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Neal praises focus shown by squad ahead of Wembley

Post-match reaction from the manager after impressive victory

1 January 2018

Neal Ardley praised the attitude shown by his players after Wimbledon accumulated seven points from the Christmas period.

Victory against Southend today meant that the Dons have suffered just one defeat from the last four games with a commitment to the battle for League One points, rather than being distracted by thoughts of Wembley.

Neal Ardley, who made five changes to his starting line-up today, said: "Today was a real, real positive with the spirit shown by the boys on the bench and the togetherness of the staff. We are all exhausted because it's been a really tough Christmas period. They need to have a couple of days now to down tools and then we will have a three-day build-up to the next game. No one has been thinking ahead, looking at Wembley, and saying, 'I want to make sure I'm fit for that'. They have been saying, 'whatever you need me to do, I will do it'. That's what it is all about.

"This has been a tough Christmas and that's why we made changes. We had a good chat yesterday as staff and we decided to be brave. We tried to work out who might get injured and who might be fatigued. We made some brave calls today and we changed the shape a little bit. We gave the boys a really clear game plan and they executed it brilliantly.

"Over the Christmas period the boys have hardly had a day off and they've given everything. Some of them were running on empty near the end today, but they carried on going. This club should be really proud of what they have done over the Christmas period.

"I am not stupid, I know where we are in the league and know that we need the points, but there are no guarantees about how you are going to get them. We have gone to win every game and have been brave in every game. We have made a couple of slip-ups that have cost us a point or two, but by and large they have run themselves into the ground, which is all this club ever asks for. We thoroughly deserved the win today. The boys deserve to have seen it through with seven points from this spell."

Liam Trotter and Tom Soares were the unlikely goal heroes in today's match and Neal was quick to salute their overall contributions to the team.

"Tom Soares does not get the credit," added Neal. "People moan that he does not do what they want or he is not swashbuckling enough in his attacking play, but he does so much other stuff that you need to limit the other team. If you turned around to Will and Deji and said, 'are you happy having Tom in front of you?' They would say they are delighted with that. He does so much that people don't notice.

"Liam Trotter was brilliant with the goal, in the build-up, and the way he got in there and finished it. I thought he was one of our best players at Gillingham and he was excellent again today. He is driving the team forward, he is taking a lot of responsibility, and I'm delighted with him as a signing."

The full post-match reaction from Neal is now on iFollow and extended highlights from the win against Southend will feature tomorrow from 12 noon.

Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.

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