot because we were the home team, but then we got two goals in quick succession.

“Alan Reeves had said to me that Ryan would get on the end of a set-piece because he had been doing it for the Under-21s and then Lyle Taylor is trying to claim a header because he’s always getting stick from me about that! It was important to go in 2-0 up at half-time, which we did. That made the half-time team talk easier.”

“Dannie is unbelievable because he’s been out for two-and-half weeks with a hamstring injury. He is 37 years of age, but with four minutes to go he is running beyond Bayo to get on the end of an attack. He’s a brilliant lad and is great to have around the place. People underestimate how good a player George Francomb is. I know every now and then he does not get his set pieces right and there are moans and groans, but he can fill in at right-back and does not look out of place. He can also go into central midfield and does a good job for the team.”

 Neal confirmed afterwards that Karleigh Osborne (knee) and Connor Smith (concussion) missed out after suffering injuries on the training ground and Jake Reeves came off with a thigh injury. 


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