By Chris Slavin
Neal Ardley praised the response from his players after AFC Wimbledon’s hard-fought victory at Northampton today.
Speaking during his post-match interview, Neal talked about the importance of the squad and coaching staff putting a tough time behind them.
“It meant a lot,” said Neal. “There was a lot of hurt after the Oxford game and you carry it with you. It is hard to smile and it’s hard to have that bubbliness about you. The fans feel it, but so too do the coaching staff. You feel it immensely, but you cannot mope about. You have to try and pick up a group of boys. The players worked really hard during the week and we talked today about what we needed to do to get a response. After last week, with their result too, it was always going to be a very cagey game between two teams lacking a bit of confidence and both wanting to bounce back after bad defeats.
“We knew it was going to be tight game, but we tried to put players on the pitch who might just take that chance when it came around and it was great that Harry managed to do that. I always back the players when they play well because you cannot always win games of football, but they knew I was hurt last week and I think they were hurt too. They have managed to turn hurt into a gritty, determined performance. We said beforehand that if we were going to win, it was probably going to be 1-0. We had to see our jobs through and do everything we could to win the game. We managed to take that chance and we limited them to very little.
“In football there is not much patience these days. We’ve not had a great start to the season, but we are trying our best. I certainly hurt as much as the fans when things do not go right. I carry it with me. It’s great to have that relief of putting in a good performance away from home to win. It means a lot, but it can mean more if it is a bit of a springboard for the next two games. Let’s just enjoy this win for now and prepare for the next two games.”
Neal believes that match-winner Harry Forrester can be a big asset for the team going forward, but he feels the attacking midfielder is still a little short of match fitness.
“Harry is a good player, no one is doubting that,” added Neal. “The problem we’ve had with Harry is trying to get him up to match tempo. You have to start somewhere. With both Harry and Egli, you could see they were feeling it with 25 minutes to go. They were really struggling to catch their breath. The pace of the game at first-team level is intense. We were contemplating going with two up front at that point to try and take a stranglehold on it, but then Harry popped up with that moment. He is not all of a sudden going to catch fire, but we have to try and get him to the level where he can do it week in and week out.”
Neal’s full post-match reaction and an interview with Harry Forrester will feature on iFollow tomorrow, along with extended highlights.