Manager's reaction after thrilling victory
An emotional Neal Ardley saluted the team spirit and work-rate that swept Wimbledon to Wembley, but he was quick to set his sights on achieving the ultimate aim of promotion.
Speaking during an interview for Dons Player, Neal reflected on coming through tough times during his Wimbledon reign to earn a chance of success.
“We have been through some sticky spells in the last two or three years, including keeping us up on the last day,” Neal said. “We have tried to progress from there and put a team in front of the fans that can do this for them. To take us there is one thing, but to put a team together that can hopefully get promotion is another thing. The fans were immense and it felt like a home game, they did not stop singing.
“There is a great spirit around the place. Since Christmas the bond between the first-team, our club, and the fans has been immense. There is a real connection there at the moment and the best in my time. Can we finish the job?
“It is a dream come true for a lot of people to have that occasion. Now we are there we have to get our heads right because we want to try and win a game of football to achieve promotion. We will give the players some down time and we will prepare next week. It’s going to be a really tough game against a team that were outstanding in the semi-final.
“As much as playing at Wembley, I dreamed as a kid of leading a team out at Wembley. I always wanted to be a manager and it is one on my bucket list to do this, which was why I was fairly emotional.”
Neal felt that Wimbledon’s fitness gave his squad the edge in a tie that could have gone either way.
“It was a performance that was full of character and grit,” added Neal. “I give huge credit to Accrington, we knew they would come at us. They got the first goal and the second one was fantastic. At that point we felt we needed to change something because they had so much momentum. We knew the lads would finish the game strongly as their fitness levels are so good.
“We went with three up front to be brave and got Bayo’s goal after wonderful work from Barry Fuller. Bayo’s goal was typical of him and it put the tie in the balance. I just felt with our energy that if we kept on driving forward we could go on and achieve what we wanted to achieve. Jake Reeves can run all day and what he did for the second goal was immense.”
The full interview with Neal Ardley is now on Dons Player and more reaction will follow later today.