Manager's update ahead of key away clash
George Francomb is doubtful to be included in AFC Wimbledon’s squad for tomorrow night’s game at Bristol Rovers.
The 24-year-old wide-man had to be withdrawn with a thigh injury in Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Accrington Stanley.
Speaking during his update for Dons Player, Neal Ardley reported no other injury concerns ahead of the trip to the Memorial Stadium, which pitches together sixth versus seventh in League 2.
“George is a doubt as nasty dead legs can be hard to get rid of,” said Neal. “As far as I’m aware, everyone else is available for selection. They’ve all trained today, which is important to get their legs back, and their recovery strategies have been put in place with ice baths and protein shakes. By the time of the game tomorrow they will be raring to go. The idea is that Bristol Rovers will have to perform to their best to get anything from the game.”
During the interview with WDON’s Rob Cornell, Neal recalled that a battling 0-0 draw against Rovers on Boxing Day – achieved with 10 men for 86 minutes – started a brilliant run that resulted in Wimbledon climbing the table.
However, Neal is expecting a very tough game tomorrow against a Rovers side unbeaten in seven successive home matches.
“Everybody got behind the team on that day and it was one of those games when you don’t know if the sending off cost us,” Neal said. “It’s hard to say if we would have gone on and won the game with 11 men. Hopefully, there will be 11 versus 11 tomorrow and we can come away with the points. It’s a tough place to go and their home form has been outstanding recently.
“They are a good team and their manager (Darrell Clarke) has done brilliantly. When he took over towards the end of the season they got relegated he could not steady a sinking ship and they didn't start the following season well. People did not really want him there then, but he has shown a real strength of character and that’s a credit to him. He has turned them around.”
Neal added that it’s tough to get the balance right between retaining stability in his side and giving other players opportunities during a packed schedule of matches.
“It is really hard,” said Neal. “You look at one or two players and wonder if they are close to cumulative fatigue. You have to decide if that’s going to play a part and to trust players in the squad, but you have to look at what games you bring them in for. If you keep playing the same team one or two could pick-up injuries further down the line through muscle strains and I would really regret that.
“We have 12 games left and they are all going to be difficult in their own way. I had a points total in my own head before the Barnet game that I wanted us to get by the time we got to Morecambe. It was a target I thought we would need to keep us right in there. I will not say what that is, but we’ve got two more games to accumulate it.
“You need to get to 72 points to have a chance of being in the play-offs, but we do need to take each game on merit. Away to Bristol Rovers is going to be totally different to Morecambe away and York at home. We just need to find a way in each of these games to give ourselves the best chance.”
The full update from Neal Ardley is now on Dons Player, along with an interview with Jake Reeves.