By Chris Slavin
Neal Ardley said that the past week had been a big test of his man-management skills after Wimbledon ended it with a morale-boosting victory – and he praised supporters for helping the team come through it.
Speaking during his post-match interview for iFollow, Neal said: "There was not so much a game-plan of tactics or anything like that. I've had to spend a lot of this week being a really good man-manager, psychologically effecting players who had been in good form, but they had not felt as good about themselves. They feel like they are letting people down and I've had to try and pick those people up and at the same time while doing it, I was feeling down. It hurts me and I take it personally when we lose games. I have spent a lot of time with them and today we've really come together as a group.
"Regardless of the result today, we had to work really hard for each other and at the end of the five games, a brutal schedule, we've come through it with three points. Hopefully, we can get this next week right if we can as we have another tough three games coming up.
"I thought the crowd were great all the way through. I know Bass, who has been at the club a hell of a long time, did the press on Thursday. He just said about us all working together. We are in a battle and we are in a battle together. I know the fans cannot affect anything on the pitch, as far as the passes people make, but nor can I! I pick the team, but I cannot affect the passes people make sometimes.
"As long as we are all in it together and we are trying to stay positive throughout the tough times. Today, we did not give the fans bundles to shout about. We were sloppy at times, we were nervous, but the fans kept singing. People behind me kept singing my name, they kept driving us on. That means a hell of a lot because if we are going to get out of this, we are going to get out of it together."
Neal praised match-winner Joe Pigott and Harry Forrester, the substitutes combining superbly for the injury-time winner.
"Joe has come up from non league, playing on 4G at Maidstone," added Neal. "Now he is playing on heavy pitches, against different players, and trying to get used to everything. He has played three games and he was a little bit disappointed with himself on Tuesday. I thought going forward we were excellent, we could have scored four at Plymouth, but we could have conceded seven. He criticises himself and we are going to work with him. Bass has worked with him, same as Harry.
"I thought Harry played well at Plymouth. I picked a system today that I thought would not necessarily suit him, I thought the way they play would not have given Harry any space and it would nullify him. He was brilliant in training yesterday. Both Joe and Harry have shown us that they are part of our squad and they really care."
Neal confirmed afterwards that Darius Charles was taken off midway through the second-half due to a hip injury.
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.
The full interview with Neal is available to watch via iFollow and interviews with Joe and Harry will follow tomorrow.