Manager's update ahead of play-off first leg
Neal Ardley says that there is a “great atmosphere” among the squad as his players prepare for their biggest game this season on Saturday.
In his Thursday update for Dons Player, Neal said that there are a couple of injury doubts for the game against Accrington Stanley, but Connor Smith returned to full training today after the neck injury that caused him to be stretchered off against Newport on Saturday.
And Neal senses a positive mood about the tough challenges that lie ahead against an Accrington side who came so close to automatic promotion.
“Preparations have gone well with the training and atmosphere among the boys,” said Neal. “The atmosphere is great, even with the players who think they may not be starting. There is no sulking, everyone gets on and is pushing for the team. There were some real positives last week, particularly getting that edge back for one or two was great. We know that we have five very good centre forwards at this club. We can call on any one of them at any time in these next two games and they could be the difference.
“I’ve been trying to put together a team like this for a couple of years and it has been hard. We’ve had a better budget this season and we’ve tried to spend it wisely. We had a big meeting in the summer with all the staff to try and see what promotion looked like and what we thought we needed. We worked really hard to try and put that together.
“The first-half of the season was inconsistent, but in the second-half of the season we got 45 points out of 23 games, which was strong. That showed real progress. We are just trying to give enough focus to the game, without killing the boys with it every minute of the day.”
Speaking about the availability of players for the game on Saturday, Neal added: “We have a couple of players with niggles, who are possible doubts, but we kind of knew about those earlier in the week so there is no change. Connor has gone through the process on Tuesday and Wednesday and he trained today.
"Stuart Douglas said Connor could train today, but not do heading, and Connor does not really do that anyway! We had a bit of fun with him about that, but he has joined in and we fully expect him to be in the squad.”
The full six-minute update from Neal Ardley is now on Dons Player and an interview with Darius Charles will follow tomorrow.