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Preview: A stark contrast for both clubs

Views from both camps ahead of Wimbledon versus Walsall

21 August 2018

Neal Ardley expects Walsall to provide a stern test of Wimbledon's resolve to remain unbeaten this season, but he believes the current squad are showing a willingness to fight for each other.

Tonight's match pitches together two sides yet to experience a league defeat so far this season with eighth-placed Wimbledon taking on a Walsall side currently flying high in fifth.

Of course, both sides battled to escape the drop to League 2 in 2017/18 and the last meeting between the clubs ended with a memorable 3-2 win for the Dons in April.

However, the squads are very different now in terms of personnel and the two managers expect that previous match to have little bearing on tonight's outcome.

In his pre-match interview, Neal was asked what's made a difference this time around compared to last season when the Dons had just one point after three games. The manager also talked positively about relying on the younger members of his squad during the busy spell coming up.

Below are quotes from both managers, plus stats, ahead of the game:

Neal Ardley

"People can point to the fact that last season we did not get our recruitment right. I've talked a lot about the culture that we set around the place and perhaps from the word go that never quite got people where they needed to be last season. Then before you know it, you are struggling to build momentum. You learn from your mistakes and we've tried to make that better. We also worked really hard to get our recruitment better and we feel we've put together a really tight-knit group that want to do well. They want to help each other to do well. We've seen a very strong pre-season with the performances and a strong start to the season, so hopefully it will continue.

"When we did our squad recruitment we went with four centre-backs with Will Nightingale as one of them and we went for two right-backs with Toby Sibbick as one of them. We have four central midfielders with Anthony Hartigan as one of them. When we recruited we did it with players that could be a part of the first-team squad on a regular basis. Certainly, Toby, Anthony, and Will are in that category. Hopefully, they will prove that we are right to do that.

"Walsall are a totally different team from last year. Dean (Keates) has got them at it, they have pace in their team, a bit of physicality, and they've already asked questions of teams that they've played against. We need to make sure we are up for that challenge. We've got to look at our own squad and work-out how we are going to get through these games. There is not one player that can play six games in three weeks, it's just impossible. We run a huge risk of injuring them."

Dean Keates

"That (the 3-2 win for Wimbledon in April) was last season. I was brought in with the objective of making sure the team stayed in the division – and that's what happened. There's no point looking back at last season, the squads have changed, the teams have changed. I'm expecting a different performance down there from my players and I've no doubt Wimbledon will be totally different themselves.

"We've picked up some good results and there've been some decent performances. We played well against Scunthorpe [in our last away game] but only got a point. Wimbledon will be a tough game. The lads have recovered and we looked back at the Gillingham game on Monday. We've got our game plan sorted and we're ready to go tonight."

Last time out

Barnsley 0-0 AFC Wimbledon

Walsall 2-1 Gillingham

Form Guide (last six in all competitions, starting with most recent)

AFC Wimbledon DWDWDD

Walsall WWDWLD

Last meeting (14 April 2018)

Walsall 2 (Fitzwater, Ngoy)

AFC Wimbledon 3 (Pigott, Taylor, Parrett)

You can watch the highlights from that previous game below.


All tickets are sold out for seated areas, but we do have availability for the terraces (Chemflow and RyGas). These can be purchased at the turnstiles on the night.

Match Coverage

For the first time, tonight's match will be streamed live on iFollow to subscribers from the UK and Ireland. Subscribers from abroad will also be able to watch all the action live. Visit our designated iFollow page for more information.

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