Boost for Dons ahead of crucial game on Saturday
Neal Ardley will be able to call on Paul Robinson’s experience for a vital match at play-off rivals Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday.
The centre-back returns to the squad after recovering from a thigh injury that kept him out of the defeat at Hartlepool United, but Saturday is likely to come too soon for midfielder Connor Smith, who joined in full training for the first time today after three weeks out.
Speaking during an in-depth interview for Dons Player, Neal Ardley said: “Paul would have been fit for the Portsmouth game and he was in the squad. Connor has just come back into training today after two or three weeks of running work. Connor will probably not be ready for this game and it’s likely he will play next week for the Under-21s. The rest of it is competitive and when he does come back we will have a problem fitting everyone into the squad.”
Competition for places is certainly fierce in attacking positions, but Neal added that he’s likely to include all five strikers in his squad once again, particularly as Wycombe have conceded just two goals in five games.
“All five strikers were in the squad for the last game and they will be (on Saturday),” said Neal. “You need to have game-changers with players on the bench who give you something different to the ones on the pitch. All five have got different qualities. We will decide how we go about the game. I think the pitch looks better there than it has been in previous years. It looks in good nick and it’s a narrow pitch. We have to find a way to cope with what Wycombe do and influence them with our game.”
Last season over 1,000 Wimbledon supporters roared on the Dons to a memorable FA Cup victory at Adams Park to set-up a third round tie against Liverpool. Neal believes that such backing made a difference on the day, but he is under no illusions that Saturday will be another tough test against a Wycombe side once again in the play-off zone.
“The cup game there last season was fantastic and the atmosphere on that Sunday was brilliant,” Neal recalled. “But I also remember earlier that season they did a proper number on us and we hardly got a kick in the game. They won 2-0 and thoroughly deserved it and earlier this season it was a difficult game, but we nicked one late to get an equaliser.
“They have not conceded so few goals by chance and they are not where they are in the table by chance. We know that we have to demand from each other and we have to put in an extremely high level of performance to get anything from the game. The performances from us have not been bad.
“We have been doing a lot of good things in games, but we have been punished for the not so good things. That was not case when we had our spell of winning seven games out of eight. We were punishing teams then and not getting punished.
“We are capable on our day of winning all our remaining games, but we have to earn the right to do that. No games are easy and Wycombe are not in the top-seven by luck. Anyone who can master the way that they play with their team ethic has to perform to a high standard.”
The full update from Neal Ardley is now on Dons Player, along with an interview with Paul Robinson.