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Neal sums up his frustration after cup near miss

Post-match reaction after Wimbledon almost take West Ham into a penalty shoot-out

28 August 2018

Neal Ardley felt frustrated that AFC Wimbledon were deprived of the chance to have a proper go at West Ham with 11 men after Rod McDonald's early sending off tonight.

Though it was a proud night for the club in front of the Sky Sports cameras as Wimbledon bowed out with a 3-1 defeat against Premier League opposition, Neal was asked for his overriding emotion on the night and he gave a clear response afterwards.

"I would say frustration," said Neal. "I wanted to see us have a go at West Ham, but we lost that 19 minutes into the game so I'm frustrated and disappointed with that. At the same time, I'm really proud of how we handled the rest of the game. It is just a shame we could not at least drag the game to penalties. I wanted to see if we could cause them a problem, have a go at them and create chances.

"In the first 15 minutes we got in their faces, we pressed them, played forward, and got crosses in. Once we lost a man we ended up with three players out of position. Toby Sibbick was at centre-back, Scott Wagstaff at right back, and Joe Pigott at right midfield. I could not expect them to keep playing that way.

"I thought it was soft (decision to send off McDonald) in a game like this 19 minutes into it. With the contact between Rod and their centre forward, he has played on it and thrown himself to the ground. It was certainly not enough contact to throw yourself to the ground. The referee got sucked in by it and once he makes the decision to give the free-kick he has to take the decision on top of that.

"We drilled them as best as we could to make sure the pressing zones were right, where to press, and who were the dangers. They did it to the letter in the second-half. It was ironic because we said if they shoot from 25 yards we have to deal with that and it ends up being a centre-back who scores from 25 yards. Then they scored from a set-piece, which we should have done better from. I cannot fault the boys though as they did the club proud."

The fact that Wimbledon ended the match with three academy products on the pitch was certainly a source of pride and Neal added that Will Nightingale, Toby Sibbick and Anthony Hartigan are very much a part of his plans.

"You have to take your time with them," said Neal. "Will has obviously been a part of it for a long time, Anthony is in his second year with us, and it is Toby's third year in and around it. With some of them, they just need a bit more time. Toby was not quite ready last season, but this season we felt he might be ready and we recruited accordingly. Sometimes the boys are not ready as first year professionals, they are ready as third year pros. We have to trust ourselves that we will get that bit right and they are a major part of our first-team squad."

The full interview with Neal is available to watch by clicking on the link to our iFollow channel above.


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