Neal Ardley was full of praise for his squad after Wimbledon pushed Brentford all the way in the Carabao Cup.
The Championship team needed extra-time to finally defeat the Dons after Paul Robinson’s goal had threatened an upset.
“I am proud of the boys,” said Neal. “I know we wanted to get through to the next round of the cup and we haven’t, but I was proud of the effort we put in against a very good team. To have the squad we’ve got with the players we’ve brought in this summer, we are delighted with that. Some of the football we played was good, but this was more about defending, resilience, and work-rate, with all of our work off the ball. It is disappointing that in the first week of the season we have to go into extra-time. The players are not ready for that, either our team or theirs.
“In the first-half we got caught a little bit chasing the game. They popped it around us and pinned us back in. We wanted to press high, but we got it a little bit wrong. We got our noses in front from a well-worked corner and then at half-time we tweaked it a little bit. We looked a bit more assured. As always in football, there are key moments in a game and the world-class double save from Cody McDonald to stop us going 2-0 up was important. They have then scored a great goal to make it 1-1. We had another great moment when we had a shot cleared off the line. I think we needed that for something to cling onto.
“At 1-1, they were patient, their possession told, and we had worked so hard to limit them that when it got to extra-time they were always going to start finding the holes. Even then, they had to score some really good goals. They are a good team with a very good manager. There are a lot of positives for them, but also for us because we gave them a right good game.”
Anthony Hartigan impressed on his competitive debut for the first-team and Neal added the young midfielder deserves to be a part of his squad.
“I was delighted with him in pre-season,” said Neal. “He deserves to be where he is and it’s nice that we are playing a 17-year-old in the first-team. I thought he was excellent. I think every muscle in his body had cramped up at the end, like it had for most of them. We are now at a disadvantage going into Saturday. It’s too early in the season for the players to be playing extra-time. We now need to freshen it up and get the right players on the pitch to do a job on Saturday.”
Watch out later on today for an interview on our iFollow channel with Anthony Hartigan.