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Neal praises character shown in second-half fightback

Manager's reaction after draw in Kent

30 December 2017

Neal Ardley was pleased with the battling qualities shown by Wimbledon in today’s 2-2 draw at Gillingham.

Speaking during his post-match interview, Neal said: “The spirit was excellent and the energy was good. On a difficult pitch in difficult conditions, I thought we did everything we needed to. We had chances to score and we limited them to not too much. Obviously, we are disappointed with the manner of their two goals because we defended well for most parts. The own goal is unfortunate, it could have gone anywhere, but it happened to go in the one place George could not get it. That’s the way luck goes sometimes. The second goal we are most disappointed with. We work hard on set-pieces, we know how important they are, but we scored from a set-piece to get ourselves back into it.

“We’ve not picked up enough points when we’ve gone behind, but we’ve shown real character today and that’s positive. Sometimes our game management has not been great, we’ve let ourselves down with defending set-pieces and stuff like that. They do care, they are trying, and they are giving it everything. I know this club well; all these fans ask for is that the players wear the shirt with pride and have a good go. They did that today. We certainly did not deserve to lose today. It was a tough place to come and at the moment they are in reasonable form. It is a point and that’s four points in the last three games. It’s a 46-game season and we have a target to hit.”

Harry Forrester’s reintroduction after injury and suspension made a big difference today as he struck the all-important equaliser at Gillingham and Neal said he will really be needed in the coming weeks. With the manager having confirmed afterwards that Kwesi Appiah is still having problems putting a hamstring injury behind him, Neal welcomed Harry’s impressive return.

“He is talented, we know that,” added Neal. “Harry showed that today. He came on and scored the goal, we know what he can bring. We need to try and bolster our attacking options. Cody has been carrying a fractured fifth metatarsal for a while now and he has been getting on with it. George Long has a groin strain, Barry Fuller has done his ankle, so we are a little bit up against it. We’ve had bad news with Kwesi and he’s going to be out for a while. We need people like Harry and Barchy fit, but it’s hard because we are churning out the same players every game and sometimes that can accumulate fatigue.

“Kwesi has tried his hardest to come back a couple of times. The first time he injured himself and he’s tried again recently and it’s not been quite right. We’ve had a second scan on it and there seems to be a gap between the scar tissue and the tendon. It’s not like a normal hamstring injury, it’s quite a strange one, and I think a couple of players at Southampton had it. In the end, you need to have a bit of intervention, whether it’s an injection or surgery that’s needed. Unfortunately, we also have to look at the long-term with him. If he’s not quite right, we need to get him right. We will do our best, but in the meantime we need to add to Lyle and Cody to make our options stronger.”

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