You can play a big part says the manager
Neal Ardley has called on AFC Wimbledon supporters to play a “massive” part in helping the team mount a play-off push during the final 21 games.
Speaking to Dons Player ahead of Wimbledon’s first home game of 2016 against Mansfield, Neal talked passionately about driving the club forward during the rest of this year.
“The hardest part for me is expectation at times,” said Neal. “When you have a better team and get yourself into the top half of the table there will be a few teams below you that you are expected to beat. Sometimes they are the hardest games to play. Mansfield are higher than us, but our home form needs to be better and we know that. The players have to deliver.
“It would be great if we could summon up that feeling we had against Bristol Rovers after we had ‘Robbo’ sent off just four minutes in. The expectation from the fans died a bit at that point as far as what we could get out of the game, but then they cheered everything that went on. They carried us to a really good performance. We have to do our bit – we know that – but it would be good to harness that atmosphere.
“We need a strong finish in the last 21 games of the season if we want to get to the promised land of the top-seven. There are some good teams up there and they already have a head start on us. We are going to need our home form to be better and our away form to continue so the fans can play a massive part.”
Neal added that he will check on the fitness of a couple of players in his squad ahead of the game and the Wimbledon manager said that winger David Fitzpatrick is pushing for game-time after an impressive spell.
“We have a couple of players with niggles and they are doubts for Saturday,” Neal said. “There is one player in particular who we are not sure will be able to make it. Other than that, we will be all right. The hardest part for me is keeping their mentality right because we had built up a real momentum over the Christmas period.
“Every time we have had a setback we have bounced back, for example against Stevenage and Morecambe. We need to keep that going and have a strong finish. Hopefully, it will be a case of ‘go on lads, on you go ,and don’t change anything you are doing’. We want to continue our good run of form.
“David has put himself in and around the squad now. His attitude since he came back from his loan has been fantastic. The disappointing thing for me, not just with our young players, but all young players, is that they want things to be handed to them on a plate. Everything has to start with hard work and graft. If you are up against first-team players in training you have to work as hard as them, if not harder. Then you have to make your ability shine and take in information needed for the team. ‘Fitzy’ has grasped that lately.
“As a manager you need to be able to trust them and know that they are not going to cost you when you send them over the line. ‘Fitzy’ is certainly showing that in training every day and in U-21 games. He has given himself a chance, but we need to make sure it is not just a flash in the pan and that he has got it for good.”
The full nine-minute interview with Neal Ardley is on Dons Player, along with interviews with George Francomb and James Shea.