Your stand-out matches from the manager's four years so far
To mark the four-year anniversary of Neal Ardley’s appointment, we asked on social media for your favourite matches of his reign.
We run through the games that mattered below with post-match quotes from the manager and there’s one or two familiar pictures from throughout the years above!
Gillingham 2-2 AFC Wimbledon (20 April 2013)
At half-time of this match, it was starting to look a forlorn hope that Wimbledon would stay in the Football League. With other results conspiring against the Dons and Neal Ardley’s men 2-0 down against the eventual Champions, the odds looked stacked against survival. However, goals from Jack Midson and Jon Meades changed all that and Gary Alexander agonisingly struck a post with time running out.
Neal said: “To come back from 2-0 down at the home of the Champions, is a fantastic achievement. That point could be crucial for us because it is still in our own hands now for the last game of the season. Hopefully, after the last game against Exeter the boys will believe they can stay up.”
AFC Wimbledon 2-1 Fleetwood (27 April 2013)
One of the longest weeks in football for club staff and fans alike concluded in relief and euphoria combined as Wimbledon ensured Football League survival on the last day. When Andy Mangan cancelled out Gary Alexander’s opener, it looked bleak for Wimbledon, but Curtis Osano was brought down in the area and Jack Midson kept his cool from 12 yards to spark jubilant scenes at the final whistle.
Neal said: “Hopefully I do go on and have a good managerial career, but I think it would have to be something spectacular to better this. To turn it around and help a club that I hold so dear to my heart to stay up is unbelievable.”
Rochdale 1-2 AFC Wimbledon (2 November 2013)
A late goal from Andy Frampton won it for Wimbledon, but that only told half the story as the players were forced to come off during the second-half due to floodlight failure. It was 1-1 when darkness descended due to a bolt of lightning, but when the two teams returned Wimbledon secured a first league victory in six weeks.
Neal said: “I think that we are going to be stronger for the past month that we have had. During the past week in training I have seen a group of players that are trying to put actions into place. They do care and they do not like losing.”
AFC Wimbledon 4-0 Portsmouth (16 November 2013)
A demonstration of clinical finishing earned an emphatic Dons victory against a club who had been FA Cup winners just five years earlier.
Andy Frampton's double put Wimbledon in control, before a wonderful volley from Sammy Moore, and Michael Smith put the icing on the cake near the end. To put the achievement in perspective, Wimbledon had just got promoted from the Ryman League in 2008 when Pompey won the FA Cup.
Simon Bassey said: “We have worked really hard in the last three weeks on the training ground. We have put a lot of hours in on our shape and being resilient. I think we have seen that the team has been really committed since the Oxford game. Coventry was an excellent performance last week, even though we lost the game. Today we have seen the end result of all our hard work.”
Milton Keynes 2-3 AFC Wimbledon (7 October 2014)
Victory at the third time of asking against Milton Keynes came in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, thanks to a winner from Bayo Akinfenwa. The Dons had earlier twice equalised through Ade Azeez and Sean Rigg.
Neal said: “It means everything to me and I was emotional at the end because it’s such a big deal. I don’t think it’s quite as big as the Fleetwood match and staying up because of all the pressure and the months of hard work we had put in, but it’s up there.”
AFC Wimbledon 1-2 Liverpool (5 January 2015)
The Dons threatened an FA Cup shock when Bayo Akinfenwa cancelled out Steven Gerrard’s early opener. Though Gerrard won it for Liverpool with a sublime free-kick, it was a proud night in front of the BBC cameras for AFC Wimbledon against a side that almost won the Premier League eight months earlier.
Neal said: I’m really disappointed and I think the players should be too. They should be proud of their performance, but this was a chance for us. If we had that bit more quality and nous we could have got something out of the game. Ultimately, at this level world class players make a difference and he (Steven Gerrard) certainly did tonight."
AFC Wimbledon 2-1 York City (19 March 2016)
Certainly not the most entertaining of games, but what a finish! Jake Reeves struck arguably Wimbledon’s goal of the season in injury-time and it provided a big lift to hopes of making the play-offs.
Neal said: “It was immense. You need those moments and we have had enough bad moments that have changed games against us this season, but that was a great one. Today, Jake has popped up with a great moment, let’s hope it is a moment we look back on that changed the course of the season.”
Accrington Stanley 2-2 AFC Wimbledon (18 May 2016)
Accrington marched into a 2-0 lead on the night to go ahead on aggregate after Tom Beere’s first leg winner. However, Bayo Akinfenwa’s header forced extra-time and Lyle Taylor struck to earn a place at Wembley. Floodlight failure threatened to put a dampener on it, but the lights came back on and Wimbledon marched to within 90 minutes of glory.
Neal said: “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?”
AFC Wimbledon 2-0 Plymouth Argyle (30 May 2016)
Goals from Lyle Taylor and Bayo Akinfenwa secured promotion for Wimbledon on a joyful day under the Wembley Arch. It was AFC Wimbledon’s sixth promotion in 14 years since reformation and no one was prouder than the man who came through the Dons academy ranks.
Neal said: “To stand there at the end in front of over 20,000 Wimbledon fans when you know it is your club and you joined at the age of 11, it does not get any better in life than that. People here have ploughed their hearts and souls into this club for 14 years and for me to play a small part in giving them a day like this makes me so proud.”
Oxford United 1-3 AFC Wimbledon.Fans did not select one for this season so far, but the editor’s choice is
After so many painful defeats over the years, victory at the 13th time of asking was well worth waiting for!