By Chris Slavin
Neal Ardley believes his squad showed plenty of positive signs that they are heading in the right direction during last night's friendly win at Woking.
Goals from Deji Oshilaja, Mitch Pinnock, and Jon Meades marched Wimbledon into a 3-0 half-time lead, before a late consolation for the hosts, and our manager was pleased with the performance of his players.
"In Saturday's match the boys looked ahead of where I thought they would be, both tactically and in fitness," said Neal. "We wanted them to continue on from that in terms of patterns of play that we had worked on. We showed hunger to get the ball back and looked like we could score a few goals. The one thing we are trying to encourage is leadership, where they take ownership for what they need to do. I just said to them before the game, 'you got a lot of encouragement from the side on Saturday, but you are not going to get that today'. I told them that they had to pull people into positions, to do their recovery runs. We were not going to encourage them to do it.
"The most pleasing thing was that they tried to put into practice the patterns of play we had worked on in training. Sometimes it came off and sometimes it didn't. The intent was there and when we lost the ball we went after it. That's what we had been working hard on. They were also brave in their defending as we went two versus two at times. We said that we might have to do that at times during the season. We can see that they are trying to put training ground stuff into place during matches. They took ownership of that. There are still things we can show them on Thursday, but they showed the leadership qualities that we want the group to work on.
"Against Reading with the team that we put out, the fitness levels were phenomenal, particularly in the heat. I thought we were excellent. They produced the patterns of play that usually take two or three games to bed in, but the big thing is that they need to show it when there is pressure for league points. You can always play well in pre-season, but what I do say to the boys is that we don't play the matches just for fitness. We want to win and create good habits that we will need during the season. We scored a few good goals tonight."
The picture above (taken by Stephen Wright, Pro Sports Images) shows Kwesi Appiah getting a shot in at goal during last night's match.