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Neal: a sign of progress

7 May 2016

Manager delighted with manner of victory

Neal Ardley felt that today’s victory with a much-changed starting line-up showed the progress that has been made by AFC Wimbledon this season.

Despite making eight changes with a play-off semi-final against Accrington coming up next Saturday, Wimbledon proved too strong for Newport County with 18-year-old substitute Toyosi Olusanya (pictured scoring the penalty) netting the winner.

Speaking during an interview for Dons Player, Neal Ardley said: “I thought it was a strong team. The two full-backs are good, the two young centre backs have played for the first-team and they are good enough to play. The goalkeeper was a number one and in midfield we looked strong with Connor, Jake and ‘Fitzy’. Up front the three we had up there could get in most teams. If we have left eight out and got that it’s a sign of how far we’ve come. I am delighted with the result and a total of 75 points is not to be sniffed at.

“You always want to win and you always want to go out on a high. We really drilled it into the boys that started not to turn it into a lacklustre performance and to make sure they were at it. There was so much to play for. We wanted to keep the momentum for the team going forward, keep our form going, and get a real edge into their game. It was tough, but I thought there were some real positives coming out of the game today.”

Neal saluted Bayo Akinfenwa for his man of the match display and his unselfish gesture when he offered substitute Toyosi Olusanya a chance to mark his debut with the winning goal from the penalty spot.

“What sums up this club and the man is the gesture from Bayo today,” added Neal. “To go and grab that ball and make sure the lad had an opportunity to score on his debut was immense from Bayo. Toyosi is a talent and now he has got to go on and get better next season. He still has bits to learn. It was the right time to put him on as Rhys was struggling with cramp and we needed legs up there.

“It was as good as Bayo has played all season. He was unplayable and it’s great to see him in that sort of form. Bayo has been brilliant around the dressing room and around the boys, he has almost been helping me like a member of staff with his attitude. Today he was immense and they could not handle him. I thought James Shea was outstanding and he was the player who we thought was one of the best goalkeepers in the league last season. It is tough being number two when you have been number one, but he put in a really good performance.”

Neal said it was too early to assess the extent of Connor Smith’s neck injury after a first-half incident that resulted in him being stretchered off, but he praised the medical treatment he received.

“Connor had to go straight to hospital, but the good news is that he was not concussed,” said Neal. “The bad news was that it was his neck and he could really feel it. The doctor and Rhiannon Luke handled it well. Stuart Douglas was ill so we had to keep him away today, but I thought it was brilliant the way they handled it. All we can hope for after the tests they do is that there is no sign of any bad damage and the lad comes back in next week with a little bit of stiffness, ready to be in the squad.”

All at AFC Wimbledon wish Connor well in his recovery and we hope to see him back in a Dons shirt soon.

 The full interview with Neal Ardley, including the manager’s thoughts on facing Accrington Stanley in the play-offs, is now on Dons Player. 

Picture credit: Stuart Butcher, Pro Sports Images.

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