Manager looks ahead to clash against Oxford United
Neal Ardley says that any pressure to stay in the promotion race is not as great as battling for survival and he aims to enjoy the challenge.
It’s fifth versus third on Saturday as Oxford visit the Cherry Red Records Stadium and that situation is a far cry from this stage three years ago when the Dons were in a desperate relegation battle that ultimately proved successful on the final day.
Speaking during an interview for Dons Player, Neal Ardley said: “It’s a lot nicer I can assure you! Someone once said to me that the pressure at the bottom and the pressure at the top are different. People at the bottom lose their jobs and the club goes to places that they don’t want to go to. If it’s at the top and you just fall short, then it is not as dramatic.
“We had to dig deep that year (to survive) and this year we are going to have to dig deep, but with smiles on our faces hopefully. All I can focus on is sending out a really strong and fit group of boys, which they are, for the game and they will be giving everything. That is all any of us can ask for.”
Though the Dons have a less than favourable record against Oxford, Neal believes he has a much better squad that previous seasons.
“Sometimes you get bogey teams, but it has to come to an end at some point,” added Neal. “Maybe in the last two or three years we’ve not had the squad to do it. Oxford are really good. I watched their game against Exeter and after a couple of bad results they were really up for it. They were excellent. If you put together the fact that they are a good team and the form that we are in, it’s going to be an exciting game.
“They have performed well in the week, but we have been scoring goals. We struggled a little bit during the week, but we came through it. It’s hard to know what to expect, but you get a feel for the game in the first 10 minutes. We will be going out as we always do and trying to play our game really well, but be aware of their strengths. I’m sure their manager will be doing exactly the same. Whether we end up cancelling each other out or it’s a free-flowing game I am not sure.
“The mood (in our squad) is great as you would expect it to be. Footballers will always find something to moan about, but we are trying not to give them anything to moan about! Jason Moriarty, Stuart Douglas and the medical team are working very hard on recovery strategies. It’s every extra one per cent we can get. We are just trying to keep them happy and keep them fresh. The boys who played were very tired today and the others have done a nice, intense session.
“Tomorrow we will get to work on being ready for the game. Training is very limited in this period and we will get the message across in every way we can about how we are going to tackle the games. That may be with video analysis or walk-through stuff, but we will be ready for the game I assure you of that.”
The full six-minute update from Neal Ardley is now on Dons Player and an interview with Dannie Bulman on facing his former club will be on our premium channel tomorrow.