By Rob Cornell
Neal Ardley has emphasised the importance of fan power once again and called on supporters to maintain the special atmosphere that’s helped put vital points on the board recently.
The vocal support in the South London derby victory over Charlton and away at Walsall has been a major factor in Wimbledon’s battle to maintain League One status.
“As a group of players, we need to go in really focused on what we are trying to achieve,” said Neal, in an extensive iFollow interview, ahead of Saturday’s match against Oldham Athletic.
“The fans need to go in with no expectation. Don’t put too much on the game; just go in with doing what they’ve done for the past week or so. Just get behind everything, even if it’s not going well. Cheer us on because that’s a positive, powerful thing, and it helps with the home ground not being something that we’d suffer from or have anxiety about the place. It makes our pitch a really good place to be.”
Oldham sit just two points behind the Dons and remain hopeful of staying up, having gradually accumulated points off the back of four draws. The two sides drew 0-0 when they met towards the end of November, but Neal acknowledged Richie Wellens’ side had the edge that evening.
“When you play teams down there that are in and around you, they are never easy. Sometimes you are better off playing a team that is in or around the play-offs, who are expansive and open,” said Neal. “Playing teams that are in and around you are always difficult and tense. Oldham haven’t lost for a while, they’ve been playing really well. They’ve picked up draws, but there have been things that have gone against them.
“They’re a good team and when we played them at their place earlier this season, they were the better team and deserved to beat us. They are key factors as to why this game won’t be easy. Given where we are in the table at the end of the season, there was always going to be that little bit more on it.”
While Neal is very much focused on the team picking up the necessary points to see them over the line, he is proud to reach a personal landmark on Saturday of 300 games in charge of AFC Wimbledon.
“One of the top managers got to a thousand games recently and they call it something like the ‘thousand club’ and you go, ‘Wow!’ When you actually think I’ve been in the job for five and a half years now and I’ve got to 300 - it’s fifteen to eighteen years, without a break, to get to a thousand and that's even more remarkable!
“I don’t know if it puts me under the experienced category or not, because I’m sure there are different challenges at different clubs, but it’s something I’m very proud of. It’s been a very upward five years from staying up, to getting promoted. We’ve had our challenges along the way and probably more so than ever this year, but hopefully by the time I get to 304 we’ll have something else to celebrate!”
The full interview with Neal Ardley is available on our iFollow Dons video platform, via the link above.