By Rob Cornell
Goalkeeper George Long and captain Barry Fuller are both rated doubtful for tomorrow’s League One trip to Priestfield to face Gillingham.
Speaking ahead of the trip to Kent, Assistant Manager Neil Cox said: “Barry Fuller and George Long are both doubtful – ankle for Barry and groin for George. We’re hoping, fingers crossed for them, but it doesn’t look too bright.”
There is better news concerning Paul Robinson (back) and Harry Forrester (thigh) as Wimbledon look to end 2017 on a high, but Ghanaian international striker Kwesi Appiah isn’t ready to make a full return.
“Paul Robinson and Harry Forrester have come back into the squad, which is good news for everybody,” said Neil.
“We’re still waiting on Kwesi Appiah. There are still one or two little problems, so we don’t want to rush him back into action on heavy pitches and we have to be careful with him. The next five or six days we will know more of what is going on with Kwesi.
“It’s difficult to get him out to train when there’s nowhere to really get him out and train. It’s not ideal to get him out on a 3G pitch and the pitches have been so heavy – it’s just been a little bit of a setback.
The Dons are grateful to Championship club Fulham for helping them out this morning, when they needed facilities to train following the bad weather.
“We got in this morning and we knew the weather forecast wasn’t the greatest. We managed to speak to Fulham and they let us use their domes.
“We’ve had some time training over there, so we’d like to thank them. It’s much appreciated and if we can help them out in the future - we will do.
“It was a good session. It was indoors, it’s not a full pitch, but the boys worked hard and are raring to go in the last game before the New Year as we look to finish this year on a positive note.”
Neil knows Wimbledon face a tough game following Boxing Day’s 2-1 defeat at Portsmouth. Gillingham have found form ahead of the meeting and are also looking to pull away from the bottom of the table under Steve Lovell.
“We need to take it on,” said Neil. “We need to be positive in what we do. We need to be creative in our forward play, but we need to defend doggedly.
“It will be a difficult game. Gillingham are on a good run. They’ve taken seven points out of their last three league games. We need to start the game like we started when we played them at home – on the front foot, attacking and being positive and getting crosses into the box and really going for them.
“They’ll be organised, it looks like they are going to press. They play a formation with one up front and one in behind and we have to be wary of that. He’s got them really well organised.”
Defender Deji Oshilaja and striker Cody McDonald both made the switch from Gillingham to Wimbledon in the summer and Neil praised their impact on the side, ahead of the duo’s return to Priestfield.
“Cody has come into form. He’s played really well. Not only has he scored some goals, but he’s played well for the team. He’s forging a partnership with Lyle and he was unlucky not to score early on the other day.
“Deji has done really well. He’s played in three or four positions for us and he’s now settling down in a three and looking the good player we always thought he would be.”
Neil is also looking for the Dons home grown talent to step up and make their mark in 2018.
“Hopefully a few more of our young boys get into the side and push our first team players. Anthony Hartigan , Toby Sibbick and Paul Kalambayi are all coming up and they need to start pushing our first team players, They’ve had time to settle in and hopefully next year they get first team appearances.
“There are not really any highlights that stand out this year. It’s been a season of ups and downs so far, but there have been a lot of positives.
“There’s one or two things we haven’t done as good as we thought, but at the end of it we want to get this year out of the way. We want to get three points on Saturday and look forward to next year on a positive note and going forward.”
Pic: George Long (Pro Sports Images).