By Chris Slavin
Neal Ardley has stressed the importance of his players maintaining focus on the league challenges coming up, ahead of tomorrow's match at Milton Keynes.
Wimbledon's form during the Christmas and New Year spell was a cause for optimism with seven points accumulated from a possible 12 and the manager is eager to resume the league campaign on a high.
Speaking during an extensive interview for iFollow, Neal said: "We looked forward to Wembley for a month and the club had a bit of a buzz about it, but it has gone and we are out of the cup. We tried, we did not do ourselves an injustice when we played in the game, but always in my mind with the Wembley game – we had a three-day prep for it – was that we had to move on. The tough part is now, making sure that we move on. We had a meeting yesterday and we are focusing on blocks of seven games now, we have three of those to take it to 21.
"We need to have a points targets for each block and keep chipping away at the points targets to make sure we are not going into the last couple of games needing things. There needs to be a focus and that's what we've reiterated to the group. It's not physical so much, more a mentality. We have to be mentally ready for the games coming up.
"In the games during the Christmas period the performances were good and we need to keep that going. Whether we are playing home or away, or up north, down south, wherever it happens to be, we have to focus on every game and put a performance in. The staff have done their homework, we will get the team ready, and we will put the team out that we best think will perform. We expect everybody to go out to do their jobs, so that will be the aim. If we do that and perform well, sometimes it can be in the lap of the Gods, a bit of luck, or taking your chances when they come, but we need to make sure that we perform."
With 21 games to go, Neal is certainly encouraged by the defensive resilience shown by the team recently, as the Dons seek to climb what is a very tight bottom half of the table.
"George Long has been excellent in goal, but George Francomb, Will Nightingale and Callum Kennedy all came in for the Southend game and helped to keep a clean sheet," added Neal. "Darius and Deji have been performing well and Robbo has got a bit of an edge back into his game now in the Under-23 matches. We've got loads of competition there and we know that we need to boost numbers at the other end. It's always a team effort. Yeah, they did play well, but it was always going to be the defensive side of things against Spurs. You defend from the front as a team. Our defensive record is a team collective, just as much as our lack of goals is a team collective. Now we need to do it together.
"Any team from 12th/13th down needs to keep their form going. It's quite simple, some have got more work to do than others, and we are in that category. It's all about reaching a certain amount of points after 46 games. I've said before that I don't over-look at the league table. If you don't get to a certain amount of points, it does not really matter what anyone else is doing. We need to get above and beyond a certain amount of points and that's what we will focus on, but it could be any one of 12 teams dragged into it."
The full interview with Neal is on iFollow and look out soon for an interview with Jon Meades, ahead of tomorrow's match at Milton Keynes.