By Chris Slavin
Neal Ardley believes the current squad are showing positive signs for future improvement, but he is realistic in his expectations for this season.
During his interview for iFollow ahead of the Charlton game, Neal was asked about continuing to push the club forward after making progress in each season since he took over.
"That is all I've tried to do after walking through the door five years ago," said Neal. "Sometimes when you go from being in a league where you were in the bottom half of the budget table to a league where you are in the bottom six, you have to accept that there is not going to be all good times. This league is tougher than it was last season, but it is a 46-game season and we are a third of the way through – we are chipping away. There is real doom and gloom from a lot of people, but you talk to people outside the club and they say, 'where else should Wimbledon be?' You can sometimes get wrapped up in things.
"The boys are honest, they are giving everything they can, but we are a little bit light with some of our attacking options, due to injuries and niggles. We can only chip away until those boys come back and give us different options to attack teams. At the moment, we are very competitive. For a team in that bottom six of the budget we've not had too many wallopings or games when we've been out-classed. We are very competitive and we will continue to be so."
Wimbledon's goals against column has certainly offered encouragement in recent weeks and Neal said that the staff are working hard to instil confidence at the other end of the pitch.
"Defensively, the boys have done great," added Neal. "Apparently, I'm meant to be showing Will (Nightingale) a video nasty for dribbling out from the back, which is not what happened! We work with them, try to improve them, and we make sure that we defend from the front. Everyone plays their role. Whoever has come in at the back this season, they have done really well. We got some stats back from the league, which we collected prior to the Northampton game and it said that we were one of the top teams defensively for limiting chances against us and attempts on our goal.
"We are just trying to take that positive into something going forward and hopefully that will carry us where we want to go. I think there are positives. A lot of the work we are doing has got positives to it. We are certainly playing a lot more football than we did last season and we are getting into a lot better areas, but the goals need to flow. We will continue to work hard on that. We need to get the confidence into the boys, they need to feel it, but there is lots of good stuff. We need to get those players feeling good about themselves and hopefully we will get more goals.
"We got stats through for the season on clear-cut chances and we've created 76 so far with 54 against us for the opposition. That is quite a big disparity for the amount of games we've played. I think we've scored 18 goals in all competitions and conceded 25, so the opposition have just been more ruthless. We keep working really hard with the boys to get into the positions. We commit our full-backs forward whenever we can, we like our forwards – whether it's one, two, or three – to get into the box. If we keep doing that, it will turn, if we can get that confidence into the group."
Full interviews with Neal and Jimmy Abdou are now on our iFollow channel.