By Chris Slavin
AFC Wimbledon tomorrow return to the venue where the League One adventure started in August 2016 and Neal Ardley's men go back there seeking important points in the battle to stay up.
Neal said he is pleased with the form of his squad going into the game at Walsall, but he is expecting a different kind of challenge to what the Dons faced in beating promotion contenders Charlton on Tuesday.
Dean Keates took over as manager at Walsall last month after the departure of Jon Whitney and they come into the game on the back of four points out of the last six – the same return as Wimbledon.
AFC Wimbledon's first game in League One was at Walsall on 6 August 2016 with Lyle Taylor netting a late consolation in a 3-1 defeat.
Below are the views from both camps, plus stats, past meetings, and other information, ahead of the game:
"They are a different team now with the new manager having come in. It's a difficult time to implement all your ideas and philosophies because you have a battle on your hands to stay up. The one thing he has done is it to get them very organised. Dean has not stuck with the same shape, or same team every time, he has mixed it up according to what he thinks he needs.
"They are at home, they will probably be slight favourites, and they will look at it as a game they can get three points in. When their manager looked at the fixture list, he would have looked at the Bury game and us at home and said, 'if we can get maximum points there, and maybe get something from the Oldham game, that will be the ideal week'. He is two-thirds of the way there.
"Obviously, we've had a decent start to the week as well and both teams will be looking to try and take something from the game. At the moment, the boys on the pitch for us are absolutely flying and the boys on the bench are pushing them. One or two who might have had little dips in form here or there are coming back to the boil and that can only be good for us. We are going to need everyone for the last five games.
"If certain teams play very expansive football, sometimes it is easier to say, 'let us set our team up and make sure we are brilliant without the ball'. It is hard to execute, but easier tactically to set-up. If the opponents are not like that and the game is even and you are likely to have more of the ball, that is a harder challenge. Sometimes because you have to find ways of breaking them down. It's not all about grit, determination, and effort. It's sometimes about the psyche of the players, their confidence and belief. It's horses for courses, depending upon the game. We've done our homework, like we always do, and we will come up with a plan. Hopefully, we can execute it, but there are no guarantees."
"The players showed passion, commitment and desire to keep that clean sheet in the second half (against Oldham). I think for us the important thing is that Oldham haven't gained on us. We have picked up a point and added to our tally. Looking at the second half, with the amount of pressure we were put under, and with the conditions as well, I'd say a point was fair for both teams.
"The short-term goal when I got the job was to make sure we stayed in League One. We have got four points out of our last two games. We have got a big game at the weekend. Wimbledon is the biggest game of the season now. Wimbledon are fighting for their lives and It's another six-pointer.
“They had a great result the other night against a team in the play-offs. They’ll have taken a lot of confidence from that and looking at their last few games, they’re a big, strong, physical team that are well organised. Lyle Taylor is very lively and Joe Pigott is a handful too.”
Form guide (last six)
AFC Wimbledon WDLLDW
AFC Wimbledon 1-2 Walsall (25 November 2017)
Goals from Erhun Oztumer and Amadou Bakayoko gave Wimbledon a mountain to climb, the Dons finding themselves 2-0 down in the 31st minute. Though Lyle Taylor got one back five minutes later, a resilient Walsall display denied Wimbledon a point.
Rewind to Wimbledon's last win against Walsall
AFC Wimbledon 1-0 Walsall (25 February 2017)
Lyle Taylor struck the only goal of the game to earn a hard-fought win for the Dons. View the highlights by clicking on the link below.
Last time out
AFC Wimbledon 1-0 Charlton Athletic
Oldham Athletic 0-0 Walsall
Lyle Taylor – 16
Erhun Oztumer – 15
This match is not all-ticket, and tickets will be available on the day of the game, but for cash only.
Ticket prices are as follows:
Over 60s £17.50
Family Ticket £22.50 (one adult, one junior Under-18, these can only be purchased through Walsall FC). You can add an extra junior to the family ticket for £11.
Ambulant/wheelchair disabled ticket prices are the same as price categories above with a carer admitted free of charge. Contact the club on 020 8547 3528 for more information.
Our WDON team will be providing live commentary of the game, via our iFollow subscription channel. Overseas subscribers can watch a live stream of the match. For more information, visit our designated iFollow page.