By Chris Slavin
Neal Ardley summed up his joy with today’s victory against Charlton after he guided AFC Wimbledon into the third round of the Emirates FA Cup.
Two-goal Lyle Taylor and Cody McDonald earned the headlines with their clinical finishes downing Charlton, but Neal was quick to pay tribute to an overall team display that proved too much for a League One side chasing promotion.
“For a club like us, it is wonderful to be in the third round,” Neal told iFollow. “It is everything I want to achieve and I think it’s the third time we’ve achieved it. It would be great to get into round four, but at the same time I would also like to pit ourselves against a big team away from home: to get some money into the pot and have a right go at that as well. We will see what it brings. There are no easy games in the cup, but we are delighted to be there.
“Simon Bassey and Coxy had watched Charlton on Tuesday night and we had talked over how we wanted to go about the game. We just said, ‘we are at home, it is a big London derby, to get into the third round of the FA Cup, so let’s have a crack at it’. If we had lost, we could say that we went all out to win the game. I thought Charlton were the same, they did not want a replay too, and it ended up a really entertaining game.
“We worked really hard on Friday and Saturday on team shape and the focus of the boys was immense. The boys executed the plan really well. Cody and Lyle will get the credit for taking their goals and forwards should do, but we had unsung heroes out there too. Harry Forrester had to play more of a midfield role than he normally does, Tom Soares had to do a job sitting in front of our back four and these are the things that go unnoticed. Our back four had to stay firm because they’ve got players like Mark Marshall, Josh Magennis and Ricky Holmes. In the second-half I thought we nullified them, while going forward better ourselves.”
Neal praised George Long for pulling off a fantastic second-half save, at a time when the game was in the balance at 1-1. At the other end, Taylor and McDonald combined brilliantly and Neal was particularly pleased with the teamwork that executed the crucial second goal.
“George makes those saves every day in training,” added Neal. “It does not surprise me, he is hard to beat, and he is a wonderful keeper. We are lucky to have him. It was a wonderful save and these are moments that change games. Lyle took his chances and George made that save.
“The forwards have run hard with their pressing and intensity without the ball. We always say that if you are going to play two up front, then you have to make sure that the team does not suffer. We got a lot of quality into good areas and our two forwards capitalised. For the second goal, Cody did all the great work: he shimmied inside and most people would go for the shot, but he composed himself and then saw Lyle in a better position. That’s the thing I like about the performance and they both deserve plaudits for it.”
The full interview with Neal is now on iFollow.