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Preview: Neal calls on his players to rise to a big challenge at Rotherham

View from both managers and statistics ahead of Saturday's game

2 February 2018

Rob Cornell

Neal Ardley expects Rotherham to provide a stern test of Wimbledon's unbeaten league run in 2018, but he has called on his players to rise to the challenge.

Lyle Taylor bagged a first Football League hat-trick when the two teams met at The Cherry Red Records Stadium back in mid-October, as the Dons picked up all three points from a 3-1 victory. However, Rotherham's form since the start of December has put them in contention for a play-off place under Paul Warne.

Wimbledon head back to Yorkshire this weekend, after last Saturday's impressive 4-0 win at Bradford City – which extended an unbeaten league run stretching back to the end of last year. Cody McDonald netted twice, as he edges closer to his strike partner at the top of the Dons' goal scoring chart. Neal Ardley's men also currently have the meanest defence, as they didn't concede a goal in Sky Bet League One last month.

Rotherham won't have played for getting on for a fortnight when Wimbledon visit the AESSEAL New York Stadium on Saturday. They have been busy in the January transfer window with the signings of Caolan Lavery and Matty Palmer, adding to former Wimbledon striker Michael Smith's signature. The Millers also beat Bradford in their last league outing on January 23, with their last defeat back on December 2 when they went down 2-1 at Bristol Rovers.

Quotes

Neal Ardley -

"This will be the biggest test. With where we are and where we've come from, we knew that this run of four away games out of five was going to be a tough time for us. I hope that the players, the way that they are playing and feeling, rub their hands together and go, 'what a challenge this is', as we're more than capable. That's the attitude we're attacking the game with.

"Rotherham have done a great job and it is a challenge, but it's a good one. I look forward to it and I hope the players do too. Maybe it will just give us an idea of where we are or how much we've come on. Win, lose or draw, we've got another game not long after and we'll keep chipping away at our total.

"I don't think Rotherham changed too much since early season; they had Kieffer Moore banging in goals and doing great. He's moved on, they've brought in Michael Smith, and we know him well. He's very much of the same ilk – six foot four, very, very good and powerful. They won't change, they get at you. They ask you to defend your box loads of times throughout the game.

"Bradford were a little bit low of confidence – we knew that. We capitalised and did so very professionally. This will be our toughest game for a while. I always keep an eye on teams and what their points per games are, home and away, Rotherham are third in the league at home. They've made it a fortress. They are in good form; I think they are unbeaten in nine, so they are in even better form than us in terms of the longevity.

Paul Warne –

"They can be really pleased with their form and are obviously going to come up here on Saturday after playing last week thinking, 'same again lads, let's get at them, and see what we get.' We've got to be prepared for that, but then also I think if we play as well as we can then we're a formidable opposition against anyone.

"They're not conceding goals at all and they can definitely break teams down. We beat Bradford at home 2-0 and I thought we were excellent that day but they beat Bradford away from home 4-0, so that just shows what a formidable team they are."

Team news

Rotherham added former Dons forward Michael Smith from Bury, midfielder Matty Palmer from Burton Albion, and completed the loan signing of striker Caolan Lavery from Sheffield United last month.

All three could be involved on Saturday, as the Millers look to mount a push for promotion – with debuts potentially for Palmer and Lavery. Smith was on target for Rotherham, when he opened the scoring on his first start for his new club, in the victory over Bradford.

For Wimbledon, centre-back Will Nightingale is close to stepping up his recuperation after a knee injury and midfielder Dean Parrett is also making progress after a groin operation, but Saturday's match will come too soon for both of them. Striker Kwesi Appiah has begun his rehabilitation programme at the training ground, after a successful operation on a troublesome hamstring injury.

Form guide

(All competitions, most recent result first)

Rotherham United – WWDDWW

AFC Wimbledon - WWDLWD

Last time out

Rotherham United 2, Bradford City 0

Bradford City 0, AFC Wimbledon 4

Last meeting

17 October, 2017

Sky Bet League One

AFC Wimbledon 3, Rotherham United 1

View the highlights by clicking on the link below.

Top scorers for each club in League One

Kieffer Moore – 13 goals (now with Barnsley)

Lyle Taylor- 8 goals

Commentary

For those who can't attend, our premium iFollow Dons channel is the place to keep in touch with events at the game, with match commentary from our WDON team, if you're a subscriber in this country.

Visit #iFollowDons to gain access to match coverage and the full interview with Neal Ardley ahead of the game on our video platform.


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