By Rob Cornell
Neal Ardley was pleased with how the young players in his squad responded, when changes were required in the build-up to an impressive victory over Reading.
“I don’t ever get carried away with it,” said Neal in an interview with our premium iFollow Dons channel. “I also don’t say If we get beat it’s just about getting some minutes into their legs. I like to try and win and create good habits, so to do that against a good team like Reading is a really good start.
“Fair play to the young lads, as we had to play a few of them out of position, due to injuries, niggles and Cody McDonald was ill before kick-off. It was a little bit makeshift, but they did great on the counter-attack at the end. The lads showed real character at 2-2 to go and score two wonderful goals.
“They’ve got that youthfulness and energy and it was exciting. It was nice for them to go and express themselves. A few of them were blowing, because they realised how tough the game is! It’s great though, as we’ve got some exciting players coming through.
“They’ve taken their opportunity and they’ve got to show it, because we will be bringing some more players in hopefully and the competition for places will get greater - so they’ve got to keep it going.”
Kwesi Appiah and Joe Pigott set Wimbledon on their way to a 4-2 win, as the Dons went in at half-time with a two-goal lead. Reading levelled matters in the second-half, after the Championship club changed their eleven at the break. Fine finishes from Egli Kaja and Kane Crichlow though gave Neal a great start to preparations for the new season.
“Going into a game in this heat I was worried about the tempo and what to expect, but the tempo was exceptional and I’m delighted with them. They look really fit and some of the play was very good and we’ll try and build on that,” said Neal.
“We deserved to be in front at the break. I thought it could have been more. They had some nice possession, but I thought we defended our final third really well and I was surprised with how fit the boys looked. I know how hard we’ve worked them, but sometimes you get to that first game and you’re still not quite there and they did really well.
“Reading had already played a game, so I was a bit worried that they may have had an edge on us. I thought for the first 45 minutes we were really good and there were some really solid performances. I thought we lost our way a little for fifteen to twenty minutes after half-time when they were fresher, but we showed character.”
Our photo shows young winger Tyler Burey making a run at the Reading defence.
Pic credit: Stephen Wright (Pro Sports Images).