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Neal praises late stand-in Joe after he claimed a clean sheet at MK

Post-match reaction after draw at Milton Keynes

13 January 2018

Neal Ardley saluted Joe McDonnell's performance after he stepped in at short notice to answer the call at Milton Keynes today.

With George Long struck down by illness, it meant a late alteration to the team sheet with Joe handed his first league start since the end of last season.

Speaking during a post-match interview for iFollow, Neal said: "George messaged the physio this morning and said that he had a bit of sickness. He came in and tried to play and it got to the point when we put him on the team sheet. Then he felt sick again and said, 'I cannot do this'. We changed the team sheet and brought Nik (Tzanev) in to be on the bench. We have total confidence in 'Macca'. I've got to be honest, I thought Joe McDonnell was absolutely foot perfect. He came in and was resilient, he made a couple of great saves. His kicking and handling was excellent and you cannot ask for anymore."

Neal was pleased with the overall performance at Milton Keynes and he added that Wimbledon did everything to try and win the game.

"We had a good chat during the week as staff and we felt that we really wanted to try and attack," Neal said. "We said that we could not be afraid to lose the game. It is a big pitch and we really tried to attack them. We played two up front and tried to get Barchy high up the pitch, which we did a lot in the first-half. I thought in the first-half we looked the team likely to score the most, but in the end we've not taken our chances and we've probably ended up not far off a fair result.

"We were the better team first-half, no doubt, but for 20 minutes they did what the home team should do. They got on top of us a little bit and pinned us back, though we came on strong again near the end and could have won it. I am proud of the boys; it is a clean sheet and a great effort. I think both teams ran themselves into the ground.

"We have two clean sheets on the trot and we are just chipping away. I've just said to the boys that in the last 20 games the mental toughness that the teams in the bottom 12 are going to have to show will need to be great. We have to try and keep it going. We came here to attack, but we've taken a point. You could see the aggression and determination in them today. I am proud of them and I hope the club are too."

Rob Cornell's full interview with Neal Ardley featured on our iFollow channel earlier on.

Pic credit: Simon Davies, Pro Sports Images.

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