Neal Ardley saluted the resilience of his players after they battled against the odds to defy League One title favourites Wigan Athletic today.
Already shorn of key midfield players heading into the game, Wimbledon's preparations were dealt a further blow when Tom Soares had to pull out just before the game due to a back injury.
Speaking during his post-match interview for iFollow after the 1-1 draw at the DW Stadium, Neal said: "George Long was fantastic, but the defence protected him well too. When he was called upon, he was brilliant, but I thought everyone put in a shift. It's hard to be brilliant on the ball when a team are coming at you like they do. They are the best in the division and I hope they go on and win the league. For us, it is a great point, an unbelievable point. If we can get a point in the last two games we can put smiles on our faces. Only five games ago when the going was tough and we were on 42 points, we had to really dig in. It's hard when you are down there and the pressure is on.
"The lads have come together and fought for their lives. They have put in five high performance games and we have two more to go. When you look at the fixtures, you think it is a great one for the fans because they are going to a club on the verge of being in the Championship. I would like to think that, certainly in the last five games, they have looked at that team and have been proud of what they've seen.
"Coming into the game, the injury situation was terrible. We had lost Liam Trotter and Jimmy Abdou and today Tom Soares woke up with a really bad back. He tried to do the warm-up, but we lost him, and we had to change the team again. The team we had out was a team that we would play at home against a side near the bottom, so that we could attack. The team did us proud and they were well drilled. I thought the first hour was going to be our best chance of giving them a run for their money. I thought we had too many players, on a big pitch, that had not trained much, so I was concerned about the last half an hour, but we dug in and showed real resilience."
Wimbledon's strike pair of Lyle Taylor and Joe Pigott combined superbly for the opener and Neal felt that playing with two up front was the best way to approach the match.
"It was great stuff for the goal from Lyle," added Neal. "During the week we looked at a couple of different systems, at how to play against them. I just came in on Thursday and Friday and said, 'we are going to play with two up there'. You always worry about the goal difference. If they got three or four goals against us that would have been a blow, but I would sooner play with two up front. I think playing with one up front would have suited them. They would have been able to control the ball more and we would not have got much joy. It worked very well in the first-half, but as the game wore on our centre forwards had to put in a big shift. It was like the Alamo in the last 15 minutes.
"When they put on Nick Powell and James Vaughan it was tough. We had players with cramp and kids on the pitch from the academy who would not have known how to deal with that scenario against such a very good team, but we hung in there. 'Longy' made some great saves and the defence was brilliant. We are getting closer, but we still have to get our noses over the line."
The picture above (taken by Simon Davies, Pro Sports Images) shows Joe Pigott slotting home Wimbledon's goal at Wigan.
The full interview with Neal is available by clicking on the link to our iFollow channel above.