Neal Ardley said that Wimbledon had to come through a tough test against Premier League quality yesterday and he was delighted with the way his new players acquitted themselves.
With Cody McDonald striking twice in the 3-2 win against Watford and Kwesi Appiah almost adding to the haul during his cameo, there was a lot to be pleased about going forward, but the manager was quick to salute the contributions of keeper George Long and defender Deji Oshilaja.
In an interview for our iFollow channel, Neal said "We had to work hard to get 'Longy' in and if he has not endeared himself to our fans now, then he never will. "I thought he was outstanding. Deji is Deji and he is a class defender. People look at his height and say he cannot play centre-back, but I disagree. He can make up for that with his qualities.
"It was great for Cody to get his goals because you bring in strikers and they want to score. That is what Cody is, he attacks things in the box. Lyle Taylor has been exceptional all pre-season, his assist for Cody's first goal was exceptional, and 'Barchy' did brilliantly for his second. Kwesi could have got on the scoresheet too and I expected him to when he went through. Kwesi is now trying to get into the fold because he missed the first few weeks of pre-season due to the amount of games he had played in Norway. There is loads more to come from them all. We have Jimmy and Tom Soares to come in too so there is loads of positives."
Speaking about beating Premier League opposition and the impact of match-winner Alfie Egan, Neal said: "It's important to win games and I don't ever just dress friendlies up as getting fitness into the legs. If you look at all of our games on paper, none of them are easy. Obviously, we were disappointed not to have the game last week, but we made the best of that situation. For this to be our first friendly was great. They caused us problems in the first-half and we did not get a lot of the things right that we had been working on, but our centre backs defended well and 'Longy' made save after save – we managed to hang on in there. In the second-half we got a lot of things right.
"I would have been disappointed if we had not been competitive, if we had lost by three or four. I always feel that we can tactically be ready for these games against good teams. The way they move the ball and pull you about, it is quality, and you can see why the Premier League is such a top league. We withstood a lot of that and we scored really good goals. When we get things right that we had been working on, it shows, and hopefully the players can take confidence from that.
"If you want somebody to chip in with a goal, it is nice to see a young player (Alfie Egan) do that. Alfie has a knack of doing it, he does it in training all the time. He arrives in the box and the ball seems to fall at his feet. It is great that he did it and he took the goal well. Alfie, Anthony Hartigan, and Toby Sibbick have really stood out in pre-season. If they carry on doing that, we are not going to be afraid to use them."
Full post-match reaction from Neal, in which he also talks about strengthening the squad, is on iFollow. Watch out soon for an exclusive interview with new signing Jimmy Abdou.