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Neal's reaction after defeat against Walsall

Manager's assessment following home loss

21 August 2018

Neal Ardley said that his side paid the price for failing to solve the first-half problems posed by Walsall, but he felt it was a good overall team performance.

Speaking in his post-match interview for iFollow, Neal said: "We have faith in the squad and I felt it was a good team performance. We just got sucker-punched. They scored a great first goal and two poor goals and that was too much for us to get back into it. I knew it would be tough because Walsall had played well in all of their games so far. They've got a lot of threats with a big man and a quick one up front. We had to solve that. We had made sure the team were aware of all the threats that Walsall bring, but I thought in the first 15 minutes that we did not solve those problems. We could not get our game going due to that and found ourselves 1-0 down. That's probably the biggest thing that I could criticise the team for, not that I want to criticise them.

"Once we got a grip on the problems they had caused we became the dominant team. We saw some of the patterns of play for the next half an hour that we had worked on in training, but I thought that was the time to get the goal back. When we didn't I thought Walsall would come out, play a bit deeper, and try to solve those problems. They probably did that to a degree. That final touch or cross was probably not good enough from us. You have to give credit to Walsall. They worked their socks off, they defended brilliantly, and they are on 10 points for a reason."

Neal was asked post-match about Will Nightingale's unfortunate own goal and the manager said he hopes the young defender learns more about other aspects of the game.

"I am not worried by the fact Will made a mistake, it does not bother me," added Neal. "I am more hoping that Will learns from coming up against someone like Andy Cook with all that he brings, his pinning play and aerial ability. They are things that you want. Will is very inexperienced for a centre-back because of injuries. We want him to take something from the game that makes him better because that makes Wimbledon better."

Neal explained afterwards that he decided it would be best on this occasion to leave out Tennai Watson and Deji Oshilaja.

"Tennai was seriously fatigued after three games in a week, added Neal. "Following the season he had playing for the Under-23s, Tennai needed to be left out after playing successive games. Deji was not great at the weekend. He was not eating properly, he was struggling and fatigued after the game. You can put Deji into 10 games in five weeks, but you are going to end up risking an injury. We had to pick a game and with him not being great at the weekend we decided to do this."

Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.

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